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Tezpur, May 27: Two persons were trampled to death by wild elephants in Assam’s Sonitpur district last night# official sources said.

Lakhan Praja, 50, of Tarajuli tea estate in Rangapara was killed last night when an elephant, which had strayed out from adjacent Sonai-Rupai wildlife sanctuary in search of food, entered his house, Jasim Ahmed, assistant conservator of forest, West Sonitpur division said.

Atowa Guri, 65, was trampled in Chariduar, about 40km from Tezpur, by an elephant which had strayed out of Nameri National Park.# Forest security personnel drove the elephant back to the park, Ahmed said.

 
By Pranab Kumar Das

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Guwahati, May 27: Senior Congress leaders Tarun Gogoi and Debabrata Saikia today highlighted the issues Prime Minister Narendra Modi “skipped” during his one-day trip to Assam yesterday, in an attack which appears set to become relentless in the coming days.

They criticised Modi for denying credit to the erstwhile Manmohan Singh-led government for the Dhola-Sadiya bridge and over foreigners issue, slashing of funds, employment generation, big dam, floods and erosion and slashing of central funds.

Modi’s visit to the state yesterday had marked the BJP-led government’s third year at the Centre and one in Dispur.

Former chief minister Gogoi, who has been “gathering” facts for the past 15 days to “expose” Modi, said he had exhorted his party to hit the streets to expose the alleged lies peddled by the BJP dispensations through public rallies and media publicity.

“Doing politics over a bridge does not befit a Prime Minister. What did he say on issues of Assam he had promised to resolve? He talked about checking corruption but demonetisation only helped turn black money into white. We will tell the people what Modi didn’t,” Gogoi said.

Gogoi, whose government was attacked by Modi at the rally yesterday, citing a survey report, said the BJP would lose elections if it were to be held today as its vote share has “dipped” by 10 per cent in a year.

Saikia and party MLA Abdul Khaleque, at a separate news meet, released a booklet listing the alleged failures of both the BJP governments and their U-turns.

“We will launch a statewide awareness programme from here tomorrow to call their bluff,” Saikia said.

Some issues flagged by the Congress leaders include:

• Assam Accord: The Modi government, which had promised to deport illegal foreigners, is now pushing a bill to accord citizenship to persecuted minorities from neighbouring countries

• NEIIP: The policy, which helped attract investment to the Northeast, expired on March 31 after remaining suspended for over a year

• Big dam: After saying that it will not resume the 2,000MW Lower Subansiri dam, the Centre is now pushing for it despite “adverse” reports from experts

• Funding: The Centre has slashed funds to 11 key schemes such as Sarba Shiksha Abhijan (20.74 per cent), midday meal (30.11), model school (99.92), National Rural Health Mission (21.63) and Integrated Child Development Scheme (54.19 )

• ST demand: Six groups seeking ST status continue protest

• Corruption: Anti-corruption drive has been selective, evident from alleged inaction against cabinet minister Ranjit Dutta despite being named by an arrested senior official.

 
By OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT

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Anup Chetia and Sarbananda Sonowal in Jerigaon. Picture by UB Photos

Dibrugarh, May 27: Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal today exhorted the young generation to follow the example of Muttock king Sarbananda Singha and work for the development of society.

He, along with BTC chief Hagrama Mohilary, also visited the house of Ulfa (pro-talks) general secretary Anup Chetia at Jeraigaon in Dibrugarh district, met his family members and had lunch. Jeraigaon is the ancestral village of Chetia and Ulfa (Independent) commander-in-chief Paresh Barua.

Speaking at a programme organised to observe the 212th death anniversary of the Muttock king at Jeraigaon Anchalik playground, Sonowal said, “King Sarbananda Singha made immense contribution to the Assamese society. The young generation should follow his ideals and that of Srimanta Xankardeb, Sri Sri Anniruddhadev and Damodar Dev and work for the welfare of the society.” He told youths not to run after easy money but focus on hard work.

He also attended the Muttock ethnic cultural convention at the venue where he presented the Sargadeu Sarbananda Singha award to Mohilary. The BTC chief announced Rs 1 crore aid for the Sargadeu Sarbananda Singha cultural project.

Anup Chetia’s elder brother, Suren Barua, told The Telegraph over phone, “We are happy that the chief minister visited our village. We hope the government will think about the development of Assam.”

Asked whether Sonowal spoke about peace talks and bringing Paresh Barua to the dialogue table, he said it was a courtesy visit.

A resident said, “It is a positive sign that the chief minister visited our village. We hope his government will end insurgency and bring back peace in Assam. Dialogue has been going on with Ulfa (pro-talks) but nothing fruitful has come out. I appeal to the government to hold talks with the Ulfa (I) commander-in-chief and bring peace and development to the region.”

Bikul Barua, a teacher at Jerigaon primary school, said, “We want development of the Assamese society but that can be achieved only through unity and peace.”

 
By Avik Chakraborty

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Guwahati, May 27: Prabajan Virodhi Manch, a forum against infiltration, has started an online petition to push for 1951 as the cut-off year for detection and deportation of foreigners from Assam.

The petition has been started on online platform change.org by Manch convener and senior Supreme Court advocate Upamanyu Hazarika.

It appeals to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to reverse the stand of both the Centre and the state government before the apex court on the cut-off year issue.

The Manch alleges that the governments’ stand is pro-migrant and anti-indigenous people.

It says the 51-page written submission of the Assam government to the Supreme Court states that migration has not affected the political and civil rights of the local population in Assam and there is no factual basis to say political rights have been affected.

The Manch, reacting to the BJP-led Assam government’s stand, said the assertion of the government is contrary to the findings of the Supreme Court in earlier cases.

In its judgments in 2005 and 2014, the Supreme Court had extensively recorded how indigenous people had turned into minority in several districts and that influx was threatening the security and integrity of the country.

According to government’s statistics, the number of infiltrators in 2001 was 50 lakh, which was 20 per cent of the population of 2.6 crore at that time.

“We request all sections of people to sign this petition. Through it, we appeal to the Prime Minister to reverse the stand of the central and state governments. Before the elections, the BJP had promised to detect and deport Bangla-deshis staying illegally in Assam but now they have taken a pro-migrant stand,” Hazarika told this correspondent.

Earlier, a five-judge constitution bench of the Supreme Court was scheduled to hear and decide on two crucial aspects regarding grant of citizenship to migrants from Bangladesh.

The apex court will decide whether the cut-off year for grant of citizenship to migrants from erstwhile East Pakistan should be July 19, 1948, like the rest of India or March 25, 1971.

The bench will also decide whether children of illegal migrants in Assam up to December 3, 2004, are entitled to get citizenship by birth even when their parents are foreigners.

 
By Manash Pratim Dutta

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Dimapur, May 27: The Nagaland government today passed the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill, becoming the 21st state in the country to do so.

Once GST is made applicable, the tax administration will be more effective, transparent and benefit consumers, chief minister Shürhozelie Liezietsu said.

The government also reiterated its position to pave the way in the event of an honourable and amicable settlement in the ongoing Naga political dialogue. Passing the resolution in the one-day special session of the Assembly, the chief minister said if any amicable and acceptable settlement is arrived at between the Centre and the Naga political groups, then the state government would push for an alternative arrangement.

The House unanimously adopted the resolution and appealed to the Centre to expedite the political dialogue to bring an early solution to the imbroglio.

The Democratic Alliance of Nagaland (DAN) legislators yesterday resolved to request the Centre to expedite the political dialogue and bring an early solution before the Assembly elections in 2018. The meeting also unanimously endorsed the view that Shürhozelie should become a member of the Assembly.

The legislators appealed to the Election Commission to conduct the byelection to the Northern Angami-1 constituency at the earliest from where Shürhozelie is expected to contest.

The DAN legislators conveyed gratitude to Khriehu Liezietsu for voluntarily vacating his Assembly seat for the chief minister.

Shürhozelie, who became the chief minister in February, will have to be elected within six months.

 
By Pradeep Pareek

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Guwahati, May 27: Two persons have been arrested for their involvement in an inter-state trafficking syndicate and three women, including one from Assam’s Nagaon district, were rescued, Delhi police said today.

A special task force, comprising Delhi, Assam, Rajasthan and Haryana police officers, formed on May 8, arrested two members of the syndicate – Altaf, 28, who hails from Jehanabad in Bihar and Ram Kesh alias Kishan, 30, who hails from Azamgarh in Uttar Pradesh – from Rohtak in Haryana on Thursday. The team rescued the 27-year-old woman from Nagaon district, another woman from Calcutta and a minor from Bhagalpur.

The police team was formed on the basis of an FIR filed at Kampur police station in Nagaon district on May 5 by family members of the 27-year-old woman, who went missing after reaching New Delhi railway station.

“Assam police informed us on the alleged abduction and considering the sensitivity of the case, we set up the STF and started search operations. Based on intelligence reports, we raided Haryana with the help of Haryana police and apprehended the duo where, the other two ladies were kept,” deputy commissioner of police (South) Ishwar Singh said today.

Singh said the syndicate members used to abduct single woman travellers from New Delhi railway station and sell them to Haryana-based traffickers for forced marriage and prostitution.

Singh said a couple, Sunil and Payal Jha, based at Munirka in New Delhi, were the kingpins of the syndicate. They are absconding.

“The duo are on the run but they will be apprehended soon. The gang had hurriedly sent the Assam woman home and she reached Nagaon yesterday. In the raid, we also recovered her laptop and mobile phone,” Singh said.

The arrested duo reached Kampur police station today where their statements were recorded. Tomorrow, they will be sent back to New Delhi where they will be remanded in custody, Nagaon police said.

 
By Avishek Sengupta

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People struggle to cross a fast-flowing stream to attend the inaugural programme of the Dhola-Sadiya bridge and (below) one of the asphalt roads constructed for VIPs. Pictures by Rishu Kalantri

Tinsukia, May 27: The Bhupen Hazarika Setu that spans Dhola-Sadiya in Upper Assam was inaugurated with the fanfare deserving of the country’s longest bridge. What went unreported in the media blitz were the numerous inconveniences faced by the common man yesterday.

The lakhs of people who turned up enthusiastically to witness the event had a difficult time reaching the venue and were stuck in huge traffic snarls on the way back in the absence of proper security and traffic arrangements.

The organisers drew flak from several quarters over the alleged discrimination against the public.

Four temporary roads to the pandal at the venue had been constructed – one for VVIPs, two for VIPs and the fourth one for the “common man”. The latter had to traverse nearly 1.5km on an apology for a road with great difficulty, their footwear as well as their mood the worse for wear. The VVIPs and VIPs, not surprisingly, were well cared for.

The return journey was a nightmare for the people who had gathered for the function. Lack of security measures and an absence of policemen, much in evidence in the morning before the arrival of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other VIPs, led to unprecedented congestion on the 7.5km stretch of the approach road on the south bank of the bridge.

Stuck for hours, several people, including women and children, risked their life by crossing a flowing stream on foot to head home.

The secretary of the Ahom Sena, Ankur Saikia, said, “Walking on the road (slushy and uneven) meant for the public was unimaginable. The preparedness for the common man, compared to the special arrangements for the VIPs, smacked of discrimination meted out to taxpayers with whose money the entire show was organised.”

“When the government can spend so much money on various arrangements, including VIP roads and pandals, shouldn’t they think of the common man and spend a little more in order to provide basic arrangements for us?” he asked. “On a historic day for the people of Assam, when both the central and state governments said they are working for the interests of the common people, these behind-the-scene arrangements speak otherwise.”

A senior journalist said, “It is this Narendra Modi government that took several popular measures like removing the red beacon from VIP vehicles and doing away with the green corridor for ministers to evade traffic jams, to send a message that ministers are not above the people. The separate set of arrangement for VIPs speaks about the hypocrisy of the government. This is not acceptable in a democracy. Who will be held responsible if any unfortunate incident had taken place?” he asked.

Stuck in the unending snarl on the way back, a middle-aged woman from neighbouring Kakopathar asked, “Now that the VIPs have gone, who cares about us?”

The project manager of the Navyuga Engineering Company Ltd, Surya Raju, told The Telegraph, “We had constructed these temporary roads leading to the pandal at an estimated cost of Rs 5 crore. The pandal was erected at a cost of Rs 2.35 crore. The work was given to a Guwahati-based event management company referred by the ministry of road transport and highways.”

Those who experienced the trauma of walking on this Rs 5-crore apology of a road will not forget the day in a hurry.

 
By Rishu Kalantri and Rajiv Konwar

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Shillong, May 27: The BJP in Meghalaya is poised to get a boost with former minister Manas Chaudhuri joining the party next week.

Chaudhuri, who was elected to the Assembly for two terms from the erstwhile Mawprem constituency in Shillong, will be formally admitted to the party on Wednesday at a public function here in the presence of BJP national spokesperson Nalin Kohli.

Chaudhuri is the former editor of The Shillong Times. He was an Independent member of the Assembly from 2005 to 2013 and served as minister for higher education in the short-lived non-Congress coalition in 2008.

He unsuccessfully contested the last election in 2013 on a Congress ticket from South Shillong constituency. He resigned from the party a year ago. Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had hailed him for his nature.

 
By Saidul Khan

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The road-roller set ablaze. Telegraph picture

Shillong, May 27: Police today arrested members of the Khasi Students’ Union (KSU) following an incident of arson in which machinery belonging to a company constructing the Tetelia-Byrnihat railway line was set on fire at Ronghona in Byrnihat along the Assam-Meghalaya border.

According to Ri Bhoi police, a dumper and a roller were set on fire, while two earth movers and five dumpers were damaged after some members of the students’ union went to the project site at Ronghona to stop the construction of the railway line. A camp where the workers of the project were residing was also partially damaged in the fire.

Some of the students’ union leaders were detained after the incident and brought to the police station at Nongpoh, the district headquarters.

A scuffle broke out between KSU activists and the police, who had to resort to a lathicharge to control the mob.

Two members of the union are in police custody.

Ri-Bhoi deputy commissioner Chinmay Pundlikrao Gotmare said, “We are taking all measures to bring the situation under control.”

Following the Ri Bhoi incident, the district administration here also sounded a security alert.

On the national highway near Mahari petrol pump here, goons attempted to burn down a Bolero allotted to the sericulture department of the state government this evening.

Police personnel were being deployed throughout the night in various places of the city, especially where government offices are located, to prevent attacks on government properties.

The proposed railway line, about 20.5km from Tetelia in Assam to Byrnihat in Meghalaya, will cost around Rs 496 crore.

The students’ union had said it would oppose the proposed railway line to Khasi and Jaintia hills of Meghalaya until the government put in place a strong mechanism to check influx.

 
By Rining Lyngdoh

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AAPSU members at the meeting in Itanagar on Saturday. Picture by Damien Lepcha

Itanagar, May 27: The All Arunachal Pradesh Students’ Union (AAPSU) has called an all-party meeting here to discuss the Centre’s purported decision to grant citizenship to Chakma and Hajong refugees in the state. The decision was taken during a consultative meeting organised by the students’ union at Siddhartha Hall here today, in which thousands participated. The union has been demanding the departure of Chakmas and Hajongs from the state for a long time.

The meeting was chaired by the president of the students’ union, Hawa Bagang. It rejected the idea of granting citizenship to Chakmas and Hajong refugees and discussed various subjects like the status of Tibetan refugees in the state, granting of Scheduled Tribe status to the Yobin community and codification of customary laws.

It was unanimously decided to organise an all-party meeting within a week. It was deemed mandatory for all the 59 legislators, including the chief minister and three MPs of the state, to attend the meeting.

It also decided to revive the high-powered committee earlier constituted by the Union ministry of home affairs on the Chakma and Hajong refugees. The meeting expressed resentment over the refugees allegedly sneaking out from their designated camps and encroaching upon the reserved forest areas.

It appealed to the state government to carry out an eviction drive and contain the refugees within their designated blocks till a proper mechanism was framed. The state government was urged to conduct a proper count of the Chakma, Hajong and Tibetan refugees within a month.

Those present decided to discuss the granting of Scheduled Tribe status to Yobins during the all-party meet.

Various representatives of the district students’ union, political parties and community-based student’s organisations, former AAPSU executive members, technocrats, university students and scholars, legal experts and NGOs from across the state took part in the consultative meet.

The Chakmas and Hajongs entered India through the then Lushai Hills district of Assam (now Mizoram). While some stayed back with the Chakmas in the district, the Centre moved a majority of them to the North East Frontier Agency, which is now Arunachal Pradesh.

In 2015, the Centre was given a deadline by the Supreme Court to confer citizenship to these refugees within three months. The state government then had approached the apex court in appeal against the order, which went in vain.

Union minister of state for home Kiren Rijiju also had recently raised the citizenship issue at a meet chaired by Union home minister Rajnath Singh.

 
By Damien Lepcha