Jorhat, June 25: Naga villagers residing along the Nagaland-Assam border have held the small tea growers from Assam responsible for the mounting tension in the border areas.
“Small tea growers from Assam are destroying our jhum cultivation land in the border areas and are clearing jungles in reserve forests for tea cultivation. These small tea growers are responsible for the tension in the border areas,” Imnakumzuk Longkumer, chairman of Ankai-C village in Mokokchug district of Nagaland (bordering Sivasagar district of Assam), told the group of visiting Assam-Nagaland border peace coordination committee members yesterday.
The coordination committee members include divisional forest officer of Sivasagar Ranjan Kumar Das, border magistrate of Nazira Richand Ahmed and coordinator of the committee Temsu Wathi Ao among others. Longkumer alleged that at least seven tea gardens have come up in Geleki reserve forest inside Nagaland in the last few months and these tea garden owners have been encroaching upon areas owned by Nagaland villagers for jhum cultivation.
He alleged that immigrant Bangladeshis and Nepalis living in Bongaon village, Assam, were clearing jungles on the Nagaland side of the border and selling the land to small tea growers from Assam.
He said villagers from Nagaland have been abiding by the Supreme Court guidelines of not carrying out any cultivation or construction activities in the disputed areas along the border but the illegal settlers have continuously encroached the area.
He also alleged that the Assam police were helping these illegal settlers and clearing forest areas to make way for small tea growers, which has resulted in shrinking of land for jhum cultivation.
Longkumer complained that a former official of the sub-deputy collector of Nazira had allocated land to a few unemployed youths in Geleki reserve forest a few years back.
“These youths have encroached land for tea cultivation in these Naga traditional jhum cultivation land, which is creating underlying tension in the area,” Longkumer said.
The DFO and the border magistrate accompanying the team assured Longkumer of an inquiry into the charges.
Shingnyu Phom, village council chairman of Yonglok village in Longleng district of Nagaland, emphasised the need for immediate steps to evict the encroachers from traditional jhum land.
The border peace coordination committee (Assam-Nagaland), formed in 2005, has been working tirelessly to restore ties between the people of the two states.
Karuna Mahanta, secretary of the all Assam small tea growers’ association, said the plantations have come up on land belonging to Assam, while thanking the enterprising growers for helping protect the area from encroachers from neighbouring Nagaland.