Tripura’s 83 Families Face Uncertain Future on Panisagar Forest Land: A Battle for Survival and Legality

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Posted in Featured, Northeast, Tripura
Abhijit Nath, NET Correspondent, Tripura

Agartala, May 14, 2024: In the serene backdrop of Tripura’s Panisagar Nagar Panchayat’s Ward No. 5 under North district, a decades-long struggle simmers between the Forest Department and 83 families who have made the forest land their home. Despite the clear violation of forest laws, the families sought refuge from various settlements including Dasda Laljuri, Subhash Nagar, and Bara Haldi in Kanchanpur, had rooted their lives firmly into the forest premises of Pekuacherra Gram Panchayat.

The issue came to the forefront when the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF) Animesh Das IFS along with the North District Forest Officer Suman Mol and the Divisional Officer of the Forest department Ashok Kumar conducted a site visit on Tuesday. The officials accompanied by rangers from Dharmanagar and Panisagar assessed the situation and reported their findings to higher authorities.

“It’s a complex scenario that has been building up for 25 to 30 years,” stated PCCF Animesh Das. “These families, initially just one Muslim household, have now grown to 83, creating a settlement on government land that is legally protected.”

The settlers argue their case with poignant narratives of displacement and the need for safe haven. “We came here to protect our honor and lives,” a community spokesperson said. “Our previous homes were no longer safe due to the Reangs, and we had no choice but to settle here.”

Efforts by the Forest Department to reclaim the land have been met with resistance and, according to some, inefficacy. “We’ve tried various strategies to resolve this issue, but the solutions aren’t straightforward,” admitted the North District Forest Officer Suman Mol.

The settlers many of whom belong to the Reang community have faced hardships in Kanchanpur leading them to establish their current dwellings on the disputed land. “Life was unbearable in Kanchanpur, and we were left with no option but to create a habitat here,” explained a Reang family member.

The situation poses a significant challenge to the Forest Department, which is tasked with enforcing environmental laws while also being sensitive to the human element of the crisis. “Our hands are tied. We understand the gravity of their plight, but the law is the law,” remarked the Divisional Officer Ashok Kumar.

As the government deliberates on the next course of action, the future of these 83 families hangs in the balance. Will there be a compassionate resolution, or will the strict enforcement of forest laws uproot these families once again? The answer lies in the delicate balance between conservation and humanitarian concern.

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