The Telegraph
Thursday , July 3 , 2014
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Mahasabha seeks PM aid

Jorhat, July 2: Asom Satra Mahasabha, the apex body of all xatras in Assam and Bengal, will urge Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his intervention in getting its land back from encroachers.

It will also seek protection of the xatras in view of rise in thefts of antique items from the Vaishnavite monasteries. There are 898 xatras in Assam and 16 in Cooch Behar of Bengal. All 914 xatras come under the Mahasabha.

Mahasabha general secretary Jibeswar Goswami told The Telegraph that the Mahasabha was drafting a letter to be sent to Modi, in which the problem of encroachment of large areas of xatra land by suspected illegal migrants from Bangladesh would be mentioned seeking his intervention.

“Modi during his campaign speeches in Assam had strongly spoken about the problem of influx in the state and had assured that he would take strong action to prevent it and deport illegal migrants. So, we will urge him as our repeated pleas to the state Congress government and the former UPA governments at the Centre have failed,” Goswami said. He said around 6,576 bighas of land have been encroached upon by illegal migrants mostly in Nagaon, Barpeta, Sonitpur and Darrang districts.

The general secretary said despite several Gauhati High Court orders being delivered to vacate xatra land from the clutches of illegal migrants, the state government has not implemented the same.

“For decades now, illegal migration from Bangladesh has adversely affected the culture, economy, social strata of Assam, and now illegal migration has posed a threat to the existence of the xatras too,” Goswami said. The general secretary said another problem was the increase in theft of antique items from the monasteries, which too is happening in districts with a sizeable population of suspected illegal migrants.

Stating that a big international racket is suspected to be behind the thefts of ancient xatra items, Goswami said the matter should not be treated as a general law and order problem. Goswami said in the past four 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 there is a strong suspicion that a big racket with international links is operating in the state, through its agents among the suspected illegal migrants as the value of antiques in the global market is “very high”.

He said the matter was not only related to the loss of items of immense archaeological importance, but was emerging as a threat to Vaishnavite culture itself.

Goswami said granting protection and preservation of xatras according to the Assam Accord signed between AASU and the Centre will also be mentioned as the UPA government had not sincerely honoured the said clause during its 10-year tenure.