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Guwahati, May 23: The Assam unit of the SFI will hold an awareness campaign in the state from June on problems in the education sector.

The monthlong drive will highlight the shortage of seats in BEd course.

There are only 750 seats in government BEd college while there 4,400 seats in private institutes.

The SFI alleged that since BEd has become compulsory for teachers’ jobs, many economically backward students have to pay huge fees to private institutes.

According to the SFI, last year, 2.4 lakh students cleared HSLC examination but there were only 2 lakh seats at the higher-secondary level. Similarly, 1.97 lakh students cleared HS but only 1.2 lakh seats are available in Assam for various graduate courses.

“Recently, we met the director of higher education and pointed out that admission process is not held on the same date in Assam. We wanted admission on the same date. The director promised to discuss this matter with the colleges,” said the president SFI Assam committee, Kashyap Choudhury.

The students’ federation announced that after the awareness campaign it would carry out various protest programmes from July.

 
By Manash Pratim Dutta

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Imphal, May 23: The 44-year-old man arrested in Manipur on charges of being a militant has claimed that he is now a victim of a “political conspiracy”.

The man – Ningombam Birjit Singh alias Ibungo – is close to the family of Irom Roger who was killed by chief minister Nongthombam Biren Singh’s son N. Ajay Meitei in a 2011 road-rage incident.

Birjit was arrested during a search operation at Chingmeirong in Imphal East on May 16.

The police, who claimed that Birjit confessed to being a cadre of the Kangleipak Communist Party (Military Council), also charged him with extortion.

They recovered only a cell phone with two SIM cards.

The accused was produced before the court of chief judicial magistrate Imphal East yesterday. The court sent him to jail till June 5.

During the court appearance, Birjit denied the charge levelled by the police that he was a member of the KCP (MC).

Birjit admitted that he was acquainted with Irom Chitra Devi, mother of Roger and he picked up the Irom family’s lawyer, Utsav Singh Bians, from Imphal airport and dropped him on the Manipur High Court complex.

Bians has been complaining that he had received threats calls from militants and demanded an independent inquiry.

The police are investigating the alleged threat to Bians.

Yesterday, Birjit told the court, “I was not a member of an outlawed organisation and not involved in any prejudicial activities.”

Birjit said Biren Singh had come to his house before he became the chief minister accompanied by another person and urged him to negotiate with Chitra Devi as he was acquainted with her.

When approached, Chitra Devi refused to negotiate and the message was passed on to Biren Singh.

Earlier this month, as requested by Chitra Devi, Birjit picked up Utsav Singh Bians from Imphal airport and dropped him on the high court complex.

Birjit’s lawyer submitted before the court that there was no prima facie case against him. The lawyer said Birjit was arrested and harassed and he was a victim of “political conspiracy”. He also prayed for granting bail.

The development came as the Supreme Court yesterday sought responses from the Centre and state government on a plea by Roger’s parents. The parents said they fear for their lives in the state ruled by the BJP. The plea was filed by Chitra Devi through advocate Bians.

Ajay shot dead Roger in a road rage in 2011 after Roger allegedly did not allow Ajay to overtake him. The incident irked Ajay, who fired at Roger killing him on the spot.

The case was investigated by the CBI and an Imphal court had convicted Ajay and awarded him a five-year jail term earlier this year under Section 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) IPC.

 
By KHELEN THOKCHOM

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Guwahati, May 23: The Arunachal Pradesh PCC today extended support to the All Arunachal Pradesh Students’ Union in its movement against granting citizenship rights to the Chakma and Hajong refugees in the state.

Lauding the student union’s role in spearheading the vexed refugee issue in the state, the PCC has termed the issue of granting citizenship as a “social issue of the whole state”.

There had been reports that the Centre was going to give citizenships to the Chakma and Hajong communities which are originally inhabitants of the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh and had to flee after their land was submerged by Kaptai dam in the 1960s. The Centre shifted a majority of these refugees to Arunachal Pradesh.

The PCC cautioned that if the Chakma and Hajong refuges are allowed to have Arunachalee status, it will not only invite demographic changes in the state but will also create “socio-economic and political threats” in the near future.

“We should not underestimate the wide-ranging lobbying strategies and mechanism of these refugees. So every member of all indigenous tribes of the state must put in all efforts and time on this issue at this stage,” PCC spokesperson Hina Camder Tok said in a statement.

Castigating Kiren Rijiju for his “ineffective” role as the Union minister of state for home affairs, the PCC demanded his resignation.

“The BJP-led state government should also own moral responsibility as the outcome of proposed granting of citizenship to the refugees is a unilateral and dictatorial decision of the BJP high command. It is a wake-up call for the people of Arunachal Pradesh to understand the hidden agenda of the saffron brigade lest it becomes too late,” Tok said.

The PCC demanded that the state government clarify its stand and hold an all-party meeting immediately to discuss the pros and cons.

 
By A Staff Reporter

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Shillong, May 23: Amid talks of forging a gathbandhan (alliance), to take on the ruling Congress in Meghalaya, the Opposition National People’s Party (NPP) has found that having a workable pre-poll alliance for the next year’s Assembly polls is complicated, though it is ready to ally with like-minded non-Congress parties.

“We are trying hard to have a workable pre-poll alliance with other non-Congress parties. We are still working on it, though the process is complicated,” NPP national president and Tura Lok Sabha MP Conrad K. Sangma told reporters today after inducting into the party a number of prominent faces, including former legislators at the NPP office here.

Being a part of the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre, Conrad said it is natural for his party to aim at forging a non-Congress alliance and the NPP is open for discussion on this issue.

Asked whether NPP workers prefer post-poll alliance to pre-poll alliance for the upcoming Assembly polls, the NPP leader said there is a mixed opinion on this while admitting that in Manipur, the NPP did not forge any pre-poll alliance with the BJP or other parties before the Assembly elections despite being a part of the NDA and the Northeast Democratic Alliance (Neda).

Political observers are of the view that non-Congress parties such as the NPP, the BJP, the United Democratic Party (UDP) and the Hill State People’s Democratic Party (HSPDP) in Meghalaya are likely to contest the elections on their own, but they could come together to form the government after the election.

Conrad said the NPP has been working hard in organising the party in various parts of the state and received good response from people. He said many people have also joined the party.

To a question on whether a number of sitting Congress legislators will join the NPP, Conrad was noncommital.

“We heard the news that sitting MLAs wanted to join our party and we welcome them. Leaders and the people across the state are frustrated with the leadership of chief minister Mukul Sangma. His style of functioning is a one-man show and more like a dictator. That is why the level of frustration among the leaders who worked under the chief minister is very high.”

Asked if the NPP might also face anti-incumbency if sitting legislators join the party as “old wine in new bottle”, Conrad said: “The sitting MLAs could not do what they wanted to under the leadership of Mukul. The old wine never got the chance to be tasted.”

 
By Rining Lyngdoh

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Guwahati, May 23: A village headman, who had allegedly fudged the date on the birth certificate of a 14-year-old girl for her marriage recently in a minority-dominated village of lower Assam’s Barpeta district, is facing police action following an FIR by Childlineon Sunday.

The girl’s father, Hasmat Ali, is also facing the charge of aiding child marriage.

Based on information that the parents of class IX student Hamjela Khatun had fixed her marriage on Monday, Childline officials in Barpeta intervened and asked the headman of Bodoloni, Hakim Ali, to provide details.

“In such a case, we usually seek information from the village headman. Instead of providing information of the incident, the village headman claimed that her parents had a birth certificate that showed that she was 18 years old,” the co-ordinator of Childline Barpeta, Rafiqul Islam, said today.

However, records in the girl’s school, Aligaon Madrassa and Garala High School, showed she was born on February 1, 2002, and she is just over 14 years old, he said.

“But the village headman produced a birth certificate showing that she was 18. After scrutiny it appeared that the village headman and her father manipulated her birth certificate to contest our allegation of child marriage. So we lodged an FIR at Madia police outpost against both,” Islam added.

The village is situated about 100km west of Guwahati.

Marriage of a girl below 18 years is prohibited under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, and those involved in such an act may face jail up to two years and fine.

“The marriage was supposed to be held on Monday but it was stopped following our intervention. The police are investigating,” Islam said.

Child marriage among minorities and tea garden workers is rampant in Assam. Poverty, low literacy and lack of awareness are the major factors behind the practice.

 
By SUMIR KARMAKAR

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Women protesters block a road in Moreh on Tuesday. Picture by Ngangbam Indrakanta Singh

Imphal, May 23: A daylong general strike today crippled border town Moreh, affecting everyday activities at the trade centre.

The strike was called yesterday by various civil society organisations in protest against the killing of a woman at the Indo-Myanmar border town.

The strike began at 8 last night as protesters blocked roads in different parts of the town by burning tyres and placing poles and logs.

The sudden imposition of the strike inconvenienced traders as well as transporters, besides disrupting day-to-day activities of the people.

“No one was seen on the roads. The town was totally deserted. “We couldn’t move out of our hotel rooms,” said Th. Bina Devi, a trader from Imphal.

“I arrived yesterday. I heard people screaming when the woman was hit by bullets. I was told that two masked men came on a bike at Premnagar and shot the lady. They left when people rushed towards the spot,” Bina Devi told The Telegraph.

The woman has been identified as Arambam O. Shanti, 49, and she earned her living as a coolie. She was rushed to Moreh hospital where she succumbed to her injuries.

Civil society organisations had an emergency meeting and decided to request chief minister N. Biren Singh to book the culprits within 48 hours and said the body will not be cremated until the culprits are arrested.

The meeting also condemned the series of blasts that had occurred in Moreh recently.

Two bombs exploded at two places in Moreh on Saturday night. However, there was no report of any casualty. One of the bombs was suspected to be an IED that exploded near the western compound fence of Moreh police station, partially damaging it. The second blast took place at a play ground in Gamnom Veng village in Moreh ward 2.

On May 19, four security personnel sustained injuries when parliamentary secretary (home) L. Sushindro (Yaima) was attacked by suspected militants between Kwatha and Khudengthabi.

Two days earlier, there was another blast at Gamnom Veng community hall but no one was injured. Denouncing the blast, there was a daylong shutdown in Moreh.

The civil society organisations have urged the government to take steps to prevent occurrence of such blasts in and around Moreh. They also appealed to the individuals or groups involved in the blasts not to disturb the peaceful environment of the town and refrain from such activities in the future.

The United Kuki Liberation Front in a press statement released yesterday urged the culprits not to repeat the “gutless acts” in the future. Between May 8 and May 20, there have been five blasts in the business hub, killing two and injuring six.

Bina Devi said a day’s loss in business hits traders very hard. Traders from Myanmar too incur huge losses. “Moreh is meant for international trade and shutting it down is a huge setback for businessmen from either side of the border,” she said.

According to a research by Th. Bharat of Manipur University, the value of export to Myanmar was estimated to be about Rs 27 crore while goods worth Rs 20 crore were imported in 2012-13.

 
By Ngangbam Indrakanta Singh

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Sonowal and Goel at Sarusajai Stadium in Guwahati on Tuesday. Picture by UB Photos

Guwahati, May 23: Union sports minister Vijay Goel today took note of the slow progress of preparation of the Tepesia Sports Complex ground on the outskirts of the city as a practice venue for the FIFA Under-17 World Cup to be held in India in October.

Interacting with the media after inspecting the venues for the Guwahati group leg of the mega event, Goel said: “The preparations at the Indira Gandhi Stadium and other practice venues (Nehru Stadium and the Sports Authority of India ground here) in Guwahati are quite satisfactory. But the progress at Lakshmibai National Institute of Physical Education practice venue in Guwahati has not been satisfactory.”

He said: “The dressing rooms and ground development there are on time, but some other work is lagging behind. I have set the authorities a deadline of June 15 to complete the preparatory work.”

Sources said Goel took note of incomplete works of washrooms and toilets in the Tepesia Complex which houses the LNIPE’s Northeast campus. The preparations at the Tepesia and SAI complexes here are being carried out directly by his ministry without any help from the Assam government.

Goel appreciated the Assam government for its enthusiasm in preparing the venue for the event. “This is one of the biggest events India is going to host and the Sonowal government has shown exemplary enthusiasm in preparations, understanding the gravity of the event,” he said.

“After I read in the newspapers that the organising committee was dissatisfied with the progress of preparatory work in Kerala, I took it up myself to monitor preparatory work at all the six venues individually. I went there and held discussions with the Kerala government and authorities concerned there and they assured me to complete work at the earliest ,” Goel said.

“The World Cup is not about holding some matches in the country. It is about our government’s effort to reach out to 11 million students in 15,000 schools across the country for development of football. We have already reached out to 5,000 schools,” he added. On the AIFF issuing misleading information about Indian probables for the World Cup beating an Italian under-17 team, which eventually turned out to be a fourth-tier outfit in the European country’s league, Goel said: “I am not aware whether it was a first or fourth-tier team. But since our boys have won, let’s encourage them.”

No Pak players allowed: Goel said Pakistan’s players would not be allowed to play for any Indian team in any sport as a matter of principle “till Pakistan stops cross-border terrorism”.

 
By Imtiaz ahmed

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Shillong/Tura, May 23: Unheralded schools outperformed well-known educational institutions in the Meghalaya Secondary School Leaving Certificate (SSLC) examination whose results were declared today.

However, there was some controversy as the list of top 20 students was leaked online late last night, though the Meghalaya Board of School Education (MBoSE) had announced that results would be declared at 10 this morning.

An inquiry has been ordered into the leak, which was initially attributed to a “technical glitch”.

Controversy apart, the results brought several unheralded schools into the limelight as they outstripped the sheen surrounding the much-acclaimed institutions.

Duyu Asung of St George Secondary School, Nongmynsong, Shillong shared the top position with Lamphrang Lyngdoh of the well-known R.K. Mission Higher Secondary School, Sohra, with 568 marks.

Speaking to The Telegraph, Asung said her dream had been realised. “I always dreamt of topping the SSLC examination but I did not expect it would come true. I thank my parents, teachers and friends who have supported me throughout,” Asung, who wants to become a doctor, said.

St George principal Simon Joseph said Asung was an “exceptional student” who did not miss a single class. “This is the first time that our student has topped the SSLC exam. If they are disciplined and hardworking, there is no hurdle which can stop them from achieving success,” he said.

Rahul Sen of Tura Don Bosco Secondary School came second. An elated Rahul said, “I always believed in myself and remained focused. I dedicate my success to the Almighty, my parents, teachers and all the well-wishers”. He will pursue his senior secondary studies in science in the same school. “My dream is to be in academics”, he said.

“Rahul is a disciplined and obedient child,” said Subrata Sen, his proud father and a teacher of the same school.

“Rahul is an exceptional students and very soft-spoken, studious and very obedient. His first preference was always studies”, said Fr Albert Thyrniang, principal of Don Bosco Secondary School.

Fifth position holder Mainak Debnath of Bhaitbari Higher Secondary School in West Garo Hills aspires to be a doctor. He dedicated his success to his parents who are teachers.

Apart from St George, students from schools like Eriben Presbyterian School, Shillong, North Liberty Higher Secondary School, Jowai (West Jaintia Hills), and a host of others featured in the top 20.

The board also announced the results of the Higher Secondary School Leaving Certificate (HSSLC) examination of the arts stream.

Dimsonjem Vaiphei of St Anthony’s Higher Secondary School, Shillong, topped the list by scoring 440 marks.

MBoSE executive chairman Pravin Bakshi said an inquiry headed by state education secretary W.R. Lyngdoh has been ordered on the leak of the toppers’ list.

“We have taken serious note of the matter and ordered for an inquiry by the education secretary to examine all aspects of the online leak and fix responsibilities as well as suggest corrective measures,” Bakshi said.

The inquiry report will be submitted within 10 days.

In the SSLC exam, 27,547 out of 50,974 candidates passed, a pass percentage of 54.04. Altogether 566 schools sent students to appear for the exam. Last year, the pass percentage was 54.10.

While East Garo Hills recorded a pass percentage of 36.22, the corresponding figure for West Garo Hills was 34.31. South Garo Hills had a pass percentage of 28.48 while South West Garo Hills and North Garo Hills recorded a pass percentage of 21.45 and 29.83 per cent respectively. West Jaintia Hills was the best performing district with a pass percentage of 78.7.

HSSLC (arts) exam saw 15,940 out of 21,146 candidates pass, a pass percentage of 75.38. Last year, the pass percentage was 74.04.

 
By Our Bureau

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Harsing Ranghang

Nagaon, May 23: Karbi king Harsing Ranghang was arrested this morning for allegedly raping a 33-year-old woman at her home on May 17.

The 52-year-old Karbi richo (king) was arrested from the royal palace at Ranghang Rangbong in West Karbi Anglong district. Harsing is married and has two sons and a daughter.

On May 17, Harsing allegedly entered the residence of the woman in Beygaon village around 5.30pm when she was home alone. He allegedly raped her and left before any of her family members returned.

The Karbi king was allegedly close to the woman’s family. The royal palace is situated on top of a hillock and is barely 1km away from Beygaon village, which is located at the base of the hill.

On May 18, the victim, accompanied by villagers, filed an FIR at the police station in Hamren, the district headquarters of West Karbi Anglong. After carrying out a preliminary investigation, a police team reached Ranghang Rangbong, which is around 10km from Hamren, this morning and arrested the king.

Karbis still have the tradition of anointing kings from the Ranghang clan. This is the first time that any member of the royal family has been accused of such a crime.

The villagers are demanding capital punishment for the accused.

West Karbi Anglong additional superintendent of police (headquarters) Bolin Deuri said all formalities, including medical examination of the victim, had been completed.

“Harsing was arrested after we collected sufficient evidence against him. The victim is from a remote village,” Deuri said. He was produced in court this evening and remanded in judicial custody for 30 days.

Harsing took charge as Karbi richo in 2005. According to tradition, the richo has area officers who work as per his commands in different parts of his kingdom.

To be chosen as a richo, a man has to belong to the Ranghang clan and marry a girl belonging to the Teron clan. He should be fit and not have any injury mark on his body.

The throne will now be vacant till a successor is anointed, sources said.

“There were complaints about the king’s conduct in the past but people remained silent out of respect and tradition. This time villagers have lost patience and moved the police seeking justice,” said Junmili Terangpi, a social worker from Baithalangso.

This is the second rape case that has surfaced in the district recently. On May 10, a 21-year-old was gang-raped and murdered in Baithalangso. Six persons have been arrested in connection with this crime.

West Karbi Anglong police today said they have identified the seven persons involved in the May 10 incident and six of them have been held. “We are on the lookout for the seventh accused – Babu Rongpi. Babu was the mastermind of the May 10 incident. We hope he will be arrested soon as we have reports that he is still in the district,” Deuri said.

 
By SARAT SARMA

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(From left) Jewel Gorlosa, Niranjan Hojai and Mohit Hojai come out of the NIA special court after being sentenced to life imprisonment in Guwahati on Tuesday. Picture by UB Photos

Guwahati, May 23: An NIA special court today handed life sentences to rebel leaders-turned-politicians Jewel Gorlosa and Niranjan Hojai and former chief executive member of the North Cachar Hills Autonomous Council, Mohit Hojai, for diverting development funds to the now disbanded DHD (J) militant group.

Niranjan was currently serving as the executive member in charge of the public works department of the North Cachar Hills Autonomous Council while Jewel was a member of the autonomous council. Both were convicted by the NIA court yesterday under Section 120B of the IPC, Sections 16, 17 and 20 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and Section 25 (1)(d) of the Arms Act in NIA case number RC-01/2009.

Niranjan was the commander-in-chief of the DHD (J) while Jewel was the outfit’s chairman. Both are now members of the BJP.

In the same case, Mohit was convicted under Sections 120B of the IPC and Section 17 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

NIA special judge Robin Phukan also ordered Jewel and Niranjan to pay fines of Rs 1.25 lakh each while Mohit was told to pay a fine of Rs 50,000.

The other 10 accused in this case, which was filed in 2009, were awarded prison terms ranging from eight to 12 years besides fines of Rs 25,000.

Then deputy director of the social welfare department, R.H. Khan, has been sentenced to 12 years in jail while the then executive engineer of the public health engineering department, Karuna Saikia, will have to serve eight years.

Contractors Phojendra Hojai and Joyanta Kumar Ghosh got 12 years and 10 years’ imprisonment respectively.

Hawala operator Malsawmkimi was sentenced to eight years in jail with a fine and Mizoram-based arms smuggler Vanlalchana got a 10-year sentence and fine.

The NIA court also ordered initiation of perjury proceedings against 15 witnesses who had turned hostile during trial of the two cases.

Following the NIA court order, Assam BJP president Ranjeet Kumar Dass today sacked Niranjan Hojai from the primary membership of the party.

When being taken away from the court, Jewel told mediapersons that they were “withdrawing the ceasefire” with the government after today’s court order.

He further said that peace process and the memorandum of settlement (which DHD-J had signed with the government) have failed.

DHD (J) cadres surrendered before then chief minister Tarun Gogoi at Haflong in Dima Hasao district on October 3, 2009. The Centre and the Assam government signed a memorandum of settlement with DHD (J) in October 2012 after which the outfit was disbanded in November 2012.

The BJP’s Debolal Gorlosa, who was next to Niranjan in the now-disbanded DHD (J), is the current chief executive member of the council.

AGP leader Debojit Thaosen, reacting to the verdict, said today in Haflong that people should now become careful in choosing their elected representatives “as one after another BJP leaders were going to jail”.

In the NIA case number RC-02/2009, related to diversion of development funds to the coffers of the DHD (J), the two accused – contractor Jibangsu Paul and DHD (J) linkman Golan Daulagupu – were given 10-year and eight-year sentences respectively.

The duo were yesterday convicted under Section 120B of the IPC and Section 17 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

These two cases were registered by the NIA in 2009 based on allegations that huge sums of money were being siphoned off from the development funds allotted to the North Cachar Hills Autonomous Council in connivance with contractors and government servants and being sent to the DHD (J) for procurement of arms and ammunition and other subversive activities.

According to the NIA, during the investigation of the two cases, a huge cache of arms and ammunition was seized from Mizoram, which included eight M-16 rifles made in Singapore, a 9mm Beretta pistol, 12 walkie-talkie sets and a telescope. Another huge cache of arms and ammunition was recovered by Assam police, including 29 AK-47 and AK-56 rifles, five M-16 rifles, three self-loading rifles and other weapons. Cash worth Rs 1,32,11,000 was also recovered in connection with the two cases.

The investigation of these cases was spread over five states. The investigation covered defalcation of funds of the autonomous council, transfer of funds through hawala transactions to Guwahati, Calcutta and Bangkok and procurement of arms through arms smugglers in Mizoram. Police teams from Assam, Mizoram, Karnataka and Bengal extended assistance to the NIA teams during investigation of these cases.

 
By PANKAJ SARMA