An armed skirmish broke out between illegal tree fellers from Arunachal Pradesh and forest officers of Assam along the inter-state boundary in Lakhimpur district on Tuesday. However, as per official reports, none were injured in the incident that took place at No 1 Belbasti inside the Ranga Reserve Forest.
Lakhimpur Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) Ashok Kumar Dev Choudhury said that Rampur Range Beat Officer Banamali Narah heard sounds of felling of trees in the morning when he was jogging in the area. "Narah immediately informed me and I asked him to go to the spot with a team and check it. As they approached the location, the miscreants fired one round in the air and then two rounds at the team," Choudhury told PTI. The forest personnel retaliated and fired three rounds at them. "As the forest team was not prepared to handle such attacks, I asked my officers to return for their safety. Later, I informed the police and district officials for necessary action," Choudhury said.
The Papum Pare district administration of Arunachal Pradesh was contacted and urged to visit the spot. "Twenty-six trees were found felled when officials from both the states reached the site. The Assam team consisted of Lakhimpur district administration, state police and the Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forest," Choudhury said. The Assam Forest Department seized the felled trees and cutting materials left behind by the fleeing fellers. Those were kept in the safe custody of Kimin Sector Range Officer of Arunachal Pradesh for the time being and will be later brought back to Assam.
The exchange of fire took place less than 24 hours after senior officials from Lakhimpur and Papum Pare districts met at Upia in Arunachal Pradesh to discuss inter-state boundary issues.The meeting adopted several resolutions such as jointly handling inter-state boundary issues, involving local administration during visits to locations near the boundary and maintaining the status quo.
Earlier on November 20, Choudhury and his team were manhandled and "detained" for about three hours by miscreants from Arunachal Pradesh in Phulbari Bokabasti in Ranga Reserve Forest. Later, an Assam Police team rescued them.
Assam and Arunachal Pradesh share an 804.1-km inter-state boundary along Udalguri, Sonitpur, Biswanath, Lakhimpur, Dhemaji, Tinsukia, Dibrugarh and Charaideo districts. There are 1,200 points of dispute along the boundary. Arunachal Pradesh was initially a centrally-administered region after Independence and became a Union Territory later, before attaining full statehood in 1987.
(With PTI Inputs)