Siliguri, 14 November
A day after the north Bengal development minister, Mr Gautam Deb had distributed deeds of land rights to 24 families, living on encroached vested land near the site of the mini-secretariat at Kamrangaguri and asked them to settle at a place earmarked for their rehabilitation at Salugara, the locals of Salugara today resisted their re-settlement, forcing them to return to Kamrangaguri.
The minister had handed over cheques amounting to Rs 22,500 (first installment of Rs 45,000) to each of the evicted families, while speaking volume of the peaceful eviction as envisioned by the chief minister. It was learnt that lands were earmarked at Bikas Nagar at Salugara for their resettlement.
"We were not informed beforehand about the administration&’s plan to resettle the evictees here. The land thus earmarked consists of a government school and a playground. We would not allow them to settle here", said Dabgram-I panchayat pradhan, Ms Bina Subba. Importantly, the local panchayat is being run by the CPI-M. With tension
mounting, a contingent of police rushed. They flaunted batons to chase the mob away.
A resident from Kamrangaguri, Mr Rasidul Islam, one of the evictees, said he had no idea their resettlement would trigger such a protest.
“We were surrounded by a mob of around 1,000 people. They kept on screaming, saying many of them are themselves homeless and so they would not part with the lands for some outsiders. We realised we would not be able to live there peacefully with the locals remaining hostile. We wonder where we would go with our shanties having been dismantled,” he said.
Another evictee, Mr Dulal Ansari said they are scared.
“We are, as if, caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. The administration would not allow us to go back where we were and the locals of Salugara would shoo us away if we go there to resettle,” he recounted.   Some of them vented anger against Mr Deb, saying he had goaded them to their present predicament.
“He did not care to verify the land earmarked for our re-settlement. Today is Muharram and our tragedy has compounded. We would never go back to Salugara under any circumstances. The administration must provide us with an alternative site for re-settlement,” said another, Mrs Anna Khatun.
The Siliguri additional deputy police commissioner (East), Mr K Sabari Rajkumar, said police forces are posted to prevent any untoward incident.
“The situation is now normal,” he said.