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Probe ordered into eviction

Guwahati, June 9: Assam forest minister Rakibul Hussain this evening ordered an inquiry into the eviction drive carried out by Sivasagar divisional forest officer R.K. Das at Geleky along the Assam-Nagaland border on Thursday, following the hue and cry over the assault on a small tea grower, Chidananda Baruah, during the exercise.

Hussain told The Telegraph that chief conservator of forests (research, education and working plan) R.N. Dubey would conduct the probe.

“He will leave for Sivasagar tomorrow and submit his report within seven days. Action will be taken based on the report.”

The forest department is in the eye of the storm following the manner in which the drive was carried out.

Sources said Das’s alleged comment during the drive that he could shoot anyone given the powers vested in him had left the department squirming.

“Such remarks send the wrong signal,” a source said.

A worried parliamentary secretary (home) Sarat Saikia had moved Hussain to look into the issue this morning as he had visited Geleky only a few days back and urged small tea growers to register as village defence personnel to prevent encroachment by people from Nagaland.

“I have heard the official did not follow standard operating procedures such as taking a magistrate along with him. This could have avoided the accompanying law and order problem,” he said.

Sivasagar deputy commissioner Jatindra Lahkar has already ordered Nazira sub-divisional officer (civil) P.K. Das to probe the incident and submit his report within seven days.

Lahkar, too, felt the presence of a magistrate could have helped avoid the embarrassing situation.