Panel urges government to clear encroached land of Assam Vaishnavite monasteries
An Assam government commission has emphasised the importance of clearing encroached land of Satras (Vaishnavite monasteries) in the state and taking initiatives to promote and preserve these institutions’ cultural heritage.
The Assam State Commission for Review and Assessment of Satra Land Problems handed over its preliminary conclusions to Chief Minister after visiting 303 Satras in 11 districts and collating the data provided by them.
“The administration will take all necessary actions to remove encroachment.” “This is the first time there has been a coordinated effort in this direction,” Sarma remarked on Friday.
However, the government would also verify the findings through its administrative machinery because there may be legal changes in Satra land ownership over time due to changes in revenue department requirements and new legislation, he said.
According to the preliminary report, the Satras own 33,265.7 bighas (8,413.89 ha) of land, and 7,504.2 bighas (1,898.04 ha) have been encroached upon.
Barpeta district has the most encroachment (5,545 bighas), followed by Lakhimpur, Nagaon, Bongaigaon, and Dhubri.
The three-member Commission, established by Cabinet order last year, was led by Asom Gana Parishad MLA Pradip Hazarika and included BJP legislators Mrinal Saikia and Rupak Sarma.
The Commission’s major goal was to thoroughly investigate the Satra land problem, establish the level of encroachment, and make concrete proposals for a long-term solution.
The institution of Satra is a distinctive element of Vaishnavism in Assam, having been formed by social and religious reformer Sankardeva, who is also known as the founder of Assamese culture. The Satras are not only monasteries, but also traditional performing arts centres. According to a state government website, the first Satra was established in Majuli in the 15th century.
The Commission’s interim report presented two sets of recommendations, one for a few individual Satras and the other for general proposals.
The report suggested that Bardowa Than and the surrounding Satras in Nagaon district be developed as a Religious Tourism Circuit. It further demanded that all Satra land be cleared of encroachments immediately.
The interim study recommended, among other things, the establishment of three fully residential Satriya Cultural Education Centres, one in each of Barpeta, Bardowa, and Majuli.
The Satras are made out of a vast prayer hall facing a basic shrine, surrounded by dormitories and monk washing pools.
The institutions also provide guest accommodations where devotees and guests can not only worship Lords Vishnu and Krishna, but also see bhaona’ (traditional theatre with religious messages) performances.