A conglomeration of pressure groups from Garo Hills has come down heavily on the State government as well as district authorities over the inaction despite complaints coming from various quarters over the issue of so-called illegal settlers and squatters taking over an archeological site in Wadagokgre, West Garo Hills.
The NGOs, through a press communiqué, have expressed their fear that the government’s approach will have considerable consequences on the future of Garo Hills.
Earlier, other NGOs had also pointed to over 300 illegal settlements that had come up in the area, despite the land falling under the Sixth Schedule.
“The area falls under the jurisdiction of the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) and is recognized as an archeological site. The encroachment of the settlers is completely illegal even when indigenous locals have recognized the site for being of historical value. In fact these settlers have made the settlements permanent through building concrete structures,” said the NGOs.
They also questioned the supposedly unperturbed nature of response from the government and said it was of great concern.
“We are sure if the indigenous people tried to settle in the area they would have been evicted outright. However, the stance is different for illegal immigrants illegally occupying the lands,” accused the groups.
The organisations also pointed to the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Site and Remains Act 1958, which states that construction is prohibited within 100 metres of protected monuments. Even the ASI and government need a recommendation from the Expert Advisory Committee before conducting public works near prohibited areas under the act.
They asserted that the state government needed to act quickly to save the site and the land of the Garos.
“Who knows how many stones of historic value have been removed from the site. Every year under the guise of fleeing from floods, illegal immigrants have taken residence in Garo Hills with successive governments either ill-equipped or unwilling to acknowledge the situation,” asserted the group.