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State land rights panel team holds meeting in Hailakandi
 HAILAKANDI, May 18 - A team of the Committee for Protection of Land Rights of Indigenous People, led by its chairman Hari Shankar Brahma, held a meeting here on Tuesday. A retired IAS officer, Brahma is a former Chief Election Commissioner of India.The meeting was held with officials, prominent citizens and representatives of various tribal organisations. It discussed the protection of land rights of the indigenous people, particularly those living on the hills along the Assam-Mizoram border in the southern part of the district.

The Additional Deputy Commissioner of Hailakandi, FR Laskar initiated the discussion. Brahma said that his team was visiting all the districts of the State and studying the conditions of tribal people, particularly in regard to their land rights, in order to resolve the problems regarding the issue of land pattas to indigenous people. He added that the team would recommend the amendment of the existing Assam Land and Revenue Regulation Act, 1886 and other land laws to ensure the land rights of the indigenous people, if required. The formulation of a uniform land law is on the cards for the State, he added.

The president and general secretary of the District Tribal Sangha, Jamum Pao Kabui and Rajendra Reang respectively, apprised Brahma of the problems of the tribes in Hailakandi district. They said that only the Barman community enjoys the recognition of a tribe in the Barak Valley despite the presence of a number of tribes. They demanded all facilities for the tribes living in the Barak Valley, including grant of land to indigenous people. They sought implementation of the Land Bill of 1920, according to which no agricultural land can be transferred for industrial use, and demanded that land pattas should be given to those indigenous people who have not got them yet due to the lack of a survey by the Government. According to chairman Brahma, people born and brought up in Assam before March, 1971 as per the Assam Accord will be treated as indigenous.

It may be mentioned here that the committee was formed after an order of the Revenue and Disaster Management Department, directing all districts to carry out eviction drives on all government land under encroachment, was criticised by a section of people. The Government of Assam constituted the committee on February 6, 2017 under the chairmanship of former Chief Election Commissioner of India, Hari Shankar Brahma, to recommend measures for protection of land rights of the indigenous people and to review the Assam Land and Revenue Regulation Act, 1886 and other land laws.

Speaking in the meeting, college teacher Hilal Uddin Laskar lamented that the exact definition of ‘indigenous’ people is yet to be arrived at, and that genuine citizens are being deprived of their dues. He demanded ensuring land rights to the people of the Barak Valley irrespective of caste and community.

The meeting was also addressed by Hirakjyoti Chakraborty of Nagarik Adhikar Suraksha Samiti, Kamrul Islam Barbhuiya, Rukan Uddin Barbhuiya, advocate Nurul Huda Choudhury, municipal ward commissioner Arun Das, Divisional Forest Officer Dinendu Das, ADC Ruthlien, SP Pranabjyoti Goswami and others. Four other members of the committee – advocate Anil Bhattacharya, historian Sreekumar Dehatia, social worker Ajoy Kumar Dhar and retired civil services officer Ruhini Kumar Baruah – also took part in the discussion.

Later, the team also visited the Rongmei Naga people-dominated Pantiluang colony here and studied the land available to Rongmei Nagas.

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