Doyang is a small region in Golaghat district of Assam bordering the state of Nagaland. The British government encouraged human habitations in Doyang under the Bengal Forest law. Forest villages were established in Kachamari, Chaudang Pathar, Merapani, and Amguri to encourage plantation of richer varieties. Similarly, in
1951-52, the department of forests, government of Assam, set up the Taungiya villages viz Chakiyal Tangiya, Indirabari, Torani, Torani habi tangiya, Huwa tangiya, Labor tangiya, and made way for marginalised farmers from all over Assam to settle in the region. In 1953-54, four more forest-villages were established in Gomariguri comes under greater Doyang region). In the 1960s, the Assam government opened “a half mile belt” on the Assam-Nagaland border and allowed settlement of landless people from different parts of Assam. In course of time people from different parts of Assam belonging to various castes, communities, and religions, and mainly those who have lost their land and livelihood because of floods (erosion, sand deposition etc.) settled here. Doyang is today a small community by itself.
Neighbouring Tengani is 170 years old. Forty years after the villages named Tengani and Borhola were established by the British government, the region was declared as the Nambor Reserved Forest in the year 1878. The villages which have come up in the region in the post-independence period have adopted the name Tengani viz Natun Tengani, Alisinga Tengani, Sangpul Tengani etc. The government calls it “Nambor” but the people call it “Tengani”. Things have become more complex in the course of time with the inter-state border dispute between Assam and Nagaland. The worst sufferers are, again, the same lot of people. They are now leaving,
–caught between two derogator y labels: illegal encroachers of forest land as well as inhabitants of a disputed border.
The struggle of the people of Doyang-Tengani has a long history that has gone unheard and unseen by the rest of the nation and even within the state.. The people’s struggle to ensure rights over their land in Doyang started in1968. Thousands of marginalised farmers joined the movement to get legitimate control over their land through proper land documents from the concerned government. State police personal have committed atrocities on thepeople in order to demolish the movement. There were regular eviction drives in Doyang, the worst being during1973-74. Elephants were used to crush the people’s houses into pulp.
In course of time individuals and organisations across the ideological spectrum joined, led or supported the movement but nothing significant came out of it. Gradually the struggle died out around 1978-79 and nothing happened till 2002.
The six-week eviction drive launched in May 2004 by Assam’s forest department was in fact a much-delayed response to a Supreme Court directive issued in December 1996. On May 3, 2001, the MoEF directed the Assam government to ensure that the eviction operations against encroachments that were not eligible for regularisation were completed by September 30.
The Assam government adopted every possible inhuman approach to evict encroachers from the reserved forest areas without carrying out the groundwork for determining who should be considered encroachers. An intensive eviction drive was launched in Doyang- Tongani. Houses were crushed into pulp; cash-crop yielding trees were cut down. The agitated people of the region fought back to get control over their rights – the right to land; the basic right of an agrarian community to survive; and the basic right to established citizenship/ nationality. The people of Tengani organised themselves under the Brihattar Tongani Unnayan Sangram Samiti and the people of Doyang under the Doyang Mukti Sangram Samiti. Both launched a movement for a life with dignity or to perish forever.
The movement caught the attention of the people of Assam on June 9, 2004, when the state committed atrocities on a democratic demonstration – a foot march from Tengani to the district headquarters of Golaghat district. For the first time in Assam, people affected by a faulty government policy assembled in large numbers for a convention on the subject of land, forest and flood on March 4, 2004, in Guwahati. A number of dignitaries from different school of thoughts and beliefs from all over Assam raised their voices against erroneous government policy that affected the inhabitants of the Bramhaputra river basin both in the flood plains and forests. About 1000 people from various parts of the state engaged in a determined battle of wits and nerves with the police on Guwahati’s streets. The protestors comprised representatives of the flood-affected people of South Kamrup, Rangiya and the forest policy-affected people of Doyang and Tengani areas.
The people of Doyang-Tengani set out on a long foot march on March 6, 2005, from the state capital to their respective regions, which they reached on March
20 having covered a total distance of 400 kilometers. This action touched a chord in people throughout Assam. Even as the foot march was on, the revenue department of the government of Assam published a notification saying that the forest villages will be converted into revenue villages and villages encroached before 1980 would be regularised.
The people were not ready to accept this piecemeal provision of right over their land, that too, through a mere notification. They wanted a more holistic approach. So, 100 people ranging in age from youth to 70-plus set out on a cycle march on June 20, 2005 to cover the whole of Assam, to sensitise people on the issue and to build a network for collective action.
The main points of the charter of demands of the Doyang Mukti Sangram Samiti and the Brihattar Tengani Unnayan Sangram Samiti of the cycle-marchers were:
The movement believes that without a permanent solution to the flood and erosion problem of Assam, the human pressure on forest land cannot be avoided (it is how the Doyang-Tengani problem came into existence). Hence the movement demands immediate flood and erosion control measures be taken to save the forests.
The border dispute between Assam and Nagaland is one of the prominent emerging threats to the people of Doyang-Tengani. The lack of political willingness to solve the problem has created the opportunity for different Naga people’s organisations to demand the region become a part of “Nagalim” (greater region). The movement opposes inclusion of Assam’s land in Nagaland, and believes that providing pattas to these forest dwellers in the disputed border region alone can serve this greater interest of the people and they demand that this be ensured.
The movement demands pattas, a permanent solution to the flood and erosion problem, irrigation in fields, no to inclusion of Assam’s land in Nagaland, solution of inter-state border problems.