Encroachment threatens Assam's sattras

More than 7,000 bighas of land belonging to 39 sattras are in the grip of encroachers with at least 85 per cent of the encroached land being occupied by illegal migrants from neighbouring Bangladesh, the advisor of the Asom Sattra Mahasabha, Bhadra Krishna Goswami, claimed.

He said the encroachment came to light when a survey was conducted by the Mahasabha, the apex body of about 900 Vaishnavaite sattras of the state.

Assam Revenue Minister Bhumidhar Barman had mentioned in the last Assembly session that the government had no documents related to encroachment of sattra land but had constituted a committee to look into the issue.

The Gauhati High Court had also directed the state government to free sattra land from encroachment and the deputy commissioners and superintendents of police of the districts, under which the sattras fall, have been asked to evict encroachers.

A delegation of the Mahasabha also met Governor J B Patnaik who assured them that he would urge the government to take necessary steps in this direction at the earliest.

Among the worst-affected are Ram Rai Kuti Sattrasal Sattra in Dhubri district, Rampur Sattra in Nagaon, Adi Alengi Sattra, Barpeta Sattra, Kobaikata and Ali Pukhuri Sattras in Morigaon district, Goswami pointed out.

Ram Rai Kuti has 1,000 bighas of its land illegally occupied by Bangladesh migrants of which 500 bighas are located in the 'No Man's land' on the Indo-Bangladesh border.

While 200 bighas have been encroached by Hindu refugees, the rest were grabbed by assorted encroachers, he claimed.

Rampur Sattra has about 600 bighas of its land under encroachment, Bardowa sattra about 200 bighas, Adi Alengi sattra about 450 bighas, Barpeta sattra around 460 bighas, Kobaikata around 120 bighas and Alipukhuri sattra around 186 bighas, Goswami said.

He also urged the state government to immediately release the Central grant of Rs 9,659 crore for the development of 135 sattras selected in the first phase of the Chief Minister's Sattra development programme.

Most of the sattras possess many rare and historical documents and works of arts which must be preserved for posterity and the institutions should be developed as tourist destinations, Goswami felt.

The Mahasabha has also been demanding a separate directorate for sattras to ensure its proper management, preservation and development, he said.