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'Rhino abode under threat of migrants'

September 06, 2006 18:21 IST

The influential All Assam Students' Union on Wednesday alleged that Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi was trying to act as a protector of the Bangladeshi infiltrators by ignoring the grave threat posed by their encroachment inside the world-famous rhino-abode Kaziranga National Park in the state.

The AASU challenge came following a statement issued by the chief minister who had on Monday denied any kind of Bangladeshi encroachment inside Kaziranga National Park territory as alleged by the student body.

The AASU had formed a human chain along the National Highway 37 passing through the Kaziranga National Park to register their protest and highlight the issue of 'encroachment' inside the 100 year old wildlife sanctuary by suspected Bangladeshi infiltrators.

AASU general secretary Tapan Gogoi said: "Encroachment inside Kaziranga, and that too by Bangladeshi infiltrators, is a very serious matter because Kaziranga happens to be a World Heritage Site. But the chief minister, instead of verifying what we have alleged, is trying to act as a messiah of the Bangladeshis."

"It is an established fact that Bangladeshis have encroached upon all the 49 tribal blocks and belts in Assam. It is also a fact that they have encroached upon various reserved forests in the state. But when we try to bring the onslaught on Kaziranga Park, a world heritage site, the chief minister loses his cool," the AASU leader added.

The student body's advisor, Dr Samujjal Bhattacharyya, pointed out that the government had not been able to expand the area of Kaziranga National Park because of encroachments.

"The expansion of the Park area is a dire necessity to accommodate increasing number of animals, including the one-horned rhinoceros. But the government, instead of trying to evict  the Bangladeshi encroachers from within the national park and its fringes, is trying to give them citizenship certificates to facilitate their settlement on government  forest land," he alleged.

The AASU leader stated that no one should be allowed to precipitate destruction of wildlife areas and forest cover in the state. Kaziranga National Park, whose area is being doubled from the original 430 sq km by making six new additions, last year celebrated its 100 years of rhino conservation. 

The latest census figure puts the number of one-horned Asiatic Rhinoceros in Kaziranga National Park at over 1800. The Park boasts of a treasure trove of Royal Bengal Tigers, elephants, buffaloes, deer species, reptiles and migratory and local birds. It also happens to be highest revenue earner for the state tourism department.

K Anurag in Guwahati