National Register of Citizens to be announced in Jan. 2016: Gogoi

Assam police women commando team “Viranagana” showing their skills during the Republic Day celebrations in Guwahati on Monday.- Photo: PTI
Assam police women commando team “Viranagana” showing their skills during the Republic Day celebrations in Guwahati on Monday.- Photo: PTI
: Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi on Monday announced that the National Register of Citizens (NRC), currently being updated in Assam, would be published in January 2016.
Making the announcement in his Republic Day address delivered after the ceremonial hoisting of the National Flag at Khanapara here, the Chief Minister said that the procedure devised for updating the citizens’ register envisaged the use of latest information technology and aimed at ensuring that no names of foreign nationals find mention in the NRC.
Stating that illegal migration has been a matter of serious concern, Mr Gogoi said his government was committed to preventing illegal migration into Assam from the international border, and in order to bring permanent solution to the issue, the Assam Government had started updating the NRC under the guidance of the Central government.
The Chief Minister said that his government had also taken steps for detection and deportation of illegal foreigners by strengthening the Foreigners’ Tribunals and by the establishing three temporary detention centres at Goalpara, Kokrajhar and Silchar to accommodate those declared as “foreigners” by the tribunals, till their expulsion.
Dwelling on the insurgency problem, the Chief Minister said that the Security forces currently engaged in massive operations against the militants of the National Democratic Front of Boroland (Songbijit), who massacred innocent Adivasis on December 23, gained major success with the support of the people and the government shall continue to use all its resources to deal firmly with subversive elements.
“The strategy adopted by our government for the last 14 years under the Unified Command Structure has given significant results with many misguided youth joining the mainstream. The success has also been reflected in the Suspension of Operations with 17 extremist outfits, out of which the Government signed an MoS (Memorandum of Settlement) with BLT (Bodo Liberation Tigers), UPDS (United People’s Democratic Solidarity), DHD(N) (Dima Halam Daogah-Nunisa) and DHD (Jewel),” he said in his speech and added that his government would continue to make efforts to make all misguided youth who have embarked on militancy, to lay down arms and return to civil society within the parameters of the Constitution.

Ministry rejig: Assam ministers to be sworn in today

Guwahati: Overcoming some last-minute hiccups orchestrated by dissidents, Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi will have the first ministry reshuffle in his three successive terms since 2001 on Friday when 11 cabinet ministers and three ministers of state will be sworn in by governor PB Acharya at the Raj Bhavan here.

Gogoi, who opted for forming a new ministry, on Monday got all 14 ministers in his council of ministers resign en masse. He will retain six of his old ministers but drop the rest eight as they failed to give the winning margin to party candidates in their respective constituencies in the last Lok Sabha election.

Four berths in the 18-member ministry, excluding that of the chief minister, will be filled up after the civic polls next month.

The biggest change in the portfolios will be in case of former forest minister Rockybul Hessain, who has been retained in the ministry, but is likely to be stripped of the forest department in the wake of severe flak faced by the government for unabated rhino poaching.

Hussain will retain his earlier panchayat and rural development department portfolio and is also likely to be given the agriculture department in place of Nilamani Sen Deka, who is being dropped from the ministry.

Gogoi, who already holds the home and finance portfolios, is also likely to keep the forest portfolio.

Ajanta Neog is likely to retain PWD department, while health may go either to Nazrul Islam or Bhumidhar Barman, who had been in charge of the department in his earlier stint in the ministry in Gogoi's first term. Another old warhorse, Sarat Borkotoky, may be given either education or power and industry.

A source said if Borkotoky is given education department, Gogoi is likely to keep power and industry to himself. These two departments were with Pradyut Bordoloi, who is also being dropped.

The source said two ministers of state in the earlier ministry, Ajit Singh and Basanta Das, will be elevated to the rank of cabinet ministers, while the three of the eight new faces — Sumitra Patir, Bismita Gogoi and Girindra Mullick — will get a minister of state berth with independent charge. Singh is likely to get transport department.

Even as Gogoi and PCC president Anjan Dutta were finalizing the new ministry, the dissidents made a last- ditch attempt to scuttle the reshuffle and approached the party high command saying that the age of two MLAs (Bhumidhar Barman and Sarat Borkotoy), who have been selected for the new ministry, was above 70 and should not be included in the ministry.

A source said Rahul Gandhi sought clarification on these two names but finally the state PCC leadership prevailed on Rahul and got the two names approved.

Police arrest man for smuggling endangered lizards in Assam

Guwahati, Jan 22  Police in Assam arrested a man from a railway station in Guwahati city for trying to smuggle 15 gecko lizards. The man identified as Sanjay Rai was trying to smuggle the endangered species to West Bengal, police officials said. He told officials he had caught the geckos from Kumarghat in Tripura and was taking them to Siliguri. Geckos have large international market value and they are transported to China from northeastern states via Nepal. There are many instances where gecko smugglers have been arrested in the city and other parts of the state.

Witch hunting an organised crime than superstition

Guwahati: Witch hunting that plagues many ethnic societies in the Northeast India in general and Assam in particular doesn’t always stem out of superstitious beliefs or practices.
Witch-hunting is some-thing that is perpetrated by some vested interests to settle score or to econo-mically exploit some hapless persons in the society.The vested interests persons often mastermind the gory episode in such a way that the entire local community get involved in the crime so that it becomes hard for the investigating agencies to pinpoint the real culprits involved.
So, the situation demands strongest possible action from the administration and local administration against perpetrators of such heinous crimes in garb of superstitions.
This was one of the key observations made by participants in a workshop organised in Dibrugarh University campus here under the aegis of Society for Socio-economic Awareness and Environ-ment Protection(SSEAEP) which has been entrusted by the National Council for Science and Technology Communication (NCSTC), Department of Science and Technology (DST), Government of India to carry out an extensive study on prevalent superstitious beliefs and practices in the North-eastern states of the
country under a programme titled ‘Learning for Cogent Living’ aimed at facilitating rational living free from superstitious practices.
Particularly, Ms Mamoni Saikia, Goalpara district (Assam) programme coordinator of Assam Mahila Samata Society, made a video presentation of some grave cases of witch hunting that were instances of blatant human rights violation. One of such cases included beating up of a women who was branded as witch, by her five sons coerced by the some villagers.
The two-day workshop was set on the roll today with an objective to elicit suggestions and opinions
from invited participants from different walks of the society and from different states of the region so that a comprehensive commu-nication package can be developed to help promote rational way of life to do away with superstitions prevalent in the society.
Inaugurating the work-shop, Prof. Dambarudhar Nath of Dibrugarh University pointed out that it was not always true that only illiterate in the society are under the influence of superstitions, but sections
of highly educated persons too are found to practise superstitions even though they find it hard to explain the logic to explain their actions.
Many of the participants observed that lack of health facilities, lack of sanitation, drinking water and illiteracy were deeply linked to superstitions providing insight to their experience.

Assam honours SC, breaks tradition on animal fights

Guwahati: Assam Thursday broke a more than a century-old tradition to honour the Supreme Court ban on animal fights. The state stayed away from holding traditional animal fights during one of its biggest festivals, Bhogali Bihu.

The decision not to hold the traditional events came after the state government Wednesday issued instructions to all deputy commissioners and police superintendents, asking them to stop holding of such events.

Buffalo fights, fights of bulbuls (songbirds), cock fights etc. are held at many places across the state.

The most prominent ones are the bulbul fights at the Haigriv Madhav temple in Hajo near Guwahati and the buffalo fights in Aahatguri in Morigaon district.

"It`s a cultural legacy of the people of Hajo to organise bulbul fights. However, we could not hold the event today (Thursday) as there was a ban by the Supreme Court. District officials came to me yesterday (Wednesday) and asked me not to hold such fights citing the Supreme Court order. We had prepared for it and people were anxiously waiting for the event," said Shiva Prasad Sarma, the doloi (head administrator) of the temple.

Sarma, however, rued the fact that the district administration intimated them about the court order only Wednesday -- just a day ahead of the event.

"We did not get any time to appeal to the court to reconsider the order. However, people of the temple town agreed to abide by the court order," he said.

Nathuram Hazarika, member of the organising committee of the Aahatguri buffalo fights, said they have been organising buffalo fights since centuries.

"It`s a culture here and we had made all the preparations to hold the events today (Thursday). However, the district administration did not allow us to hold it," he said.

Morigaon Deputy Commissioner Rakesh Kumar said: "We received an order from the state government yesterday (wednesday) to strictly implement the Supreme Court order, restricting all kinds of animal fights. We approached the organising committee of Aahatguri to stop them. Although they were initially reluctant, they later agreed."

Magh Bihu or Bhogali Bihu is a harvest festival, probably the biggest in Assam after Rongali Bihu. It marks the end of the harvesting season in the month of Magh. While the main feature of Rongali Bihu is dance and merry-making, Bhogali Bihu is marked by feasts and bonfires.

Magh Bihu celebrations start on the last day of the month of Pooh. The night before is `Uruka`, when people gather around a bonfire, cook dinner, and make merry.

The youth put up makeshift huts, known as meji, from bamboo, leaves and thatch, in which they eat the food prepared for the feast, and then burn the huts the next morning.

Broad gauge rail line opened in Assam's Dima Hasao district

Haflong: Using the newly constructed broad gauge track in central Assam's Dima Hasao district for the first time, a goods train arrived at New Haflong station today.
The goods train with 43 wagons reached the main rail station of the district at 4:15 PM along with senior rail officials, North-East Frontier Railway PRO Nripendra Bhattacharyya said.

The train travelled 98 kms from Patharkhula to New-Haflong station through nine tunnels, 15 stations, 15 major bridges and 135 minor bridges, he said.

The train was welcomed by a large group of enthusiastic public of Haflong town.

Describing the day as a milestone in the history of railways in the district, Bhattacharyya said the train had reached Maibang station last night and began its onward journey today at 9:30 AM to reach its destination.

After receiving clearance from the Railway Safety Commission the running of passenger trains will begin from Pathakhula to New-Haflong on the track extended up to Silchar, he added.

Tarun Gogoi, rights groups lock horns

Conflict seems to be brewing between the Assam government and animal rights groups. An international animal rights group has asked Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi to implement the order of the Supreme Court prohibiting all animal races and fights during Bihu in Assam.

Bihu is the most important festival in Assam and is celebrated thrice a year. In the month of April, it is called Rongali or Bohag Bihu; during October-November it is called Kati Bihu; and in the month of January it is called Magh Bihu or Bhogali Bihu in which an age-old tradition is of organising fight of buffalos.

The villagers bring their buffaloes for the thrilling traditional fight in which the specially reared buffaloes are brought to the ring and then provoked for the duel.

In the months preceding the festival, buffaloes are fed with rich fodder and reeds of long grass, typical to the state’s marshy land. The buffalo fights are held on the first day of Magh Bihu at various places in Assam, but one hosted at Anhotguri in Morigaon district of Assam is the biggest and most popular among all.

Referring the buffalo fight of Anhotguri, the managing director of HSI in India N.G. Jayasimha, who is also the member of the Animal Welfare Board of India, in his letter to Mr Gogoi said, “Hundreds of buffaloes are forced to participate in fights for a reward of `10,000 or more. It is taking place at large scale since 1972 as means of entertainment where the buffaloes bleed profusely and are severely injured.”

Assam chief minister has chosen to ignore the letter of the animal rights activists as preparation has completed for the Bihu.

The festival has its root in the days of Ahom King who ruled Assam for six centuries before the British rulers in 19th century.