Satra land encroachment: Commission submits interim report to Assam govt
Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma receives the interim report of the commission, at Janata Bhawan in Guwahati on Friday

Guwahati: The Commission for Review and Assessment of Problems of Satra Lands in Assam submitted its interim report to the state government on Friday, revealing that satra land measuring 1898.04 hectares in 11 districts of Assam is currently under encroachment.

According to the interim report, submitted by the commission to chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma here on Friday, the highest encroachment of satra land was observed in the Barpeta district, followed by Lakhimpur and Nagaon districts.

The commission, led by former minister Pradip Hazarika, also comprising MLAs Mrinal Saikia and Rupak Sarma, conducted a detailed survey on the encroachment of satra (Vaishnavite monasteries) land in the state during the year-long period before submitting its findings.

The Assam government constituted the three-member commission in November 2021 in the wake of various public complaints besides prayers and complaints received from the satras and other religious institutions.

The commission’s objective was to examine closely the problems of satra lands and verify the extent of encroachment of land belonging to the satras and come up with specific recommendations for a long-term solution.

The commission took over charge towards the end of December 2021. The members thereafter undertook extensive tours to 62 satras across 12 districts – Barpeta, Dhubri, Goalpara, Bongaigaon, Kamrup, Morigaon, Nagaon, Jorhat, Majuli, Lakhimpur, Dhemaji and Karimganj.

In every district headquarter visit, the commission held useful discussions with the deputy commissioner and other district officials, satradhikars and satra representatives, local public representatives, voluntary and social organisations and other prominent citizens.

“Based on the outcome of the fact-finding visits and data furnished by as many as 303 satras across 11 districts, the commission compiled the information on the status of lands with these satras. The data show 33265.7 bighas (8413.89 hectares) of land being under their possession and a total of 7504.2 bighas (1898.04 hectares) as being under encroachment,” an official statement said.

Out of this, the maximum encroachment has been reported from the Barpeta district (5545 bighas) and represents about 74 per cent of what has been reported and assessed so far.

“Barpeta is followed by Lakhimpur and Nagaon districts in middle and upper Assam and two other lower Assam districts of Bongaigaon and Dhubri. In respect of Barpeta, the satras seriously affected and found to be most vulnerable include Bhattadev Satra Byaskuchi (4000 bighas), Barpeta Satra (859 bighas), Sundaridia (282 bighas), Moinbori (140 bighas), Pirala Satra (101 bighas), Gamura (65 bighas) and Basudev Dewaloi Na-Satra (63 bighas),” the statement said.

Moreover, Bongaigaon and Dhubri districts also have satra lands under rampant encroachment, the interim report stated.

In respect of Bongaigaon, the single most affected satra is Raghunath Satra, which alone has reported encroachment of a total of 309 bighas.

In Dhubri district too, one of the worst impacted satras is Simolabari Purani Satra where nearly 200 bighas are under encroachment.

In the Lakhimpur district, three satras are important, namely Adi Alengi (122 bighas) Sakopora (138 bighas) and Purana Kamalabari Satra (300 bighas).

Another district which is badly affected is the undivided Nagaon district (comprising present-day Nagaon and Morigaon districts).

“One very major problem in the district is that most of the satras like Bardowa, Kobaikota, Narowa-Balisatra, Alipukhuri-Patekibari, Dumdumia Satra, Rampur Satra, all historic satras in the district, are under heavy encroachment and the alarming situation was noticed by the commission during its visit to the district,” it stated.

Based on field tours and extensive interactions with the satradhikars, satra management committees and other stakeholders, in addition to the concurrence of other evidence, the commission has now been able to assess the depth of the problem and set in motion its journey towards finding a lasting solution.

“While the commission’s exercise is still a work in progress it found it prudent to submit an interim report which brings out the issues in focus, details of insights gained so far and recommendations and suggestions for action that can be initiated immediately pending submission of the final report,” the statement said.

The report has made two sets of recommendations: One, which relates to a few specific satras, and two, the interim general recommendations, and together it comprises as many as 41 recommendations.

Chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma congratulated the commission for meticulously carrying out the job entrusted to them, despite the numerous challenges that came their way.

Sarma said the formation of the commission was the first of its kind attempt to resolve the issue of encroachment of satra lands. 

He said the interim report would now be administratively reviewed and follow-up action, in accordance with the law of the land, taken accordingly.

The chief minister exuded confidence the commission would continue to work with the same level of zeal and dedication till the submission of the final report.

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