Assam violence: Manas National Park closed for tourists

Bodo rebels have been attacking tribal settlements near the park and escaping to Bhutan through the park

By Amarjyoti Borah
Published: Friday 26 December 2014

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, and his minister of state Kieran Rijiju met Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi in Guwahati on Thursday

The Assam government has announced closure of the famed Manas National Park in lower Assam and has asked the tourists who have already checked into the lodges and guest houses near the park, to restrict their movements.

The move follows the ethnic violence in which over 70 people by the militant outfit, National Democratic Front of Bodoland (Songbijit) or NDFB (S), which has a very strong presence in the vicinity of the Manas National Park.

The government has, meanwhile, launched an all out operation against the outfit and areas of operation include places in and around the national park. Union Home minister Rajnath Singh, and minister of state for home, Kieran Rijiju, had a meeting in this regard with Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi on December 25.

“The government will deal with the outfit strongly, and the required forces will be sent to the state,” said Singh.

Speaking to media persons after the meeting, Gogoi said that the Centre has extended full cooperation.

Baksa deputy commisisoner, Vinod Sesan, said that the national park has been shut as a there are a lot of Adivasi people staying near it. The outfit has been targeting the Adivasis since the last few days.

"Also, many tea gardens are located in the nearby area where thousands of people belonging to tea tribe resides," Seshan said.

After carrying out the attacks, terrorists escape to Bhutan through the dense jungle of Manas, he said.

Seshan further added that this decision has been taken keeping the safety of the tourists also in mind.

“The situation is tense and so we have clamped a curfew in the area. Since it is peak season, there are many tourists and they could become soft targets,” added Seshan.

Tourism may be hit

Speaking to the media, A C Das, field director of Manas National Park said that the Baksa district administration has instructed the park authorities to close the park until further notice.
“We will suffer heavy losses since it is peak tourist season, but we understand that the security and safety of the tourists must come first,” said Das.

Meanwhile, tourism officials have expressed fear that this might lead massive revenue losses.

“The tourism department of the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC), which maintains the park, might face a revenue loss up to 70 per cent compared to last year’s collection. Last year the revenue collection from tourists was almost 70 crore; the closure is also going to hit resort owners and other business associated with the tourism in the park,” said Partha Pratim Das, adviser, BTC’s tourism department.

Das pointed out that there are two kinds of losses—one is the immediate financial loss as a result of the bookings being cancelled and refunded.

“The second loss is the decline in the flow of tourists to the park as a result of fear among the tourists, which might continue even after the situation returns to normal.
Tourism entrepreneurs said that they have suffered major losses as a result of the situation.

“Even though we are allowed to keep the resort open, we had to close all the safaris. People don’t come here just to stay, and want to move around. Unfortunately as a result of the massacre many of our advanced bookings have been cancelled,” said Bhaskar Baruah, managing director of the LBS Tourism Private Ltd, which runs the Musa resort there. 

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