The Dehing Patkai rainforest area is now emerging the latest theatre environmental politics with Congress and BJP going in a tug of war to take over the spontaneous student movement against the open cast mining in the area.
Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal asked his forest minister Parimal Suklabaidya to visit the Dehing Patkai Wildlife sanctuary as the social media campaign snowballed into a major controversy.
But he cleverly sidestepped the exact area where the controversial mining was going on which triggered the movement. The Ministry of Forest on April 20 last gave permission to the Coal India Limited to mine in an area that had been legally banned since 2003.
However, illegally the mining has been going on uninterrupted with full collusion with the local administration by the coal mafia.
The disputed coal mine at Saleki is outside the boundary of the Wildlife Sanctuary but in the Dehing Patkai elephant reserve.
The Congress too joined in the battle with Tarun Gogoi shooting letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying that during his Chief Ministership he never gave permission although Coal India sought the permission to mine.
Congress MP and former Forest Minister Pradyut Bardoloi released video footage establishing the rat hole mining ion the Dehing Patkai reserve. He alleged that it was being done at the connivance of the Ledo and Lekhapani police station.
He also alleged that besides Saleki and another Gova area, there was rat hole mining insider the rain forest areas and his video had dramatic footage of it. Notably, he was also the forest minister of Assam for two terms.
But Chief Minister Sonowal played smarty and asked the Forest Minister Parimal Suklabaidya to visit Dehing Patkai Wildlife sanctuary where there is large scale destruction but the disputed site was not there.
Another Environmentalist Somya Dweep Dutta also released a video saying that Wildlife sanctuary is intact. He was however trolled in social media for sidestepping Saleki area, which falls under the elephant reserve but as per the drone footage, it is amidst large tract of tea plantations.
As the whole Dehing Patkai movement is spontaneous social media-based, everyone seems to have jumped in not to be left out. The AASU and ULFA(IU) duty opposed it. The ULFA (I) in fact, threatened to attack anyone who would come for mining.
The funny part is that the mining has been going in the area since 1973 and up to 2003 it had permission and since then it was illegal till the Forest Ministry gave the permission to Coal India Limited again in April last.