Assam Legislative Assembly Speaker Hitendra Nath Goswami alleged on Thursday that land encroachment by the Indian Army was a serious problem in the state. Bharatiya Janata Party MLA Atul Bora had raised the matter in the Assembly.

“Encroachment of land by the Army is a very serious matter,” the Speaker said during Question Hour, PTI reported. “If the Army is taking land, then we must be strict about it. Our valuable land is being given to the Army. Whenever we want to take back the abandoned land, they deny it. We have respect for the Army, but the encroachment should be stopped.”

Goswami, who was elected on a BJP ticket from the Jorhat seat, said he had stopped authorities from giving land in his constituency to the Army. He warned that if the Assam legislature did not take timely action, the situation could become “very serious”. “Because of encroachment of our forests, elephants are coming out of the jungles and creating problems,” he added.

Earlier, Bora had claimed that the Amchang Wildlife Sanctuary in the suburbs of Guwahati had experienced “massive encroachments” by the Army. “As a Speaker, you please tell the Army about this,” he told Goswani.

State Forest Minister Parimal Suklabaidya said in response to a query by All India United Democratic Front MLA Animul Islam that 134.66 square km of land in various national parks and wildlife sanctuaries in Assam had been encroached upon. He added that over 3.51 lakh hectares of reserved forest land had also been occupied.