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Dima Hasao: Boulders Stolen near Sacred Site Adjoining Jatinga River, Locals up in Arms

Haflong, May 6, 2020:

Residents of the Puralongma village in Dima Hasao district of Assam have alleged that a construction company, Laxmi Motors, has “stolen” precious boulders from the Jatinga river amid the ongoing lockdown.
The locals have claimed that the company, engaged in road construction work at Jatinga-Harangajao, has stolen many trucks of boulders from the Jatinga river without any permission or consultation with the forest department or the villagers.
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The villagers have further alleged that Laxmi motors cut a road through the village’s property with a JCB and then loaded several truckloads of boulders. Reacting to this, the worried villagers seized the JCB and went on to inform the local police.
“This place is a sacred site for the village people. The contractors, however, started picking up boulders. I urged them to stop, but they did not acquiesce. We also till this land and grow crops here. We pray here. We asked them to stop because of these reasons, but they would not listen to my please”, said Bidanon Khersa, the village headman, adding that he would be “pleased” if the company is blacklisted.

“I do not know how they did it. The Gaon Burah lodged a complaint and that is why we came. The road was made through the village and even the villagers can make it. We could not come rightaway without the lodging of a complaint by the Gaon Burah”, said J Daulagupu, a local forest official who went to take stock of the situation.
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Rise of Mining Cases in Haflong:
In Dima Hasao district, there have been rising apprehensions that rampant mining is being orchestrated by local tycoons in the pristine rivers.
Daniel Langthasa, a former social activist turned Congress leader, opines that increase in connectivity in the region has caused an upswing in the number of mining cases. “Ever since the construction of the National Highway 54 and the broad gauge railway, the trucks can come immediately and whisk the boulders away”.
“This route has become active since the construction of the National Highway 54 East and after this Highway has been opened and lots of trucks can reach the site of the river”, Langthasa informed us.
Langthasa says locals have also joined these small enterprises as ‘crushers’ because of a lack of employment opportunities in the region. “Many politicians and funders, they are involved in the trade and politics is funded by such illegal activities”, Langthasa accused.
The Congress leader has further pinpointed Harangjao and Haglong as two sites where river mining is a common phenomenon, adding that activities have “doubled-tripled” in recent times. The Diyung and Jatinga rivers, Langthasa said, are the prime targets for the illegal miners of Dima Hasao.
“The Jatinga area, where the recent incident took place, people who reside there are mostly Khasi people. If they keep doing it, there might be more resistance from the people as Khasi people are more protective about their land”, Langthasa added.
Unlike most other tribes, Khasi people are more particular about people encroaching in their areas. In the Jatinga area, the village unit is quite strong. “However, in the past couple of months, these activities have picked up pace”, Langthasa lamented.
Environment and water scarcity problems are reportedly on the rise as the water retention in the rivers has dwindled in recent times, giving rise to severe concerns.
Problems abound for villagers in these areas as ‘modernization’ and ‘industrialization’ have opened up these vistas for unscrupulous businessmen to make a profit and seemingly, the exploitation of nature continues unabated in the region.
Inside Northeast (InsideNE), an independent media platform that focuses on Citizen-centric stories from Northeast India that are surprising, inspiring, cinematic and emotionally relevant.

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