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Encroachers evicted from Intangki

(Left) Forest rangers torch houses at Hinoto village during an eviction drive in Intangki National Park on February 21. The Forest department destroyed about 53 illegally settlements. The Intangki National Park covers an area of 20202 hectares.(Right) Security personnel detain women who have illegally occupied in Hinoto village during the eviction drive. (Photos by Caisii Mao)
The department of Forests on Tuesday, February 21 cleared two encroached human settlements inside the Intangki National Park. A friendly topography coupled with a rich reserve of wildlife and timber; Intangki has long been a soft target for encroachers, with ambitions of setting up self-christened villages, as well as timber thieves, since its declaration as a wildlife sanctuary in 1975 and subsequently as a national park in 1998. It was once an expansive 202 square kilometres (20, 200 hectares) of untouched, virgin forest now reduced to about 1 / 3rd of its originally demarcated area.

Since the first eviction carried out by the department of Forests in 2002, the total forested area encroached and destroyed by human settlers within the park is estimated to be around 760 hectares. According to the department, Tuesday’s was the 24th time such an eviction exercise has been carried out in the past one decade.

‘Inavi village’ – the settlement, which has been a source of headache for the department the past few years, was one of the two settlements brought down today. The other was ‘Honito village’ said to be a breakaway of the former. A hoarding put up in the settlement claimed it was established in 1994.

Interestingly or not surprisingly, the latter settlement, of 53 thatched and tin-roofed hutments, was bereft of any male settlers with only a few women and children left behind. One of the women told this reporter that she had settled on land given to her by the ‘gaonburrah’ of the settlement. The ‘gaonburrah’ on the other hand stays in town, only giving occasional visits to the settlement, the woman said. Fifteen women and three children were escorted out of the said settlement.

A further twenty-five temporary dwellings were taken down in the settlement claimed to be ‘Inavi village. Three men found in the encroached settlement were deported out of the park.  The eviction today was supervised by the Chief Wildlife Warden, T. Lotha and the Conservator of Forests, T. Amenba Yaden with assistance from the Peren district administration and the police.

The eviction today was mandated by an order of the court, said T. Lotha. Giving a brief of the circumstances behind Tuesday’s exercise, Lotha said that encroachers were first evicted from that portion of the park in April of 2009. The encroachers, challenging the expulsion, filed a court case; to which the department responded with a counter affidavit. The court came out with a ruling declaring a ‘status quo’ which was later waived in 2010.

Subsequent to the court waiver, the encroachers again filed a suit in the Division Bench of the Gauhati High Court. In the hearing that followed, the court ordered that the area in contention be surveyed, which was to be jointly carried out by the contending parties, alongwith the department of Land Records and the administration; and a report be submitted. The encroachers were also signatories to the report submitted.

The final verdict came in August 24, 2011 wherein the court ruled in favour of the department of Forests. It came with a directive ordering the encroachers to vacate the park by December 31, 2011 or face prosecution. Armed with the court judgment, the department served the first eviction notice on January 2, 2012. The second notice was served on February 2, albeit, to no effect.  It also contained in the ruling that those who fail to vacate the park by the December 31 deadline will be financially penalised. The monetary penalty is calculated at Rs. 5 lakh per month per hectare of land encroached. The area encroached by the two unlawful settlements at present is estimated to be 150 hectares. It means the monetary penalty comes to around Rs. 7.5 crore a month calculated from the month beginning January.
Deptt to arm forest guards
Despite the threat from encroachers, the Chief Wildlife Warden, T. Lotha was rather optimistic of the future of Intangki National Park. “People assume that the entire forest is destroyed but it is not so,” he said while stating that a considerable portion of the park or 80 percent of it is still intact.

He disclosed that the department will be drawing up a comprehensive management plan for the upkeep of the park. The department is also going to arm its guards with weapons like the police, which include procuring a hundred SLRs (or self loading rifles). Till the weapons are procured “we’re requesting the police to assist the department,” he said while appealing for the stationing of atleast one company of IRB in the park.

“Some powerful people are behind the encroachment which is sustaining the influx of encroachers... If we cannot protect Intangki the state will not have face in the commonwealth of the wildlife community.”

The department has already lost a sizeable portion of Rangapahar Wildlife Sanctuary to such kind encroachment by humans, the question thus remains, “Can the department or for that matter the Government of Nagaland win this time?”  
State govt told to follow court verdict on Intangki
Dimapur, February 21 (MExN): The Tenyimia People’s Organization (TPO) has demanded from the state government immediate eviction of encroachers in Intangki National Part as ordered by the High Court, and also compensation as stipulated by the court.

The TPO issued a copy of a representation addressed to the chief secretary of Nagaland today. In the statement Tenyimia organization warned of own action against the government and officials “at its own costs and peril.”
The TPO referred to the judgment and order of the High Court which the organization said ordered immediate “execution proceedings” against the illegal encroachers who are settled in Intangki Wildlife Sanctuary and Intangki National Park.
TPO demands eviction, compensation of Rs 67.5 crores from encroachers 
The representation to the chief secretary stated: “Now, therefore, we hereby request the state government to immediately act on the honourable Court’s order by way of first ascertaining the actual area of land still being occupied by the said encroachers and to realize the compensation from them in terms of the honourable Court’s judgment and order and concurrently evict them from the Intangki Wildlife Sanctuary and Intangki National Park without further delay. Please be informed that in default, we shall be compelled to take up any or all available legal actions against the state government and all its responsible officials at its own costs and peril.”    

The TPO reminded that the court has spelled out in clear terms that the state of Nagaland is fully entitled to evict the encroachers from Intangki Wildlife Sanctuary and Intangki National Park and to ensure that they do not continue with their encroachment. 

“The honourable court has also directed that if the encroachers continue to remain in occupation after the 31st December, 2011, then they will have to pay Rs. 5 (Five) Lakhs per hectares per month to the state of Nagaland. Since the encroachers in question are reportedly still in occupation of about 900 hectare of land at the Park for over one and a half months, w.e.f 1st. Jan. 2012- 15th Feb, 2012, they are liable to pay Rupees 67.5 crore (sixty seven crore and fifty lakhs ) only, to the State of Nagaland as per the said honourable court’s order.”

The organization expressed concern that in spite of the lapse of the stipulated period, the encroachers are still in occupation of the land and continues to construct more huts without hindrances. The state of Nagaland has literally done nothing to impose penalty on them or to evict them as ordered by the court, the TPO said.

“We fail to understand as to why the state government have been sleeping over the matter all this while. Please be informed that we shall not hesitate to hold the government responsible and answerable to the people of Nagaland, even to the extent of being charged for contempt of court for government’s apparent complacency and unacceptable negligence over a matter of utmost importance to the people of Nagaland and to the world.”



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