On the rampage

On the rampage After the poisoning of elephants last year, Assam's Nameri National Park is in the midst of a fresh controversy. It is now political pressure coupled with an encroachment muddle that threatens to wreak havoc on one of the few well-protected natural reserves of the state.

On April 27, 2002, Congress legislator from Sootea constituency in Sonitpur district Praneshwar Basumatary reportedly burnt down a camp of the forest authorities in protest against the eviction of encroachers. According to H Phukan, divisional forest officer, Tezpur, the member of legislative assembly (mla) burnt down the camp in retaliation to the demolition of 450 huts of encroachers.

The MLA was said to be accompanied by the evicted encroachers when he came to the forest camp of the park authorities and torched it. Despite the fact that a first information report (fir) was lodged, the MLA was let off soon after he made a call to Assam chief minister (CM) Tarun Gogoi, alleges Phukan. However, Basumatary discards the whole incident as a political conspiracy against him.

The wildlife fraternity, though agitated, is hopeful that the state government will take action. Somyadeep Dutta of Nature's Beckon, a non-governmental organisation (ngo) based in Dhubri, says: "We have appealed to Congress president Sonia Gandhi and the CM to take stern action against the MLA.' Bibhab Talukdar, who heads the NGO Aranyak Nature Club, avers, "This is a political problem and can only be solved politically.'

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