GUWAHATI, Jan 20 � The failure of the Government to protect the reserved forests from encroachment is now giving a tough time to police and security forces in dealing with militants. Meanwhile, poor communication network, particularly in the interior places, is affecting the movement of security forces engaged in counter-insurgency operations.
Highly placed official sources told The Assam Tribune that over the years, the Government had failed to protect the reserved forests, most of which are now encroached upon and the militants are taking advantage of the situation. Sources revealed that at one point of time, Sonitpur district had around 1,400 square kilometres of forest cover, which includes one national park, one sanctuary and eleven reserved forests. But according to a conservative estimate, around 900 square kilometres of the same are now under encroachment.
Sources said there is very little presence of the administration in the encroached areas and the offices of the forest department also do not exist in such areas as the forests remain on paper only. Taking advantage of the situation, the militants, particularly those belonging to the Songbijit faction of the National Democratic Front of Boroland (NDFB) are having a free run in the area adjacent to Arunachal Pradesh. As there is no presence of the administration in the area, some of the encroachers also give shelter to the militants and even act as their informers. Whenever security forces patrol the area, the militants are informed by such informers, which very often results in ambushes. The militants also get time to shift to safer places.
Large-scale encroachment in the forests in that area started in the 1980s and a drive was launched in the early 1990s to evict the encroachers from the area and even an incident of police firing took place during that time. But somehow, the drive came to a halt and the encroachers were having a free run in the area, which was more like a �liberated zone�.
Sources pointed out that as the reserved forests are not de-notified, the other departments of the Government cannot take up any infrastructure development scheme in the area. Moreover, despite the movement of ultras, permanent police stations or outposts cannot be set up in the area as no permanent construction is allowed in the notified reserved forest area.