Bomb threat hits rly services on Lumding-Silchar section

SILCHAR: Train services on the Lumding-Silchar section of Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) remained cancelled from Tuesday evening till 7 am on Wednesday due to a bomb threat on the tracks.

A senior police officer in Haflong, the headquarters of Dima Hasao district, said authorities of NFR division at Lumding got information that there was a bomb planted on the tracks somewhere between Harangajao and Maibang stations in the section. Immediately after this, movement of all passenger and goods trains was stalled at different points on Tuesday evening to avoid any untoward incident and a massiver search operation was launched along the 71-km stretch between the two stations, he added.

Haflong police station OC Shanku Sargiari said Assam Police, along with the Army, GRP and RPF, launched an operation along the stretch of the railway track with the help of sniffer dogs for the bomb. The operation continued throughout the night. But at the end, nothing was found, said a relieved OC.

Due to the action of the authorities, the Lumding-Silchar Cachar Extress, Agartala-Lumding Express and some freight trains were stopped at different destinations throughout the night. The move, however, caused harassment to the passengers.

The officer said the trains were allowed to start for their destinations only at 7 am on Wednesday after ensuring that there was no bomb anywhere on the tracks. He added that precaution was necessary given the recent law and order situation in the hills district. "We are no more ready to take any risk. Therefore, people should bear with us," said the officer.

He added that security measures have been tightened throughout the Barail Hills range following a few incidents of killing, torching of houses and attack on trains by suspected militants since the first week of this month.

Centre assures Assam of adequate funds for development

The Centre has assured Assam to provide adequate funds for proper implementation of rural development schemes in the state. This was disclosed by Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh after reviewing the on-going schemes in Nagaon district in Central Assam on Wednesday.

He said, Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, who is also a Rajya Sabha MP from Assam, has accorded highest priority for upgradation of infrastructural facilities in rural areas of the state.

The Minister asked the state government to prepare appropriate schemes aimed at benefiting the rural needy people, employment generation and uplifting the economy. He assured that funds for the schemes will not be a problem.

He also visited some on-going rural development projects under Indira Awas Yojana and Mahatma Gandhi NAREGA in Samaguri Assembly Constituency in the district.

Delhi turn to work on Manas pact


Guwahati, Oct. 26: New Delhi is yet to respond to Thimphu’s comments on a draft memorandum of understanding on wildlife cooperation between India and Bhutan over a year ago to protect Manas on both sides of the international border.
A source said Bhutan has given its comments on the MoU, but there has been no response from New Delhi.
“A senior park official from Royal Manas Bhutan visited Manas National Park a couple of days back and said his government had given its comments on the draft and has agreed to the trans-boundary concept. It was now waiting for India to go ahead,” the source said.
There have been discussions between conservation agencies on the trans-boundary issues which are also supporting the cause and called for expeditious action from the host country. A number of training programmes has been organised in Bhutan to educate officials on wildlife issues.
At present, India has a memorandum of understanding with Nepal on controlling trans-boundary illegal trade in wildlife and conservation, apart from a protocol on tiger conservation with China.
The source said the draft memorandum of understanding has to be vetted by the ministry of home affairs and external affairs.
At present, collaboration and cooperation between the managers and staff of Manas National Park and Royal Manas National Park is very strong but it needs to be formalised.
The Indian and Bhutanese park management and staff regularly visit each other to exchange information and can move freely across the border for this purpose.
Though there was joint camera trapping of tigers in both Manas National Park and Royal Manas National Park in Bhutan, the report has still not come out.
However, officials said before talking on trans-boundary issues — which is required as it will help wildlife conservation on both sides — it is important to put Manas National Park into proper shape.
There are a number of problems that still haunt Manas like the absence of control over the buffer areas. For instance, the field director of Manas has no control of these areas, which causes management problems.
The buffer area forests fall within the jurisdiction of the forest chief of Bodoland Territorial Council, whereas the core area is under the control of chief wildlife warden, Assam.
The joint IUCN/Unesco mission which visited Manas early this year has strongly encouraged both India and Bhutan to do a joint feasibility study on a trans-boundary expansion of the existing property to include larger areas of this landscape on both sides of the international border.
While Manas National Park has been declared out of danger, forest officials said it was time for Bhutan to nominate Royal Manas as a World Heritage Site, which will help both the sides. India has already given its support for helping Bhutan to nominate Royal Manas as a World Heritage Site.

Save-Sharmila team threatens hunger strike

Supporters of the campaign in Guwahati on Wednesday. Picture by UB Photos
Guwahati, Oct. 27 : The activists of Kashmir to Imphal Save Sharmila Solidarity Campaign, who reached Guwahati today, said they would sit on a hunger strike if they were not allowed to meet the Iron Lady of Manipur in Imphal.
The campaigners will leave for Imphal tomorrow to meet Sharmila, garner public support there and put pressure on New Delhi to meet her demand of scrapping the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958.
“Our group comprises social and human rights activists from states outside the Northeast and we would like to meet Sharmila tomorrow. However, we have heard that no one is allowed to meet her. If we are not allowed to meet her, we will sit on a token hunger strike, which is the non-violent way of protesting, on October 28,” Faisal Khan, leader of National Alliance for People’s Movement, told The Telegraph after a meeting at the Asam Sahitya Sabha here.
The nationwide campaign started in Kashmir on October 16 and has traversed 10 states and travelled about 4,000km to gather public support against the act, which is termed “draconian” by its opponents.
The save-Sharmila campaign is a joint initiative of the people’s movement, Asha Parivar, Gandhi Global Family, Jagriti Mahila Samiti, Khudai Khidmatgar, Yuva Kosish, Mission Bharatiyam and a few other NGOs. Irom Sharmila has been on fast since November 2000 demanding scrapping of the army act from Manipur.
The group is demanding positive steps to hold talks with Sharmila, send an all-party delegation to Imphal, a team of the National Women’s Commission, National Human Rights Commission as well as a special medical team from New Delhi to examine her health condition.
The activists, speaking at the meeting here, accused the Centre of doing injustice to Sharmila by neglecting her demand to scrap the act.
“The people of Manipur have been fighting for long in support of Sharmila and her demand. However, their cry against the ‘black law’ has not been paid any heed by the government at New Delhi. Hence, we decided to form a platform of people from the rest of the country to put pressure on our political class at the Centre to meet Sharmila’s demand,” Khan said.
Santosh Upaddhay, an activist from Bihar who works with jail inmates in his home state, said, “I have been working in jails and I have seen that family members are allowed to meet inmates inside the jail. Unfortunately, Sharmila has been fighting for people of her state and yet is not allowed to meet anyone. This is nothing but violation of her fundamental rights. When the people of Manipur are against the draconian act, we believe that the Centre is doing injustice to the people.”
The campaign made stops at Ludhiana, Karnal, Panipat, Delhi, Aligarh, Kanpur, Lucknow, Varanasi, Ranchi, Patna and Calcutta before reaching Guwahati.

Security placed on high alert following fresh attack by militants in Assam

Oct 16,  6:49 PM
In Assam, security has been placed on a high alert following fresh attack by militants in Dimasa tribe inhabited villages in North Cachar Hill district on Sunday. Additional forces are being deployed in the vulnerable areas of the hill district.

According to official sources, armed miscreants torched 16 more houses in Gaijen village, around 25 kilometres away from the Halflong Police Station this morning. Three persons, including two women were injured in the militants’ attack in the village. This was the second attack on the Dimasa villages during last 48 hours in the district.

AIR correspondent reports, the Police suspect the involvement of the newly formed underground outfit- Hills Tiger Force in the attack. Earlier on Friday, the miscreants had torched eight houses in Choto Longri village in the district.

The district authorities, organised peace meetings involving students and society leaders in the Dimasa, Kuki, Hmar and Jemi Naga tribes inhabited areas of the district to maintain communal harmony.

Ulfa deposits 57 weapons with Centre ahead of peace talks

GUWAHATI: The Centre has finally managed to convince the pro-talks Ulfa led by Arabinda Rajkhowa to deposit its weapons ahead of the peace negotiations scheduled for October 25. However, the faction has deposited just 57 assorted weapons, a number believed to be far smaller than the outfit's actual arsenal. A suspension of operations agreement was signed by the Centre on September 3.

Chief minister Tarun Gogoi said, "Initially, there was some objection from Ulfa leaders to depositing the weapons, but the government has convinced them to do so. It is a uniform policy followed with all outfits that before talks start they should deposit their weapons, stay in designated camps and not resort to any extortion."

Gogoi said the first round of talks between Ulfa and the Centre since the tripartite ceasefire agreement was signed last month will be held in New Delhi on October 25. A memorandum of settlement would also be signed with the United People's Democratic Solidarity (UPDS), another militant outfit of the state, on October 24 in New Delhi, the chief minister informed.

He added, "However, there are forces like the Maoists, ISI and anti-talk groups who are trying to derail the peace process that we are carrying out with militant groups. They know that once the process is completed, the state will make development in leaps and bounds."

Giving details of the deposit of weapons with the Centre, state home secretary G D Tripathi told TOI, "They have so far deposited 57 weapons but they might still have some weapons with them. We will be getting the rest of the arms as well."

The senior home department official added that the 57 deposited weapons are currently stored in the house of a pro-talks Ulfa leader, but are under the joint custody of the local police and the Ulfa leader. "They are under a double-lock safe custody, with keys to one lock with the local police officer and the other with the Ulfa leader. Very soon, we will be shifting these weapons to the camps where the Ulfa cadres will be staying while the peace talks proceed," Tripathi said.

The pro-talk Ulfa cadres will have to stay in designated camps, which they want to be named as Assam Naba Nirman Kendra. The home secretary said, "There will be nine such camps in the state and the camp at Goalpara is ready to be handed over to the cadres. When the cadres of that area move into the camp, we can shift the deposited weapons there."

The Ulfa faction had so far been refusing to deposit their weapons like other outfits that are holding peace talks with the government. The Ulfa leadership was demanding an "honourable" walk-in into the discussion without depositing weapons, but the Centre finally convinced the outfit to agree to its demand.

The home secretary said the Rajkhowa faction has also submitted a list of the cadres of the pro-talks Ulfa, who number 297.

Maoists tiptoe into Assam

Jorhat, Oct. 16 : At least 18 Maoist rebels were apprehended in Tinsukia district alone in the past month, including one arrested yesterday from Sadiya along the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border. This has triggered speculation among security forces that the Leftist rebel group is trying to fill the void created by Ulfa in Upper Assam .

“What is worrying is that most of these arrested persons are ethnic Assamese youths. A few of them have received training in Jharkhand and Manipur,” a senior police officer in Tinsukia district said. The officer said at least five youths who were arrested had received training in Jharkhand and two were trained by the NSCN (I-M) in Manipur.

Police also apprehended another Maoist rebel, Dibakar Das, from Sapekathi town in Sivasagar district yesterday. The police said Dibakar, who hails from Kothikhuda village in Sapekathi area, admitted to having links with the Maoists and he, along with one Aditya Bora, had been carrying out a recruitment drive recently.

Dibakar was arrested on the basis of information provided by two Maoist rebels apprehended from Sonari last month. Sources in the police headquarters said earlier it was suspected that an Adivasi militant organisation of the state had links with the Maoist rebels but in recent times it has come to light that Leftist rebel outfit has also managed to lure local youths. Many of them have joined the outfit.

Chief minister Tarun Gogoi said in Guwahati today that he had been iterating time and again about the Maoists trying to expand their network to Assam. “They are active and the developments definitely prove they were trying to get a toehold in the state,” Gogoi said.

Oust Paresh, CM to Myanmar

GUWAHATI: Myanmar's assurances that it would not allow its territory to be used for insurgent activities against India has prompted chief minister Tarun Gogoi to demand Ulfa hardliners' commander-in-chief Paresh Baruah's ouster from the neighbouring country.

A spokesman of the ministry of external affairs on Thursday, during a briefing on the ongoing visit of Myanmar president U Thein Sein to India, said in New Delhi on Friday that India has received assurances that Myanmar territory will not be allowed to be used for insurgent activities against India and both sides will remain in close and regular contact in this regard.

"This is very good news for the northeastern region and for Assam in particular as Ulfa and some other NE militant outfits are based in Myanmar. We know that Paresh Baruah is there too. Like Bhutan and then Bangladesh, I think Myanmar too should oust the Indian militant outfits and Paresh Baruah from its territory," Gogoi said here on Saturday.

He said though Myanmar is not an immediate neighbour of the state, having a good relationship with the country would not just improve the security situation in Assam but also help develop the economy of the region under India's Look East Policy.

"The hotbed of insurgency in the state is at the junction of Sadiya (upper Assam), Arunachal Pradesh and Myanmar. This area is interconnected and provides easy access to militants to sneak in and out of Myanmar," Gogoi said.

The chief minister added that the NDFB and Ulfa wreaked havoc in the state in throughout the 90s from their headquarters in Bhutan. After the 2003 Bhutan offensive, the two outfits shifted base to Bangladesh and then to Myanmar when Bangladesh clamped down on them, he said.

Recently, Myanmarese forces attacked camps of Indian militant outfits though no casualties were reported on either side. The Indian militants are sheltering at a unified camp in the Taga area of Kachin region in Myanmar, which is close to Indian territory. This camp houses the mobile military headquarters of Baruah's Ulfa faction and also serves as the base of eight other outfits from Manipur, including the NSCN(K).

"Ulfa has about 80 to 90 members in the unified camp. Top leaders of Baruah's group like Jibon Moran, Michael Deka Phukan, Bijoy Das and Sujeet Mohan are hiding at the camp. However, we are not sure about Baruah's presence. Ulfa has three other camps in Myanmar - the Arakan base with about six cadres, the Naga base with about eight inmates and the 28th battalion headquarters with just three rebels," said Gogoi.

Security sources said that besides Ulfa and NSCN(K), Myanmar is also the base of militant outfits including the PLA, the UNLF, Prepak and the KYKL from Manipur.

Indo-Myanmar pact to tackle insurgency in north-east: Gogoi

Guwahati, Oct 16 (PTI) Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi today said the Indo-Myanmar agreement would benefit the security of the north-eastern region by tackling the menace of insurgency in the area. "The accord between visiting Myanmar president Thein Sein and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is good news for the north-east region from the security point of view", Gogoi told reporters here. "Insurgent outfits like ULFA, NSCN and other groups from the region have set up camps in Myanmar. Like Bangladesh did, we are now hopeful after the accord that Myanmar will also oust them from their territory for peace, security and stability in the region", Gogoi said. "Assam's uppermost tip Sadiya, adjacent Arunachal Pradesh and Myanmar are the bastion of the militants. This will be tackled by the agreement to enhance effective cooperation and coordination between the security forces of the two countries," he added. The opening of the Stilwell Road, built during World War II in 1942 and passing through Burma would benefit Centre's Look East Policy by intensifying trading activities with South Asia to bring about overall socio-economic betterment in the area, the CM said.

Ulfa hardliners slam Rajkhowa for peace talks

GUWAHATI: The fight between Ulfa chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa and military boss Paresh Baruah is public now. Ahead of the first round of discussions by Ulfa's pro-talks faction on its charter of demands with the government, Baruah has slammed Rajkhowa for seeking an agreement with the government through talks.

An email statement by Baruah's faction stated, "If Rajkhowa goes against the ideologies of Ulfa and proceeds for signing any kind of agreement with the Centre, Ulfa, as a whole, will not accept that."

The anti-talks faction's publicty in-charge, Arunodoy Dohotiya, in the email said, "We do not believe in any kind of accord with the government about which Rajkhowa is speaking in public. There can be no agreement on sovereignty. It is earned through sacrifice. Ulfa was born to restore Assam's sovereignty."

Rajkhowa, on the flip side, defended his group's peace initiative and accused Baruah of acting against the greater interest of the people of the state. Rajkhowa, who was produced in the designated court on Friday in connection with four TADA cases, said outside the court, "Paresh Baruah has nowhere said that he is seeking a military solution. Let him make his stand clear on the peace process."

This was Rajkhowa's first appearance in the court after he was released from jail on bail to facilitate the peace process in January last. Rajkhowa's statement outside the court followed an email statement from Baruah's faction, which rejected the peace process.

The Rajkhowa faction, in its charter of demands submitted to the centre on August 5, dropped its sovereignty demand and replaced it with a proposal to initiate negotiations "to bring in measures, constitutional or otherwise, of wide scope and that certain urgent political, economic, social and cultural arrangement be undertaken and completed within a reasonable timeframe by the government of India to ensure a peaceful democratic solution to the historic Indo-Assam question."

Mahanta for fresh border demarcation

Silchar: AGP leader and former chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta on Thursday said there should be a fresh survey and demarcation of the 4096-km Indo-Bangla border, including the 267.3-km stretch along Assam.

After visiting the 92-km international border in Karimganj district, Mahanta told the assembly that the land-swap deal, signed between India and Bangladesh during the Dhaka visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and four NE chief ministers on September 6, was asfull of errors and that the interest of Assam has largely been sacrificed.

"The states of West Bengal and Meghalaya were benefited from the deal, but Assam lost its land. There should be a fresh survey and demarcation of the entire border. Chief minister Tarun Gogoi is not giving the true picture to the people of the state about the agreement," Mahanta told reporters in Karimganj on Thursday.

The former Assam chief minister also visited the disputed 2.874-km stretch in Lathitila-Dumabari and Madanpur-Palatol in Karimganj district and talked to farmers who lost their land to Bangladesh as a result of the deal. "The farmers showed me the land documents, which prove that the land in question, which was handed over to Bangladesh, belongs to them. How can the Centre sign such a deal without consulting Parliament. This is against the provisions of the Constitution and a compromise with sovereignty," said the AGP leader.

Mahanta also talked to Indian people who were barricaded out during construction of the barbed- wire fencing along the border.

He said people living on the other side of the border were living an inhuman life. "The government should immediately take measures to rehabilitate them," he said.

Mahanta said his party will raise the issue during the special session of assembly on October 17.

Under the protocol to the 1974 land boundary demarcation between India and Bangladesh, which was signed in the first week of September, 94.6 acres of land at Lalthila and 299.04 acres at Pallathal, which have been in adverse possession of Bangladesh since 1965, have also been ceded away to Bangladesh. The state also lost Boraibari village in Dhubri.

Mahanta alleged that his party lost the last assembly elections because of tampering of EVMs by the ruling party. He demanded that ballot papers should be used during the ensuing elections to ensure free and fair voting.

Asked about the delay in completion of the Lumdinga"Silchar broad gauge project under NF Railway, the senior AGP leader blamed both chief minister Tarun Gogoi and former Union minister Santosh Mohan Dev for this. asThe people of this region have been bearing the burnt due to political rivalry between the two senior Congress leaders," he said.