| Tourists at a rally to protest the killing of rhinos, at Kaziranga on Monday. Picture by UB Photos |
Jorhat, Feb. 11: Asom Sattra Mahasabha, the apex body of all xatras in Assam, has expressed deep concern over the rise in thefts of antique items from the xatras. It has also voiced anguish over an increase in incidents of rhino killings in recent times in the state.
Taking serious note of the crimes, the Mahasabha has decided to urge the Centre through Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and Union forest minister Jayanthi Natarajan to accord special priority to tackle these crimes.
The Mahasabha, in its four-day 49th biennial session that concluded in Majuli yesterday, adopted two resolutions to ask the Centre and the state government to accord topmost priority to both the issues and take steps accordingly.
“We believe that a big international racket is behind thefts of ancient xatra items. So the matter should not be treated as a general law and order problem,” general secretary of Mahasabha, Jibeswar Devagoswami, told this correspondent today while returning from Majuli. Devagoswami, along with incumbent president of the Mahasabha Leela Mahanta, were re-elected in their same capacities in the Majuli session.
Devagoswami said in the last three years, thefts of ancient valuable items including idols made of gold, bronze and stone from xatras across the state were increasing rapidly with the law and order machinery of the state failing to curb it. He said that the matter was not only related to loss of items of immense archaeological importance, but was emerging as a threat to the Vaishnavite culture itself.
He said it had been noticed that thefts were taking place in districts where suspected illegal migrants from Bangladesh have a sizeable population. Devagoswami said the thefts had occurred in Barpeta, Goalpara, Sonitpur and Nagaon districts where population of suspected illegal migrants is more than that in other districts.
Devagoswami said there is a strong suspicion that a big racket having international links is operating in the state through its agents among the suspected illegal migrants as value of antiques in the global market is “very high”.
The Mahasabha general secretary also said that another problem faced by the xatras is encroachment of land belonging to xatras and the government had failed to curb it.
Devagoswami said a memorandum would be submitted to Shinde to apprise the Centre of the crimes and to get necessary directions and support to check these.
On rampant killing of rhinos, the resolution adopted by the organisation said that the rhino is not only an endangered animal, but a symbol of identity of Assamese society which has added to Assam’s pride the world over.
Last year, 21 rhinos fell to poachers’ bullets in the state and this year so far the toll has gone up to nine.
Devagoswami said the organisation had expressed serious concern over the killings and feels that more attention should be paid to curb the crimes. “We will also submit a memorandum to Natarajan to take up the issue urgently and take adequate measures,” he said.
In another resolution adopted at the session, the Mahasabha decided to urge the state government to give an annual financial grant of Rs 24 lakh to the organisation to run its various activities.