Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Won’t part border areas under sattras: ASM

Asom Sattra Mahasabha (ASM), the umbrella organisation for sattras (Vaishnavite monasteries) of Assam, has threatened to launch an agitation, and even move the Gauhati High Court “if border areas under sattras of the state are handed over to Meghalaya as part of the give-and-take agreement to resolve the decades-long interstate border row.
According to Shillong Times, the Mahasabha threat comes at a time when both Assam and Meghalaya have arrived at a “98 per cent consensus” on six areas of difference. Mahasabha sources have expressed concern claiming that a “considerable portion of land housing two sattras and over 20 naamghars (Vaishnavite prayer houses) along the Assam-Meghalaya border might go to the neighbouring state, and that Vaishnavite communities inhabiting the villages might lose their identity, culture and even religion if they decide to be part of Meghalaya.”
Speaking with The Shillong Times here on Sunday, the Sattra Mahasabha’s general secretary Kusum Kumar Mahanta asserted that the Mahasabha would, under no circumstances, allow Assam to part with land housing two sattras in West Guwahati constituency, namely Mateshor Sattra at Mateshor and Netwajapa Satra (nearly 200 years old) at Longsai.
“Not just the two sattras, we will never allow land housing the naamghars to be handed over to Meghalaya. Among them are the Noonmati Gosair Naamghar (Jimirigaon), Banaspati Naamghar (Boklapara), Sonari Naamghar at Bhalakhowa, Borabhogdiya Gosair Namghar (Ou Guri) besides villages such as Umsur, Ranibari, Xalser, Lungkhar, housing several rajohuwa (public) naamghars,” Mahanta claimed.
The Mahasabha general secretary further appealed to the Assam government to introspect, safeguard the identity of the Vaishnavite Assamese communities and ensure that the villages inhabited by these communities on the interstate border are retained in Assam.
“In case the decision to hand over the same under the agreement stands, we will appeal to organisations and people to join us and take the agitation route. If things do not work out thereafter, we will move Gauhati High Court seeking revocation of the deal,” he threatened.
Representatives of the Mahasabha had carried out an extensive ground survey along the border areas from Rani in Kamrup district to South Salmara near the Bangladesh border and interacted with various indigenous Vaishnavite communities such as Rabha, Hajong and Koch, etc.
One of the key findings of the survey was that a sizeable population of border villagers (belonging to the Vaishnavite sect) “is ready to be with Meghalaya for the benefits they have been enjoying over the years and the apathy shown by Assam.”
“A common grievance among some of the residents is that local legislators from Assam have neither visited the area nor has the state government released any scheme funds for development. On the contrary, they claimed to have got some benefits from the Meghalaya government,” Mahanta said. “The residents were however cautioned (during the interaction) about the threat to their identity if their religion is converted to Christianity once they are with Meghalaya, else they might not get the benefits from the government.”
According to ASM sources, there are more than 1200 sattras and over 10,000 naamghars under the Mahasabha in Assam.
Since its inception in 1915, ASM has been ardently engaged in preserving and propagating the religious and socio-cultural teachings of Mahapurush Srimanta Sankardev. Reportedly, MLA from West Guwahati constituency for five times since 1985, Ramendra Narayan Kalita however, maintains that under the give-and-take agreement, only one naamghar in Boklapara under his constituency would go to Meghalaya, as farm lands of the residents in the area could not be merged with Assam and that a majority of the residents want to be part of the neighbouring state.
According to reports, out of the 1.57 sq km disputed area in Boklapara, 1.01 sq km will be a part of Assam while the remaining 0.56 sq km will go to Meghalaya.

Don't Miss

Must Read