| Rakibul Hussain |
Guwahati, Sept. 29: Assam forest minister Rakibul Hussain on Saturday decided to formally request Assam Accord implementation minister Himanta Biswa Sarma to look into the settlements of suspected Bangladeshis inside Kaziranga National Park which were “often” being telecast by a private TV channel.
The development assumes importance because it is no “routine” request and Sarma’s wife is said to own the said TV channel.
The yet-to-be delivered letter is also seen in political circles as a “ticking bomb”, which could pose more problems to the embattled Gogoi government, grappling with one crisis after another since July.
“Hussain going public only confirms what had been in the realm of speculation so far — Hussain and Sarma, the best of colleagues seen to be close to Gogoi, have fallen out since the alleged move by a section in the Congress to send Gogoi to Delhi as vice-president. It will be interesting to see how Sarma responds to the letter. It could die a natural death or snowball into a major crisis for Gogoi,” a source said.
The foreigners issue has returned to centrestage with the outbreak of the BTAD riots in July.
A combative Hussain, accused of helping illegal migrants settle in the park following the rise in death of rhinos, told The Telegraph this evening that he would get the letter delivered to the office of his ministerial colleague on Monday.
“Since I had told a panel discussion on rhino deaths on a popular private TV on September 27 that I will take up the issue of illegal migrants in the park with the Assam Accord implementation minister, I am sending this letter. I will also be enclosing the CD of the footage about illegal migrants settling on a large scale in the park, often shown on the popular TV channel wherein my name is dragged in, to the minister with a request to take necessary action,” Hussain said.
He, however, did not disclose whether he would mark a copy to chief minister Tarun Gogoi.
Hussain had asserted during the discussion that there were no illegal settlements inside Kaziranga and the video footage often shown is that of people settled in revenue villages under the Kaliabor sub-division during the AGP-led government’s tenure in 1996.
He had, in fact, politely punched several holes in the claims made by the channel on the illegal migrants case.
The forest minister also blasted AASU adviser Sammujjal Bhattacharyya for criticising him. “At a time when our government is all set to start the process of updating the 1951 NRC with March 24, 1971 as the cut-off date in accordance with the Assam Accord, the AASU adviser should not confuse people with his protests and remarks. He should cooperate instead of creating problems in helping solve the foreigner issue. We need support of all sections.”
Bhattacharyya had yesterday demanded immediate eviction of illegal migrant settlers from Kaziranga and other national parks of the state.
In Barpeta, a mass rally was brought out today demanding implementation of the Assam Accord, update of the NRC and expulsion of Bangladeshis from the state.
The rally was organised by Barpeta district unit of AASU and saw participation by several other ethnic groups.