Silchar: Ishwar Bhai Ubadiya, the chairman of the Surma Valley chapter of the Indian Tea Association (SVBITA), whipped up a controversy as he alleged that Bangladeshi immigrants were encroaching upon the land of the tea gardens of the Barak Valley.
Speaking with the mediapersons after the 123rd annual conference of the SVBITA, Ubadiya said, in spite of their repeated appeals, the district administrations concerned were not taking proper action. "We appeal to the state government to set up a separate cell where we can lodge our complaints," Ubadiya said.
Meanwhile, Rajdeep Goala, the chairman of the Assam Tea Corporation (ATC) as well as the general secretary of the Cachar Cha Shramik Union, admitted the allegation of encroachment by the illegal immigrants. However, he simultaneously pointed fingers at a section of the garden management who had sold their land to outsiders. "A section of the garden management who failed to run the estate have sold the land to people without verifying the identity of the buyers," Goala said.
On the other hand, Pradip Dutta Roy, the chief convener of BDF, lambasted Ubadiya for creating communal division in the praceful tea gardens of the valley. "Where does Ubadiya get the information that these dwellers are illegal Bangladeshis?" What proof can he produce? asked Dutta Roy. He said cover agencies and district administrations were there to look after the issue if such illegal encroachment by Bangladeshi nationals really had taken place.
Ubadiya, on the other hand, was clear in his allegation. He said the illegal Bangladeshi immigrants had been eyeing the sick gardens for encroachment. These gardens had huge land, and for various reasons, constant vigilance by the estate management was not possible. The encroachers took the chance, silently grabbing the land. By the time the encroachment came to the notice of the management, it was too late to take action.
''Government should take up the issue seriously. At least a separate cell should be set up where we can lodge our complaints," Ubadiya said.
However, in his written speech, which he presented at the 123rd annual general meeting, Ubadiya, while expressing concern over illegal encroachment, significantly did not specify the identity of the dwellers as Bangladeshi. He said the encroachment of garden land by nonworkers or even rank outsiders was a serious concern all across the valley.