By Arshad Ahmed
For two days, Boyat Ali slept under the open sky in the wrenching cold of winter nights in Panchratna NC, a riverine village in Assam’s Goalpara district, over 150 km from the state’s capital.
On January 10, Ali’s family, including him, was among the 130 families evicted from Panchratna N.C and Panchratna in an operation by the Forest Department. The eviction drive was carried out to clear the Panchratna reserve forest from “illegal encroachment,” according to the forest authority.
However, on January 13, two days following the eviction drive and after coping with the severe cold, Ali, a Muslim of East Bengal ancestry, was found dead in his loosely erected tarpaulin shanty, his kin said.
“He died from the cold. It was a murder, a state-led murder. If not for the eviction, he would still be alive today,” Motibor Rahman, Ali’s kin, said.
The fifty-five-year-old Ali is survived by his wife, a son and a daughter, all of whom have now huddled together in a separate makeshift shanty about three km away from their village to shield themselves against the cold. However, with Ali’s death, dejected and shaken none of them have spoken to anyone.
Rahman told Maktoob, “They have forever gone into mourning. The death of their father has shut them off forever. They know they cannot fight the cruel government.”
Ali, a peasant, was the only one who used to provide for the family. With his death, the family is “at the crossroads between scraping for survival and finding a moment to grieve his death,” Rahman, who is 28, said.
The eviction created a ripple of fear among the people — who are mostly Muslim peasants living in impoverished conditions — and with no recourse and nowhere else to go, the people from the village, including children, now found themselves living under the open sky in the bone-chilling nights.
This story was originally published in maktoobmedia.com. Read the full story here.