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WKH families ‘settled’ in Assam village, claim residents

GUWAHATI: Residents of Bokochora, an interior village in Kamrup district, have alleged that about 50 families from West Khasi Hills have “illegally built houses and settled” in the Assam hamlet over the past two years.

The “illegal settlers” have even constructed a structure being used as school in the village located about 40km (inside Assam) from the boundary between Kamrup (Assam) and West Khasi Hills (Meghalaya) districts.

Concerned at the growing number of settlers allegedly from Meghalaya, villagers have appealed to the Assam government to take immediate steps to evict them.

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“These families have trickled into Assam over the past two years and have encroached land in the village. So much so, they now outnumber our people (22 households). We have come to know that the Khasi wife of a local resident, Beldang Sangma, has over the past two years brought some of her relatives from Nongstoin to settle in the village,” Enindro Marak, president of the Garo National Council (GNC), Kamrup district, told The Shillong Times on Saturday.

A visit to Bokochora, about 16km from Boko town, by a delegation comprising representatives of GNC, Garo Youth Council and Garo Women’s Council on Friday revealed that a lower primary school has been set up in the area.

“Yesterday, they had removed the signboard, which had ‘Mawsyiem LP School, West Khasi Hills’, written on it, after being alerted that some people would be visiting the village,” Marak said.

As it is, “under-construction” bamboo structures close to the huts can also be seen in some areas.

“This is a serious situation as more settlers might be coming to the village. It is high time the Assam government takes measures to evict them,” he said.

The delegation also noticed several stumps of chopped segun trees across green spaces indicative of rampant deforestation activities in the area.

“We suspect these villagers might have felled these trees using machines and supplied the wood to brokers in Meghalaya. Yesterday, when we visited the villages, we found none present inside their thatched huts. All that we found in some huts were utensils and some food items that lay scattered,” the GNC leader said.

That’s not all. Solar lights installed amid betel-nut plantations believed to be grown by these settlers, were also noticed by the delegation.

Villagers further alleged that such is the “high-handedness” that locals are threatened if they try to claim their right.

“They threaten us when we claim that the land belongs to us. We suspect there must be someone who is instigating and supporting them. We therefore want the authorities to conduct an inquiry and look into such encroachment,” a resident of Mozaibari, about a kilometre away from Bokochora, said.

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