Prime Minister Narendra Modi today sent out a strong note of reassurance to the 70-odd indigenous tribes of Assam, granting recognition for the land they have lived on for generations but without any official documentation. The allocation of ownership to over a lakh such natives comes merely months ahead of the state Assembly polls in March-April. It may also be construed as a balm for a population that was, till recently, up in arms against incessant illegal immigration from across the border and also over a new citizenship law viewed as a threat by locals.
Addressing a rally in the state's Sivasagar district, PM Modi said the state government under Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal will ensure that many more such eligible people will soon get official rights over their land. Moreover, he also sought to go beyond mere rights and spoke about other benefits based on these rights, including various state and Central government schemes. They can now improve their living standards by availing progammes like PM Kisan Samman Nidhi and the crop insurance scheme, besides securing farm loans more easily, he said.
"It is a matter of sadness that even after so many years of Independence, there are those in Assam who have not got recognition for their land. There are lakhs who did not have any documentation of their land," the Prime Minister said.
"Today I am here to be a part of your happiness and celebration as our government in Assam has completed a huge task. Today, those who love Assam and are from the state are getting recognition of their land," he said. "The land ownership certificates (pattas) will guarantee their swabhiman (pride), swadheenta (freedom), and suraksha (protection)."
Marking Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose's 124th birth anniversary, which is now celebrated as Parakram Diwas, he said today that in the past 4.5 years, Mr Sonowal's government had worked to ensure progress for all in Assam while preserving its culture and heritage.
The Chief Minister had told PTI yesterday that many blocks of government and tribal land had been encroached upon by suspected illegal immigrants. His government had evicted them to make way for indigenous people - mostly tribals, OBCs and ex-tea garden labourers, he said.
"Successive Congress governments ignored the pleas of the local people to give the land rights. As a result, the people have been living a life of constant fear. We will end this uncertainty," he had said.
Due to uncontrolled migration from across the border, the demography of the state, especially in lower Assam, had gone through unprecedented changes, PTI had reported citing officials.
The Citizenship Amendment Act passed by Parliament in December 2019, which set a cut-off date of December 2014 to grant citizenship on persecuted minorities from India's neighbourhood, had set off a huge uproar in Assam, a state that has for years borne the brunt of illegal immigration.
Even as he spoke in Sivasagar, the historical capital of the Ahom kings, anti-CAA protests were staged at several places in Assam. The Prime Minister, however, steered clear of these, making no mention of them in his speech.