Showing posts with label Assam. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Assam. Show all posts
16 November 2020

4 minors rescued in Assam after allegations of attempted human sacrifice

The police took the four boys into protective custody after learning that the father of one of the boys was preparing to sacrifice them.
The police took the four boys into protective custody after learning that the father of one of the boys was preparing to sacrifice them. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)


Father of one of the 4 children told police he was preparing to do some exorcism ritual.

By Abhinav Sahay

Police in Assam’s Sivasagar district have rescued four minor boys following allegations from local residents that they were about to be sacrificed by the father of one of the boys.

While reports in local news channels claim that the father of one of the boys wanted to sacrifice his own son and the sons of his brother on the advice of a witch doctor with the hope of getting some hidden treasure, police say there is no evidence of an attempted human sacrifice yet, but are investigating.

“A police team was sent to Demowmukh following reports that some human sacrifice was about to take place there. We have taken the four boys into our custody on Saturday night for their safety,” said Amitava Sinha, superintendent of police, Sivasagar.

“The allegations of attempted human sacrifice are yet to be confirmed. Apart from hearsay, there is no concrete evidence about such a crime. According to the locals, the father of one of the boys wanted to sacrifice them. On questioning, the father said they were planning some exorcism ritual,” he added.

An FIR on the incident has been lodged by local residents and police have detained two persons Jamirul Hussain and Shariful Hussain, fathers of the minor boys, for further interrogation.

24 July 2015

New Halfong-Silchar Line Declared Dangerous for Passengers by Commissioner of Railway Safety

New Halfong-Silchar Line Declared Dangerous for Passengers by Commissioner of Railway Safety

New Delhi, Jul 24 : 
In a major blow to passengers in the north-east, the top official of the watchdog for Railways safety has declared the Haflong - Silchar link as dangerous for public travel. The Commissioner of Railway Safety who inspected the crucial rail link last month has warned that the "Line cannot be opened for passenger traffic without danger to travelling public".

The observations are part of a report by the rail safety department, a copy of which is exclusively with NDTV. The report also says that despite existing serious issues with safety, the commissioner of rail safety only relented to conduct the inspection last month following "persistent persuasion by Railways"
What is worrying is that barely 4 months after the line was thrown open for goods trains, there have already been 9 derailments and at least 14 instances where the track has subsided. Rs. 5,500 crores have already been spent on the costly upgrade that has taken almost a decade to complete.

Passenger traffic between the two stations was completely halted last year as the final section of this rail link was being upgraded from meter gauge to broad gauge, and the Railways had said that it would be reopened this year. In March, Railway minister Suresh Prabhu had also flagged off goods trains on this route by remote control.

The report has "recommended that the railway administration engage experts in the field of get technology, structural engineering to critically review the present status and recommend suitable preventive measures".

The Railways has an ambitious plan link all the state capitals of the north-eastern states by 2022, but it appears to be a difficult task. The difficult mountainous terrain is also prone to landslides.

Last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had focused on improving connectivity to the North-east region, announcing Rs. 28,000 crore for laying new railway lines.
19 June 2015

2 Elephants in an Assam Court in Cross-Border Custody Battle

2 Elephants in an Assam Court in Cross-Border Custody Battle

Hailakandi, Assam:  An elephant and her calf spent a morning in a court in Assam this week, where a judge was asked to decide on their custody.

The judge had to make a short field trip to the court's lawns to inspect the jumbo duo in Assam's remote Hailakandi district which borders Bangladesh.

They were found on the Indian side of the border by the police on Monday. A local resident claims to be their owner - he says the female elephant was stolen from him eight years ago.

But a Bangladeshi man has made a rival claim. "They went missing a few days ago. I looked everywhere and then went to local cops in Bangladesh. They spoke to the Border Security Force and told me my elephants were in Hailakandi. So I got them to arrange travel and here I am to stake claim," says Mojibul Islam.

For now, custody of the elephants has been granted to a local forest official. The case will be heard next week. "We will take care of them as long as we have to, and ensure they are well fed and looked after," said Gunin Saikia, Divisional Forest Officer of Hailakandi.
07 May 2015

Asom Gana Parishad Calls 10-Hour Assam Bandh Today Over Land Boundary Agreement

Asom Gana Parishad Calls 10-Hour Assam Bandh Today Over Land Boundary Agreement

Guwahati:  Opposition Asom Gana Parishad today called a 10-hour Assam bandh today to protest against inclusion of the state in the Land Boundary Agreement between India and Bangladesh.

Criticising the BJP and the Centre for what it said was "surrendering" to Bangladesh, the AGP called the bandh from 6 am to 4 pm.

The BJP was "cheating" the people of the state, AGP General Secretary Kamalakanta Kalita said in a statement here.

On the other hand, the BJP also took out a protest-march and burnt an effigy of Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi for his opposition to exclusion of Assam from the protocol.

The Union Cabinet yesterday cleared the Bill to operationalise the Land Boundary Agreement which includes territories in Assam, West Bengal, Tripura and Meghalaya.

The BJP in Assam had opposed the exchange of enclaves between Bangladesh and India on Assamese territory considering sensitivities in the state, where the party aspires to come to power in assembly polls due early next year.

Following this, the Assam Chief Minister charged Prime Minister Narendra Modi of practising "double standards for narrow political gain" by proposing to exclude the state from the purview of the land swap deal.

On November 30 last year, Modi had said at a party workers' rally in the state capital that the Centre would go ahead with the LBA with Bangladesh for a permanent solution of infiltration issue keeping in mind the welfare of Assam.

Assam Government has been maintaining that the provisions of the protocol are an integral part of the 1974 agreement between India and Bangladesh.

According to the protocol, the Radcliff Line demarcating India-Bangladesh border in the Assam sector namely,Lathitilla-Dumabari sector in Karimganj district, Kalabari (Boroibari) area in Dhubri district and the Pallathal area in Karimganj district of Assam will be re-drawn as agreed to in the protocol.

As a result of the re-demarcation proposed in the LBA, approximately 714 acres of land in Lathitilla area willformally become part of Assam in India and 193.85 acres of land in Kalabari (Boroibari) and 74.55 acres in Pallathal will formally go to Bangladesh.

Since land measuring 268.40 acres is already under adverse possession of Bangladesh, India (Assam) will effectively get a net land area of 445.6 acres with reference to the Radcliff Line.
23 March 2015

Heavy Duty Force To Combat Rhino Poaching In Assam

A rhino and a forest guard in Assam’s Kaziranga national ParkBy Prasanta Mazumdar

Guwahati, Mar 23 :The Centre will raise a rhino protection force in Assam by roping in youths of villages that surround the rhino habitats in the eastern state.

The decision comes amid an alarming spurt in the poaching of the animal, especially at Kaziranga National Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

“For the establishment of the central protection force, the selection needs to be facilitated by the state government. The force will mainly consist of a motivated batch of youngsters from the surrounding villages and I am sure that in the next few days,  a lot of youths will join the force,” Union Minister of State for Environment and Forests Prakash Javadekar told reporters here on Saturday.

He was here to take part in a ‘chintan sibir’ (brainstorming camp) of his department, which was attended by delegates from 12 states.

“There in the field, we will have a special programme. Yesterday (Friday) I talked to Chief Minister (Tarun Gogoi) about the ‘chintan sibir’. Definitely, I will call the forest officers, especially those working in Kaziranga, to Delhi to work out the joint action,” Javadekar said.

The minister added that it’s not about a blame game. “Let’s also understand that about 100 years ago when we had started, rhinos were in extinct. The contributions made by all concerned over the years helped raise the number from 30 to 3,000. Last year there were 22 cases of poaching and 22 poachers were also killed. No country in the world is taking such tough actions but there are still loopholes,” Javadekar said.

He said that the Centre would amend the anti-poaching laws to be able to fight poachers more effectively.

In a memorandum submitted to Javadekar, Assam Forest Minister Atuwa Munda insisted on the modernisation of the department.

“The surrounding villages (of rhino habitats) have to be developed. We want the development of the areas through the joint forest management and the joint eco-management committees. We have submitted a memorandum to the minister seeking financial assistance for the purpose,” Munda stated.
12 March 2015

More than 1,000 Killed in Ethnic Clashes, Bomb Blasts in Assam Over 15 years

By Sushanta Talukdar

Assam witnessed eight ethnic clashes over the past nearly 15 years between 2001 and February 24, 2015, which claimed 535 lives. During this period, 810 bomb blasts also occurred in the State in which 471 persons (395 civilians and 76 security personnel) were killed.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Rockybul Hussain tabled these statistics on the floor of the Assam Assembly on Monday while replying on behalf of the Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, to a question raised by BJP member Monoranjan Das.

The eight ethnic clashes included:
  • The Hmar-Dimasa clashes (between February 26, 2003 and July 12, 2003) which claimed 57 lives in Dima Hasao district
  • The Karbi-Kuki clashes (between October 30, 2003 and April 12, 2004) which claimed 98 lives in Kabri Anglong district
  • The Karbi-Dimasa clashes (between September 26, 2005 and December 28, 2005) which claimed 106 lives in Karbi Anglong district
  • The Bodo-Muslim clashes (between August 14, 2008 and August 20, 2008 and October 3, 2008 and October 17, 2008) which claimed 64 lives in Udalguri and Darrang district
  • The Zeme Naga-Dimasa clashes (between March 19, 2009 and September 9, 2009) which claimed 73 lives in Dima Hasao district
  • The Garo-Rabha clashes (between January 1, 2011 and January 13, 2011) which claimed 12 lives in Goalpara district
  • The Karbi-Rengma Naga clashes (between February 27, 2013 and January 7, 2014) which claimed 16 lives in Karbi Anglong district
  • The Bodo-Muslim clashes (between July 19, 2012 and November 17, 2012) which claimed 109 lives in Kokrajhar, Chirang, Udalguri, Baksa and Dhubri.

The minister also informed that currently eight militant outfits were active in Assam. These include United Liberation Front of Asom (Independen), National Democratic Front of Boroland (Songbijit), Karbi People’s Liberation Tiger, Kamatapur Liberation Organisation, Harkat-ul-Muzahideen, Muslim United Liberation Tiger of Assam, Jamaat’ul Mujahideen of Bangladesh and the Communist Party of India (Maoist).

Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi in his budget speech for the fifth financial year of his third consecutive term, presented in the House on Tuesday stated that efforts by his government for maintenance of law and order resulted in signing of record 21 agreements by his government and the Centre for suspension of operations or Memorandum of Settlements with 21 militant outfits.

Strands of Belonging


Malini Bhattacharjee and Nazrul Haque
Malini Bhattacharjee and Nazrul Haque

In a research paper presented at Jamia Millia Islamia, academics Nazrul Haque and Malini Bhattacharjee highlight why Assamese Muslims are now asserting their ethnic identity alongside their religious identity

The ethnic violence in Bodo Territorial Council areas of Assam has been in the news for some years. Particularly bloody and recurring has been the conflict between the Bodos and the largely Bengali-speaking Muslims, leading to many from both the communities living in uncertainty and fear in camps for some time now. The accusations of the Bodos against the Muslims as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh who occupied their fallow land — and therefore ‘outsiders’— have been at the core of the conflict.
Not just in the Bodo areas but across Assam, the fight against illegal immigration from Bangladesh has been long, and at times bloody. A porous international border, unfulfilled promises of the Assam Accord and both State and National parties perennially playing vote bank politics, have contributed to the protracted problem. The emergence of the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) — on largely religious lines — has added to the complexities.
In this din, a critical voice seems to have gone unheard — that of the Assamese Muslims, locally called Goria, Moria or Desi. Many political and religious groups, time and again, have tried tying them to the Bengali-speaking Muslims highlighting their religious identity. However, lately, the community is seen to be asserting its ethnic identity as equally important as its religious identity, thus situating them in a peculiar position in the politically charged and religiously polarised milieu of the State.
The complexities of the topic got rare attention at a recent conference in New Delhi on the North East. Nazrul Haque and Malini Bhattacharjee, from Bangalore’s Azim Premji University, presented a paper — Identities in Quandary: The Complex Narrative of ‘Assamese Muslims’ — at “Reimagining the North East: Narratives, Networks and Negotiations”, hosted by Jamia Millia Islamia’s Centre for the North East. The research paper stood out for throwing light on an important slice of Assam history, often overlooked.
Haque and Bhattacharjee expounded on the advent of Islam in Assam through the invading Muslim armies since the 13th Century; their defeated soldiers taken captive by the Ahom kings creating, first, the Gorias, and later the Morias in the mid-16th Century. While Desis are people from the Koch and Nath communities converted to Islam, they highlight that many others became Muslims in Assam at the call of the Sufi saint Azan Fakir in mid-17th Century.
The Bengali-speaking Muslims, the paper points out, emigrated from erstwhile East Bengal to Assam during the British rule from 1826 to 1947. It “reached its peak during 1971 with the creation of Bangladesh”, leading the 1971 Census to record a 34.98 per cent increase in Assam’s population from the 1961 Census. However, Assamese language and local culture continued to be the binding force for the rest of the communities across religions.
In this interview, the duo states that language being the defining factor of the 1980s Assam Students’ Movement against illegal immigration, Assamese Muslims took part in it but “later became suspicious in an increasingly communal environment.”
Excerpts from the interview:
What attracted both of you to the topic? How long you have been researching on it?
Haque: We both are from Assam and have grown up witnessing the syncretic nature of our local culture (irrespective of religion and in spite of it) and also the changing narratives of that ethnic bonding. For the last few years, we could also sense a tension among indigenous Muslims of Assam and the various reasons for that — rise of global Islam, increasing religious intolerance in India, demand of democracy and politics, controversy surrounding the issue of ‘immigration’, etc. That made us interested in the topic as this case study speaks to a very important and global phenomenon. We did our first field interviews last November.
What is the size of their population?
Haque: There are no government figures, for obvious reasons. However, organisations like All Assam Goria, Moria, Desi Jatiya Parishad quote a number of around 30 lakhs. Some academics point out that in 1901, there were 2,48,842 Muslims in the Brahmaputra valley. The count, as per 1951 Census, was 19,81,859 (15 lakh were estimated to be of East Bengal origin).
In this identity war of ethnicity versus religion, how much are Assamese Muslims under pressure to side with religion? How much of it is political pressure?
Haque: The force of religion is quite powerful, as almost everyone we interviewed had admitted. There are changes in important social ceremonies, food habits, folk music, literature, the way people dress and conduct their daily life. There are political pressures too and more so because of the rise of the BJP and AIUDF in Assam politics, almost simultaneously.
How representative of the community are organisations like AAGMDJP?
Haque: It seems there are too many contradictions even within organisations ‘representing’ indigenous Muslims of Assam. Who are ‘indigenous’ and who are not? However, one fact is important — of all such bodies, AAGMDJP is the only one well accepted by all other ethnic organisations (Tai Ahom Students Union, Ahom Royal Society, Moran Students Union, Motok Students Union, Dimasa Students Union, Sonowal Kachari Parishad, All Bodo Students Union) and for some years, they are almost working together. That was evident in some public meetings we attended.
How much have Assamese Muslims suffered in the Bodo-Muslim violence? How strong is the tendency to club them with Bengali-speaking Muslims because of religion?
Bhattacharjee: There are many layers to this question and they are complex. One thing is distinct — the Bodoland violence was not (only) because of religion. Even now, the stands taken by various groups (including the BJP, the RSS or Hindu Yuva Chatra Parishad) are clear and publicly so — that one can’t club all Muslims in Assam under one religious umbrella. However, interests representing people from East Bengal origin (even Na Asomiyas) definitely try to make it a Hindu-Muslim issue and our sense is that so do intellectuals who don’t have first-hand knowledge of the region.
24 February 2015

Scheduled Tribe Status To More Assam Communities Likely


It is significant that 26 adivasi communities, which are going to be included in the schedule list of Assam, have Scheduled Tribe status in their respective place of origin. (Photo: PTI)
It is significant that 26 adivasi communities, which are going to be included in the schedule list of Assam, have Scheduled Tribe status in their respective place of origin. (Photo: PTI)
Guwahati, Feb 24 : In what may change course of politics in Assam, the ministry of home affairs is set to recommend tribal status for at least 26 communities of adivsis, like Munda, Oraon, Santhal and other tribals of Jaharkhand origin, mostly associated with the tea plantation industry of Assam.

Pointing out that 97 communities are listed as tea tribes in the state, authoritative security sources in the home ministry told this newspaper that most of them are listed as Other Backward Class (OBC) at their respective place of origin so all in the list of tea tribes of Assam can’t be granted ST status.

Disclosing that Cabinet memorandum has already been prepared to include 26 adivsis in the schedule list of Assam, authoritative security sources said that the ministry has also forwarded the report of a parliamentary committee in 2002 to the tribal affairs ministry which proposed to include tribal groups — Tai Ahom, Moran, Motok, Koch-Rajbongshis, and Chutia with adivsis in the schedule list.

It is significant that 26 adivasi communities, which are going to be included in the schedule list of Assam, have Scheduled Tribe status in their respective place of origin. The adivasis, which is known as tea tribes in Assam, comprising present and past plantation workers, have an estimated population of more than 60 lakhs in Assam.

However, due to sizeable presence of OBC workers in the tea-tribe community, the Adivasis of Jharkhand origin were deprived of getting the ST status which they have been accorded at their respective states of origin.

Clarifying that a parliamentary committee in 2002 had recommended the inclusion of these communities in the schedule list of Assam, security sources said that home ministry has already started the process.
04 February 2015

More Than 15,000 Women Raped in Assam in Past 10 Years

By Hemanta Kumar Nath

Guwahati, Feb 4 : Not only Amrita, more than 15,000 women in Assam were raped in past ten years.

Crime against women are on rise in Assam as more than 15,000 women and girls were raped in the state in past ten years.

According to Assam police reports , a total of 15,206 rape cases were registered in different police stations in the state from 2005 to August 2014.

The reports revealed that, rape cases were increased every year in the north eastern Indian state.

After Delhi rape case, the SC had ordered stern action against the culprits but Assam witnessed a shocking reports of risen crimes against women.

The reports revealed that, a total of 1217 rape cases were registered in 2005, while 1203 in 2006, 1310 in 2007, 1419 in 2008, 1269 in 2009, 1721 in 2010, 2011 in 2011, 1716 in 2012, 1937 in 2013 and 1403 cases registered up to August 2014.

"Different laws in place to stop the crimes, but crimes have risen year by year. Now question arise as are women in Assam safe, " Monty Mamu Kashyap, a social worker based in Guwahati said.

Not only rape, more than 23,000 women and girls were kidnapped in the state during period.

According to the Assam police reports, during the period a total of 23,829 women and girls were kidnapped and 15,325 women were molested in the state.

The report revealed that, a total of 1456 kidnapping cases of women and girls were registered in the year 2005, while 1310 in 2006, 1471 in 2007, 1613 in 2008, 1906 in 2009, 2486 in 2010, 2998 in 2011, 3360 in 2012, 4222 in 2013 and 3007 cases up to August 2014.

Recently a women journalist was allegedly physically assaulted by two police officials inside the police station in Guwahati.

Several rape victims are still waiting for justice.
15 January 2015

Forest guards gun down three poachers in Assam's Kaziranga National Park

Kaziranga, Jan 15 : Three poachers were today killed in two encounters with forest guards in Kaziranga National Park in Assam.

On a tip off about the entry of a group of poachers into the Park, forest guards launched an operation in Burapahar Range, Divisional Forest Officer SK Sil Sarma said.

Guarding the park. Reuters
Guarding the park. Reuters
On facing the forest guards, the poachers fired at them and in an encounter one poacher was killed around 3 am near Borghat forest camp, Sarma said.

On being chased, the two fleeing poachers engaged in a fierce gun battle with the guards for about 25 minutes before they were killed, he said.

Two 303 rifles fitted with a silencer and one round of ammunition as well as a 9-mm pistol with nine rounds of ammunition were recovered from the slain poachers, the DFO said.

The poachers were suspected to have come from adjacent Karbi Anglong hills side, he said.

Patrolling against poaching in the World Heritage Site had been intensified after one rhino was killed on 1 January this year and two on 4 January, a forest department official said.
24 November 2014

Thousands Rally Against Jihadis, 'Bangladeshi Infiltrators' in Assam


All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) has demonstrated across Assam against the presence of jihadi forces and alleged Bangladeshi infiltrators.

Assam Blind School Student Allegedly Beaten Up, Forced To Drink Urine, Almost Strangulated to Death By Roommates

By Samudra Gupta Kashyap

Guwahati, Nov 24
: A 14-year-old student of a reputed residential blind school in Assam has been forced to quit following alleged torture including forcibly made to drink his own urine. With this incident coming to light two months after it allegedly occurred, state chief minister Tarun Gogoi on Sunday directed institution of magisterial inquiry into it.

The incident allegedly happened on September 26 in the Sreemanta Sankar Mission Barhampur Blind School in Nagaon district in central Assam, with Deba Tati (14) saying six of his roommates accused him of passing urine in the room, following which they beat him up, forced urine into his mouth and then tried to even strangulate him with a bedsheet.

“Six boys first accused me of urinating inside the hostel room, and then beat me, after which they even forced me to drink urine. They also tore my bedsheet and said they will tie a noose around my neck,” Deba Tati told The Indian Express over the telephone from his residence in Tezpur. Barhampur is about about 65 kms from Tezpur, and the blind school – the oldest in the entire Northeast – run by Sreemanta Sankar Mission was set up in 1955.

He said he screamed for help, but nobody came to his rescue. “Luckily, I resisted the noose and managed to save myself. They however continued to threaten me for the next two days and said even the media cannot come to save me,” Deba said. A lady caretaker who looks after the boys’ hostel does not stay in the hostel at night.

While the incident allegedly happened on September 26, Deba left for home two days later when his mother Hema Tati went to bring him home for the Durga puja holidays that began on September 28. “It was only after reaching home that he told us everything and said he won’t go back to school again,” his mother said. The co-educational blind school has about 60 students from Class I to X, with boys and girls lodged in two separate hostels.

Deba’s parents, father Bhairab Tati and mother Hema Tati, are both daily-wage labourers. While Deba had lost his eyesight after a chicken pox infection immediately after birth, his eldest sister Bani got married after dropping out from Class V. His younger sister Pompi, a Class IX drop-out also works as a daily-wage labourer.

The entire episode came to light only on Friday when the family got a telephone call from a teacher of the school asking Deba to return because the annual examination was drawing near. “The family approached me and insisted that I accompany them to drop the boy in the school. When I enquired why, they told me the whole story.

“When I further inquired why they had not revealed this for so long, they said they were not sure what exactly to do,” said Tuntun Borah, a neighbour and an anganwadi worker who finally informed the media about it.

“We came to know about the incident only through the television news yesterday evening,” said Kamakhya Prasad Sarma, secretary of the Sreemanta Sankar Mission, a Nagaon-based organization that had pioneered education for the blind way back in 1950.

“On rushing to the school (which is about 10 kms from Nagaon), one of the teachers admitted to the incident, but could not explain why the matter was not reported to us,” Sarma told The Indian Express from Nagaon today.

A three-member delegation of the Mission led by Sarma went to Tezpur, met Deba and his parents and requested them to send the boy back with assurance that such incidents would not occur again. “But the boy is still scared. We have meanwhile ordered an internal inquiry. One of the six boys Deba mentioned to us in confidence admitted to having assaulted him and forced urine on him,” Sarma said.
20 November 2014

Blockade by Bodo Delays Trains in Assam

By Samudra Gupta Kashyap

Guwahati, Nov 20 : Several trains including the 12423 Dibrugarh-New Delhi Rajdhani Express were delayed following a sudden blockade of railway tracks by the Bodo People’s Coordination Peace Initiative of Bodoland Territorial Autonomous Districts at the Kokrajhar railway station today. The agitationists were demanding immediate release of NDFB founder and chairman Ranjan Daimary alias DR Nabla who is currently lodged in a jail here.

Northeast Frontier Railway sources said while the New Delhi-bound Rajdhani Express was delayed by about 40 minutes, three other major trains – 12345 Howrah-Guwahati Saraighat Express, 15909 Tinsukia-Lalgarh Avadh-Assam Express and 15471 Alipurduar-Kamakhya Inter-City Express – were delayed by more than four hours.

Other important trains that were disrupted included the Gaya-Kamakhya Express, Dibrugarh-Kolkata Express, Poorvottar Sampark Kranti Express, Guwahati-Trivandrum Express and Kamrup Express, NF Railway sources said. The blockade that began suddenly at 5 M today was however withdrawn at 9:45 AM.

This was the second consecutive day that trains were disrupted in Assam. As many as five trains were disrupted and delayed yesterday after the All Assam Tea Tribes Association resorted to a railway blockade for nearly three hours at Sarupathar station in Golaghat district.

The agitators were demanding adequate security for people living on the Assam-Nagaland border. Trains that were delayed included Dibrugarh-Rangiya Express, Jorhat-Guwahati Jan-Shatabdi Express and Lumding-Tinsukia Express.
11 November 2014

Visitors To Assam Zoo Can Soon View Endangered Pygmy Hogs

By Sushanta Talukdar

An adult pygmy hog. Photo: Ritu Raj Konwar
An adult pygmy hog. Photo: Ritu Raj Konwar

Will be the only one in the world to have the endangered wild pig

The Assam State Zoo is set to welcome a few pygmy hogs this week, making it the only zoo in the world to have the critically endangered pig.
The pygmy hog (Porcula salvania) is the smallest and rarest of wild pigs. The Pygmy Hog Research and Breeding Centre at Basistha will provide the pigs to the Assam zoo.
Chandan Kumar Bora, divisional forest officer, Assam State Zoo, told The Hindu that a simulated habitat has been created in an enclosure by growing Barenga grass collected from Orang National Park and staff have received training in care for the hogs. Mr. Bora said that the zoo had some pygmy hogs for public viewing from around 1970 till around 1990. Now, after a gap of almost 25 years, visitors would be able to see the pigs beginning November 15.
“It will be only zoo across the world to have pygmy hogs. As sighting of pygmy hogs in the wild is rare, the zoo will provide an opportunity for public viewing of this critically endangered mammal. Gradually, the zoo will also serve as a captive breeding centre,” added Mr. Bora.
Goutam Narayan, project director of the pygmy hog conservation programme (PHCP), said “The pygmy hog is at the brink of extinction, as it has been exterminated from most of its original range in India and Nepal.
“In the past, it was found in a narrow strip of tall and wet grassland plains in the area south of the Himalayan foothills from Uttar Pradesh to Assam, through Nepal terai and Bengal duars. Currently, it is restricted to a single viable population in the wild in Manas Tiger Reserve and a couple of reintroduced populations in Sonai Rupai Wildlife Sanctuary and Orang National Park, all in northwestern Assam.”

19th Century Railway Section in Assam Hills Yearns For Heritage Status

assamhilltrain02 A 47-km portion encircling the picturesque hill station of Haflong has remained untouched, including its century-old buildings mostly made of stones and timber. (Source: Samudra Gupta Kashyap)

By Samudra Gupta Kashyap

Guwahati, Nov 11 : Even as the railways are currently engaged in replacing the 111-year old metre-gauge Lumding-Badarpur Hill Section into a broad-gauge track, a 47-km stretch of the historic line, literally forming a garland around Haflong, Assam’s only hill station, is waiting to be conferred heritage status. The Assam government meanwhile has written to the railways asking them not to dismantle it, so that it could be promoted as a tourist attraction.

While the 225-km Lumding-Badarpur Hill Section – often described as the “most spectacular mountain line of Indian Railways” –  is currently in its last phase of gauge conversion – to be completed by April 2015 – a 47-km portion encircling the picturesque hill station of Haflong has remained untouched, including its century-old buildings mostly made of stones and timber. The 47-km portion has nine stations – Mahur, Migrendisa, Lower Haflong, Bagetar, Haflong Hill, Jatinga, Longrangjao, Mailongdisa and Harangajao – each one a heritage in its own right.

As a group of citizens of Haflong, highly concerned about preserving that 47-km stretch has asked the government to declare it a heritage track and promote it as a tourist attraction, the state government on its part has written to the Railways saying it was serious about retaining and promoting this 47-km stretch as a heritage track. The Hill Section that was considered as a “magnificent engineering feat” of the 19th century, the world’s steepest section (Harangajao-Jatinga) with a minimum gradient of 1:37 will continue to live once a final decision to preserve it is inked.
Officials at the Northeast Frontier Railway headquarters in Guwahati said they were waiting for a “concrete proposal” from the Assam government on how it wants to utilize the 47-km stretch that will be otherwise abandoned and dismantled. “While the Railway Board had recommended dismantling of the Mahur-Haragajao portion because it is not on the new BG alignment, we at NF Railways decided to ask the state government whether it wants us to retain it. The chief secretary replied in the affirmative. Now we are waiting for a concrete proposal from the Assam government,” NF Railway CPRO Sugato Lahiri said.

“The government has already asked the railways not to dismantle the 47-km stretch and the stations on it. We are drawing up a plan to preserve, maintain and promote this portion as a heritage track complete with steam engines and vintage salons,” Dhrubajyoti Hazarika, secretary, tourism, government of Assam told The Indian Express today.

Hazarika said while Jatinga, the village where birds mysteriously flock to commit suicide, has been a global attraction, all the other places along the track including Haflong town together would be promoted as a new package soon. While Haflong has an elevation of about 1685 feet, Jatinga is the tallest station in the Northeast, standing at 2156 feet above sea level.

The NF Railway had in May 2001 made an attempt to introduce what it called the Jatinga Steam Safari from Lower Haflong to Maibong, but that did not continue for long. With the Assam government willing to take it up, a journey on a vintage mountain train will once again become a reality. “Given the beauty of the Barail mountain, an imaginative planning can attract thrill-seeking and nature-loving tourists to this railway, especially because of the mystique associated with places like Jatinga,” said well-known writer Arup Kumar Dutta, whose “Indian Railways:The Final Frontier” is considered an authorative history of railways in the Northeast.

“We are happy that the broad-guage conversion of the Lumding-Badarpur Hill Section is nearing completion. But since the conversion does not affect the 47-km Mahur-Harangajao portion of it that also encircles Haflong town, it will be only too wise for the government to declare it as a heritage and use it for promoting tourism as early as possible,” said a memorandum signed by representatives of 14 organizations of Dima Hasao district.

The signatories also pointed out that the construction of this hill section that was opened in 1903 is inseparable from the story of development of the tribal communities of the district. “Wherever the railway track traversed, development was inevitable. Several small hamlets turned into towns here, while tribal communities moved closer to the railway track and sustained themselves. Now that the broad-guage track is coming up away from this 47-km stretch, the best thing to do is to preserve it, declare it as a heritage track and use it as a tourist attraction. This way the backward district will see a lot of economic activity,” the memorandum said.
22 October 2014

Delhi Comes Out in Full Support For Assam

New Delhi, Oct 22 : Delhi stood firmly behind the Music Fraternity yesterday and lent its earnest support for the concert titled #FORASSAM.

A packed Blue Frog witnessed the biggest names of the music industry as all the stars performed live to an enthralled audience. Spearheaded by Papon and Vishal Dadlani, the concert at Blue Frog in Delhi was held to help generate funds for the people who have been ravaged by the recent floods in the state of Assam.

Said Papon, “The intention was to generate awareness and attention about the flood situation in Assam and generate as much relief funds as possible towards the cause. We will collect the funds and hand it over to the chief minister’s fund soon”.

“This is probably the biggest concert in Indian music history where the music fraternity has come forward for a cause. Flood is an annual phenomenon in Assam, but due to some reasons, it doesn't get properly highlighted enough to be considered as a national calamity. ” said Vishal.

Longest Railway Tunnel in Northeast Scooped Out

Haflong, Oct 22 : The longest railway tunnel in the north east on the newly constructed Lumding-Silchar broad gauge line in Assam has been scooped out, said Northeast Frontier Railway officials.

The tunnel is situated near New Haflong station building and passes below Haflong town and the underground excavation work from both ends met each other on Sunday in Dima Hasao district, said NF Railway senior public relations officer (construction) Md M M Y Alam.

The 3,235 meter long tunnel connects the newly built New Haflong railway station with Jatingalumpur railway station, he said adding it is considered as one of the most critical tunnel in the 210-km broad gauge track.

It was scooped out with great difficulty due to soil conditions of the area and geological issues. Adverse geological conditions were encountered during underground excavation of the tunnel and its completion has been seen as a major challenge for the construction engineers of NF Railway, he told reporters Monday.

A high level team of the Construction Organisation comprising its Chief Executive Administrative Officer Ajit Pandit, Chief Engineer R K Ginger and others inspected the tunnel yesterday.

Terming it as a feat of the Railways in 2014-15, Alam said Construction Organisation has in a major breakthrough made the much awaited and difficult tunnel gauge conversion project.

Though work on the tunnel had begun in September 2005, it did not progress well initially due to several geological problems.

However, from 2012 onwards the work resumed and now the tunnel has been opened, Alam said adding, the remaining work of benching, lining and invert is scheduled to be completed by January next year.
11 September 2014

Gogoi Draws flak over official language circular for Barak Valley

By Samudra Gupta Kashyap

Guwahati, Sep 11 : Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi has come under attack from the opposition AGP and BJP, as well as from other groups over the state government withdrawing a circular regarding use of Assamese as official language in the three districts that comprise Barak Valley in southern Assam.

The Assam government had on November 30, 2013 issued a circular asking the deputy commissioners of all districts of the state to ensure use of Assamese as official language and submit a half-yearly report to the government on its implementation.

This had generated a lot of protests in the three Barak Valley districts – Cachar, Karimganj and Hailakandi – where Section 5 of the Assam Official Language Act 1960 as amended in 1967 had specified Bengali as the official language there.

While protests in the Barak Valley prompted the state government to issue a fresh circular on September 9 saying that the official language (Bengali) of Barak Valley will continue to be used for all official works, the opposition Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and BJP have come down heavily on the Congress government of Tarun Gogoi for apparently withdrawing Assamese from the Barak Valley.

“This is a totally anti-Assamese decision of the Congress government. Moreover, the circular comes just three days ahead of crucial by-election to three assembly constituencies, two of which are in the Barak Valley, clearly revealing that it is intended at catching votes,” said AGP general secretary Kamala Kalita here today.

The state BJP unit too has hit out at Gogoi, with its president Siddhartha Bhattacharyya described the circular as one that wouldlead to further division of Assam. “This circular is a weird decision of Tarun Gogoi that will have long-term impact and cause irreparable damage to the state,” Bhattacharyya said. The BJP leader also said that Gogoi’s intention behind such a circular on the eve of the by-elections was to get votes through what he described as typical Congress politics.

Noted litterateur and former Asam Sahitya Sabha president Nagen Saikia too criticized the state government and said this would create linguistic tension. “I may sound harsh, but I feel this circular will create a rift between two linguistic communities of the state,” Saikia said.
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19 August 2014

Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi Heckled by Mob, Rescued by Security Forces

By Deepshikha Ghosh

Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi Heckled by Mob, Rescued by Security Forces New Delhi, Aug 19 :  Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi was harassed and abused by an angry mob and had to be rescued by paramilitary personnel.

Mr Gogoi, who was visiting a relief camp in Uriamghat for people affected by violence along the border with Nagaland, had to leave within 10 minutes. Personnel of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) fired blanks in the air to disperse the mob.

15 people have died and some 10,000 displaced villagers have been driven to relief camps in a wave of violence by Naga insurgents last week in seven villages along the border.

These villages have both Nagas and Assamese people, but landowners do not have proper records.

Charred homes and scattered belongings are all that remain in the villages now. Those in relief camps accused the Gogoi government of failing to protect them.

The Chief Minister has sought Prime Minister Narendra Modi's help to restore peace in Uriamghat.

The border dispute began over 50 years ago over a patch of land claimed by a Naga and an Assamese land owner, when Nagaland became a separate state. The dispute continues despite a Supreme Court-backed mediation process.

The last round of mediation took place in Delhi over a year ago. A temporary pact places the disputed area under central forces but local people say they don't feel safe. Anger against the state administration boiled over today as protesters targeted Chief Minister Gogoi.
15 August 2014

AASU Begins Hunger Strike Over Assam Accord ‘Failure’

Guwahati, Aug 15 : All Assam Students' Union (AASU) activists on Thursday began a hunger strike, demanding that the state government fulfill the promises made by it in the historic Assam Accord 29 years ago. The activists will continue their hunger strike till the tricolour is hoisted on Friday.

Addressing a news conference on the banks of the Dighalipukhuri, Aasu activists said they want a time-bound action-plan from the government regarding the implementation of the clauses of the Assam Accord. The students' body said this would solve the problem of illegal influx in the state.

"Since the beginning of the Assam agitation in 1979, the state's people have been pressing successive governments to protect their Assamese identity. As per the accord, signed with the Centre in 1985, foreign nationals who entered Assam illegally after March 24, 1971, should have left the state," said Aasu adviser Samujjal Bhattacharyya.

He lamented that successive governments at the Centre and the state have not done enough to implement the Assam Accord, which he termed a 'national commitment'.

The students' body, a signatory of the Assam Accord which ended the six-year-long Assam agitation seeking deportation of illegal immigrants, asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi and chief minister Tarun Gogoi to set a deadline for the implementation of the clauses of the accord.

"The then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi announced the signing of the accord on 15th August, 1985. Nothing has been done to implement its clauses. Assam and the northeast have turned into a transit camp for jehadis and fundamentalists," Bhattacharyya added.

Aasu demanded that the BJP-led government at the Centre fulfill its poll promise of sealing the Indo-Bangla border, updating the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and safeguarding the identity of the Assamese people.

The Aasu leadership hit out at the Tarun Gogoi-government for failing to update the NRC, which, they say, is necessary to identify illegal immigrants in the state. "During a discussion with the PM on May 5, 2005, Tarun Gogoi said the NRC will be updated in Assam within two years. The promise remains unfulfilled and illegal immigrants have unrestricted movement in the state," Aasu president Sankar Prasad Rai said.

In all district headquarters, Aasu members will continue their hunger strike till the morning of August 15.

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