The Kamrup district administration had served eviction notices to these villagers, mostly indigenous communities of Nath Yogis and Kalitas, earlier this month. The notices were served through 54 pattadars (land deed holders).
Farmer Rajen Das is in his late 70s, was in tears speaking to TOI on Tuesday. Pointing to the other side of the boundary walls of the airport, he said in the sixties, his family was forced to part with six bighas of land for the expansion of the airport. Today those lands would have earned him crores. “We are now left with only one residential plot. Can a government send an eviction notice without rehabilitating us?” asked Das.
This community has been voting for the BJP because of their commitment to the cause of Jati-Mati-Bheti (community, home and hearth), but today the ruling party leaders have no answers for these voters in the face of the development plans for the most happening airport in the northeast, which is going to be a litmus test for the Adani Group.
The Sri Sri Koitasiddhi Sattra (Vaishnavite monastery), a landmark in the village, is also set to go under the bulldozers. Set up in 1804, it received a grant from the state archaeology department. But pulling down this monastery won’t be easy as the BJP has been trying to identify itself with these ancient seats of Vaishnavite culture.
Gauri Kanta Nath, a prominent resident of Koitasiddhi, told TOI, “When people from our village went to the local MLA, Hemanga Thakuria of the BJP, he told our delegation that the airport expansion plan is being undertaken by the Union government. He or the state government can do nothing.” But the newly floated Assam unit of the Sanyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) and various other opposition parties, including the Congress, the Assam Jatiya Parishad and the Anchalik Gana Morcha, are trying to put up a fight for the affected.
Farmers from Garal, Godebori, Borjhar, Bongora and Koitasiddhi and Raibori villages have handed over cultivable land to the government amounting to over 500 acres on several occasions for airport expansion since it was set up in the fifties as a civil aerodrome. “There was no opposition earlier. Now the management of the airport is going to the Adani Group and that is why they are anguished at the eviction notice,” said Dinesh Das, convenor of the SKM’s state unit.
A source at the Airports Authority of India (AAI) said there is little scope of expansion in the northern side of the airport. The feasible area left for expansion is the western side, where the villages are located. “They have a master plan to extend the runway,” he said. Locals have been urging the state government to at least spare the two villages for the sake of the Sattra as the government has been propagating Sattra culture to save Assam from illegal infiltrators.
Gauri Kanta Nath said after the villagers categorically said they would give blood but not their land, the local MLA promised to set up a meeting with chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma. “That is the last resort. If there is no solution, intense protests will follow. The eviction plan will be resisted by all the villagers,” he said.