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“Deaths of Jaliluddin and Sameeruddin Highlight ‘Fake Encounters’ by Assam Forest Officials,” Says CNAPA

The Community Network Against Protected Areas (CNAPA) released a public statement on 25th June in which the group accused the Assam Forest Department of an encounter. The incident occurred on 22nd June within the Laokhowa Wildlife Sanctuary, which resulted in the deaths of two men, Jaliluddin (40) and Sameeruddin (32), who hail from the Dhingbari Chapari village in Nagaon District, Assam. Several hours after the incident, the forest department took the victims to the Nagaon Civil Hospital where they were declared dead.

According to CNAPA, the two victims, Jaliluddin and Sameeruddin, along with other villagers, were fishing at the Rowmari Beel wetland—a traditional livelihood practice. The villagers have claimed that forest guards opened fire on them villagers. The two men were injured in the firing, whereas the forest department has asserted the victims as poachers.

CNAPA has called this incident a clear example of violence against forest-dependent communities in the name of conservation. It said that communities like those in Dhingbari Chapari have been living in the forests for generations have coexisted with wildlife and have relied on the forest for sustenance and cultural practices.

“The deaths of Jaliluddin and Sameeruddin underscore the issue of fake encounters orchestrated by the forest department across protected areas in India. Such actions not only violate human rights but also undermine trust in conservation efforts, perpetuating a cycle of fear and resistance among local communities.”

CNAPA

CNAPA in the statement also mentioned the recent eviction drive in Laokhowa wherein many residents were displaced.

The group has condemned the Assam government for lacking transparency in upholding the Forest Rights Act (FRA) 2006, an act designed to ensure the rights of tribal and forest dwellers.

The group added how essential activities of these communities such as fishing are now being labelled as “poaching” and how this move will criminalise their source of income and add to their financial issues. CNAPA also argued that these deaths uncover a pattern of fake encounters by forest departments.

The CNAPA’s concerns extended beyond Assam wherein they have pointed out to states like Odisha, Karnataka, and Maharashtra, which have amended laws, allowing the forest officials a “permit” for violence against forest communities.

“Forest-dependent communities are unjustly branded as encroachers and poachers, disregarding and denying their very existence in history and their bio-cultural lifeways around forests. These narratives fuel violence and legal persecution, pushing these communities further into poverty and deprivation. The CNAPA firmly opposes the criminalization of these communities and calls for their rights to be respected and upheld under national and international law.”

CNAPA

CNAPA has demanded an independent investigation into the deaths of the two victims, Jaliluddin and Sameeruddin. Urging that the National Human Rights Commission should intervene in the matter, and have called for the disarmament of forest staff in Laokhowa.

The Observer Post will publish a follow-up report soon, featuring interviews that delve into community perspectives and reactions regarding this ongoing issue.

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