R Dutta Choudhury
GUWAHATI, March 1 – Concerned over the reports of encroachment on the reserve forests posing a threat to the law and order situation in Assam, the Centre has sought a detailed report from the State Government on the issue. The Centre has also expressed concern over the encroachment on the tribal belts and blocks in the State.
Highly placed sources in the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) told The Assam Tribune that large-scale encroachment on the reserved forests of the State has become a matter of serious concern as the militant groups have taken advantage of the situation. The sources said that the Home Ministry has already sought a detailed report on it from the State Government. The future course of action would be decided only after receiving the report. The Centre may also go for a thorough probe into the encroachments.
Sources revealed that informal talks between the MHA and the Ministry of Environment and Forests were held on the issue. If necessary, the Ministry of Environment and Forests may also step in to deal with the disturbing matter.
Moreover, the MHA is of the view that the encroachment on the tribal belts and blocks in Assam is also a matter of serious concern and this may also lead to social unrest. If the State Government fails to remove the encroachments from the tribal belts and blocks, the ethnic groups may feel threatened and this may lead to serious ethnic tension in the days to come. The Centre has also requested the State Government to deal with the problem of encroachment on the tribal belts and blocks.
It may be mentioned here that the Government of India became concerned over the encroachment on the reserved forests after the killing of more than 70 persons on December 23 last. Security sources admitted that the most of the killings took place in the notified forest areas, while the militants involved in the attacks also took shelter in the forests that are now under encroachment. Interestingly, the Government is not in a position to construct permanent police stations or roads in the areas notified as reserved forests and the militants are taking full advantage of the situation to take shelter among the encroachers.
Sources said that most of the reserved forests along the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border, particularly in Sonitpur district, now remain on paper only and as the areas have not been de-notified, the Government cannot go for construction of permanent police stations or outposts. Only a few temporary camps of the security personnel were set up after the December 23 killings.