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Protest over plot of land

Nagaon, March 15: A 35 square km reserve forest in the vicinity of Karbi Anglong districtís headquarters Diphu in Assam has become a headache for the seniormost Congress candidate.

The leader, Biren Singh Engti, the sitting MP of Diphu constituency, had allegedly encroached upon this land 15 years ago. This morning, thousands of people, most of whom are party workers, entered the 200 bigha plot of Engti and started clearing shrubs to set up huts. A part of the fencing around the plot was damaged by the encroachers.

A high-level team of Diphu police reached the site and tried to disperse the encroachers. The situation took a turn for the worse as they refused to leave the site. Police burst tear gas shells and later opened fire. Three persons were injured in the incident. According to the police, they were not injured in the firing but while fleeing. In 1976, Joysing Doloi, a former chief of the council, announced a 34.35 sq km area near Diphu as Matipung district council reserve forest under Karbi Anglong Forest Act, 1957. The announcement followed plantation and other related works, which, within a few years, made Matipung a green area close to the district headquarters of Diphu.

But three mistakes in subsequent years turned the dream forest into an encroached area. Valuable timber was cut down in 2005 when the forest department accepted the local councilís proposal to construct a road from Diphu to Doldoli through the reserve forest. In 2006, a large area under the reserve forest was used for construction of a market complex. That year, the autonomous council decided to allocate seven hectares for a private college proposed to be set up in the memory of Renu Terangpi, wife of a Engti.

ďWe have not officially heard that the area belongs to a political leader. We took action to maintain law and order,Ē said Karbi Anglong superintendent of police M.J. Mahanta.