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‘I Have an Exam Tomorrow’

Bihari settlers in Guwahati face dilemmas and anguish over their identity as citizens as they are evicted from their homes.

“I have an exam tomorrow,” murmurs Mamata Basfor as she helplessly watches her house being torn down by the authorities in the Railway Colony in Guwahati. I hear Mamata and ask if her books are secure. Her mother nods and says, “We will shift to my brother’s place in the Harijan Basti and she can study there, we are waiting for the eviction to conclude.” My PhD fieldwork is on the issue of land contestation in Guwahati, but never did I expect to witness an eviction first-hand.

Rehana, who has been working with the community as a social worker, had introduced me to the colony. She had narrated the story of the colony to me as we walked through its uneven alleys. “Most of the settlers here are Basfors [a Dalit community from Bihar]. They were brought to Assam by the British to carry out scavenging tasks in a growing Guwahati. The Guwahati municipality employed them and settled them here in the 1950s. The railway line running through this colony was functional till 1962 and therefore this area came to be known as the Railway Colony. But, since the 1990s, they have been facing eviction notices from the railways, with no provisions for compensation. This time around, 100 houses
received the eviction notice.”

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Updated On : 19th Apr, 2019

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