TENSION ALONG ASSAM-NAGALAND BORDER
Villagers at Holonguri tea estate get death threats if they refuse to pay, police intensify patrolling in vulnerable areas
FROM A CORRESPONDENT
JORHAT, Feb 16: Tension prevailed along Assam-Nagaland border areas in Jorhat district on Thursday after a Naga militant outfit issued extortion notices to 16 Assamese villagers the day before.
According to police, the Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland/Nagalim, Republic (NSCN-R) has issued extortion notes to 16 Assamese villagers residing at Holonguri tea estate situated along Assam-Nagaland border in Jorhat district, threatening to kill them if they fail to pay up.
“Four armed Naga militants distributed the demand letters to the Assamese villagers on Wednesday and issued ultimatum to pay the amounts within February. Our investigation is on to nab the culprits,” said Luna Sonowal, Subdivisional Police Officer (Titabor).
Talking to The Sentinel, Sonowal also said, “Today we visited the trouble-torn areas and took stock of the situation there. We have talked with our Naga counterparts to help in the arrest of culprits. Accordingly, the Naga village council members assured to help us.”
Thousands of Assamese villagers are now passing sleepless nights after the Naga militants’ threat. Police have been conducting additional patrolling in vulnerable areas, calling upon the public not to panic.
The Assam-Nagaland border dispute is a decades-old problem. The two neighbors share a 434-km boundary in Sivasagar, Jorhat, Golaghat and Karbi Anglong districts. Assam says Nagaland has been encroaching upon over 66,000 hectares land so far, including over 42,000 hectares in Golaghat alone. The encroached area also includes over 80 per cent of reserved forests.
The two States have held meetings at various levels, signing several agreements to maintain status quo. In September 2006, the Supreme Court set up a three-member local commission headed by a retired judge to identify the boundary. However, the matter is still pending before the apex court.