SHILLONG, Feb 27: While alleging that the government is illegally occupying land on which it has set up the offices of its various departments, the former Chairman of the now disbanded ANVC.B, Bernard N Marak has stated that this is in violation of the Land Acquisition Act of the State even as he has demanded that the rights accorded to the tribals of the state by this act are respected.
In a letter to the Chief Minister of Meghalaya, Dr. Mukul Sangma on Monday, Marak said, “I would like to request you to kindly stop violating the Land Rights of the Tribals in Garo Hills.”
He said the violations of the Land Acquisation Act and tribal rights have been witnessed in the past while evicting the Megong boldak (Balchakram), Chiringgitim (Dakopgre), Sillanggre and now eviction of Rongka Chiring by the government would have a negative repercussion.
He said the state can as per the provisions of the Land Acquisition Act 1894, Land Transfer Acts of the State 1975 and the GHADC 1955 strongly restricts the General State from acquiring land from the Scheduled areas.
According to him, the provision in the act says General State should avoid acquiring land as much as possible in the Scheduled areas.
While land transfer Acts do not allow land to be sold, leased, gifted, mortgaged, bartered etc to anyone other than tribals, he said while adding that if ever the need arises, the proper process of acquisition has to be followed with proper compensation, rehabilitation and resettlement to land owners.
He however said but till date, the State Government is yet to acquire most of the land it occupies for offices and residential areas.
“The RTIs of various departments have revealed that the lands they occupy were never acquired; neither did they pay any amount as compensation for acquisition or for lease,” he said.
“Most of the State Government offices illegally occupy tribal land belonging to the Scheduled Tribes. It is ‘illegal land grabbing’,” Marak said.
He further lamented that replies to my RTIs by most departments are very vague even as he added that no documents were furnished on land except Periodic Land Pattas which was issued without the consent of the Nokmas and which according to GHADC was a mere document for revenue records.
“These pattas are issued illegally by GHADC violating the Land Transfer Act as General State can in no way own a land without proper process of Land Acquisition Act,” he added.
Marak also questioned how the GHADC can issue pattas when it is not the owner of the land.
“It may be possible that GHADC issued illegal periodic pattas to General entities for political benefit. This is clear violation of the Land Rights reserved for the Garos of Garo Hills,” he said.
“Therefore, I would like to request you to kindly stop illegal occupation, land grabbing and eviction of the Tribal populace in Garo Hills especially Tura,” Marak said.
He also claimed that a recently held meeting in the DC Office Tura was without the members of the GHADC and the Nokma, to discuss and take decision on evicting the residents of Rongka Chiring in Tura for expansion of medical facility in Tura.
“The attempt to evict the tribals without proper land acquisition and compensations, rehabilitation and resettlement of the residents is very wrong and it will violate the provisions of the Land Acquisation Act and Scheduled Tribes Prevention of Atrocities Act 1989,” he said.
According to him, these people have Nokma’s document and support of people of Tura. Moreover, the case is pending in the Honorable High Court as the case was filed by the Nokma herself against the State Government on illegal land grabbing.
“In this context, I would like to request you to kindly stop all eviction plans in Tura and entire Garo Hills without proper process of Land Acquisition Act,” he said while stressing the need to follow proper procedure of the Acts.