Azim Ali Sar (Nalbari), Oct. 19: Poor mobie network, no active police presence, lack of database of its residents and the difficult location – Dispur faces numerious challenges to bring approximately 2,300 sars (sandbars) under police radar and check the “growing threat” of fundamental forces in the state.

Assam director-general of police Mukesh Sahay travelled in a boat and reached Azim Ali Sar, nearly 50km west of Guwahati, yesterday and spent the night here as part of the state police’s action plan to counter the fundamentalist “threat”.

He left for Guwahati at 5am today.

Mobile phone network played hide and seek as the Assam police team left Kaplabori ghat for the sar in three motorboats.

“Is the wireless phone okay?” Sahay asked his officers. “Yes sir, we are connected with Bhanganmari police station,” replied the officer, making it clear that there was nothing to worry even if network was down in the sar.

A little over one-and-half hours of sailing upstream of the Brahmaputra, about 20-25 village defence parties and residents of the sar waited for Sahay and other senior police officers.

“How many people live here?” Sahay asked. “About 2,000 here and it will be around 1.5 lakh in all the 17 sar villages,” replied Pasan Ali Ahmed, a village defence party member.

“Do you have the list of the residents?” No, came the reply after a few seconds’ silence. “Do you know if anybody possesses a gun?” “No…no sir,” the villagers replied in unison.

About 500 people waited about 200 metres away near a tent on a raised platform where Sahay not just addressed them but also spent the night.

Ahmed’s is among the 29 defence party teams (each comprising at least 10 people) who keep tabs on the 17 sars under Bhanganmari and Kuriamari Sialmari police stations. “We form groups and make rounds at night as robbery is rampant here. We also intervene if we come across any illegal activity and inform the police station,” Ahmed said.

Sars in Assam are suspected of being “den of illegal migrants” from Bangladesh but recent arrests of more than 40 members of Jamat-ul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), a fundamentalist group, in Nalbari and busting of opium cultivation on a few sars in neighbouring Barpeta district prompted the new BJP-led government in the state to bring the sars under increased police surveillance. In fact, chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal on September 30 instructed Sahay to visit the sars and work out a policing plan to check “fundamentalist elements”.

“When the neighbouring country (Bangladesh) is on the boil (owing to fundamentalists), we can’t just sit idle. We need to increase surveillance in the sars and strengthen river policing. We need to understand the problems here and sensitise people about the problems happening in many parts of world,” Sahay said, hinting about the violence carried out by fundamentalist groups.

With sars still away from police glare and reports that JMB members in the state are targeting the unlettered residents there for indoctrination towards their “objective”, keeping an eye on the sars has turned out to be a daunting task for the state police. “We need more manpower and increase capacity of our river police by giving them more boats and better training. I only came to know now that many youths from here are working outside, in Kerala and Tamil Nadu. We will collect details of those people so that we are aware who is doing what,” Sahay said, minutes before he asked the sar dwellers to inform the police about “outsiders” visiting them.

Police officials claimed that interrogation of arrested JMB members revealed that members of the group from Bengal were using unregistered private madarsas for indoctrination. In fact, Riajul Haque Choudhury, a teacher in a private madarsa here, was arrested a few months ago on the same charge.

“There are two government madarsas in Azim Ali Sar,” said Sonabar Ali, another resident. There are several private madarsas but the villagers are unaware of their numbers.

By Sumir Karmakar


Contractors protest in Dhubri on Wednesday.

Picture by Bijoy Kr Sharma

Dhubri, Oct. 19: Contractors of the state water resources department today staged a sit-in in front of the Dhubri divisional office of the department demanding immediate payment of outstanding bills and threatened to boycott fresh tender invitations.

The contractors alleged that instead of clearing their bills, the state government was employing multi-national companies and agencies to execute various projects. “It is unethical and unjustified on the part of the government to put the livelihood of 22,000 statewide contractors on the line,” said Biswajit Kalita, a member of the Dhubri District Water Resource Contractors’ Association.

The association’s president, Mosaddique Omar, said instead of paying Rs 1,500 crore in outstanding bills, the government had started a new policy of “group” tendering and “one scheme, one group”, which are anti-contractor.

“We are rolling out the red carpet for big construction companies but they could not complete the Rs 155-crore Matmora-Dhakuakhana anti-erosion project though it started in 2014. Less than 70 per cent work has been done, while contractors who complete their work on time have not been paid yet,” he alleged.

The association demanded that bills be cleared soon, groups made in such a way that all categories of contractors could participate in the tendering process, no one other than the registered contractors could participate in filing tenders and stop registering other contractors. It demanded discussion prior to allotment of work and incorporation of the guidelines in the tender advertisements. It submitted a memorandum to chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal through the deputy commissioner.

By Our Correspondent


A police vehicle patrols Tura. Picture by Saidul Khan

Tura, Oct. 19: A sub-inspector attached with Tura police station in West Garo Hills was suspended today for allegedly manhandling a youth injured in a clash at Risipara here.

On the night of October 13, police had rescued three youths, who had been allegedly beaten up when they attempted to create trouble in Risipara. Locals had said they were looking for ganja, which led to a scuffle between the youths and the residents. One of the boys died of his injuries on October 15.

The sub-inspector was accused of kicking the victim and that he kept them at the police station the whole night and did not drop them home after medical examination at Tura civil hospital.

“We have suspended the sub-inspector and initiated a departmental inquiry,” said senior superintendent of police Mukesh Singh.

On the other hand, traders here opened shops here responding to a directive from the district administration despite a shutdown called by civil organisations.

A conglomerate of civil organisations, including the Garo Students Union, had requested traders to keep their shops closed from 5am to 5pm to condole the boy’s death.

All shops, including the Tura Super Market, remained open, along with schools, colleges, government offices and banks. However, several shops at Chandmari, Ringrey, Hawakhana, Araimile and Dakopgre remained closed for most part of the day. “We have video-recorded the activity. We will review the closure of a few shops with the police tomorrow and initiate necessary steps,” said deputy commissioner Pravin Bakshi.

Security was beefed up in Tura and adjoining areas to prevent any untoward incident.

By Saidul Khan


Agartala, Oct. 19: Work on the Rs 973-crore India-Bangladesh railway project has started, six years after the finalisation of the vital rail link between the two neighbours, officials said here on Wednesday.

Senior officials of India and Bangladesh held a review meeting here on Wednesday to speed up the work for the new railway project.

“The Bangladesh government has recently started the land acquisition while the same would be initiated in India in December,” India’s external affairs ministry’s joint secretary Ajit Vinayak Gupte said after the meeting.

“Unless requisite lands are acquired, other vital work# cannot be started. By 2018, the new railway project would be functional,” he said.

Railway minister Suresh Prabhu and his Bangladeshi counterpart Mazibul Hoque had jointly laid the foundation stone of the project here on July 31 for the 15km Agartala-Akhaura (Bangladesh) railway project.

According to Gupte, 56.5 acres of land would be acquired in Bangladesh while 67 acres of land would be acquired in India# to execute the railway project, which according to the officials would facilitate exchange of goods between the two countries.

In Wednesday’s meeting, the eight-member Bangladesh team was headed by additional secretary of the railway ministry of Bangladesh Shashi Kumar Singha.

Later, officials of both India and Bangladesh met Tripura transport minister Manik Dey and apprised him about the progress of the railway project and the outcome of the meeting.

The Indian government would bear the entire expenditure of the project.

Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) chief engineer Harpal Singh, who was present during the meeting, said the DoNER# ministry has released Rs 97 crore to acquire land to lay the tracks in Tripura.

“Following the Tripura government’s persistent persuasion and the intervention by the Prime Minister’s Office, the DoNER ministry has agreed to provide Rs 580 crore for the Tripura part of the Agartala-Akhaura railway project,” Dey said.

“India’s external affairs ministry would provide the necessary funds for the Bangladesh portion of the Agartala-Akhaura rail project,” he added.

The 1,613km route between Agartala and Calcutta via Guwahati-New Jalpaiguri-Kishanganj (Bihar)-Malda would be reduced to only 514km once the new rail track is linked through Bangladesh.

The state-owned Indian Railway Construction Company (IRCON) has been nominated to act as technical adviser for the Bangladesh portion and to execute the work in the Indian portion.On the Indian side, some portion of the track would be elevated to avoid farmland and habitations.

The NFR is the nodal agency for the project, for which alignment of rail line and other technical details were earlier finalised by officials of both India and Bangladesh.

Currently, India and Bangladesh have four rail links with Bengal.

By Sekhar Datta


Agartala, Oct. 19: A controversy has erupted over a verbal ban on 23 local cable TV channels – airing visuals of CPM candidate for Barjala Assembly constituency Jhumu Sarkar, 34 – by the district magistrate of West Tripura, Milind Ramteke, and sub-divisional magistrate (Sadar) Samir Roy Chowdhury.

The CDs – showing Jhumu engaging in scuffles with men and women and pushing others in an apparently inebriated condition on October 11 on the occasion of Vijaya Dashami in his native Lankamura area – was released by state Trinamul Congress leader and sitting MLA Sudip Roy Barman yesterday around 9pm.

Almost all local cable TV channels started airing the visuals with comments on Jhumu. CPM state secretary Bijan Dhar hurriedly called a news conference at 10pm and termed the CD showing the visuals “fake and result of a conspiracy”.

Ramteke and Chowdhury contacted the channels over phone and told them to stop airing the visuals.

Finally, to ensure that the visuals go off the air, they sternly warned Srishti Network, the original distributor of the cable slots in the town.

The cable news channels have strongly protested “the DM and the SDM’s intervention in the matter”.

P.K. Dhar, editor of a local channel, said before the Bengal Assembly polls, the “unchecked and unverified Narada tapes and visuals were shown all over the state, but there was no objection or interference by the Election Commission.”

“The byelection here will be held on November 19 and the code of conduct will come into effect from October 26. Where is the objection in airing visuals involving a candidate? We will file a complaint with the Election Commission,” Dhar said.

The president of the Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI), the youth wing of the CPM, Pankaj Ghosh, said the airing of the visuals in the cable channels was a “conspiracy”.

“Jhumu Sarkar is a popular man and a dedicated party worker; there is no complaint against him. The visuals are fake,” Ghosh said.

Barman said Ghosh belonged to a poor family and his father sold coconuts. “He minted money after joining the CPM and becoming a leader. There are many cases registered against him at Durga Chowmuhani police outpost. We will expose him during our campaign,” Barman said.

By Our Special Correspondent


Haflong, Oct. 19: The medicine store of Haflong civil hospital here is being run by a grade IV non-technical employee for months, posing a danger to the life of patients.

“The pharmacist and store in-charge of the civil hospital, Nirupam Dutta, had not attended office for a long time, so I was forced to run the store,” said L. Hranckhol, the grade IV employee.

According to the attendance register accessed by The Telegraph, Dutta was found to be absent from June this year, barring three days in August.

Despite his absence, he had been drawing his salary regularly, sources said.

Haflong civil hospital is the only 100-bed hospital in Dima Hasao district of Assam and 300 to 400 patients come here for treatment daily.

H.S. Suri, the superintendent of the civil hospital, told The Telegraph: “Dutta has been absent for a long time We have marked him absent and sent a report to the joint director of health services. Towards the end of August, Dutta was also ordered to hand over charge to another senior pharmacist but he never obeyed the order. I am afraid that the store is being run by non-technical staff. If any untoward incident happens, the hospital will be blamed.”

The sources said any action against Dutta would have to be initiated by the joint director (health).

Dutta was earlier in the news for allegedly seeking Rs 2 lakh from those aspiring to permanent grade IV jobs. Many aspirants had alleged that Dutta had asked for Rs 2 lakh to provide them jobs at the hospital.

The North Cachar Hills Autonomous Council made 213 appointments in January this year.

Dipali Barman, the joint director of health, Dima Hasao, also demanded an explanation from Dutta on the issue.

There are allegations that Dutta had links with the autonomous council and the Assam government so no action could be taken against him. It had also been alleged that he had direct links with health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma.

Dutta also supplies medicines and other medical equipment to the hospital in the name of his sister-in-law.

By Samsul Alam


Kamlang tiger reserve. Picture courtesy: Arunachal forest department

Guwahati, Oct. 19: There is no roar in the country’s 50th tiger reserve in Arunachal Pradesh.

The 783 square km Kamlang tiger reserve is the third in Arunachal Pradesh, after Namdapha and Pakke, and was notified recently by the National Tiger Conservation Authority.

A senior Arunachal Pradesh forest department official said the tiger reserve has no tiger population according to the latest census report (2014) but the area has been notified as a tiger reserve as it has contiguity with Namdapha tiger reserve.

Both Namdapha and Pakke are low-density tiger reserves.

“There could be a tiger somewhere, which has still not been recorded, but officially there are none at present,” the official said. The reserve falls in the southeastern part of Lohit district and is more than 700km from Itanagar.

Member secretary of National Tiger Conservation Authority B.S. Bonal said there are some tiger reserves in the country where the population is very less and the authority takes steps to augment the population.

“Kamlang is a potential tiger habitat and it is contiguous with Namdapha. There are chances of tigers moving from one area to another,” he said.

The notification says the jurisdiction of Kamlang tiger reserve will be the same as that of Kamlang wildlife sanctuary, which was notified in 1989. The tiger reserve shall be under the unified control of a field director, with headquarters at Wakro, and under the administrative jurisdiction of chief wildlife warden, Arunachal Pradesh. The core area is 671 sq. km and the buffer area is 112 sq. km.

The vegetation may broadly be classified into tropical, temperate and alpine. There are about 150 species of trees found in the sanctuary and about 105 species of birds. Sources said there has not been any proper wildlife survey for a long time and the staff strength is not more than 20.

Another official said Kamlang could be a place for reintroduction of tigers from other areas and hence the plan was to see that the area is maintained without any disturbances.

“No attention was given to the wildlife sanctuary for conservation purposes for a long time,” a source said, adding there has been no wildlife survey. Officials feel that with the declaration of a tiger reserve the situation might change, as funds will be pumped in.



The Madan-Kamdev archaeological site in Kamrup.

Picture by UB Photos

Guwahati, Oct. 19: Three ancient stone temples in Assam are set for a facelift.

Madan-Kamdev in Kamrup, Deo-Parvat/Deopahar in Golaghat and Sankhadebi in Nagaon – which are in ruins, will get a new lease of life as the directorate of archaeology, Assam, has decided to restore these temples to their original splendour.

An official source told The Telegraph that the directorate is preparing a detailed project report (DPR) for the restoration work.

“The report will outline the conservation and restoration work to be taken up to develop these archaeological sites as attractive tourist spots,” he said.

According to him, the restoration will include reconstructing missing parts of the temples with available stones, which would be carved to the original shape and size, apart from reconstruction of the architectural stonework, earth work and excavation for foundation wherever necessary, providing stone slab roof according to the original design, including beam, ceiling and decorative mandap (altar), and providing water tightening of the roof and protection of the plinth and apron, among others.

The directorate has earmarked Rs 4 lakh for preparing the DPR of each site.

“It will take some time for the actual work to start as we will need a few months to complete the report,” he said.

Madan Kamdev, known as “Khajuraho of Assam” and situated near Baihata Chariali in Kamrup district, dates back to the 9th-10th century. The ruins spread across a hillock are believed to be the remains of more than 20 stone temples dedicated to Lord Shiva.

“The principal shrine is a rectangular mandap. The temple is in ruins and exists up to the plinth level. Its architecture is rich in ornamentation and a panel of amorous sculptures, of both human and animal life,” the source said.

At the Deoparvat archaeological site, which is located at Numaligarh in Golaghat district and believed to be of 11th century, ruins of the ancient temple are scattered on a hilltop.

“This site contains ruins of a stone temple erected upon a monolithic floor. The temple has a ceiling slab engraved with a large lotus,” the source said.

“The Sankhadevi site of 9th-10th century in Nagaon district has a group of temples, located at Jugijan, alongside a tributary of the Kopili river. The site has three mounds containing remains of three stone temples. Of these, one has been salvaged and stone relics of a temple dedicated to Devi Durga have been unearthed,” he said.

This site also has a stone stairway leading to the river, indicating that in the past communication was maintained through the river channel.

By Pankaj Sarma


Guwahati, Oct. 19: The Assam PCC is ready with the committee that will guide the party in its response to the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, in Parliament.

The committee assumes significance because the AICC had asked the PCC to constitute it under former chief minister Tarun Gogoi to advise the party on the stand it should take both within and outside Parliament, given the widespread protest against the bill.

The bill, referred to the Satyapal Singh-headed joint parliamentary committee after protests from the Opposition in September, seeks to grant citizenship to non-Muslim minorities from Muslim majority countries, namely, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangla-desh and Pakistan. It seeks to reduce from 11 years to six years the aggregate period of residence required in India to be eligible for citizenship.

Leading organisations like the All Assam Students Union, Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti, Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuba Chhatra Parishad and the PCC are protesting the move because of the threat to the indigenous population. Even the AGP, a partner in the BJP-led coalition, is opposed to the move.

PCC president Ripun Bora told The Telegraph after meeting party leaders that the committee was likely to be announced anytime and its terms of reference have been finalised. “Our stand will be ensuring the interests of Assam,” Bora said.

Sources said the committee has members from leading communities – Muslims, Bengalis, tea tribes and indigenous groups.

Assam transport minister Chandra Mohan Patowary said this afternoon that chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal had written to the committee’s chairman, asking him to visit the state and take into consideration the views of all organisations on the issue. “People should not think we will take on the burden of Hindu Bengali immigrants. The Centre has not said anything about giving the immigrants a place to reside in Assam. Our government will always protect the interests of the indigenous people of the state,” said Patowary, on the sidelines of an official function here.

The day also saw the KMSS appeal to the Bengali-speaking Hindu people living in Assam to join the ongoing protests against the proposed amendment.

“If they don’t join the protest, it will prove they are with the BJP, which is trying to make illegal migrants Indian citizens. Such a stand may trigger communal tension in the state,” KMSS publicity secretary Mukut Deka said in a statement today.

The appeal comes a day after a bicycle shop of Subal Biswas, a member of the Samiti at Bargain in Morigaon district, was allegedly ransacked by a mob of Hindu Bengalis. The mob had allegedly snatched away six bicycles and shouted slogans against indigenous groups, including KMSS members, who took out a procession opposing the bill. “The JPC will have another hearing on Tuesday,” he said.

The KMSS will organise a demonstration in Guwahati on Sunday in support of its demand to deport foreigners who had migrated to the state after March 24, 1971, irrespective of religion.

By Umanand Jaiswal


Nagaland chief minister T.R. Zeliang addresses village chiefs in Senapati district on Wednesday. Telegraph picture

Imphal, Oct. 19: Nagaland chief minister T.R. Zeliang today urged the S.S. Khaplang faction of the NSCN to re-enter a ceasefire and hold talks with the Centre to bring a final solution to the Naga issue.

“My government’s endeavour is to bring back the NSCN (K) into ceasefire. The group can also have ceasefire with the Myanmar government,” Zeliang said while addressing the first conference of Naga village authorities, organised by the United Naga Council at Tagaramphung in Senapati district of Manipur, today.

“If such a situation arises (if the NSCN-K agrees to re-enter ceasefire with the government of India), I will approach Prime Minister Narendra Modi to take up with his Myanmar counterpart the issue of ceasefire between the Myanmar government and the NSCN (K) so that both countries can work out a formula for development of the Nagas,” Zeliang said.

The NSCN (K), which had a ceasefire agreement with the government of India since 2001, abrogated it in April last year. It entered into a three-year ceasefire agreement with the Myanmar government last year.

Today’s first of its kind gathering of Naga village leaders came at a time when the Centre and the NSCN (Isak-Muivah) are working out a final solution to the ongoing peace process based on the Framework Agreement signed between the group and the Centre in August last year. The conference, which was attended by headmen, chiefs and chairmen of more than 750 Naga villages in Manipur, was aimed at gathering support of all the Nagas in Manipur for the peace process.

Terming the conference as a “historical event”, Zeliang called upon the Nagas to stand united to bring a final solution to the peace talks.

“We cannot allow the Naga problem to drag on. We cannot leave the problem behind. It is the opportune time to bring a solution. Let’s be positive and have faith in the leadership,” he appealed to the Naga village leaders.

On Manipur government’s opposition to the “political aspirations” of the Nagas, Zeliang said upholding Naga right would not infringe upon the Meiteis or any other community.

“If Nagas are united, we can prevent any government or community from taking away Naga’s land and dividing the Naga,” he added.

The NSCN had raised the demand for Greater Nagaland or Nagalim, comprising, besides Nagaland, all contiguous Naga-inhabited areas of Assam, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and some portions of Myanmar.

He claimed that Naga villages were republics and independent and the Naga villages in Manipur were never a part of the Meitei kingdom. He said the present situation was the creation of a historical accident which occurred under the British.

In next year’s Manipur Assembly election, he appealed to the Nagas to support the Naga Peoples’ Front.

He also appealed to the Nagas to establish close relations with other indigenous communities to establish unity among the tribals in Manipur in a bid to stand together against “anti-tribal” forces.

He termed the three bills – Protection of Manipur People Bill, Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms (Seventh Amendment) Bill and Manipur Shops and Establishments (Second Amendment) Bill – which were passed by the Manipur Assembly as “anti-tribal”.

The village authority conference made a five-point declaration.

The authorities pledged to defend and safeguard their rights over ancestral land at all cost, urged the Centre and NSCN (I-M) leaders to finalise a solution, appealed to all Naga political groups to support the ongoing peace process for a common political goal and resolved to form a common platform for the village authorities. They also reaffirmed the decision of the United Naga Council taken on January 2, 2012 to support the Naga Peoples Front.

By Khelen Thokchom