31 July 2015

Reangs Refuse To Go Back To Mizoram

By Nilotpal Bhattacharjee

Aizawl, Jul 31 : Not a single person turned up on the third day of the seven-day verification camp for Bru refugees at Naisingpara relief camp in North Tripura today.

The camp houses 2,469 Bru families. The camp was conducted in four relief camps since June. But barring a woman identified as Porati, no refugee was willing to return to Mizoram.

Mizoram additional home secretary Lalbiakzama told The Telegraph today that no refugee turned up at the verification camp at Naisingpara, the largest relief camp in North Tripura.

"Bru refugees residing in various relief camps in North Tripura have raised a new set of demands. Only a woman reported at the camp in Hamsapara and was willing to be repatriated," he added.

Asked about the fate of the refugees who refused to turn up at the verification centres, Lalbiakzama said the Centre would take the final call. He added that the Supreme Court was also monitoring the repatriation process.

Additional deputy commissioner of Mamit Lalbiaksangi told this correspondent over phone from Naisingpara this evening that a team of officials from the three Mizoram districts of Mamit, Kolasib and Lunglei are at the relief camp since Tuesday.

He said the identification process is being undertaken to determine whether the Bru families are originally from Mizoram. "Once verification is over and the inmates are identified as original citizens of Mizoram, repatriation will begin," he said.

The seventh batch of Bru repatriation began with the identification procedure in two phases. In the first phase, people whose names are enrolled in the electoral rolls in Mizoram would be identified. In the second phase, people whose names are not included in the rolls but who claim to be original settlers would be recognised.

The families, which choose not to return to Mizoram, would be deemed permanent residents of Tripura. The refugees willing to return to Mizoram will be rehabilitated in Mamit, Kolasib and Lunglei. The Mizoram government has offered a rehabilitation package of Rs 85,000 for each family along with food allowance for six months.

Nearly 34,000 refugees living in North Tripura's refugee camps were driven out of their homes in November 1997 in the aftermath of a clash between the majority Mizos and minority Reangs. Between 2009 and 2011, 3,000 Bru refugees were repatriated to Mizoram from North Tripura.

The Bru refugee leaders are demanding higher compensation. They have put forward a charter of demands, which include financial assistance of Rs 150,000 per family, free ration to every repatriated family for two years, cultivable land, political settlement of the ethnic problem and adequate security, among others.

Centre Should Stick To Provisions of Mizoram Accord

By Sanjoy Hazarika

Former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi in Aizawl, Mizoram, after the signing of the Mizo Peace Accord, July 11, 1986. (Picture credit: Press Information Bureau)

In 1969 the Fifth Finance Commission recommended the creation of ‘special status’ for three states: The then undivided state of Assam, Nagaland and Jammu and Kashmir. The recommendation was to economically help states that are faced by disadvantages of geography, international borders, low population density and other factors.

Over the years, as Assam fragmented with Meghalaya being carved out of it as a state and Mizoram as a Union Territory (which later became a state), and new states emerged from the former kingdoms of Manipur and Tripura, political and economic demands grew for parity in places of turmoil. During these difficult decades, Arunachal Pradesh moved peacefully from being a Tract under the Assam governor’s jurisdiction to the Northeast Frontier Agency (NEFA), and finally became a state in 1987.

Sikkim merged with India in 1975, and in 2002, it became a part of the North Eastern Council.
All the northeastern states along with Uttarakhand, Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh got the ‘special’ tag. As a result of this, a large amount of money began to flow into these states.

The Centre would grant 90% of the funds the ‘special status’ states needed, while 10% were given as loans. In addition to this, when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the prime minister and Arun Shourie was the planning minister, the first to hold charge of a new Northeast portfolio (then a department, and not a ministry), a special offer was designed, according to which every ministry would contribute 10% of its annual budget to the Northeast department.

The money was to go to the non-lapsable central pool of resources in the department, which was to become the ministry of DoNER (department of the north-east region). It was the 14th Finance Commission that recommended the ending of the ‘special status’ category and took out provisions under Normal Central Assistance (NCA) and Special Central Assistance (SCA). The chief ministers of the eight northeast states have opposed this, saying that it would ‘drastically affect the finances in the northeast states’ and objected to the fact that the Centre would no longer make good the gap in non-plan revenue expenditure such as local development projects and programmes.

A big worry of the states was that the large central subsidies that were going into medium-term and long-term infrastructure programmes and projects in these states (and quite likely into the pockets of the contractors, officials, politicians and ‘militants’) would no longer come for specific projects, but will be a part of a larger transfer. We cannot forget that these states have a history of 30-50 years of conflict. As a result of the violence, they have lost out on opportunities for growth as well as innumerable lives and livelihoods. 

The calculations of the Centre and the finance commission suffer from a fundamental flaw when it comes to Mizoram.

It’s simple: The ’special category’ issue is one of the key provisions of the 1986 landmark peace accord between the Mizo National Front (MNF) and the Government of India as well as the local government. The agreement has made Mizoram one of the most peaceful states in the country. In Clause 6 of the Mizoram Accord’s Memorandum of Understanding, the status is spelt out: (a) The Centre will transfer resources to the new government … and this will include resources to cover the revenue gap for the year, (b) Central assistance for Plan will be fixed taking note of any residuary gap in resources …

The MNF, it may be recalled, revolted against India in 1966, and received arms, funds and training from, and in China and Pakistan. The Government of India’s response was nothing less than brutal, uprooting two-thirds of the civilian population from their homes, burning villages and settling them in new fenced-in protected villages or regrouping centres. This remains one of the most undocumented and unresearched parts of the Centre’s campaign in Mizoram. That both sides showed courage and statesmanship to rise above the bitterness and bloodshed to sign a peace treaty 20 years after the first shots were fired needs to be recognised regularly. That the peace has been sustained for the overall part for nearly 30 years is no mean achievement and has happened because of the determination shown by a highly knowledgeable and educated public, the church, the governments of different parties and civil society.

This is to be underlined, especially when conditions in parts of Manipur, Nagaland and Assam remain unsettled and unresolved. The latter represents a different set of issues and stories, which we shall not dwell upon here.

Anything that vitiates or dilutes the Mizoram Accord, the only peace agreement to have held in more than a half century of conflict in the northeast and which has been passed by Parliament, is unacceptable.

It is, therefore, heartening to note that the sub-committee of chief ministers set up by the Niti Aayog has tabled a draft report saying that for this category of states, the old formula should continue.
Changing the status would create new problems: The question will surely be asked — what is the value of a peace accord if there isn’t an economic dividend, let alone a political one? The Government of India needs to firmly assert that the interests of Mizoram and its special status compatriots will not be harmed.

Sanjoy Hazarika is director, Centre for Northeast studies at Jamia Millia Islamia University. The views expressed are personal.

Government To Revamp Oil Activity in Northeast India

By Animesh Singh

New Delhi, Jul 31 : The government plans to revamp exploration and production activities in the northeast sector with the aim of restoring it as the country’s hydrocarbon hub.

A series of ambitious steps like improving the output in the upstream, midstream and downstream activities as well as reviving the infrastructure are part of a vision document for the region, which is being readied by the petroleum ministry under supervision of the Prime Minister’s office.

The document, sources privy to the development said, is likely to be prepared within a month as the petroleum ministry has already set up a committee headed by additional secretary A.P. Sawhney to supervise its preparation. Crisil has been hired by the ministry to provide consultancy for the purpose.

The development of north-east region is a key part of the Narendra Modi government’s agenda, and in fact the Prime Minister had earlier stated that by 2022, when the country will be celebrating the 75th Independence Day, he is keen to reduce the total oil imports from the current 77 per cent to 67 per cent.

With the PMO directly involved in the revival of the hydrocarbon sector in the region, petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan visited Assam in April 2015 and toured the oilfields in Digboi, Duliajan, Nazira and Numaligarh.

Mr Pradhan, during the course of his visit, had indicated that the government will soon be coming out with a vision document for boosting production as well as investment in the petroleum sector in the region.

The committee headed by Mr Sawhney has held a series of meetings to finalise the vision document and sources informed this newspaper that improving the output in the upstream activities from the current 4.5 million tonnes per annum to 6 million tonnes per annum is going to be one of the key aspects of the policy.

Apart from this, upgrading the refining infrastructure and improving refining capacities as well as evacuation procedures (especially of gas), are also part of the vision document, sources added.

Official sources said that considering the fact that the law and order situation in the north-east region is always fragile, and land acquisition is also a major obstacle there, the government, while looking to give a boost to the petroleum sector, plans to ensure that these issues are streamlined.

They however refused to divulge any details about the timeline within which the reforms in the petroleum sector are to be implemented once the vision document is prepared.

4G Reaches Northeast

4G reaches northeast As part of the trial offer, Airtel customers in Shillong will be able to avail a complimentary upgrade to 4G services at 3G prices.

Guwahati, Jul 31 : Country's largest private telecom operator Bharti Airtel today rolled out latest 4G technology in Meghalaya's capital Shillong, the first in northeast.

"Bharti Airtel Ltd, a leading global telecommunications company with operations in 20 countries across Asia and Africa, today launched 4G trials exclusively for its customers in Shillong," the company said in a statement.

As part of the trial offer, Airtel customers in Shillong will be able to avail a complimentary upgrade to 4G services at 3G prices, it added.

"Today, as we launch Airtel 4G trials for our existing customers in Shillong, they will be uniquely positioned for a superlative 4G experience.

"We are committed to building a world class 4G network in the region," Bharti Airtel CEO (Assam and northeast) Saurabh Goel said.

The company started the testing of 4G signals in Shillong about two months back and is emphasizing on this entire process so that customers do not face any issue once the facility is introduced.

As part of its plans to expand customer base, Airtel has also announced "go-to-market partnerships" with Samsung and Flipkart for 4G devices.

The company claimed that the 4G services will enable customers to avail superfast internet speed with facilities such as high definition video streaming with zero buffering, downloading up to 10 movies in less than 30 minutes, uploading two high resolution photos per second and connecting multiple devices without compromising on the experience, among others.
30 July 2015

Mizoram Court Begins Hearing Molestation Case Against Teacher

The Aizawl District and Sessions Court on Wednesday began hearing the case of a primary school teacher who was arrested last November for molesting 32 schoolgirls at Saichal village, about 150 km from the state capital.

Aizawl, Jul 30 : The Aizawl District and Sessions Court on Wednesday began hearing the case of a primary school teacher who was arrested last November for molesting 32 schoolgirls at Saichal village, about 150 km from the state capital.

H Lalhmingmawia, the accused, pleaded not guilty to all the charges leveled against him.

Thirty-year-old H Lalhmingmawia was accused of molesting 32 of his female students — all between the ages of 8 and 12 years — at the government primary school there.

The police investigation whittled down the list to 27 victims after concluding that several kids were apparently touched by the teacher on parts of their body that might not be considered sexual.

The prosecution on Wednesday brought before District and Sessions Judge 15 cases under POCSO (Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences Act 2012) against H Lalhmingmawia.

Seven of theses cases were however changed to offences under IPC 354 (outraging the modesty of a woman) and transferred by the court to a Judicial Magistrate for further action.

The eight POCSO cases have further been divided between sections 6 and 8 of the law: three cases under section 6, five under section 8, according to Additional Public Prosecutor K Lalremruati.

Section 6 deals with “aggravated penetrative sexual assault” and carries a jail term of no less than 10 years which may be extended to a life term. Section 8 deals with “sexual assault” and carries a jail term of between three to five years.

The teacher, who is also a native of Saichal village, was arrested after being accused of molesting his schoolchildren over two years. Specifically, he is accused of raping one thrice, touching another on her private parts till she bled, and the rest on different parts of their body.

India and Myanmar Pledge To Deepen Ties

By Elizabeth Roche

Myanmar’s senior general U Min Aung Hlaing with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday.

Myanmar’s senior general U Min Aung Hlaing says the country will remain an important platform in support of India’s Act East Policy

New Delhi: India and Myanmar pledged to deepen their bilateral security cooperation, with senior leaders of both governments expressing their resolve during talks in New Delhi, a statement by the stated on Wednesday.

Senior general U Min Aung Hlaing, commander-in-chief of Myanmar Defence Services, who is on a visit to India, called on India’s three service chiefs as well as Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi.

The visit by the senior general of Myanmar follows a raid by the Indian Army last month to hunt down separatist militants, days after 18 soldiers were killed in an ambush in the Chandel district of Manipur.

Myanmar authorities had later stated that the Indian troops had not crossed into the country’s territory.

“Senior general U Min Aung Hlaing expressed his commitment to deepen defence and security engagement with India, including in the maritime security domain,” a statement from the prime minister’s office said after the meeting.

India’s north-east is home to dozens of insurgent groups, fighting for autonomy or secession.

The Indian Army has been deployed in the region that borders Myanmar, Bangladesh and Bhutan, for decades.

Indian officials say militant groups have set up base in Myanmar and Bhutan, using them as launch pads for attacks against India.

Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, India backed Myanmar’s pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi.

But it changed tack after realizing that the insurgent groups operating in the north-east have established bases in Myanmar.

India then actively engaged the then junta-run government, investing in infrastructure projects, exploring oil and gas blocks, and offering credit.

Ties were sustained after Myanmar slowly transitioned into a democracy with the first election in two decades being held in 2010.

“Senior general U Min Aung Hlaing appreciated India’s role as a reliable development partner for Myanmar. He said that Myanmar considers its relationship with India very important, not only as a neighbour, but also as a country with longstanding historical and cultural ties, shared interests and strong people-to-people ties with Myanmar,” the statement said.

“He added that Myanmar will remain an important platform in support of India’s Act East Policy,” the statement said, referring to India’s efforts to forge closer links with South-East Asia.

On his part, Modi underlined “India’s commitment to strengthen the bilateral relationship with Myanmar in all areas, including defence and security” besides support Myanmar in its endeavour for national development, the statement said.

The prime minister said India regarded Myanmar as “India’s gateway to Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and urged for greater connectivity between the two countries and beyond, the statement said.

With Myanmar due to go in for general elections in November, Modi said he respected “the desire of the people of Myanmar for a transition to a stable multi-party democracy, and conveyed his best wishes for the upcoming elections in Myanmar to be peaceful, free and fair”.

Bail Granted in Teacher Recruitment Scam

Aizawl, Jul 30 : The Gauhati High Court has granted interim bail to the five accused in the alleged teacher recruitment scam.

Justice MR Pathak of the Aizawl bench granted interim bail to Lai Autonomous District Council (LADC) Chief Executive Member V Zirsanga and four other accused and fixed August 4 for the next hearing.

The five accused were released on a bail bond of Rs 50,000 each and were restrained from leaving the southern Mizoram’s Lawngtlai district, the officials said.

Aizawl District and Sessions Judge Lucy Lalrinthari had rejected the anticipatory bail petition on Wednesday after the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) officials pleaded that the investigation against the accused was hampered as many witnesses were turning hostile.

Zirsanga and the four persons were allegedly involved in the Rs 3.19 crore teacher recruitment scam, which is being investigated by ACB. ACB contended that Zirsanga, then an executive member, education in the LADC received bribe amounting to Rs 21 lakh.

The investigating officers said that 41 new teachers were recruited fraudulently and the accused included District Education Officer (DEO), a cashier and two teachers.
27 July 2015

Not So Disturbed: Nagaland

title=By Oken Jeet Sandham

Kohima, Jul 27 : Three generations in the North-east have grown under the shadow of the Disturbed Area Act and the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act. Once any area is declared “disturbed” as per Section 3 of the AF(SP) Act, the Army is empowered to step in and any commissioned/non-commissioned/warrant officer or any other person of the equivalent rank can arrest, without warrant, any person who has committed a cognisable offence or against whom reasonable suspicion exists that he/she has committed such an offence and if he is of the opinion that it is necessary to use force for maintenance of public order and can fire upon or otherwise use force, even causing death.

The troops can enter and search without warrants any premises to make any such arrest as aforesaid or to recover any person believed to be wrongfully restrained and confined or any property reasonably suspected of being stolen or any arms, ammunition or explosive substances believed to be unlawfully kept in such premises, and may for that purpose use such force as may be necessary. The Act simply gives carte blanche to the troops in the name of assisting the civil administration. The Act must go and should no more be used in this modern and civilised era.

The Act was enacted on 11 September, 1958 and Nagaland became the first laboratory for the Indian Army to experiment. Only after decades, educated people realised the harmful consequences of the law. Nagaland has been enjoying some semblance of peace after the July 1997 ceasefire accord with the NSCN(IM). But the state is tense again with the NSCN(K) mounting attacks on security forces after unilaterally abrogating its 14-year truce with Delhi in March this year. Civil societies, the state government and many stakeholders have asked the Centre and NSCN(K) leaders to resume the truce.

While reimposing the Disturbed Areas Act in Nagaland, the Centre claimed, in a gazette notification, that the whole of Nagaland was in such a disturbed or dangerous condition that the use of armed forces in aid of civil power was necessary. It will remain in force for a year, beginning 30 June 2015. Chief minister TR Zeliang and several civil societies in Nagaland have expressed displeasure and anguish over the Centre’s decision and want its immediate revocation.

For nearly 14 years when the NSCN(K) was observing a truce with the Centre, Nagaland enjoyed peace. Even leaders of various Naga underground factions developed good rapport among themselves through the efforts of the Naga Forum for Reconciliation that came into being in 2008.

After Neiphiu Rio became chief minister of Nagaland in 2003, his government had constantly opposed Delhi’s attempts to reimpose the “Disturbed Area” tag since the situation was nowhere as serious as in the 1980s or early 1990s.

It is unfortunate that before reimposing the Act New Delhi did not think it necessary to take Union minister of state for home Kiren Rijiju into confidence. He comes from Arunachal Pradesh. It now appears that the Distubed Area Act will continue to remain in force in Nagaland even if the Naga political issue is resolved. It is time the Centre realised how anti-democratic the Act is against fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution.

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