Guwahati, March 5: Shoot-at-sight orders were issued today to a platoon of border police patrolling the Assam-Nagaland boundary in Sivasagar district to keep timber smugglers from penetrating the Abhayapur reserve forest.
The 76-square km forest has turned almost barren on the Nagaland side with trees being felled regularly. Suspected timber smugglers attacked a police team in a patch of forest along the Towkak river only a couple of days ago.
The commander of the 1st Assam Police Battalion, Abdul Quddus, said the platoon based at the Lazai border outpost would shoot at sight anybody whose movements along the boundary aroused suspicion.
The platoon has been deployed to help the forest department curb felling in the reserve forest. The strength of the platoon was increased recently, but Quddus declined to disclose how many personnel had been added to the force.
The conservator of forests in charge of the Upper Assam division, J.M. Kouli, said forest guards based in the Cherbari forest camp, too, had been empowered to shoot timber smugglers without warning if they tried to cross over from Nagaland.
The forest department has been asking the government for sophisticated weapons to fight the timber smugglers, who are equipped with more powerful arms than forest guards.
We have information that the smugglers are being helped by militants from that state. We need better weapons to combat them, Kouli said.
The forest department recently seized about 175 logs from the bank of the Towkak. The entire lot was felled by smugglers from across the inter-state boundary.
Forest guards also seized two elephants and the saws used by the smugglers.
The river has made their job easy. Trees are felled on this side and dropped into the river for the logs to drift to the other side with the current, the conservator said.
The Towkak demarcates Assam and Nagaland in Sivasagar district and constitutes 15-km of the inter-state boundary.
Forest officials said some residents of villages on the Assam side were in cahoots with smugglers from Nagaland and were passing on information about the movements of forest guards and police patrol teams.
We arrested six persons recently from a border village on charges of helping timber smugglers from Nagaland, Kouli said.
The sawmills on the Nagaland side are the main buyers of smuggled timber.