For more than a month now, nearly all residents of two Upper Assam villages - Laika and Dodhia - comprising around 3,000 people have been camping in the state's Tinsukia town, next to the deputy collector's office.
Protesting under the banner of Laika-Dodhia Rehabilitation Committee, the villagers staged a demonstration in front of Tinsukia Deputy Commissioner's office on Thursday, seeking rehabilitation because they say their settlements have not seen any development as they fall inside the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park.
Holding placards and banners, the protesters hit the Tinsukia road, vowing not to quit till their demands are met. To control the protesters, the police prevented them with barricades but some broke down the barricades to enter the Tinsukia DC office.
"Our rehabilitation process has not started yet. For the last several days, we are protesting for the rehabilitation for 1,480 families of Laika-Dodhia villages. The people are staying at the makeshift camp near Tinsukia DC office with many difficulties. Braving severe cold the people are staying at the camp. We need rehabilitation of our people at the earliest," said Apio Taid, member of Laika and Dodhia Rehabilitation Committee.
Recently, the newly elected president of Asom Jatiya Parishad (AJP) Lurin Jyoti Gogoi visited the people of Laika and Dodhia at the Tinsukia protest site and assured them of all help.
Takam Mising Parin Kebang (TMPK) Tinsukia assistant general Secretary Ajay Doley said, "Till now the government has not done anything for the rehabilitation of the Laika-Dodhia villagers. The people are suffering in the makeshift camp for last one month. We have given January 31, 2021, as the deadline for the rehabilitation of the people. If our demands are not met within the stipulated time, then the people will rehabilitate themselves in Dibru-Saikhowa National Park."
The two villages which are located inside the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park have been the settlement of families who were displaced by the great earthquake of 1950. Laika falls under Tinsukia district and Dodhia in adjoining Dibrugarh district.
The villagers who belong to the indigenous Mising tribe, mostly displaced people from Dhemaji and Dibrugarh districts, have been living in the two forest villages for the last 70 years.
However, since India's Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 prohibits any kind of human settlement within a national park, no developmental has been carried out in the two villages.
On December 30, Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal constituted a committee to find a solution for the rehabilitation of the households of Laika and Dodhia villages. The Chief Minister asked the Environment and Forest and Revenue Department to permanently rehabilitate the families by January 31.
For the rehabilitation of Dodhia, the government has proposed Lakhimpur's Adhkhona-Adielani area under Harmoti range and for the rehabilitation of Laikia, the government has given land at Namphai reserve forest.
The Takam Mising Parin Kebang (TMPK), the most influential students' organisation of the Mising community rejected the state government proposal for the rehabilitation of the Laikia and Dodhia.
The Asom Jatiya Parishad (AJP) too staged sit-in demonstration in Guwahati seeking rehabilitation of Laika and Dodhia people.