Following a report by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) under the Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change on April 20 to “stop mining, quarrying, stone crusher activities in the Kaziranga-Karbi Anglong Landscape with immediate effect”, Kaziranga activist Rohit Choudhury filed an FIR in the Bokakhat Police Station on Sunday seeking protection for his life. Choudhury, who has approached the green tribunal on a number of occasions regarding illegal activities in the area, states in the FIR that “rich and powerful persons involved in illegal mining around Kaziranga National Park & Tiger Reserve, may try to cause physical harm to me and my family members.”
In October 2017, he had filed a complaint about the rampant mining activities in the Karbi Anglong Hills, adjoining the Kaziranga National Park (KNP) that had caused severe environmental damage and destruction of habitat, especially for the elephants and tigers in the area.
“In January 2018, the NTCA did a site inspection. This was followed by the report banning mining activities on April 20,” says Choudhury. However, ever since, Choudhury has reportedly been receiving repeated threats from around the area, mainly the towns of Bokakhat, Kohora, Bagori and Khuthori.
In a writ petition, 460/2004, the Supreme Court had declared areas within 10km from the boundaries of sanctuaries and national parks as “eco-sensitive” areas. “The mining activities are all happening within 5km radius,” Choudhury says, adding that it is a lucrative trade for a certain section of the people who have monopolized the business. Such activities put the habitats of over 100 tigers and 1,000 elephants at “high risk”.
“A sense of fear is being created in the area by powerful vested interest involved in illegal mining to pressurize me to withdraw my ongoing cases,” he says.
Choudhury, who describes himself as a “public spirited person working for the issues related to conservation and protection of Kaziranga National Park & Tiger Reserve” is not willing to change his stance. The activist received similar threats in 2012 and 2014 when he had opposed the widening of the National Highway 37.