FROM A CORRESPONDENT
North Lakhimpur, April 11: The inter-State boundary dispute took an ugly turn once again in Lakhimpur district as administrative officers of Aruchal Pradesh bullied patrolling Assam State Forest personnel in a reserve forest in Lakhimpur. The incident took place on Wednesday as the 11-member Forest personnel team of Lakhimpur Forest Range and two 12-member personnel teams, each of Zoihing and Kakoi Beat Offices of Lakhimpur Forest Department, were confronted by a team of officials from Papum Pare district of neighbouring Aruchal Pradesh at 10.30 in the morning at the Zoihing Reserve Forest.
The Aruchal team was led by the Deputy Commissioner of Papum Pare district, Tai Kaye, along with the Revenue Circle Officer with security guards of the same district that entered the Zoihing Reserve Forest inside Assam's territory. The Aruchal team was asked to halt and not proceed further by the patrolling staff of the Kakoi Beat Office personnel. But the Aruchal team went ahead, ignoring their instructions.
After that they were stopped by the forest personnel of the Lakhimpur Forest Range. At this, the Papum Pare DC became furious and asked the Assam Forest Department personnel not to enter the forest in the future. He also warned them of dire consequences if any Forest personnel from Assam enter the same reserve forest.
An accompanying police officer with the DC also threatened the Lakhimpur Forest personnel not to drive away people from Aruchal Pradesh inside the Zoihing Reserve Forest. Tension has been simmering between the administration of Lakhimpur district in Assam and that of Papum Pare district in Aruchal Pradesh since February this year following the construction of a road by the Lakhimpur Forest Department in Zoihing Reserve Forest.
The intruding Aruchal Pradesh team also went 2.5 km inside the Assam territory and demarcated the border at the Koilamari Tea Estate in Lakhimpur. Though the entry by the Aruchal team was intimated to the Lakhimpur district administration, no one was sent on its behalf to the Zoihging Reserve Forest.
It may be recalled that the Lakhimpur district administration has been on loggerheads with Aruchal Pradesh since a decade following various allegations and counter-allegations of encroachment on forest land on the inter-State border areas of the district. In 2007, there was a firing incident by the police at the Dullung Reserve Forest area, followed by similar skirmishes in the Myhjuli area of the border in 2009. An FIR was lodged against the then Lakhimpur DC by his counterpart in Papum Pare district following these incidents.
Earlier this year, there was tension on Lakhimpur's border with Aruchal Pradesh following the arrest of two Aruchal women, Nido Yakum and Bini Yajum, on January 28 from Dollungmukh, prompting Union Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju to ask the Assam Government for their release. On February 7, Ngurang Pinch, former MLA and present chairman of the Aruchal Pradesh Agriculture Marketing Board, lodged an FIR against SF Rahman, DFO, Lakhimpur, MM Das Forest Range Officer, North Lakhimpur and Atul Borah, Forest Beat Officer Pathali Paam at Doimukh police station for allegedly "encouraging illegal acts of some Assam youths inside the Aruchal territory." This time the incident at Zoihing will create tension in the border areas which could lead to some unwanted situations. The Aruchal Pradesh Government has been demanding 4051.10 sq km of land, which, they allege, was transferred to Assam following the Bordoloi Commission report in 1951.