Agartala, Feb. 6: The CPM in Tripura is all set for a massive victory in the February 24 statewide elections to 587 village committees under the autonomous district councils.

The village committees in Tripura are counterparts of panchayats and introduced by a special state legislation.

On the expiry of the last day of filing nominations yesterday, the CPM captured 75 village committees and altogether 727 seats uncontested.

“The number of village committees and seats won without any contest by the CPM may further increase after the scrutiny and withdrawal of papers. In the 587 village committees, there are 4,597 seats,” the additional state election commissioner, Tamal Mazumder, said.

Since control over the ADC and village committees holds the key to 31 per cent tribal votes in Tripura, the regional parties, IPFT and INPT, had put up a challenge to the CPM in the village committee polls. But there is a division within the IPFT with veteran leader Harinath Debbarma deserting the party and forming the Tripura State Party (TSP).

Similar is the condition of INPT which had banked on an alliance with the BJP. But the state BJP leadership did not show any interest in forging an alliance. “This has paved the way for a four-pronged fragmentation of anti-CPM tribal votes and the election will be a disaster for us. In many areas the Congress and the BJP have not found willing candidates to be nominated for the polls,” said senior INPT leader Amiya Debbarma.

But the IPFT president and former station director of All India Radio Narendra Debbarma still hoped that his party would perform well.

“Had we been able to put up a united fight, results would have been far better. I am sure the IPFT will perform well,” said Narendra.

Meanwhile, armed CPM cadres yesterday beat up six BJP workers in Kalikhola, Monaipathar and Chhankhola under Dhanpur Assembly constituency, represented by chief minister Manik Sarkar.

The BJP spokesperson, Arun Kanti Bhowmik, said three BJP candidates, accompanied by three proposers of their nominations, were returning home from Dhanpur block headquarters under Sonamura subdivision after filing nominations.

“They were allegedly waylaid by a large group of CPM workers led by their leader Paltan De in the Monaipathar area. Despite filing a complaint at Jatrapur police station the police have not yet arrested anybody,” Bhowmik said.

A delegation of BJP leaders, headed by state party president Biplab Kumar Deb, today visited Dhanpur and met the injured candidates and workers in hospital. “We will not rest until the culprits involved in the attack on our workers are arrested. The issue will be taken up all over the state,” Deb said.

By Our Special Correspondent


Saikhom Mirabai Chanu, flanked by first runner-up Dinusha Hanhsani Bomiriyage Gomas from Sri Lanka (left) and second runner-up Shabira Molla from Bangladesh, in Guwahati on Saturday. Picture by UB Photos

Guwahati, Feb. 6: Saikhom Mirabai Chanu’s joy after clinching a gold medal in the women’s weightlifting event of the 12th South Asian Games here was marred somewhat after the India team bus left for the hotel without her.

The 22-year-old Chanu had opened the weightlifting medal account for India by lifting a total of 169kg (79kg in snatch plus 90kg in the clean-and-jerk) in the 48kg category event at the Bhogeshwari Phukanani Indoor Stadium at Dispur here this morning.

The event started at 8am and at 1.30 pm, when this correspondent found her, she was wandering around, medal in one hand, a bouquet in the other and little idea where to go.

“I was supposed to be taken by the team shuttle but I came to know that it left for the hotel. I know nothing about Guwahati. I am afraid to go outside carrying a medal,” she said.

“It is getting very late and I have called my parents who were in the hotel. Probably they will pick me up,” she added.

Weightlifting has been included for the first time in the Games. Chanu’s feats in snatch, clean and jerk are Games records.

“However, my overall best is 183kg. I am saving my best for the Rio Olympics. The Asian Games and the senior Asian Games are my last chance to qualify in the Olympics and I am saving my strengths and avoiding strenuous lifts.”

Chanu, who hails from Kakchung town in Thoubal district of Manipur, said she drew inspiration from Arjuna awardee weightlifter Kunjarani Devi. “Since my childhood, I was interested in weightlifting. But my real inspiration is Kunjarani Devi and watching her made me confident of pursuing international and national competitions,” Chanu said.

“I am very happy to be the first from the Northeast to get a medal in weightlifting in the Games. But I would have been happier if along with Guwahati and Shillong, the Games were held in Manipur too.”

By Avishek Sengupta


Guwahati, Feb. 6: Pakistan is wary of a “second-string” with the young Indian tennis squad taking part in the 12th South Asian Games here.

The matches will start at the All Assam Tennis Association complex at Chachal tomorrow morning.

“India might have a second-string team in the absence of top players like Sania Mirza and Yuki Bhambri, but they are still the favourites. The players are very young. On our part, we have a strong team (four men and four women), including Pakistan number one Aqeel Khan and the experienced Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi. We will put up a good fight,” Pakistan tennis coach and non-playing captain Rashid Malik told The Telegraph.

“We are missing two players who are currently playing in the US. But of course, we will be going into the matches with a bit of an advantage, knowing that some of the top players are missing in the Indian squad,” Malik said.

Pakistan, apart from Aqeel and Aisam, have Yasir Khan and Mohammad Abid, while the four-member women’s squad includes Sara Mansoor, Sarah Mahboob Khan, Ushna Sohail and Iman Qureshi.

On sustaining regular India-Pakistan tennis matches, Malik said he would take up the matter of resuming a friendship series between the traditional archrivals with All India Tennis Association president Anil Khanna.

“I will take up the matter with Anil Khanna. The friendship series will allow the people of both the countries to witness the age-old rivalry. We need to play more,” Malik, who had once played a prime role both as a player and non-playing captain in Davis Cup for Pakistan, said.

However, Pakistan, he feels, needs to improve its tennis at the grassroots level. “We lack the talent needed at the junior level. But we are working to groom the young players. Hopefully, in the next five years we will have some good players at this level,” Malik, who is on his first visit to the city, added.

The Pakistan team had a three-hour workout on the courts today.

“The courts are excellent. The weather is very good. The people are friendly. The transport part needs to be looked into as the bus that was to pick us up came late. But that’s a minor glitch and things will improve in the next five days,” he said.



Dipika Pallikal

Guwahati, Feb. 6:There is good news for squash enthusiasts here.

World number 17 Dipika Rebecca Pallikal will join her team that is currently taking part in the 12th South Asian Games tomorrow.

“Dipika had hurt her shoulder in a tournament in the US. But she is recovering well and should be joining the team here tomorrow,” teammate and world number 14 Joshna Chinappa, 29, told The Telegraph here this afternoon.

Till yesterday, Dipika was ruled out of the individual event and uncertainties hovered on her participation in the Games.

“It would have been nice to have her playing in the individual event. But she is definitely coming for the team championships,” Chinappa added.

Asked about her chances in the Games, the Chennai girl said she had expected Pakistan’s Maria Toor (seeded second) to give her a good fight. “Maria is a good player. She is currently training under Canadian squash legend Jonathon Power,” the Arjuna awardee said.

Joshna, who turned pro in 2003, added: “I am ranked 14 in the world at present. This is my second highest. But no one can be taken lightly as anything can happen at this level.”

“I didn’t know what to expect, frankly. The venue is fabulous. I definitely think the senior nationals can be held here and I hope to play here again,” Chinappa said minutes before taking on Nepal’s Krishna Thapa in her first match.

By Saurav Bora


Guwahati/Shillong, Feb. 6: Hosts India started the 12th South Asian Games, under way here and in Shillong, on a winning note, securing 19 medals, including 14 gold, on the second day but left home fans disappointed by going down to Sri Lanka in the men’s soccer.

Bidyaluxmi Tourangbam opened the account for the host nation with gold in women’s 30km individual time-trial cycling. She was followed by compatriot Chaoba Devi. Sabiha Bibi of Pakistan clinched the bronze.

The next to fetch gold for India was Arvind Panwar in the 40km men’s individual time trial followed by compatriot Manjeet Singh and Janaka Hemantha Kumara Gonagalage of Sri Lanka.

In men’s football, India lost to Sri Lanka by a solitary goal in the Group A encounter at SAI sports complex in Guwahati. The visitors dominated the proceedings right from the word go and found the net in the 13th minute. M.C.M. Rifnas took a free kick from 30 yards to leave the Indians gaping.

In swimming, the home side tallied as many as four gold through Damini Gowda (women’s 100m butterfly), Sandeep Sejwal (men’s 200m breast), Shivani Kataria (women’s 200m free) and the team of Avantika Chavan, V. Malvika, Maana Patel and Shivani Kataria (women’s 4x100m free-style relay).

In weightlifting, India tallied three gold through Mirabai Chanu (women’s 48kg), Gururaja (men’s 56kg) and Harshdeep Kaur (women’s 53kg).

The Indians won as many as five gold in wrestling on the first day at Tarun Ram Phookan Indoor Stadium in Guwahati. They also tallied five silver medals.

Sri Lanka trailed with four gold, 10 silver and seven bronze medals in second slot while Pakistan stood third with a gold, two silver and three bronze. The Maldives and Bhutan are yet to open their account in the eight-nation event.

In Shillong, India thoroughly dominated the first day’s proceedings in badminton, defeating the Maldives and Bangladesh in men’s team event league stage at SAI sports complex.

India won 3-0 on both occasions. The Pakistan and Sri Lanka men’s teams also posted two wins each. While Pakistan defeated Nepal 3-2 in a close contest in the morning session, Sri Lanka walked over a young Bhutan side 3-0.

In the second session, Pakistan beat Bhutan 3-0, while the Lankans repeated the feat against Nepal by 3-0. Afghanistan, meanwhile, went down to Bangladesh and Maldives.

In archery at the Polo grounds, India were guaranteed four gold and four silver medals in the individual events after the nation’s top archers blew away the competition on the second day.

All of the four finals on Monday and Tuesday will feature Indians, with Deepika Kumari and L. Bombayla Devi going neck and neck in the women’s recurve, Tarundeep Rai and Gurcharan Besra in the men’s recurve, Purvasha Sudhir Shende and Jyothi Surekha Vennam in the women’s compound and Abhishek Verma and Rajat Chauhan in the men’s compound.

Deepika, who received a bye, defeated Sonam Deki of Bhutan 6-2 in the quarters before getting the better of Bangladesh’s Beauty Ray 6-0.

After receiving a direct entry into the quarters, Bombayla had a tough fight against Anuradha Karunaratne (Sri Lanka), coming through 6-5, though she had an easier semi-final against Bhutan’s Karma, whom she defeated 6-2.

Tarundeep, meanwhile, won 6-5 in his last-eight match against Kinly Tshering (Bhutan) and 6-2 against Prem Prasad Pun of Nepal in the semis. Besra came through 7-1 and 7-3 in the quarters and semis against Jigme Norbu (Bhutan) and Nipuna Senevirathne (Sri Lanka) respectively.

The Indian men and women paddlers faced little trouble against their respective opponents on the first day of table tennis at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium indoor hall in Shillong. The Indian men marched into the last-four round of the team event defeating both Bangladesh and Nepal, while the Indian women breezed past Maldives and Pakistan. India have, thus, confirmed their place in the semi-finals of the team events, with only Sri Lanka looking like having any real chance of stopping them.

By Imtiaz Ahmed and Keshav Pariat


Jorhat, Feb. 6: Tales of sorrow, horror, struggle for survival and helplessness were narrated as 100-odd women from Jorhat district, all victims of violence related to alcoholism, converged at JB College here today. A husband selling his wife for hooch, a son turning his mother out of the house, husbands beating their pregnant wives, the sordid stories came one by one.

At the meeting, which aimed to chalk out a plan of action to curb alcoholism, the women requested a solution to their woes and unanimously demanded a stringent law – a life sentence if need be – for suppliers of illicit liquor. The meet was organised by the political science department of the college in collaboration with Omiya Kumar Das Institute of Social Change and Development, Guwahati.

“At Barhuz and Horuhuz, villages under Pulibor police station, 300 of the 400 houses sell hooch. Several times we have caught suppliers from nearby Borbhetti area and taken them to the police station but they are set free by evening. All that is needed to get them off the hook is Rs 5,000. We have realised that if we show the police the houses which sell liquor, it will only inflate their pockets,” a woman said.

The women said they had spoken to Jorhat superintendent of police Amanjeet Kaur. She had sent sub-inspector Dibyajyoti Dutta, who beat up one or two hooch sellers and organised the women into a force but they admitted they were fighting a losing battle. In Baligaon, Kolioni and Jankhona areas, Dutta organised the women into a samiti and they succeeded in closing 10 of the 12 liquor outlets. But these re-opened after he left. The victims also alleged that the beatings by their alcoholic husbands also got worse after Dutta left.

Rani Begum, who lost her husband and two sons to alcohol, had brought her grandson to the seminar today. Her other two sons are also alcoholics. The eight-year-old boy spoke about how his grandmother was struggling to bring him up after his father died. Jan Das of Horuhuz said she had bought an almirah to keep food items locked since half-a-kg of lentils could procure a liquor bottle.

Jamuna Das was an exception since her husband has not touched alcohol for the past eight years. Joydeep Baruah of OKD Institute said two more meetings would be held and the decisions and recommendations taken there would be told to the affected in another workshop.

Bolin Hazarika, head of the political science department, said chief minister Tarun Gogoi and his son and Kaliabor MP Gaurav Gogoi had been informed. Gaurav has asked for data of the number of illegal outlets, which is being collected by Dutta.

By Smita Bhattacharyya


Imphal, Feb. 6: A mammoth rally here today sent a clear message to the Centre that any move to alter Manipur’s existing boundary, while making a deal with the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah), would be opposed tooth and nail.

The rally, organised by the All Manipur United Clubs Organisation (Amuco), Committee for Civil Societies Kangleipak and United Committee Manipur, was taken out to warn Delhi not to harm Manipur’s interests while solving the NSCN (I-M) issue.

The Centre is in talks with the outfit and there are apprehensions that the settlement could impact the state’s interest.

The 6km march began from Thangmeiband Athletic Union ground and ended at the Khuman Lampak sports complex main stadium, where a public meeting was held.

The rally adopted six resolutions to protect the state’s boundary.

The first resolution urged the Centre to respect the state’s boundary, safeguard it and stop using a “divide-and-rule” policy among communities.

Another resolution took a firm stand against any “interference” by neighbouring states in the matter.

Leaders of various communities, including Kukis and Nagas, church leaders and representatives of the Manipur PCC and the BJP participated in the march.

The Naga-inhabited areas remained shut today following a 48-hour strike called in the five hill districts by the United Naga Council, demanding a separate administration for the Nagas, from Thursday midnight.

Only a few private vehicles were seen on the city streets. Attendance in government offices was thin.

A large number of police personnel were deployed at the venue of the meeting and no untoward incidents were reported.

“This rally will send a message to the Centre that people of Manipur are united and stand as one. It shows that the people will oppose any attempt to break up Manipur,” Elangbam Johnson, the convener of the rally’s organising committee and president of United Committee Manipur, said.

The president of Amuco, Y. Mani Khuman, asked all communities to work together for a common future.

Arjun Telheiba, the president of Committee for Civil Societies, Kangleipak, also appealed to all communities to shun differences and live together.

By Our Special Correspondent


Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi addresses the open session at Rupohi Pathar in Sivasagar on Saturday. Picture by UB Photos

Sivasagar, Feb. 6: Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi today announced a Rs 6 crore package for Srimanta Sankardev Sangha.

He made the announcement while addressing the open session of the 85th annual session of the Sangha at Rupohi Pathar on the outskirts here, a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the session.

Modi had confined his speech to praising Xankardeb and did not announce any package. He, however, said the Centre would not shy away from extending a helping hand to the initiatives undertaken by the Sangha for the development of Assam.

Of the total amount announced by Gogoi, Rs 5 crore will be given to the Mahapurusha Srimanta Sankaradeva Viswavidyalaya started by the Sangha. The remaining Rs 1 crore will be given to the proposed Srimanta Sankardev Kala Krishti Kendra at Rupohi Pathar.

Gogoi also presented a cheque of Rs 5 lakh to the organising committee.

The chief minister said his government has decided to name the different Assam Bhavans and Assam Houses located outside the state as Sankardev Bhavan.

Gogoi said he had become chief minister thrice with the blessings of the Sangha. Going a step further, he said he would support the Sangha even if it does not want him.

Gogoi hoped the current Sangha session would lead to the spread of the ideals of Xankardeb over the world. He said the saint’s teachings were still relevant and appealed to everyone to follow in his footsteps.

He compared the setting up of development councils to the ideals of the saint. “Xankardeb believed in development of all tribes and ethnic communities. Similarly, our government has been putting emphasis on the development of all tribal, ethnic and linguistic groups of the state by forming development councils,” he said.

An unprecedented visitor rush to the venue halted life in Sivasagar, especially in the greater Joysagar area. Traffic was disrupted owing to the huge number of vehicles, forcing police to deploy reinforcements. Several roads have been closed to traffic and a few others rendered one-way.

A Bhagawat Yatra and cultural procession were taken out today as part of the session, leading to a traffic bottleneck across the town and adjoining areas.

The four-day session concludes tomorrow.



Guwahati, Feb. 6: Assam has witnessed 146 per cent increase in cyber crime cases against 70 per cent nationally, a seminar revealed today while stressing on innovation and awareness to counter such threat.

The seminar, Winning Threat of a Cyber War, was organised by Guwahati Management Association here and was supported by Assam police and some other public sector units like BSNL.

Addressing the seminar, additional director-general of Assam police Kuladhar Saikia said, “The available technologies have been able to counter cyber crimes such as data theft, hacking, defacing of websites and sharing of child pornography but those engaged in unlawful activities using cyber space are going for innovation. Cyber attack on power grid system, air traffic system and use of social media by terror groups to lure young people into their fold has emerged as a big challenge world over. Apart from making people aware to prevent such crimes, we must go for innovation and improve our preventive systems to keep us safe from disasters caused by smart cyber criminals.”

Quoting police records, Sakia said the 146 per cent increase in cyber crime cases in Assam in 2013-14 could be “due to increase in number of Internet users and awareness about cyber crime laws” because of which more complaints were lodged. “But we need to increase our technical capacity to counter such threats. The world will see a disaster and all our communication systems will come to a standstill if the power grids come under cyber attack,” he added.

“Terrorist groups like the IS are increasingly using social media to radicalise and lure youths. After the IS had occupied Mosul (Iraq) in 2014, many youths joined the group as it exaggerated its victory, money and muscle power on social media. There are thousands of sites which can’t be checked using ordinary search engines such as Google. Criminals use those sites for illegal online arms and drugs business. Besides, cyber frauds send anonymous mails with promise of lottery money and ask for bank details and later withdraw money from bank accounts online. Recently, we came to know of an incident where money from a person in Kahilipara here was withdrawn by a criminal sitting in an African country,” Saikia said.

Gautam Barauh, mentor-director of the Indian Institute of Information Technology, Guwahati also stressed on having a pool of cyber crime experts to counter the threat.

“We are trying to improve infrastructure to ensure that cyber crime threat to our telecom system in the Northeast is minimised. From our mobile phones, e-transactions and e-purchases, everything is now prone to cyber crime threat,” Mahesh Kumar Seth, chief general manager of BSNL, Assam, said.



Replica of Don Boscos childhood house

Staff Reporter

GUWAHATI, Feb 6 – A replica of the house at Becchi, Turin, Italy, where 19th century Italian priest, educator and friend of the youth St John Bosco (popularly known as Don Bosco) was born and spent most of his childhood years, is now open for the public in Guwahati.

The Don Bosco Society, Guwahati opened the replica on the premises of Provincial House, Panbazar on the Feast Day of Don Bosco.

The house was inaugurated by Fr Porcu Mario, a nonagenarian Italian Salesian, who at 97 years, is an inspiration to all who come and seek his blessings.

Inaugurating the dream house, Fr Mario, who also happens to be the founder rector and principal of Don Bosco School, Maligaon, said: I am so happy to see the house where a young Johnny Bosco spent his childhood years from just outside my room window at the Provincial House, Panbazar. This is a befitting tribute to our patron-saint whose bicentenary birthday we had just celebrated last year.

The house has been built by a young artist named CM Jose. The idea of this Becchi house was conceptualised by Fr VM Thomas, Salesian Provincial of Guwahati, who said: The house has been decorated with 40 paintings depicting different phases of Don Boscos life. The paintings will give an idea to the current generation of youngsters about Don Boscos vision about life and education, and in the process, would inspire them.

The Don Bosco Society has plans to convert the dream house into a museum and a must-visit place for everyone, especially from the city.