Showing posts with label Northeast. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Northeast. Show all posts
31 March 2022

Modi govt reduces areas under AFSPA in Nagaland, Manipur & Assam

Reduction in areas under AFSPA is a result of ‘improved security situation’, Home Minister Amit Shah says.

New Delhi: Several districts across Nagaland, Assam and Manipur have been removed from the list of “disturbed areas” that fall under the controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) announced Thursday.

Reduction in areas under AFSPA was a result of “improved security situation”, Home Minister Amit Shah said in a statement on Twitter.

The move came three months after 14 civilians were killed in an Army ambush in Nagaland’s Mon district, followed by a spate of protests demanding withdrawal of AFSPA from the state.

In Nagaland, where AFSPA has been in place since 1995, areas under 15 police stations across seven districts will be removed from the disturbed areas list and will no longer fall under AFSPA.

In Assam, which has been under AFSPA since 1990, 24 districts (23 completely, and one partially) have been removed from that list. In Manipur, which has been under AFSPA (except Imphal Municipality area) since 2004, areas under 15 police stations across six districts have been removed.

The demands for the repeal of AFSPA, an Act that gives sweeping powers to the armed forces to arrest without warrants and even shoot to kill in certain situations in ‘disturbed areas’, from Nagaland and other north-eastern states has persisted for years and only grew louder following the Mon incident.

After the episode, the Narendra Modi government on 27 December instituted a high-level committee chaired by a secretary-level officer to examine the possibility of withdrawing AFSPA from Nagaland.

According to sources in the MHA, the panel’s recommendations were accepted and it was decided that AFSPA could be lifted from certain areas in a phased manner.

Speaking about the latest move, Shah said the “fast tracked development due to the consistent efforts and several agreements to end insurgency and bring lasting peace in the North East” played a role in the decision.

AFSPA was completely removed from Meghalaya in 2018 and Tripura in 2015. At the time, the Act was in force in three districts of Arunachal Pradesh.

‘Improved security situation, constant engagement’

According to the MHA statement, in 2021 there has been a 74 per cent fall in incidents of militancy in the Northeast in comparison to 2014. The ministry also said that deaths of security personnel too have fallen by 60 per cent and deaths of civilians by 84 per cent, showing “improved security situation” in the states.

“The consistent efforts of the Government and improvement in the security situation in the Northeast led to reduction of the disturbed areas under AFSPA in Nagaland, Assam and Manipur after decades,” the statement said.

Shah has constantly engaged with the states in the Northeast, holding dialogues on a regular basis resulting in most of the extremist groups laying down their arms, it added.

“Today all these persons have become a part of the democratic process and are participating in the  development of the North East. About 7,000 militants have surrendered in the last few years,” the ministry said.

The statement noted that the Government of India has also signed several agreements to end insurgencies and bring peace to the Northeast in the last three years.

These include the Bodo Accord signed in January 2020, which resolved the five decades long Bodo problem of Assam; the Karbi-Anglong Agreement of 4 September 2021, which resolved the long standing dispute over the Karbi region of Assam; the NLFT (SD) agreement signed in August 2019 to bring militants into the mainstream of society in Tripura; and an agreement signed on 16 January 2020 to resolve the 23-year-old Bru-Reang refugee crisis, under which 37,000 internally displaced persons are being resettled in Tripura.

On 29 March, an agreement resolving disputes along boundaries of Assam and Meghalaya was also signed.

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13 May 2021

Nagaland Goes For Total Lockdown, More Curbs In Other NE States

Guwahati/Kohima/Agartala:  The Nagaland government has clamped total lockdown across the state for eight days while Assam and the other six northeastern states extended the timings of curfew and imposed other restrictions to curb the alarming spread of Covid, officials said on Wednesday.

Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Tripura, Nagaland, and Arunachal Pradesh have shown continued increasing trend in daily new Covid cases.

In Kohima, health officials said that the High-Powered Committee on Covid-19 decided to impose a state-wide total lockdown starting from 6 p.m. on Friday till May 21.

Officials in Guwahati said that in the past one week (May 5-May 11), 5,215 new Covid cases were reported against 3,466 cases in the previous week (April 28-May 4) while 2,333 fresh cases reported in the earlier week (April 21-April 27).

The Assam government on Wednesday issued new standard operating procedures (SOPs) with effect from Thursday. According to the SOPs, the curfew timings across Assam have been advanced to 2 p.m. from the earlier 6 p.m.

The fresh SOPs, issued by Chief Secretary Jishnu Barua, said that all shops and commercial establishments would be shut down at 1 p.m. on all days instead of 2 p.m., weekly markets would not be allowed for 15 days, all educational institutions including schools, colleges and Universities must provide quality virtual options, and no physical classes would be allowed for 15 days, and all government and non-government offices would be closed for 15 days with effect from Thursday.

Director General of Police Bhaskar Jyoti Mahanta on Wednesday said that the police would register “attempt to murder” case if any one violates the SOPs.

Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma entrusted each of the 13 ministers to oversee the Covid management in at least two districts while he himself would look after the pandemic-related actions and necessities in Majuli district, the world’s largest river island.

After imposing night curfew and other restrictions, the Tripura government has declared three containment zones within the Agartala Municipal Corporation area.

The Manipur government has imposed total curfew in seven of the 16 districts till May 17. The seven include Imphal West and Imphal East districts. In the remaining districts, night curfew would in effect from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m.

The Meghalaya government extended the lockdown in East Khasi Hills district, where Shillong is located, till May 17.

Chief Secretary M.S Rao, in his order, said that weekend lockdowns would be enforced in the remaining 10 districts on May 15 and May 16. “Inter-state movement of people shall continue to be restricted. This shall not apply for transit vehicles of Assam, Tripura, Manipur and Mizoram,” the order said.

The Mizoram government has announced complete lockdown till 4 a.m of May 17 while Sikkim imposed lockdown-like restrictions till May 16. Arunachal Pradesh has imposed night curfew — from 6.30 pm to 5 am – till May 31.

13 January 2021

Israel appoints Honorary Consul in Northeast India

The Embassy of Israel in India has appointed Joyshree Das Verma as Honorary Consul in the region with jurisdiction over the States of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Tripura and Sikkim, an Embassy statement said.

As part of efforts to increase its presence and collaborations in India’s Northeast, Israel has appointed an Honorary Consul in the region who will be based in Assam.

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16 November 2020

Sex Ratio: Arunachal Best, Manipur Worst

Arunachal records best sex ratio, Manipur the worst

Sex ratio at birth is number of females born per thousand males.

Arunachal Pradesh recorded 1,084 females born per thousand males, followed by Nagaland (965) Mizoram (964), Kerala (963) and Karnataka (957). The worst was reported in Manipur (757), Lakshadweep (839) and Daman & Diu (877), Punjab (896) and Gujarat (896).

Delhi recorded a sex ratio of 929, Haryana 914 and Jammu and Kashmir 952. The ratio was determined on the basis of data provided by 30 States and Union Territories as the “requisite information from six States namely Bihar, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Sikkim, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal is not available,” said the report published by the Registrar General of India.

The number of registered births increased to 2.33 crore in 2018 from 2.21 crore registered births the previous year. “The level of registration of births has increased to 89.3% in 2018 from 81.3% in 2009,” the report said.

The prescribed time limit for registration of birth or death is 21 days. Some States however register the births and deaths even after a year.

The birth or death certificate is issued free of charge by the Registrar concerned if reported within 21 days. If reported within 21-30 days, it can be registered on payment of the prescribed fee. If the duration is more than 30 days but within a year, it can be registered with the written permission of the prescribed authority and on production of an affidavit made before a notary public or any other officer authorised by the State government and on payment of a fee.

“Births and deaths reported after one year of occurrence shall be registered only on an order of the Magistrate of the First Class after verifying the correctness and on payment of the prescribed fee,” the report said.
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13 October 2020

Hindu activists oppose serving beef to tigers in Guwahati zoo

 The activists stopped vehicles carrying meat items meant for the big cats housed in the zoo. They blocked the roads leading to the zoo for several hours before allowing authorities to take the food items inside.

By Utpal Parashar

A white tiger at the Assam State Zoo in Guwahati. At present, the zoo has 8 tigers, 3 lions, 26 leopards and other small cats like leopard cat, jungle cat etc.
A white tiger at the Assam State Zoo in Guwahati. At present, the zoo has 8 tigers, 3 lions, 26 leopards and other small cats like leopard cat, jungle cat etc. (ASSAM STATE ZOO.)

Opposing the slaughter of cows, several Hindu activists on Monday protested against serving beef as part of diet to tigers and other big cats in the Assam state zoo located in Guwahati.

The activists stopped vehicles carrying meat items meant for the big cats housed in the zoo. They blocked the roads leading to the zoo for several hours before allowing authorities to take the food items inside.

“The vehicles carrying meat for the zoo inmates were stopped briefly by some miscreants. We had to call the police to disperse them. There’s no issue regarding supply of meat to the animals now,” said Tejas Mariswamy, divisional forest officer (DFO), Assam state zoo.

Established in 1957 and spread over 175 hectares in the middle of Guwahati in the Hengrabari reserve forest, Assam state zoo, which has 1,040 wild animals and birds of 112 species, is the biggest zoo in the Northeast.

At present, the zoo has 8 tigers, 3 lions, 26 leopards and other small cats like leopard cat, jungle cat etc.

The zoo is a big attraction among people in Guwahati and others from across the region, but due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it has been closed for the public since March this year.

07 March 2016

Sangma's body brought to hometown in Meghalaya

Tura (Meghalaya), Mar 7 :  Thousands of people from different walks of life paid their last respects to former Lok Sabha speaker Purno Agitok Sangma as his body was brought to his hometown here in western part of Meghalaya ahead of his state funeral on Monday.

As the casket containing Sangma's body, a former Meghalaya chief minister, reached Tura, the district headquarters of West Garo Hills, a large number of people linedAup on both sides of the road to have a final glimpse of their leader.

The mortal remains of Sangma were brought to Tura from Assam's Guwahati International Airport in a MI-17 helicopter after being flown there from Delhi in a special Indian Air Force aircraft.

Union Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju, Development of North Eastern Region Minister Jitendra Singh, former union water resources minister Vincent Pala along with Sangma's family members accompanied the casket from New Delhi.

Meghalaya Governor V. Shanmuganathan later accompanied the mortal remains of Sangma from Guwahati to Sangma's residence at Walbakgre.

Sangma's residence at Walbakgre became a sea of humanity as thousands of people from all walks of life had gathered there. A brief meeting was conducted at the residence where the visiting dignitaries paid homage to departed leader.

Paying his tributes, Shanmuganathan said Sangma was the embodiment of the best qualities of a politician and likened his towering personality to that of the Himalayas.

Jitendra Singh said Sangma was an "iconic figure" and a "role model" for all of them in the parliament. "Ever since I became DoNER minister I have been in touch with Sangmaji seeking his guidance on how to initiate developmental works in northeast," he said.

Rijiju, who had come down to Tura to pay the last tributes on behalf of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, referred to Sangma as the first political face of North East.

"We have learned a lot from PA Sangma saheb. Cutting across political ideologies, he gave ideas for development of northeast and always worked for the people. We have not forgotten his ideas; we will always work to fulfill his unfinished tasks," he said.
05 November 2015

Thai ‘gunrunner’ Willy Naru who ‘gave arms’ to N-E rebels set to be extradited to India

In September 2010, since the “ground situation in Bangladesh was not favourable to NSCN-IM”, it was decided to postpone the deal. Before his arrest, however, Shimray had allegedly paid Naru US $800,000.

By Sagnik Chowdhury
Willy Naru, thailand arms dealer, NIA, Interpol, NSCN-IM, North-East insurgents, Willy Naru extradition, illegal arms trading, National Investigation Agency, NIA, Thai arms trader, Anthony Shimray, india news, nation news
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Securing Naru’s custody would be a significant breakthrough for the NIA as his interrogation would help establish the chain of Chinese arms supply to North-East insurgent groups.
In a major catch for the National Investigation Agency (NIA), Thai national and gunrunner Wuthikorn Naruenartwanich alias Willy Naru, accused of brokering arms deals between insurgents in the North-East and Chinese suppliers, could be extradited to India from Thailand over the next couple of days.

Securing Naru’s custody would be a significant breakthrough for the NIA as his interrogation would help establish the chain of Chinese arms supply to North-East insurgent groups.

Government sources told The Indian Express that an appellate court in Thailand recently delivered its final verdict, turning down an appeal filed by Naru against his extradition. “Typically, it is quite difficult to secure extradition of a foreign national. Naru’s extradition would be a major catch for an Indian agency,” the source said.

India had secured an Interpol Red Corner Notice (RCN) against Naru, 58, after Naga outfit NSCN-IM’s self-styled major general and commander Anthony Shimray, who was arrested in Patna in October 2010, alleged he had paid Naru for a large arms consignment. Based on this RCN, Naru, who ran a spa in Bangkok, was arrested by Thai authorities in August 2013.

On March 26, 2011, it filed a chargesheet against Shimray, T R Calvin, Hangshi Ramson Tangkhul and Naru. On March 31 last year, a Bangkok court ordered his extradition to India, and also allowed him 30 days’ time to file an appeal against the order, which he did before the appellate court.

According to the NIA chargesheet, NSCN-IM regularly procures arms in bulk from China, “mostly from the Chinese Arms Company NORINCO (North China Industries Company)”. In 2007, Azetho Sumi, one of the top leaders of the NSCN-IM, allegedly deserted the outfit and joined NSCN-K with 70-80 weapons. Due to this, the NSCN-IM ran short of weapons, and Tangkul, the self-styled defence minister of the outfit, discussed the issue with the group’s leadership in New Delhi, NIA said.

Shimray allegedly told Naru that he “wanted to procure 1,000 pieces of arms, including AK series automatic rifles, light machine guns, pistols, rocket-propelled grenades, rocket launchers and five lakh rounds of ammunition, and gave him the list of weapons required”, says the NIA chargesheet.

A deal was allegedly fixed for US $1.2 million for 600 AK series assault rifles and 200 other weapons, including 9mm sub-machine guns, light machine guns, pistols and one lakh rounds of ammunition.

Beihei Port in South China near Vietnam was going to be the loading port while the delivery would be made at Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.

In September 2010, since the “ground situation in Bangladesh was not favourable to NSCN-IM”, it was decided to postpone the deal. Before his arrest, however, Shimray had allegedly paid Naru US $800,000.
15 October 2015

Kaladan on fast track

Centre clears NE-Myanmar transit transport project

New Delhi, Oct 15 :
The Union cabinet today gave its nod for fast-tracking the Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project that connects Myanmar to the Northeast, giving a fillip to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Act East policy.
The cabinet revised the cost of the project from Rs 535 crore in March 2008 to Rs 2,904 crore. The funds will be given as grant to Myanmar.
The project will provide an alternative access route to the Northeast and is expected to contribute towards the region's economic development.

The idea is to have a 225km waterway from Sittwe Port to Paletwa, both in Myanmar, along the Kaladan river. A 62km road will connect Paletwa to the Indian border village of Zochawchhuah (in Mizoram). The road stretch was cited to be 109km till December last year but details made available today said it would be 62km. Three surveys were conducted by a Mumbai-based company for the road. Sittwe is nearly 550km by sea from Calcutta.
The interlocking Indian road component in Mizoram includes a 99.83km road from Zochawchhuah to Lawngtlai town, the headquarters of Lawngtlai district. A road of over 250km already connects Lawngtlai to the state capital, Aizawl.
"A very good road is being constructed on the Indian side which should be finished in three years. But construction is yet to begin on the Myanmar side," a senior council member of Lai Autonomous Council said over phone from Lawngtlai.
A study by a think tank last year had nudged the government on pending infrastructure projects that connect Myanmar and the Northeast.
Sources said the Modi government is also looking at fast-tracking the connectivity between the Northeast and its Southeast Asian neighbours. A commercial road link and rail link are also on the cards through Manipur into Myanmar.
The Modi government has claimed to have transited from Look East Policy to Act East policy. However, the northeastern states have often asked how the region would be made a stakeholder.
The Kaladan project has been in a state of stagnation for some time, apparently because of land acquisition problems in Myanmar. The idea was conceived over a decade ago when in April 2003 a detailed project report was made on the waterways component, followed by a road component project designed by the public sector company, RITES.
The project was jointly identified by India and Myanmar to create multi-modal transport for shipment of cargo from the eastern ports of India to Myanmar as well as to the Northeast through Myanmar. This project, which will connect Sittwe Port to the India-Myanmar border, is expected to contribute to the economic development of the northeastern states, particularly Mizoram, by opening up the sea route to the land-locked territory.
It also provides a strategic link to the Northeast by reducing pressure on the Siliguri corridor.
A direct access between West Bengal and Tripura through Bangladesh will be established when the Calcutta-Dhaka-Agartala bus service, scheduled for Friday, starts. Dhaka had recently helped transport foodgrains to Tripura in the wake of a mega block because of gauge conversion on the Lumding-Silchar-Badarpur rail link that carried supplies to Tripura and Mizoram.
The Kaladan project serves India's economic and strategic interests but also "contributes to the development of Myanmar and its economic integration with India," a government release said today.
In March this year, commerce minister Nirmala Sitharaman inaugurated the Zorkhawthar land custom station in Mizoram and promised that projects connecting India and Myanmar would be expedited. The Zorkhawthar-Aizawl road is called the old India-Myanmar border road.
13 October 2015

North-eastern fest to enthral Delhiites from October 16

To showcase art, culture and heritage of north-eastern region

To make north-eastern art and culture a part of Delhi’s ethos, the Delhi tourism department has collaborated with the Northeast Festival, which is to host its 3rd annual event at IGNCA, Janpath, from October 16 to October 18.

Tourism minister Kapil Mishra said, “This year, tourism is the key focus and so in ensuring that, we will make north-eastern art, culture and heritage a key part of Delhi’s ethos. The festival will showcase various facets of the Northeast. We are inviting tour operators across Delhi and many foreign tourists are expected. Various festivals of the Northeast will be showcased during the fest.

Around 60 tribal artisans/textile entrepreneurs will showcase some of the best Northeast handloom & handicrafts. There would be a buyers-sellers meet as well.”

Apart from showcasing the best that the Northeast has to offer, promoting and boosting tourism in the region will be the key focus of this year’s edition of the Northeast Festival.
The “Northeast Festival” has become a brand which is synonymous with the unification of the various stakeholders of the Northeast under one dynamic platform.
The event is expected to be attended by more than three lakh people and will include top Northeast icons, policymakers of the country, senior ministers in the Union Cabinet, chief ministers of various north-eastern states, top bureaucrats, intellectuals, students and tour operators among others.
Besides tourism, the major attraction this year will be the commencement of the Northeast Festival Football Competition, the inaugural edition of which will be held at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium from October 9 to October 15.
Football is a major sport in the Northeast and has produced many of India’s top footballers.
The competition will be a celebration of the association between the people of the Northeast and the wonderful sport.
The competition will feature over 25 teams, comprising of college teams from the NCR region and the Northeast.
The grand festival will have 40 musical bands, some of the best in India, and over 30 dance forms. It will be one of the biggest tourism festivals.
The festival will also feature cuisines from the Northeast and various restaurants in the city, specialising in food from the north-eastern states. Visitors will be able to taste different kinds of food and buy regional groceries too.
16 September 2015

Indian troops never crossed into Myanmar; operation took place in Manipur and Nagaland

New Delhi, Sep 16 : The cross-border strike in June to take down insurgent camps never took place in Myanmar, if the gallantry citations of the crack paratroopers who executed the operation are to be believed

While minister of state for information and broadcasting Rajyavardhan Rathore openly stated after the June 9 operation that Indian forces crossed into Myanmar and raided two militant camps, the gallantry award citations of the heroes of the strike make no mention of the neighbouring nation, indicating instead that the operation took place in Manipur and Nagaland.

ET has learnt that the citations for the eight soldiers, including Lt Col Nectar Sanjenbam who led the operation, give an insight into the carefully carried out raid, while blurring out that it took place in Myanmar. Lt Col Sanjenbam, who has been awarded the Kirti Chakra — the second highest peacetime gallantry award — is learnt to have displayed unusual prowess in taking down the sentries at the militant camps that were raided. The officer is cited to have taken down 6-8 sentries, who were guarding the camps, personally in close quarter combat, before blasting his way through the main installations.

Similarly, Hav Tanka Kumar Limbu, awarded the Shaurya Chakra, is also cited as being instrumental in ensuring that the crack commando team sneaked in undetected before blasting away the main compound.The citations indicate that the Indian Army managed to inflict close to two dozen casualties, even though a precise number is not mentioned.

On the eve of Independence Day, the government conferred gallantry awards to eight soldiers of the 21 Para who took part in the strike but kept the citation — or record of the operation — classified. This was an unusual move as in the past, gallantry citations are made public, even for actions in foreign lands. When asked about the citations, an Army spokesperson said:"Please refer to the statement issued on June 9 that says the Army engaged two separate groups of insurgents along the Indo- Myanmar border at two locations, along the Nagaland and Manipur borders." It may be recalled the Indian Army never officially said its troops carried out a cross-border strike.

In a statement issued on the day of the operation, the Army was careful to mention that the operation took place "along the Indo- Myanmar border" and that "we are in communication with the Myanmar authorities on this matter".
07 September 2015

Disrupting Landslip on GS Road

Guwahati, Sep 7
: Assam-Meghalaya transport communication has come to a grinding halt following a massive landslide on the Guwahati-Shillong road on Sunday.

A huge hillock slipped on the vital road in Umiang area in the morning forcing hundreds of vehicles to remain stranded for hours.

Dozens of workers have been deployed by the National Highway Authority of India with ten bulldozers to clear the road. According to Ri Bhoi district administration, it would take several hours on Monday to clear the mud.

Triggered by incessant rains, landslides wreaked havoc on Saturday morning at Byrinhat area disrupting surface communication for several hours. But it was cleared on Sunday. Hours after it, another landslip took place at Unming near Nongpoh which is expected to be cleared on Monday afternoon.
25 August 2015

Northeast TV calls girls in shorts monkeys, sparks controversy

A news clip aired by an Assamese news channel, which went viral on social media, has equated young girls wearing shorts to monkeys, giving rise to a heated debate in civil society in the northeastern state with some saying "nowadays we are more scared of the media than the police".

Assam boasts of traditionally empowering women, but the video aired by Pratidin Time opened with a shot of a monkey dressed in pants with a voice in the background saying in Assamese: "Monkeys have also started wearing clothes and know how to wash clothes, but girls in Guwahati now prefer wearing shorts for comfort. Maybe for them fashion means exposing, resulting in their attire which is shorter than needed."

The video has a number of clips of girls walking around the city in short dresses or wearing t-shirts and shorts.

Civil society members have protested against the channel and a peaceful march was organised in Guwahati on Sunday. But the inexplicably police arrested several of the protestors, booking them for "violating curfew" when no announcement of curfew was made.

"Privacy is being violated. Nowadays, we are more scared of the media than the police because you never know when and where mediapersons will catch us and shame us, in the name of news, Minakshi Bujarbaruah, researcher and gender rights activist, said over the phone from Guwahati, where she was also arrested earlier for taking part in the protest march. The channel's editor-in-chief, Nitumoni Saikia, posted an apology on its Facebook page for "unintentionally hurting people's sentiments." "We are responsible for what was aired, but the packaging and some of the content (referring to the part about monkeys) were wrong. Warning has been given to the reporter regarding the matter not to repeat anything similar in future," Saikia said.

However, he indirectly appeared to justify the objection to short dresses. "Will you go to a wedding to "naamghar" (traditional Assamese prayer hall) wearing a pair of shorts? No. Some things will never be a part of or be welcomed into Assamese society," Saikia asserted. He said Assamese society still needed to open up to a lot of things, especially when it came to issues like the length or shortness of clothes.

Saikia said that what the reporter "wanted to convey was not intended to hurt anyone. It was to only show people what is going on in the city these days." The channel also carried the views of a man who said: "The culture of Assam is not the same any more. After wearing such things, they (women) have the audacity to shout at men who letch." But is wearing shorts or showing a bit of skin a problem in Assam? According to Abhinav Borbora, Guwahati president of the NGO College Students Welfare, what is worrisome is not the short dress but the fear that Western influences can lead to an "untimely death of culture and traditions."

Borbora, who is also organising an event on the issue in Guwahati, said that according to some people, Western clothes means exposure and Indian attire means tradition. "My point here is that a woman can expose a lot more wearing a saree and a blouse rather than a pair of shorts and a t-shirt," he added. Bujarbaruah says it was "very unfortunate that the media whom we call the pillars of democracy is hell bent on moral policing." She said they were planning on a mass protest next week to sensitise people towards women. "It will help create a movement of like-minded people on a larger scale," she added.

According to observors, the kind of TV report carried by the channel brands people into stereotypes -- one a girl who a man feels proud to introduce to his parents, or another who goes to discos, wears short clothes, drinks and smokes and is therefore labelled as "devoid of Assamese culture". "Gender equality is something that the media should work on more. The media should really break women-centric stereotypes and there should be a sincere effort for gender balancing.

Responsible journalists should take this as an opportunity to educate people," said senior journalist and TV talk show host Wasbir Hussain over the phone.

Northeast 'safest' For Women, Kids

Activists question NCRB report

New Delhi, Aug 25 :
Militant guns routinely draw blood here. Ceasefires have been called and aborted. But the troubled Northeast is still the safest for two vulnerable sections - women and children.
So says the National Crime Records Bureau in its report for the year 2014.
Women, according to the report, are far more safe here than they are in, say, Bengal or Uttar Pradesh.

Except Assam, which contributed to more than five per cent of cases of violence against women nationally, the other states in the region - Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Tripura, Sikkim and Nagaland - accounted for around 0.9 per cent of the total number of crimes against women last year, the NCRB report says.
Table-toppers Bengal and Uttar Pradesh each accounted for 11 per cent of such cases, in other words together contributing over a fifth of such cases across the country.
According to the report, the region is also the safest for children, accounting for 2.7 per cent of the total number of cases of crimes against them in the country. There have also been no reported cases of child marriage or infanticide from the region.
Not that the Northeast presents a perfect picture. Despite the encouraging figures, the eight states have collectively shown an increase in reported crimes against women and children. While those against women have gone up by 1,935 cases, the number of cases of crimes against children has increased by 1,403.
Still, the insurgency-torn region, where ambushed security forces have bled in attacks by militant groups, have reported a negligible crime rate compared with the rest of the country - contributing around 4.2 per cent of the total number of crimes committed in the country last year.
Not everyone is convinced. At least one activist said the NCRB figures might not reflect the true picture, as many women routinely refuse to report cases of sexual violence.
"I do not agree with this NCRB data that is floating around. Most women in this region do not report violence. Also, one must understand that most of the crimes against women are committed either in the form of domestic violence or, particularly in this region, by armed personnel. No one reports these crimes," said Rosemary Dzuvichu of the Naga Mothers Association, a civil society group based in Nagaland.
"Also, incidents in this region are not highlighted as is done with cases in other parts of the country."
According to the NCRB figures, Nagaland is the most peaceful state in the region, recording just 1,157 cases registered under the Indian Penal Code, while Assam has topped the list with 94,337 cases.
Women and children too seem to be the safest in Nagaland, with just 110 reported cases of crimes against women and 93 against children.
In Assam, on the other hand, cases of crimes against women jumped to 19,139 in 2014 from 17,449 in 2013. In Tripura, the number of cases dropped marginally to 1,615 in 2014 from 1,628 in 2013.
In Meghalaya, cases of violence against women increased to 388 in 2014, up from 343 in 2013. In Arunachal, it remained stable at 288, while in Sikkim the number has increased, from 93 to 110. Manipur and Mizoram, which recorded a decrease in the number of cases of crimes against women in the last two years, saw a marginal increase in such cases.
The NCRB data also revealed that Manipur, which accounts for around 0.2 per cent of the country's population, registered nearly 65 per cent of cases under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, a law mainly aimed at curbing attacks on India's integrity and sovereignty.

Developing Infrastructure in Northeast a Priority, Says PM Modi

Developing Infrastructure in Northeast a Priority, Says PM Modi

New Delhi:  Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday said that developing infrastructure in the north-eastern region is being given top priority by the government.

"India will develop only if the northeast develops," Modi said, while speaking at function at Vigyan Bhavan in Delhi to celebrate the birth centenary of Rani Gaidinliu, the legendary freedom fighter from Nagaland.

"We are putting in maximum efforts to build infrastructure in the north-east," he said.

The prime minister also said that following the resolution of the border dispute with Bangladesh, connectivity with the northeast was set to become easier.

"The northeast has now become closer to the rest of India," he said.

Stating that the north-east was blessed with abundant natural bounty, he said that the region has the potential to become the organic capital of the country.

Recalling Rani Gaidinliu's contribution in India's fight for freedom, he said that it was unfortunate that countless heroes of the freedom struggle all over the country were forgotten.

"It is unfortunate that... several people who fought for freedom are not so well known," Modi said.

Extolling the role of Rani Gaidinliu in the freedom struggle, Modi said: "Can you imagine that she joined the freedom struggle at the age of 12-13? And soon after she was jailed for life."

Born on January 26, 1915, Rani Gaidinliu joined her cousin Haipou Jadonang's movement at the age of 13 to drive out the British from Manipur.

In 1932, she was arrested at the age of 16 and sentenced to life in prison. She was released from Tura jail (now in Maghalaya) after having spent 14 years in various prisons.

She died on February 17, 1993, at Longkao in Manipur.
24 August 2015

Northeast India Flavours Now A Click Away

By Raul Dias

At a producer’s food processing unit in Meghalaya. PHOTO: Raul Dias
At a producer’s food processing unit in Meghalaya.
Indigenous temperate fruit jams of The North East Store. PHOTO: Raul Dias
Indigenous temperate fruit jams of The North East Store.
King Chili (Ghost Chili) hot sauce of The North East Store. PHOTO: Raul Dias
King Chili (Ghost Chili) hot sauce of The North East Store.

A recent spurt in e-commerce websites offering tough-to-procure ingredients and food items from India’s eight north-eastern States is good news for homesick north-easterners and foodies craving a taste of the exotic

Do you know what axone, ngari and anishi are? Or u-morok, perhaps? If you, like most of us, are lost in a quagmire of semantic ambiguity and haven’t got the foggiest idea, don’t worry. The chances of you having ever encountered the aforementioned words are woefully low.
But for Paiwang Yanthungo, axone (fermented soya beans), ngari (fermented fish), anishi (dried taro leaves) and u-morok (king chilli) are more than just the mere sum of their alphabet parts. Their very mention throws up fond memories and results in a salivating mouth for the 24-year-old Bengaluru-based MBA student, who calls Nagaland home. And, until a few months ago, Yanthungo had to rely on either friends or relatives visiting him from Nagaland or on his annual trips back home to Kohima to replenish his constantly diminishing stockpile of the same. Not anymore.
Thanks to a sudden spurt in e-commerce ventures offering tough-to-procure ingredients and food items right from Arunachal Pradesh to Tripura and in between, homesick northeasterners scattered all over India are able to jazz up boring office canteen dals and instant noodles with their favourite pickles and condiments that reflect the culinary diversity of the country’s eight northeastern States.
One such online set up is Mumbai-based Gitika’s PakGhor on started by former marketing whiz Gitika Saikia, originally from Assam. “I decided to be a part of this e-commerce venture because initially my customers had to come home to collect the items. Everything is online now and purchasing is much more convenient, so why not food? Plus, it has helped me increase my customer base,” she says. Stocking a limited range of artisanal pickles, including the fiery hot bhoot jholokia (Assamese king chilli) and the rather exotic-sounding bamboo shoots and tenga jalphai (Indian olive) pickles, Gitika prefers to concentrate only on taste and quality and not quantity.
Offering a mindboggling 1,600 food and handicraft products in its portfolio, sourced from more than 100 suppliers and artisans, Bengaluru-based claims to be India’s largest online store for northeast products, delivering orders all across India and also overseas to places such as Malaysia, Tanzania, Abu Dhabi and even Costa Rica. Its rather strange name is an acronym formed by taking the first letter of the names of the capitals for each of the eight northeastern States: G – Guwahati/Gangtok, I – Imphal/Itanagar, S – Shillong, K – Kohima, A – Agartala and A – Aizawl.
“I have lived outside of Manipur, my home State, for the last 23 years. While living in Bengaluru, traditional Manipuri food was something that I missed every day. The northeast population living in the major Indian cities is huge, estimated to consist of close to a million people. Most of them will share the same sentiment,” says Meghanath Singh, Giskaa’s CEO, explaining why he began the venture. “I was constantly yearning to contribute something to my home State and the northeast region combined. I also had a strong passion to start a company of my own, so I took the plunge and quit a comfortable and relatively well-paying IT job in July 2014 to start Giskaa,” he says.
Mr. Singh along with his partners Surchand Wahengbam and Ratheesh Elayat also hopes to make Giskaa a platform for artisans from the northeast to professionally showcase their products. He wants to promote them to a large mainstream Indian audience. “The people and culture of northeast India are often misunderstood and misinterpreted. Most of it is due to lack of awareness and knowledge of the region. A platform like ours would definitely go a long way in bridging this gap and bring the northeast closer to the mainstream,” he says.
Based out of Shillong, Meghalaya and once again founded by three friends, Catherine Dohling, Trideep Rabha and Dhawal Singh, The may operate on a much smaller scale than Giskaa, but its game plan and focus is just as intense. “We source our products straight from the makers and producers as well as from NGOs, government groups and self-help groups who directly support local farmers and artisans. We follow an inventory-based model as opposed to a marketplace, where we hold stocks of products that we source,” says Dohling, who is quick to add that running a business like theirs is not free of setbacks. “Product discovery is quite a challenge as there are many unique items being made in small, remote villages, which very few people are even aware of. Also, there is lack of e-commerce specific infrastructure within the region. For example, quality packaging material needs to be sourced all the way from Delhi.”
But hurdles aside, a quick glance at Gitika’s PakGhor, Giskaa and The NorthEast Store’s Facebook pages reveals a bunch of very satisfied customers. Take Mumbai-based Kingshuk Bhattacharya, for instance. He writes: “It was really awesome to get to know about this initiative [Giskaa]. I am from Tripura and [living] out of the State for 30 years now. It was a welcome sight to see that I can now get my share of ngari, fermented soya and yongchak (a type of Manipuri bean) sitting in Mumbai!”
And it’s not just homesick northeasterners who are patronising these online stores; even nostalgic expats are joining the bandwagon. “One story that comes to mind is that of Andrew Hoffland from New Delhi. He used to work in Nagaland as a teacher 20 years ago. Since he left, he did not have access to products from there and when he discovered us, he was very glad to be able to buy food and products from Nagaland. It felt good to hear that he was delighted to taste these items again,” says a contented Dohling.
But perhaps the best way to summarise this interesting new trend is to take a leaf out of Giskaa’s tagline that says it all in four simple words —Bring Home The Northeast.
20 August 2015

Tripura, Mizoram Cut Off Due To Landslides

By B B Goswami

Silchar, Aug 21: Tripura, Mizoram, parts of Meghalaya and Manipur and the Barak Valley areas of Assam was cut off from the rest of the region early on Wednesday due to landslides in a number of places in Meghalaya and Assam's Dima Hasao district.

Sources said torrential rainfall for the last three days has triggered the landslides. Mud, boulders, trees and debris came rolling down the Barail Hill on at least three places on the Haflong-Silchar road. The road went under the debris in three places between Bandarkhal and Miyankro on NH-306. This has stopped movement of traffic on this 110-km stretch of road.

Traffic was also closed on NH-6 connecting Badarpur in Assam with Jowai in Meghalaya due to landslides in Tuensang, Kuliang and Ratacheera areas of East Jaintia district, 90 km from here. However, there was no report of any loss of life, sources said.

The authorities are engaged in clearing the debris. However, continuous downpour was affecting the clearing work. Hundreds of vehicles were stranded on both Haflong-Silchar and Badarpur-Jawai national highways.

Rail connectivity with this region has remained cut off as passenger trains on the newly commissioned Lumding-Silchar broad gauge track is yet to be flagged off.
18 August 2015

NSCN(IM) Chief Muivah’s Speech on Sovereignty Matter of Serious Concern, says Assam CM Gogoi

On August 14 during the celebration of 69th Naga Independence Day at NSCN(IM) council headquarters at Hebron in Nagaland, its General Secretary Th Muivah rejected "rumours" that the outfit was backtracking on integration and sovereignty. AdTech Ad

Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, Manipur Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh ,Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister, Nabam Tuki and Congress leader Randeep Surjewala during a press conference at AICC headquarter had demanded to disclose the details of the Naga peace accord. (Source: PTI)

Demanding that the Centre should make public the Naga Peace Accord, Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi on Monday expressed serious concern over NSCN(IM) leader Th Muivah’s remark that integration and sovereignty were the “core issues” of the agreement.

“Muivah’s statement is a matter of serious concern. He is still insisting on greater Nagalim and said that the sovereignty issue is still open. By not making the agreement public, the Centre is creating more confusion,” he said at a press conference.
“Assam and the people at large welcome the peace agreement, but all concerned have the right to know which direction it is moving,” he said.

“Whatever be in the agreement, I have already made it very clear that Assam will not accept any interference with its territory,” he said.

Gogoi also criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi over his silence on the issue.

“It is strange that the PM is completely silent on the issue. He himself termed the agreement historic, but did not talk anything about it on his Independence Day speech. The PM is not even talking about the framework. Our simple question is that whether the framework includes Nagalim?” he said.
The Chief Minister also said that during the dialogue process, the Centre-appointed interlocutor R N Ravi did not meet him.

On August 14 during the celebration of 69th Naga Independence Day at NSCN(IM) council headquarters at Hebron in Nagaland, its General Secretary Th Muivah rejected “rumours” that the outfit was backtracking on integration and sovereignty, saying they were the “core issues” and there could be “no solution whatsoever” without fulfilling the two issues
17 August 2015

Demands to Ground Northeast's 'Flying Coffins' Get Louder

By Prasanta Mazumdar

A crashed Pawan Hans helicopter being airlifted

Guwahati, Aug 17 :Three crashes in five years, which claimed 27 lives including that of former Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu, have made the All Arunachal Pradesh Students’ Union (AAPSU) put the heat on the Congress government in the state to ground the ‘flying coffins’ of Pawan Hans Helicopter Ltd (PHHL).

The influential students’ body in the Northeast state has urged the Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Nabam Tuki government to immediately terminate the MoU it had signed with PHHL. “The Pawan Hans Helicopter Ltd has become synonymous with flying coffin in our state,” the AAPSU said in a representation to the Chief Minister.

“In the past there have been quite a few mishaps and that should have been enough to awaken the government from deep slumber. But to our utter surprise, the so-called flying coffins are still flying,” it said.

The AAPSU said that the latest crash, which occurred in the state’s Tirap district on August 4, has once again exposed the inefficiency of the helicopter service operator. “The incident indicates the choppers used in our state are not fit to fly in the hilly terrains,” it said.

The crash had claimed the lives of Tirap district Deputy Commissioner, Kamlesh Joshi, and pilots M S Brar and Rajeev Hoskote. The Dauphin VT-PHK helicopter had crashed inside a deep gorge between two steep mountains within minutes after take-off from Khonsa. The bodies were found by the commandos eight days after the incident. On that day, Joshi, who had joined as Tirap district Deputy Commissioner in June, 2013, was to attend a meeting of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in New Delhi. He was born in 1983 and belonged to the 2010 IAS batch.

Officials of Arunachal Pradesh government and PHHL said the Tirap crash was being investigated. “The next course of action will depend on the ongoing enquiry and guarantee of air safety,” a senior government official told The Sunday Standard.

The fears have been growing among people in Meghalaya too. Asked if the state government has any plans to suspend the PHHL services, official sources said that it was too early to take a call. “At the moment, we are trying to get the details of the chopper crash in Tirap. We cannot comment anything more.”

Meghalaya had in 2011 suspended PHHL services. In due course, it came to light that travel requirements made the government allow the public sector undertaking (PSU) to operate in the state despite expiry of license. Back in 2004, a chopper crash near the state’s capital, Shillong, had claimed the lives of ten people, including a cabinet minister and two MLAs.

Apart from Arunachal and Meghalaya, the PHHL operates in Nagaland, Tripura, Mizoram and Sikkim. The license is renewed annually.

In the Northeast, communication is a major bottleneck. So, the people prefer to travel by helicopters as it is affordable. The PHHL operates here on 75 per cent subsidy of the MHA. This does not include recovery from passengers. The state government provides for the remaining 25 per cent.

The private airlines are not so lucky though, for they are not considered eligible for subsidy. The high operational cost left two private operators to shut shop after a brief stint in Arunachal Pradesh.

In 2011, the PHHL had drawn flak from the public due to safety issues after two choppers crashed within a span of just ten days. In one of the incidents, five people, including Khandu, were killed. Another crash claimed the lives of 19 people. The operations were suspended then, but services resumed in 2013. The latest crash has brought to the fore the safety issues, again.


September 22, 2004: Meghalaya Community and Rural Development Minister Cyprian R Sangma, two MLAs and a former Deputy Speaker were killed in a Pawan Hans helicopter crash, near Shillong.

August 6, 2010: A Pawan Hans crew died by falling from 10,000 feet at Namsai in Arunachal Pradesh, while trying to close a door that had flung open mid-air.

April 19, 2011: A Pawan Hans Mi-17 helicopter, en route to Tawang from Guwahati, crashed while trying to land at Tawang. Of the 23 people on board, 17 were killed on the spot. Two others succumbed later.

April 29, 2011: A Pawan Hans helicopter carrying former Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu and four others, crashed. All them died.

August 4, 2015: A Pawan Hans chopper carrying Tirap Deputy Commissioner Kamlesh Joshi and two pilots on board crashed, killing all the passengers.
13 August 2015

How the Naga Accord Will Affect Politics in the Rest of the North-East

The accord, whatever its substance, has further burnished the perception that the BJP-led NDA government is a government that gets things done, particularly in the northeast

Prime Minister Narendra Modi witnessing the exchange of the peace accord text by the Government of India interlocutor RN Ravi and  NSCN(I-M) leader Th. Muivah in New Delhi on August 3, 2015. Credit: PTI Photo
Prime Minister Narendra Modi witnessing the exchange of the peace accord text by the Government of India interlocutor RN Ravi and NSCN(I-M) leader Th. Muivah in New Delhi on August 3, 2015. Credit: PTI Photo

These are exciting, if anxious, times for anyone interested in the history and politics of India’s northeast region.

Last week, the Government of India and the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah) announced they had come to an ‘historic’ agreement on the Naga issue. We were even treated to a televised accord signing ceremony.

But what exactly have the two sides agreed to? More than a week has passed and we are none the wiser. What we know now, through selected leaks, is that the most contentious and crucial demand of the NSCN (I-M), i.e. political integration of Naga-dominated areas in the northeast, is not a part of the accord. The sovereignty issue was discarded a long time ago. As for what’s in the accord, we may have to wait till the agreement is placed before Parliament, as the government has promised to do. However, the fact that the NSCN(I-M) has agreed to formally end its armed insurgency and come to a compromise agreement with the government is itself very significant.

Advantage BJP
The accord, whatever its substance, has further burnished the perception that the BJP-led NDA government is a government that gets things done: while the BJP is a party of action, the Indian National Congress (INC) is a party of the status quo, at least in matters concerning the northeast.
This perception is not without basis. On matters concerning the northeast – which is usually seen through the prism of ‘national security’ – the INC has always seemed undecided, always second-guessing every option. Take the case of the Armed Forces (Special Powers)Act. The BJP’s position in support of AFSPA is well known, and nobody expected it to do anything about the Act. However, the ambivalence of the Congress-led UPA government on the issue is telling. It was convinced that AFSPA needed to be either repealed or amended. Toward this end, the Justice Jeevan Reddy Committee was set up. The committee recommended the Act be repealed but the government didn’t have the stomach for this. P. Chidambaram, who was home minister in the UPA government, has since confirmed that while he was in favour of repeal and pushed for it, the government ultimately dared not overrule the objections of the army.

For some people, this is yet another sign of the centralising nature of Modi. May be it is. But it is also marks the welcome reassertion of the civilian executive vis-a-vis the national security establishment in matters of the northeast.
On the Naga issue, it was, indeed, the Congress-led government under PV Narasimha Rao that first decided to search for a political solution through talks. There soon emerged a consensus amongst all the major parties on this. But, it was the BJP-led Vajpayee government that was willing to recognised, in a written declaration, the ‘uniqueness’ of Naga history and situation.  Of course, it was also this government that took the decision – which proved untenable and politically costly in the wider region – to extend the ceasefire ‘without territorial limits’. Throughout UPA-I and UPA-II, NSCN(I-M) leaders fretted and fumed about the lack of leadership in the government, and how they wished a ‘statesman’ like Vajpayee come back to power. Now the Modi government, in a little more than a year, has produced an accord. Even if it is just a ‘framework’, with a lot of details still to be filled in, the BJP certainly has some bragging rights.

The dramatic manner in which the accord came about is also telling. News reports say that only four people – the Prime Minister, the National Security Advisor, the official interlocutor R.N. Ravi, and the Home Minister – had advance knowledge of the accord. The home ministry bureaucrats and the army were apparently kept in the dark. Modi himself said that his office directly oversaw the final stretch of the talks process. For some people, this is yet another sign of the centralising nature of Modi. May be it is. But it is also marks the welcome reassertion of the civilian executive vis-a-vis the national security establishment in matters of the northeast. In any case, the issues and the compromises necessary have long been well known, so it is disingenuous to say that more consultations are necessary.

Electoral picture
Will the Naga accord  help the BJP in terms of electoral politics? It is important to note that the BJP has been seen as a Hindu party in the hill states of the northeast, some of which are predominantly Christian. In the 2014 general elections, while the Modi-led BJP wave swept through mainland India, the northeast remained an outlier to this national trend. Out of the eight northeastern states, including Sikkim, the BJP managed to make its presence felt only in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. In Assam, which has 14 Lok Sabha seats, the BJP won seven seats while the INC got only three. In 2009, it was the INC that won seven and the BJP four. In Arunachal Pradesh, the BJP wrested one seat (out of two) from the INC, which had won both seats in 2009. In Nagaland, the Naga Peoples Front (NPF), which has an alliance with the BJP, retained the only seat. The party failed to make its mark in the other five states.

There are many reasons for this. The BJP’s Hindu character is certainly one. To the tribal Christians of northeast India, the BJP’s pet themes like ban on cow slaughter, its emphasis on Hindi, uniform civil code, etc. are anathema. The recent attacks on minority religious institutions and the general ascendancy of Hindu right groups make them worry about religious freedom. Also, the BJP has never had committed cadres and grassroot organisations in the region to match that of the Congress. The northeast has never been the BJP’s priority.

In places like Manipur valley, the Indo-Naga talks have cast a dark shadow. It is significant that in the summer of 2001, when Manipur valley was in turmoil over the Central government’s ill-fated decision to extend its ceasefire agreement with the NSCN(I-M) without territorial limits, the BJP had 26 MLAs in a 60-seat assembly. In the assembly election held the next year, 2002, the BJP’s tally came down to four seats and in the last two assembly elections, in 2007 and 2012, the party drew a blank even as the Congress further consolidated its gains, both in the valley and hills.

The latest Naga accord will further cement the Manipur valley’s hostility towards the BJP. But in the hill areas, things may change. The hill-valley divide is deep. While the valley is consumed by fear of the nameless outsider which presently expresses itself through the agitation for the Inner Line Permit system, the hills are in fear of being overwhelmed by the valley Meiteis. As the INC-led government in the state and the party itself come to be seen as representing Meitei interests, the hill tribals are on the lookout for a party sympathetic to their concerns.

Sixth Schedule as way forward
While the politics of the Naga dominated districts is generally aligned with the greater Naga movement, politics in the Zomi-Kuki areas is controlled by two underground groupings, i.e. the United Peoples Front (UPF) and Kuki National Organization (KNO), both of which have had a Suspension of Operations  arrangement with the Indian army since around 2005. They are demanding an ‘Autonomous Hill State’ and a full-fledged Kuki state respectively and anxiously waiting for political talks with the Indian government. With no talks on the horizon, they have become increasingly frustrated with the state government and the INC generally. Their anxiety is heightened by the present accord which will likely contain something about the Naga areas in Manipur. What will become of the Zomi-Kuki areas, they ask.

Under the circumstances, the longstanding demand for the provisions of the Constitution’s Sixth Schedule be implemented in the tribal areas of Manipur is expected to escalate in the coming days. The Sixth Schedule is titled ‘Provisions as to the Administration of Tribal Areas in the States of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram’ and envisions the creations of districts and regions within these states that can enjoy a measure of administrative autonomy on certain subjects.

Between the Meitei stand against dilution of Manipur’s territorial unity and the hill tribals’ insecurity, the Sixth Schedule seems to offer the best compromise for both sides. The demand for the Sixth Schedule for Manipur Hills has a long history. As recently as September 2014, members of the six Autonomous District Councils (ADCs) in the Manipur Hills held demonstrations in Delhi’s Jantar Mantar demanding upgradation of the existing ADCs to Sixth Schedule areas. Indeed, it was on this issue that a crack opened up between the state government and the ADCs, both of which are controlled by the Congress, during the ADC elections in May-June this year.

In 2010, when ADC elections in the hills were held after a gap of 21 years, it was dominated entirely by the INC. In the last election held in June, the picture became fragmented. In Churachandpur district, which is the biggest district in Manipur dominated by the Zomi-Kuki group, most of the incumbent candidates, who were already awarded INC tickets, spurned the Congress party and contested as independents. 18 independent candidates were elected (out of a total of 24 elected seats) and 17 of them later formed the Hill Peoples Alliance (HPA). The INC managed to win only five seats while the BJP opened its account by winning one seat. In fact, while the INC was in power in all the six ADCs during the last term, the party managed to retain a majority only in the Sadar Hills ADC this time round. While HPA leader Langkhanpau Guite, who was re-elected Chairman of the Churachandpur ADC, says he endorses the demand for an Autonomous Hill State for Manipur Hills, he also recognises that the Sixth Schedule remains the most feasible way forward under the present circumstances.

Thangkhanlal Ngaihte is an independent researcher based in New Delhi
11 August 2015

Northeast Sees 40% More Foreign Tourists

New Delhi, Aug 11 : Despite deterrents such as poor connectivity and lack of decent hotels, foreign tourist flows to northeastern states jumped nearly 40 percent in 2014 over the previous year, even as efforts are on to promote the sector there, parliament was informed on Monday.

In a written reply to a question in the Lok Sabha, Minister of State for Tourism Mahesh Sharma said the number of foreign tourist arrivals in the eight northeastern states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura in 2014 was 118,552 compared to 84,820 in 2013 -- marking a 39.76 percent increase. In 2012, the figure was 66,302.

"Some of the factors responsible for poor tourist inflow to the destination are lack of connectivity, non-availability of reasonably priced hotel accommodation, absence of tourism infrastructure and carrying capacity of the destination."

He said the government has included the northeast in two new tourism schemes that have been launched.

Apart from the Northeast Circuit under the 'Swadesh Darshan' scheme, two other circuits under the scheme - Buddhist Circuit and Himalayan Circuit - can be linked to the region

According to the minister, Kamakhya in Guwahati has been identified under the Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spiritual Augmentation Drive (Prasad) scheme.

Sharma said as against the required 10 percent budgetary allocation of every central government ministry for the development of the northeastern region, the tourism ministry has been providing more than that in the last three fiscal years.

In 2014-15, the ministry allocated Rs.144.68 crore (Rs.1.44 billion) from its Rs.1,100-crore budget in 2014-15 or 13.15 percent of the total budget. In 2013-14, it was Rs.149.16 crore out of Rs.980 crore and in 2012-13, it was Rs.113.72 crore out of Rs.950 crore.

This apart, the ministry has undertaken several initiatives for the promotion of tourism in the northeast, Sharma said.

These include provision of complimentary space to the northeast in India pavilions set up at major international travel fairs and exhibitions and 100 percent central government financial assistance for organising fairs and festivals in the northeastern states.

"The ministry of tourism, as part of its ongoing activities, annually releases print, electronic, online and outdoor media campaigns in the international and domestic markets, under the Incredible India brand line, to promote various tourism destinations and products of the country, including the lesser known destinations which have tourism potential," the minister said.

"The ministry of tourism undertakes special campaigns on northeastern region on TV channels to promote tourism in the region."

He said the International Tourism Mart (ITM) is organised annually with the objective of showcasing the largely untapped tourism potential of the northeastern region in the domestic and international markets.

"In addition, a series of promotional activities are undertaken in important and potential tourist generating markets overseas through the India Tourism Offices abroad with the objective of showcasing India's tourism potential."

Under the 'Swadesh Darshan' scheme, an amount of Rs.20.35 crore has been allocated to the state government of Manipur in 2013-14 fiscal for the "Integrated Cable-Car and Lakeside Tourism Development Project at Loktak Lake".

"Under this scheme, funds are allocated under public-private partnership," Sharma said.

In reply to another question, the minister said the North Eastern Council had conducted a study for the identification of tourism circuits in the northeast and the same has been shared with the respective state governments.

He said the Arunachal Pradesh government has also sent a proposal for integrated development of adventure tourism in the state under the 'Swadesh Darshan' scheme.