Dibrugarh (Assam): A century-old golf course, at Chabua in Assam‘s Dibrugarh district where the last Viceroy of British India, Lord Luis Mountbatten had once played the nine holes, was almost ploughed up and turned into part of a tea estate, till a group of golf enthusiasts intervened to save the heritage course.

A meeting between golfers, the government and a tea giant which wanted to use the Kanjikhowa Golf Course to plant tea was held last week, where luckily all agreed to save the heritage golfing green.

The twin districts of Dibrugarh and Tinsukia in Upper Assam, famous for its tea are home to ten such heritage golf courses where the British planters and army officers at one time played, wined and dined.

However, the Kanjikhowa Golf Course came into the spotlight when a nearby tea estate started ploughing this course up with an intent to plant tea months ahead of the Covid lockdown, Secretary of Upper Assam Golf Association (UAGA) Siddhatha Chaliha told PTI.

The locals and other stakeholders, including the UAGA, launched a campaign to save the heritage golf course, urging the government to intervene and ensure that its’ conversion is stopped.

The then Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal directed the Dibrugarh Deputy Commissioner Pallav Kumar Jha to look into the matter and the latter stopped the ongoing work immediately imposing prohibitory orders under Section 144 CrPC.

The prohibitory order from the Kanjikhowa golf course was lifted recently following a meeting called by Jha on August 9 which was attended by representatives of Kharjan tea estate, Upper Assam Golf Association, All Assam Tea Tribes Students’ Association (AATTSA), Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha (ACMS).

“During the meeting it was unanimously decided that the historic Kanjikhowa golf course will be preserved in its present form. A committee has been formed consisting of representatives of the Upper Assam Golf Association, Kharjan tea estate, ACMS and AATTSA”, the Deputy Commissioner said.

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The committee will demarcate the boundary of the golf course, identify encroachment and take steps to develop the golf course, Jha added.

“We are happy with the decision taken at the meeting. The Kanjikhowa golf course is one of the oldest golf courses in India and we must keep its heritage alive”, Chaliha said.

Kanjikhowa golf course was joined with the Panitola Sports Club in 1912, making it one of the oldest in the region, and it played a key role during the second World War as allied forces built a temporary base camp near the golf link.

The Superintendent’s bangalow of the Budlabeta Tea Company near the golf course, which has since been dismantled since long, was the scene of a meeting between the British Commander in Chief Lord Mountbatten of Burma and the Chinese Commander-in-Chief during World War II, which when Mountbatten played gold on its links.

Assam is synonymous with its tea gardens and golf courses and ”a lot of sentiments and memories are associated with these golf courses. Many tourists visit these golf courses not just to play but also to soak in its rich history”, the UAGA Secretary said.

He pointed out that if appropriate measures are not taken now the golf courses of upper Assam will not live to see the next fifty years.

Chaliha pointed out private operators can be roped in to develop resorts.

Golf courses which have infrastructure for other sports can also be designated as a hub for a specific sport Squash Courts, Indoor Badminton Stadium, Table Tennis Stadium, Boxing Gyms, and according to its designation, required modern infrastructure catering to that sport can be added.

Government support, however, is critical to the success of these heritage infrastructure and these include land use permission and a well-funded sports policy with focus on encouraging participation at the local level, Chaliha said.

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