Silchar, Nov. 25: Various social organisations of Assam have requested Prime Minister Narendra Modi to introduce a comprehensive bill in the winter session of Parliament to grant citizenship to linguistic minorities who came from Bangladesh because of religious persecution.

Barak Upotyaka Banga Sahitya O Sanskriti Sammelan, a socio-cultural organisation, today sent a memorandum to the Prime Minister urging him to take steps to bring legislation to resolve the citizenship issue.

“As there is no clear data about the number of people migrating to Assam after March 24, 1971, there is a great hue and cry on the issue of the burden of settlement. A deliberate attempt to malign the linguistic minorities in general and Bengalis in particular is behind this move by the pressure groups,” said Gautam Prasad Dutta, general secretary of the Sammelan.

He said the complete 1951 voter lists are not available in many Assam districts. “There are many people who lost their ancestral documents owing to natural calamities. Past records are also not available with the government. Under such circumstances, those who do not have these documents are being treated as foreigners for no fault of their own,” he added.

The Centre had issued a gazette notification on September 7 stating that on humanitarian consideration it would exempt Bangladesh and Pakistan nationals from minority communities who entered India on or before December 31, 2014, in respect of their entry and stay in India without proper documents or after the expiry of relevant documents.

“The gazette notification is not enough to mitigate the ongoing harassment of the linguistic minorities. Therefore, there is an urgent need to bring a legislation to address the foreigners issue in Assam,” he said.

The All-India Bangalee Refugee Coordination Committee, All Assam Bangalee Youth Student Federation and other different organisations will organise a national convention on the foreigners issue in New Delhi on December 16. The members will also hold a demonstration in front of Jantar Mantar on December 17 demanding formulation of legislation to safeguard the rights of Bengalis who came to India from Bangladesh because of religious persecution.

Benimadhav Roy, one of the conveners of the convention, told The Telegraph today that they were not happy with the gazette notification. “We suspect the notification was issued just to hoodwink the people. The government knows well that a mere notification will not solve this issue. We will launch a mass agitation if the legislation is not passed in the upcoming Parliament session,” he added.

By Nilotpal Bhattacharjee


Shillong, Nov. 25: International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women was observed here today with a renewed call to victims of abuse to break the “silence”.

Speakers at daylong seminar, organised by the women’s wing of the Unitarian Union of Northeast India, to observe the day expressed concern over the rise in crimes and violence against women.

Rica Lamar, secretary of Manbha Foundation, said Meghalaya, which is dubbed a “matrilineal state”, has seen a rise in crimes and violence against women over the years.

In fact, data from the Meghalaya police substantiate Lamar’s claims. In 2013, 343 cases of crimes against women were reported from the 11 districts of the state. Of these, 183 cases were related to rape.

While there were 255 cases of crimes against women in 2012, the corresponding figure in 2014 jumped to 480. However, D.K. Prasad, who is the officer-in-charge of the Sadar Police Station here, said these were only “reported” cases.

“Violence against women is spreading like cancer. There are various reasons for it, and there are many more unreported cases,” Prasad said.

He also made an appeal to women and to those who witness violence against women to come forward and lodge complaints before the police.

Prasad, however, admitted that the conviction rate, like in the rest of India, for crimes against women is low.

He said one of the prime reasons behind the low conviction rate is the fact that victims of such violence do not report the incidents immediately, which paves the way for crucial evidence to vanish.

Gina Phanbuh from the North East Network (NEN), while pointing out to the many sides of violence against women, said this year alone, the Network’s support centre at the Ganesh Das Hospital here has recorded 283 cases of violence against women.

An appeal was also made to create large-scale awareness at the grassroots on crimes and violence against women.

By Our Correspondent


Silchar, Nov. 25: The stage is all set for the elections to Aizawl Municipal Corporation and Lai Autonomous District Council where polling will be held from 7am to 4pm tomorrow.

In order to ensure peaceful polling, police have made elaborate security arrangements in Aizawl and in the autonomous district council for the Lai people earlier known as Pawi, living in south-eastern Mizoram.

Ballot papers will be used in the municipal polls, while electronic voting machines (EVMs) will be in place for the council polls.

There are 19 wards, of which six are reserved for women under the Aizawl Municipal Corporation.

Altogether, 1,92,382 voters, of whom 90,287 are male and 1,02,095 are female, will exercise their franchise in 211 polling stations.

Sources in the Mizoram state election commission told The Telegraph today that nine returning officers, 19 assistant returning officers, 211 presiding officers and 422 polling officers had been appointed to conduct the municipal polls.

In the autonomous district council polls, of the total 103 polling stations, four stations – Sabualtlang and Kakichhuah under Tuithumhnar constituency and Zochachhuah and Hmawngbuchhuah under Sekulh constituency – have been declared “very sensitive” because of their proximity to the India-Myanmar border.

Sources said eight polling stations – Karlui-II, Hlimzawl, Fangfarlui, Saikhawthlir, Kawnkhua, Kakichhuah, Vartekkai and Laitlang – under the district council are located in far-flung areas and the polling officials had to reach there by foot.

“All basic amenities have been made available in all the polling booths both for the election staff and voters,” said an official of the election commission.

Altogether, 74 candidates are in the fray for the district council polls, while the number candidate in municipal polls is 54.

In the last municipal polls, the Congress and Zoram Nationalist Party (ZNP) alliance won 10 wards and the Opposition Mizo National Front (MNF) and Mizoram People’s Conference (MPC) combine bagged nine wards.

The ruling Congress won 19 of 25 seats in the last autonomous district council polls in 2010.

By Nilotpal Bhattacharjee


Guwahati, Nov. 25: Tobacco addiction is a hard habit to break and although the warning labels on cigarette packs are getting larger and more graphic by the day, there seems to be no dearth of smokers. So, how does one kick the butt?

“Giving up tobacco isn’t easy and it takes time for an addict to completely shed the habit. Pharmacological treatment along with psychological counselling is necessary to help an addict leave his addiction to nicotine. But the most important aspect is will power. When an addict tries to give up tobacco, he also suffers from withdrawal symptoms that make the process tough. But with professional help and perseverance, he or she can shed the habit in about a year or two,” said S. Baruah, district nodal officer of Kamrup district tobacco control cell.

According to doctors, pharmacological treatment is usually given in the form of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT). In this therapy an addicted person is prescribed nicotine chewing gums or lozenges. Even nicotine ointments are available.

“When a person smokes, many toxic substances enter the body. But the addiction is to nicotine. Since a person is bound to suffer from withdrawal symptoms if he gives up smoking or chewing tobacco suddenly, he is given NRT. A certain dosage of nicotine chewing gums or lozenges is prescribed and this dosage is gradually decreased till the patient is completely taken off nicotine,” said Bhabani Prasad Chakravarty, a doctor and principal of Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed Medical College and Hospital in Barpeta.

However, there is a need for repeated follow-up visits by the patients.

“People with addiction to tobacco do approach our tobacco cessation clinic for help. Doctors also refer outdoor patients of the pulmonary medicine (department) to our clinic,” Baruah said.

By A Staff Reporter


Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi in Bongaigaon on Wednesday. Picture by Tejesh Kumar

Bongaigaon, Nov. 25: Announcing himself as the well-wisher of the common people, chief minister Tarun Gogoi laid the foundation stones of a number of developmental projects in Bongaigaon district today.

Gogoi first went to Lengtisinga in Abhayapuri South Assembly seat and laid the foundation stones of a bridge over Aie river and an irrigation scheme. Following this, he addressed a rally at the field of Rajiv Gandhi Memorial College in Legtisinga.

In his address, the chief minister said though his state coffers were almost empty, he would continue to implement the welfare projects for the poor in the state even by taking loans from World Bank.

Criticising the BJP, Gogoi said the party only knew the interest of the rich and hence, it had failed to stick to its promises made to the people before the Lok Sabha elections.

“Modi (Prime Minister) often identifies himself as a tea seller before the people but he wears an expensive suit of Rs 15 lakh. This reflects his double standard,” Gogoi said.

The chief minister also called upon the people to come forward against the divisive politics on communal and religious lines orchestrated by the BJP.

At Salmara in North Abhayapuri Assembly seat, Gogoi laid the foundation stone of a bridge over Kujia river after unveiling a statue of Bir Chilarai along the national highway. He addressed another public rally at Salmara where he sought the support of the people to form the government at Dispur and keep away divisive and communal forces from the state.

The bridges whose foundation stones have been laid by the chief minister today are the parts of the 31.3km number 2 state highway which would start from Chapaguri in Chirang district and reach Amingaon via Salmara, Lengtisinga in Bongaigaon district and Manas in Barpeta district. The cost of the project is around Rs 100 crore.

According to the senior Congress workers of Abhayapuri North and South constituencies, the purpose of the chief minister’s programme was mainly to lift the morale of party workers and to win back the losing confidence of the people of these constituencies in favour of the party.

Bongaigaon district has three Assembly seats – Bongaigaon, Abhayapuri North and South.

By Tejesh Kumar


Derek and Trish Hume with an infant and a child undergoing treatment at the centre in Guwahati. Telegraph picture

Guwahati, Nov. 25: An Australian couple have taken up a “mission” to raise funds over tea and informal get-togethers Down Under for the Comprehensive Cleft Care Centre under Mission Smile (formerly Operation Smile) here.

Derek and Trish Hume, a middle-aged farmer couple from Gympie, a town 250-odd-km north of Brisbane, had first come to Guwahati in May on a holiday.

That’s when they decided to visit the cleft care centre and were impressed by how it was restoring smiles of patients.

“I had a short stint with Operation Smile Australia about a decade back and visited India twice during missions that focused only on surgeries. But at the centre here, it’s all comprehensive, from pre-operation care, nutrition, surgeries to after-care and speech therapy,” Derek, 59, told this correspondent today.

“That a cleft patient could lead a normal life after spending time at the centre is what impressed us. Moreover, there is a support system for the family as well. We didn’t take long thereafter to decide to do our bit for it,” he said.

The couple are on their second visit to Guwahati and have collected close to Australian $5,000 (about Rs 2.40lakh) since May.

“So far there have been 33 donations, not just money but in kind as well. We call the latter garage sales, where second-hand stuff (hardware, books, furniture) is dumped in the garage for sale,” he said.

“All of it has been through face-to-face interactions. There is no Internet involved,” he added.

The money has been donated to the Mission Smile authorities here. Asked about the means used to raise the funds, Trish said with a smile: “It was a personal connect with friends. We host tea parties during the course of which we brief them about the work done for cleft patients here and they are ready to shell out what they can.”

Over 14,300 surgeries have been done under Mission Smile Assam till date. The cost of a surgery is about Rs 32,000.

“Our target was to contribute for about 20 surgeries. We are flying back to Australia tomorrow but we intend to keep this small initiative going. Only this time, we will focus on the nutrition of the patients,” Trish said.

About 700 patients at the centre are yet to attain a level of nourishment for undergoing surgeries.

“This is the first donation to the centre by a family in their personal capacity. The process will be transparent as the donors will be in the loop as to where the contributions are used,” Runa Rafique, senior manager (partnerships), Mission Smile Assam, told The Telegraph.



A part of the Unacco office in flames

Imphal, Nov. 25: A day after trouble broke out during poll victory celebrations in Thongju Assembly constituency, newly-elected BJP member Thongam Biswajit Singh today urged the state government to take measures to control the situation.

Eight persons were injured when unknown men attacked and fired at a group of people celebrating Biswajit Singh’s victory, who was elected from Thongju constituency in the byelection for which the result was declared yesterday.

Reacting to the firing, a mob attacked an office of a private school.

The office was torched and tension still prevailed today at the area.

Police said adequate armed police personnel have been deployed in the area to prevent further trouble.

Sources said Biswajit’s supporters were taking out a victory march at Khongman in Thongju constituency of Imphal East when a group of people attacked the revellers with hockey sticks and stones, resulting in a clash.

During the fracas, some unknown persons fired at the rallyists from the direction of an office – Unacco, a private firm running a school in the area – injuring five people.

Three other persons were also injured in stone pelting and all the injured were treated at the Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences. They are said to be out of danger.

It is not clear who the attackers were.

The mob also set the Unacco office on fire.

Biswajit, who was disqualified in May this year under the anti-defection law, retained his seat by defeating former minister and Congress candidate Bijoy Koijam in the byelection.

“We are investigating the case. No one has been arrested and the motive of the attack on the rally is not known. The situation in the area is still tense,” a police source said.

“I appeal to the government to bring the situation under control. Yesterday, I rushed to the scene and prevented the mob from attacking the school, which is located near the office targeted by the mob,” Biswajit said today.

He said those celebrating his victory had no intention of creating problems.

The violence erupted after some persons attacked them.

“The government should also look into the problems of those injured in the incident,” Biswajit demanded.

He also appealed to the people residing in his constituency to remain calm and work in a united manner for the welfare and development of the constituency.

On the other hand, the newly elected BJP member from Thangmeiband constituency, Khumukcham Joikishan Singh, said he along with Biswajit Singh would play the role of an effective Opposition in the House.

Biswajit and Joikishan, then Trinamul Congress members, were disqualified in May under anti-defection law and the byelection for the two constituencies were held on November 21.

By Our Special Correspondent


Union sports minister Sarbananda Sonowal after taking charge as the president of Assam BJP in Guwahati on Wednesday. Picture by UB Photos

Guwahati, Nov. 25: Jorhat BJP MP Kamakhya Prasad Tasa today hit back at chief minister Tarun Gogoi for calling the BJP a party of Hindi-speaking leaders.

Tasa asked Gogoi if BJP is a party of Hindi-speaking leaders then who are AICC general secretary in-charge of Assam, C.P. Joshi, and Congress Rajya Sabha MP from Assam, Sanjay Singh?

“It is unbecoming of a chief minister, who represents a national party, to make such comments,” Tasa told reporters on the sidelines of a function here where Union sports minister Sarbananda Sonowal took charge as the president of Assam BJP today.

Tasa also accused Gogoi of trying to create division among people of the state for his narrow political gains.

“He had already divided the people of the state on the basis of their community and tribe. Now, he is trying to create division on the basis of language,” the Jorhat MP said.

The chief minister yesterday described the BJP as a party of Hindi-speaking national leaders trying to invade Assam.

Gogoi had accused BJP’s national leaders, including the party’s Assam in-charge Mahendra Singh, of not even knowing how to pronounce Assamese names.

Speaking at the function, former health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said with Sonowal assuming charge as the state president today, the poll bugle for the 2016 Assembly polls has been blown by the BJP.

All the senior BJP leaders present at the function urged the party leaders and workers to work in a united manner under Sonowal’s leadership in order to oust the Congress from power.

Sonowal also urged the BJP workers to work as a family to replicate the party’s good show in the last Lok Sabha polls in next year’s Assembly polls in the state.

Sonowal had earlier served as the BJP’s Assam unit chief in 2013-14 and under his stewardship, the BJP won seven of the 14 Lok Sabha seats in the last parliamentary polls, the party’s best-ever performance in the state.

Sonowal said his priority is to take along all sections of society, BJP workers and leaders and build a formidable team to fight the election to defeat the Congress.

“Our effort will be to strengthen the bond between different communities so that everyone feels secure in Assam,” he said.

He said during the tenure of his predecessor Siddhartha Bhattacharya, the BJP has become strong in Assam with several prominent leaders and MLAs from other parties joining the BJP.

BJP MP from Guwahati Bijoya Chakravarty accused the Congress, particularly Tarun Gogoi, of launching a misinformation campaign to portray the BJP as a communal party.

“It is the Congress which has joined hands with a communal party like the AIUDF to counter the BJP’s surge in the state,” she said.



Pramila Das with writer Rita Choudhury in Guwahati in May. File picture

Guwahati, Nov. 25: The New Year will see a nonagenarian couple in China’s Yunan province reunite with their daughter living in Assam after 53 years and receive gifts of bundiya-bhujia, neem leaves and brass ghoti, things they have missed all these years.

Pramila Das, named Lyong Linchi by her Chinese father Liong Kokhoi, will visit her parents, from whom she was separated during the 1962 India-China war, with her six-member family in January.

“When I spoke to them over the phone last week, baba asked me to carry bundia-bhujia and jelepi as they don’t get them there. Ma wants neem paat, kosu and a ghoti (water pot). I will carry many such things,” Pramila, now 59, told The Telegraph today from Keyhung tea estate in Upper Assam’s Tinsukia district. All Pramila remembers is that she was six years old when police detained her Chinese father, mother Chanu and two sisters, Lingpha and Anita, and took them from Tinsukia to a detention camp at Deoli in Rajasthan as soon as the war broke out.

While they were later repatriated to China, she was the only one left behind as she was at her grandmother’s house at Borjanbasti, about 2km away from their house, then.

“It was night when I was informed about their detention. The next morning, when I reached Bahadur Chariali railway station with my maternal uncle, their train had already left. I cried the entire day and returned to my grandmother’s house, hoping they would return soon. But I got no information about them till 15 years ago when I received a letter from my father saying they were taken to China in a ship along with many Chinese-origin people from India,” she said.

Pramila’s wish to meet her parents one day deepened after meeting Sahitya Akademi awardee writer Rita Choudhury a few years ago. Choudhury, who penned Makam, a novel highlighting the pangs of separation of such families, made a public appeal and launched a donation drive in May this year to unite Pramila with her parents in China.

“The passports of her six-member family are ready and they will soon apply for visas. They will be accompanied by Tung Chin from Assam, whose forefathers were from China. He keeps visiting his relatives in Hong Kong. The donation drive has not yielded much money but we will manage the money required to send them. Tears come to my eyes every time I speak to Pramila and the moment they meet again will be a big relief,” Choudhury, now the director of National Book Trust, said from New Delhi today.

Tung Chin, an English language and personality development skills trainer here, said the family would fly to Hong Kong and then take a train or a bus to the village where her parents live. “My relatives in Hong Kong told me that their village is situated on the border of Guanxi and Yunan provinces and is 10-12 hours’ journey from Hong Kong,” he said.

Pramila’s father was among the many Chinese who were brought to Assam by the East India Company in the early 19th century as indentured labourers for tea cultivation. Her mother belongs to the indigenous Lushai tribe, most of whom are settled in Mizoram. A sizeable number of them are found in Upper Assam too. Pramila has not even met her three siblings who were born after her parents were repatriated.

Pramila, who had to drop out of school after her parents’ detention, is married to Simon Das, a retired driver of Keyhung tea estate. Her son, John, is a driver in the same garden while her daughter Elina lives in Uttar Pradesh with her husband and two children. Her husband, son, daughter-in-law Sushila and grandsons, Pol and Nijel, will accompany her.



Guwahati, Nov. 24: The Assam Congress today asked the BJP general secretary in-charge of Assam, Mahendra Singh, to apologise and seek forgiveness from the people of the state for insulting Srimanta Xankardev.

In a hard-hitting statement this evening, the PCC said Singh had demeaned the culture and people of Assam by chanting “Baba Xankardev ki jai” (during a BJP public meeting at Dhakuakhana in Lakhimpur district on Monday). The statement issued by PCC secretary Imdad Hussain said Singh had no “moral right” to refer to Srimanta Xankardev as Baba Xankardev.

“It is an insult to the saint,” he said, adding that the BJP leader ought to have done his homework on Xankardev and the life and culture of the people of Assam before taking his name.

Hussain said it was also shameful of BJP’s leaders from Assam like Sarbananda Sonowal, Siddhartha Bhattacharya and Himanta Biswa Sarma to join the chorus of “Baba Xankardev ki jai“. “We appeal to them to not insult the saint at the diktat of leaders like Singh in their quest for power,” the statement said.

Earlier in the day, Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi chided the BJP for not knowing who Xankardev is and said efforts by “Hindi-speaking people” to occupy Assam will not be successful.

Man arrested: Ariston Ronghang, a resident of Noonmati village under Khetri police station on the outskirts here, was arrested today by a joint team of police and CRPF 128 Battalion with four country-made guns and some gun-making equipment.