By Our Staff Reporter
Guwahati, May 24: Encroachment of xatra land was one of the key issues played up by the BJP during the assembly election campaign. The saffron party had promised to free all the Vaishvite mosteries of encroachers if voted to power.
With Sarbanda Sonowal - who harbors a soft spot for the xatras - assuming office of the Chief Minister after the BJP-led alliance received a resounding mandate from the people, eyes will now be on the actions of the new government - if it will walk the talk.
To remind the new government, the North East Policy Institute had in 2011 carried out a survey of 910 State xatras. The study had found that around 5,548 bighas of the land in 26 xatras are under encroachment. The study team comprised of members of the Asom Xatra Mahasabha, Gauhati University and tiol Museum. The study had even noted that most of the encroachers are suspected to be illegal migrants.
About 90 percent land belonging to Kobaikata Xatra, Bordua Xatra, Jania Xatra, Patekibari Xatra, Rampur Xatra and Bali Xatra have been grabbed by Bangladeshi migrants, according to the report. Barpeta Xatra was found to have lost 460 bighas of its land. Kobaikata Xatra of gaon was said to have only 1 bigha of land under its possession.
The then Congress government in the State had, however, contested the study findings.
According to the government, only around 80 bighas of land in seven xatras - two in Jorhat, three in Sonitpur and one each in Dhubri and Morigaon - are under encroachment. According to the State government, the highest encroachment is in Patekibari Xatra of Morigaon (37 bighas), followed by Sonitpur's Aoniati Xatra (16 bigha) and Dakhinpat Xatra of Jorhat (15 bighas).
The Gauhati High Court had directed the State government several times to vacate xatra land from usurpers. In the past, former Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has even spoken about the need for setting up a xatra protection force and a public fund for xatra development. Several delegations of xatra bodies have met him to complain and seek protection against land grabbers. But Dispur remained unmoved.
The Axom Xatra Mahaxabha (AXM) had been informing Dispur of the encroachment problem through various memoranda, seeking measures to free xatra lands, but to no avail.
Gogoi had been claiming that there is not a single Bangladeshi migrant grabbing xatra land. Gogoi had even challenged the BJP to 'show just one Bangladeshi encroacher of xatra land'.
It has been alleged that the Tarun Gogoi regime had done nothing against encroachment of xatra lands, because most of the encroachers are illegal migrants belonging to its vote-bank.
There has been much dismay in xatra organisations about the lackadaisical manner the State Revenue department has gone about addressing this burning issue.
Will the new BJP-led alliance government act against the xatra land grabbers?