| AJYCP members seize logs from Kartik sapori in Jorhat on Thursday. Picture by UB Photos |
Jorhat, Dec. 20: The AJYCP today confiscated 72 logs of simolu trees allegedly being smuggled out from Kartik sapori (sandbar) on which stands Molai Kathonibari — a forest grown and nurtured by Jadab Payeng, known as “the forest man”.
Alleging involvement of Payeng in timber smuggling, the president of the Jorhat unit of the AJYCP, Siba Kalita, said the organisation had demanded Payeng’s arrest if charges against him can be substantiated.
“We talked to the owner of the tractor, Parash Singh, who would ferry logs to the banks of the Brahmaputra. He had told us that without Payeng’s permission, not a piece of wood is allowed to be taken from this island. Therefore, we suspect his involvement,” Kalita said.
He said Payeng is a suspect because as a self-appointed caretaker of the trees — which he himself had planted and nurtured — he failed to inform the forest department of the smuggling.
Last year, the AJYCP awarded Jadab Payeng for his single-handed conservation work on the island that resulted in growth of a forest cover where many birds and animals now take shelter.
Kalita said though the forest department was informed about the matter early in the morning, their men arrived only around 3pm and they were yet to find out from where wood had been cut.
Payeng denied involvement in smuggling saying trees had been felled in other parts of the sapori but not from the portion of the forest that he looks after.
“People may speak what they want to but I have never felled a single tree in my forest and will never think of smuggling logs. These trees were most likely felled in orchards of other villagers on the sapori,” he said.
A forest department official here said the information they had received was that the trees had been felled by one Ajit Kardong, who previously had his house on Kartik sapori and has of late shifted to nearby Kareng sapori.
“Cutting of trees even from the gardens of houses is illegal and requires permission from the forest department. What we have been told is that the wood was not cut from the reserve forest of Jadab Payeng,” the official said.
“Verification of whether the trees have been cut from Jadab Payeng’s reserve forest is under way,” the official said.