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Stiff Resistance Against Displacement
and For Official Land Rights

In Assam many different people live together. Some, like Hajong tribals, fled former East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) decades ago, displaced by a a big dam and its artificial lake. Others came from West-Bengal or Central India to work in the tea gardens, or to find some small patches of land to cultivate.
Till several years ago there was a lot of violence between the different communities and their fighter groups. Nowadays the ethnic killings are over, but still the traumas are there.

for bigger picture click on this photo Small monument in a garden for a young man, murdered by a fighter group.

Crossing Ethnic Lines

Since about a decade people in Assam struggle fiercely against evictions, crossing ethnic lines. It all started in 2002 with protests of the peasants of Tengani against displacement by the Forest Department for a bamboo plantation project. August 2002 there was a rally of 20,000 peasants at Golaghat town, the District Headquarters.

Earlier villagers also resisted whenever they had to leave, but from 2002 on their struggle was much better organised and larger. It also got a lot more media attention and support of city people.
Since then struggles against displacement for new city neighbourhoods or big dams flared up. In the beginning of 2004 there was an action of 35 days against land survey for the Pagladiya Dam. In the end the government had to retreat; it was not possible to carry out the survey.

for bigger picture click on this photo Protest rally against large dams in the Brahmaputra river; Guwahati, November 2010.

Regional peasant organisations as BTUSS for the poor and DMSS for the better-off peasants concentrate on pattas (official land rights documents). Later on the Assam ngo KMSS was founded. This organization has a bigger focus. It also talks about nature conservation, deforestation and flood prevention. It struggles not only for land rights but against corruption and inflation too. The media put their spotlights on KMSS leader Akhil Gogoi. But for the poor peasants getting pattas is still the key issue.

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Report Dams in North East India

Go to next page: Struggle against Pagladiya Dam
Go to overview articles and photo series Assam

May 2012 - Photos: Peasant Autonomy and report Damming North East India - Creative Commons