Aizawl, Apr 29 : The Gauhati High Court has ruled against the Mizoram government’s order to demolish Saikhumphai Bawk, an alleged illegal settlement near the Indo-Myanmar border, and told the latter to give appropriate compensation to the residents who were forcefully evicted and whose houses were dismantled.
The verdict issued by station judge of Aizawl bench of Gauhati HC Ujan Bhuyan on Friday directed the concerned deputy commissioner of Champhai to make assessment on the houses and properties destroyed to determine the amount of compensation.
Sources said the court also told the Mizoram government to provide necessary housing materials to the homeless residents and also give Rs 20,000 to the village leaders to recover their expenses for going to the court.
Saikhumphai Bawk is situated on the banks of Tiau River that divides India and Myanmar, and it falls under the jurisdiction of Vaphai village council in Champhai district.
Under mounting pressure from village council and NGOs of Vaphai, the local administration department issued a demolition order in the latter part of 2013. Even as the court had stayed the order that set a deadline of December 1, 2013, the residents of Vaphai took the law into their own hands and destroyed several houses on December 15.
The government’s resettlement package includes a plot of land, Rs 30,000, four bundles of GI sheets and free transportation of housing materials from Saikhumphai Bawk to Vaphai free of cost. They will also be given two silpaulin sheets each for temporary shelter before they have houses.
Owing to its strategic location and Myanmarese domination, Saikhumphaibawk has allegedly turned into a hub of cross-border crimes like gun running, drug smuggling and a haven for Myanmar-based militants. Besides these, Myanmar security forces occasionally crossed into Indian border and terrorised the people. However, Saikhumphaibawk villagers have strongly refuted such allegations.
The village is surrounded by 150 hectares of paddy fields dubbed as ‘granary of Vaphai.’
The settlement came into existence in 1987 when four farmers from Vaphai built farm houses as there was no proper connecting the paddy fields to Vaphai, a 10-km distance, by that time.
The Indian farmers used to employ manual labourers from the Myanmar side of the border. These Myanmarese labourers started to settle and gradually increased in number.
Later, a road was constructed under the Border Area Development Programme to connect Vaphai village and the Tiau river with the main objective of harnessing the riverine products. This road connection made Saikhumphai Bawk as a hub for illegal border trade with more Myanmarese migrants settling in, they alleged.
The Vaphai village council’s concern came after the illegal settlement sought for sub-village council status from the Mizoram government in 2007.Sources said all the Myanmarese migrants living in the village have been evicted and pushed back.