TEZPUR, Sept 14 � The alleged encroachment of 10 sq km of Assam land in Chouldhowa area of Borgang range of East Sonitpur Forest Division in Behali reserve forest in Sonitpur district by the Arunachalis backed allegedly by the IRBN forces has led to concern among the people. It is worth mentioning here that the people of the area are still haunted by the memories of gruesome killing of 15 Assamese people in the area on January 29 night by the Arunachalis.
Giving details on the latest situation in the area, social activist and office bearer of a frontline NGO �Save�, Ajai Sharma stated that the area which was once filled with greenery of valuable trees has presently been severely denuded by the Arunachalis. �Since quite some time, the Arunachali miscreants have been clearing the area, felling thousands of valuable trees, the report of which is available with our police and the civil administration, but they do not dare to face them. Taking advantage of this, the miscreants are continuing to encroach our lands,� he alleged adding that it has again brought the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border row to the fore.
Due to this long-pending border dispute, not only Sonitpur district but several areas along the Assam-Arunachal border areas on the North Bank are also facing large-scale encroachment from the Arunachal side in the last several years.
On the other hand, State Forest Department sources disclosed to this correspondent that 15,069.65 hectares of land in Behali, covering as many as 30 reserve forests along the border, have been encroached upon by people from Arunachal Pradesh. �Five thousand hectares of land in 16 reserve forests on the North Bank have been encroached upon by Arunachal Pradesh,� sources added.
However, it may be mentioned here that Assam has a running boundary dispute with Arunachal Pradesh, since Arunachal became a full-fledged State on February 20, 1987. Ajai Sarma further alleged that Arunachal Pradesh has been advancing into Assam�s territory at a very fast pace. �As per the available record with us after a detailed study on the long pending issue, 84 hectares of land in the Rowta Reserve Forest were encroached upon by the people from the Arunachal side; 150 hectares of land in the Chariduar Reserve Forest, 14 hectares in the Balipara Reserve Forest, 45 hectares in the Naduar Reserve Forest, 25 hectares in the Biswanath Reserve Forest, 100 hectares in the Chilonijan Reserve Forest, 450 hectares in the Gohpur Reserve Forest, 300 hectares in the Dulung Reserve Forest, 350 hectares in the Ronga Reserve Forest, 120 hectares in the Kaki Reserve Forest, 45 hectares in the Gali Reserve Forest, 180 hectares in the Subansiri Reserve Forest and 40 hectares of land in the Aasia Reserve Forest have been encroached upon by Arunachal Pradesh,� Sarma said adding till date around 40 villages in Sonitpur district including in Behali area have been encroached upon by the Arunachalis. The office bearer of the NGO briefing the latest position in the area further revealed that one Arunachalis village headman has occupied 3,000 bighas of land in Assam while Naban Ekka, a Zila Parishad member from Arunachal, has a rubber plantation on 500 bighas of land at Naharjan in Sonitpur district. �Likewise a police official from Arunachal is illegally occupying 500 bighas of land in Assam. There are many other such examples,� he said adding that schools, churches, human settlements, markets, etc., have been constructed by the Arunachal government on the encroached land on the Assam side of the border. He alleged that the Assam Forest Minister Rakibul Hussain has also taken a soft approach towards this issue. �Department officials are also to be blamed for unabated encroachment of Assam�s land by some of the neighbouring States,� Sarma said.