Archive for the ‘Assam’ Category

Assam Students’ Body Objects to Construction of Mega Dams

November 15, 2010

Assam Students Union anti dam protestGuwahati, Nov 15 : All Assam Students Union (AASU) has warned the state and central governments to stop the construction of mega dams in Assam.

Samujjal Bhattacharya, advisor of the students’ body, said the experts committee has forbidden the construction of the Lower Subansiri Hydel Project at its present site as the well as construction of mega dams in earthquake-prone Himalayan foothills.

“We are not against development and power generation, but this should not be done at the cost of the lives of the common people. The government can take recourse to the micro-hydel projects, instead of mega dams for power generation,” Bhattacharya added.

“Since 2001, the AASU expressed concern over the issue of big dams. The fact that Lower Subansiri project was started without even completing a proper study was also brought to light by the students’ body,” he said.

“We will continue our peaceful, non-violent movement to protect the identity of the indigenous people of Assam, to develop Assam,” he added.



Chidambaram Orders ‘All-Out’ Operation Against NDFB

November 13, 2010

Guwahati, Nov 13 : Union Home Minister P.Chidambaram on Friday directed the security forces in Assam to launch an ‘all-out’ operation against National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) (anti-talk faction) and to spare none indulging in violence.

Chidamabaram, who held a meeting with Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, top army and paramilitary commanders, senior police and civil officials during his brief visit in Guwahati, told reporters that he had directed the security forces to take a ‘tough stand’ against the outfit and tackle the situation with a ‘strong hand’.

Referring to the recent massacre of 24 people by the outfit in the state since Monday, he said the security forces had been instructed to take immediate measures to arrest those
involved and to deal with them sternly.

“All violent activities of NDFB anti-talk faction will be tackled with an iron hand. The Centre has no objection to holding talks with all outfits provided they abjure violence as dialogue is the only way to solve problems,” Chidambaram said.

Expressing displeasure over the stand taken by the NDFB (anti-talk group) in resolving the Bodo issue, the Home Minister said its arrested chairman Ranjan Daimary was not interested in keeping the situation under control.

The banned outfit had threatened that if any of its cadres was killed, at least 20 people security forces or civilians would be killed and they carried out their threat killing 24 people since November 8. It had reissued the threat on Thursday.

“The outfit has not yet submitted its charter of demands but has given indication that they want more autonomy for the Bodos,” Chidambaram said adding the outfit is not happy with
the functioning of the Bodoland Territorial Council and is also not eager for talks with the government.

He also held a meeting with the Unified Command Structure Headquarters at the Border Security Force (BSF) base camp in Patgaon on the outskirts of the city before leaving for Kolkata.

Meanwhile, a report said one NDFB anti-talk faction militant was nabbed during a joint operation by army and police in the district on Friday.

The militant was nabbed near the Lungsung forest reserve and a nine mm pistol along with two rounds of live ammunition was seized from him, it said quoting the police.

The arrested ultra is part of a group that had planned subversive activities in the district and was involved in a firing incident on November 9 in which one person was killed.

ULFA Paid $99 mn Bribe For Arms’ Passage in Bangladesh

November 11, 2010

ULFA weaponsDhaka, Nov 11 : An Indian militant group and the embassy of a South Asian country bribed “higher-ups” in the former Khaleda Zia government to ensure safe passage of a huge arms cache that landed in Chittagong port in April 2004, a former minister has told investigators.

The United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), operating in northeast India, had teamed with the embassy that was not named, to pay Taka 7 billion ($99.4 million) for transshipment of 10 truckloads of arms, ammunition and explosives, said detained former state minister for home Lutfozzaman Babar.

Babar was “in the know of things” but was helpless as there were orders from “higher-ups”, he told officials of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), reported The Daily Star on Thursday.

Babar, a minister in the Zia government (2001-06), did not name the South Asian embassy.
Ten truckloads of submachine guns, AK-47 assault rifles, other firearms and bullets were seized at the Karnaphuli coast in Chittagong April 2, 2004.

The cache, detected by guards at a warehouse where it was hidden, was meant for the ULFA that was then staging violent attacks from Bangladeshi soil, media reports on the ongoing trial in a Chittagong court have said.

The arms, purchased from China, were brought in a ship owned by a company belonging to Salahuddin Qader Chowdhury, a lawmaker and senior leader of Zia-led Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).

Officials have so far questioned a former home secretary, two former chiefs of the National Security Intelligence (NSI) and a former Director General of Field Intelligence (DGFI).
The NSI and DGFI are key intelligence agencies in Bangladesh.

Babar denied receiving any share of the amount, a CID official probing two cases filed in connection with the arms haul told the newspaper.

The former state minister claimed he knew everything but could not interfere in the matter as it was at the hands of “higher authorities”, said the CID official quoting him.

“Babar remained silent when he was asked about the higher authorities,” said the intelligence official.

The Sheikh Hasina government has closed down the ULFA camps, evicted many of its top leaders and facilitated their detention by Indian authorities.

3 Generations in Assam, Now Suddenly Outsiders

November 11, 2010

By Samudra Gupta Kashyap

assam peopleIt was around 5 pm. The sun had just set at Belsiri, a tiny halt on the Rangiya-Murkongselek metre gauge rail line in Sonitpur district in northern Assam. In the small daily bazaar held just behind the railway station, 100-odd people were gathered, some in the small barber shop run by Ramji Thakur, attached to his thatch-and-bamboo house.

Out of nowhere, shots rang out. Thakur was the first to fall, followed by his son Parameswar. His daughter-in-law Mano Devi, also shot, tried to run, but collapsed.

Ramji’s wife Sonajhari Devi was saying her evening prayers, lighting a diya, when she heard the shots. At first she thought it was children bursting leftover Diwali crackers. And then she heard Mano’s scream. In seconds, half of her family was wiped out.

The gunmen, six of them, riding bicycles, moved on to a nearby tea-stall, where they killed Ram Narayan Shah. His nephew Dilip Shah, who owned a paan shop, tried to run but was chased and shot.

Of the 20-odd permanent shops and houses in the area, the Thakurs live in one. The area has people of various communities — Bodos, Assamese, Biharis, Adivasis, Bengalis and Nepalis. Since Monday, the Thakurs, who moved here three generations ago, have a new identity — “outsiders”.

Originally from Bihar, they speak Hindi. That was enough for the anti-talk faction of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), that had a week before said it would kill 20 “Indians” to avenge the death of a cadre at the hands of security forces, to target them.

With five persons gunned down, all the residents of the village have fled. “Some have taken shelter in houses of friends and relatives nearby. Some are yet to be traced,” said ASI M N Bora. Since Tuesday night, he has been at the Missamari police station. While Belsiri is just 10 km from the police station, two unrepaired bridges mean a detour amounting to 40 km.

“I had gone to bring back cows from the nearby field when I saw people fleeing for their lives. Three hours later, after the police arrived, I returned to find that three of my family dead,” said Jitender Thakur, the eldest son of Ramji Thakur, who is also a barber.

Standing next to her orphaned grandchildren — Anjali (8) and Manoj (6) — Sonajhari Devi says she can’t understand what her family had done wrong. She has taken shelter in the house of Bheem Rai, a chowkidar in the Belsiri tea estate across the railway track.

“My husband’s father came here as a barber (from Arrah district in Bihar) when he was a young boy of 17 or 18. My grandchildren go to the Assamese Mezengjuli Primary School,” she said. Above all, Mano was a native Bodo. In this Bodo-dominated area, Sonajhari had always felt secure because of that.

Mano Devi’s father and Ramji’s neighbour, 82-year-old Sushil, is equally distraught. “Everybody around knew that my daughter was married to Ramji Thakur’s son,” he said. “Why did they kill her? Why did they consider Ramji’s family outsiders?”

Assamese Language Distorted in Ads

November 11, 2010

assameseGuwahati, Nov 11 : Friends of Assam and Seven Sisters (FASS), India has appealed to the audio-visual media in Assam to stop broadcasting advertisements in which the Assamese language is insultingly distorted.

In a statement issued to the press, FASS, India president Shantikam Hazarika said that in some of the local broadcasting channels, some Assamese language advertisements are being broadcast which are apparently dubbed by persons who do not know how to speak the Assamese language.

“The result is that in these advertisements, the Assamese language sounds outlandish and ludicrous.

Such distortions are an insult to the Assamese language. It is not expected that members of the media, which is one of the pillars of democracy, would take such annoying and irritating liberties with any language.

It is also regretted that, despite protests, such atrocities are being committed on the Assamese language for such a long time,” said Hazarika.

Calling upon the concerned local channels to immediately stop broadcasting the offensive advertisements, Hazarika warned that no other people would tolerate such derogatory assaults on their language.

“We find that there are many prominent citizens who regularly take part in the deliberations organized by these channels. We also request them to avoid these channels till the channels mend their ways,” Hazarika said.

Centre Asks Assam Govt to Launch Offensive Against NDFB Rebels

November 10, 2010

assam policeNew Delhi, Nov 10 :  With sudden spurt in violence in the state, the Centre has asked the Assam government to take stern action against the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) militants who have massacred 24 people, most of them Hindi-speaking, since Monday.

In a communique, the home ministry asked the state government to launch an all-out offensive against the NDFB militants who are believed to have been hiding in the dense forests along Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border.

The ministry also assured the state government of all help in arresting those involved in the killings.

Yesterday, home minister P Chidambaram spoke to Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi and inquired about the violence perpetrated by NDFB militants and asked him to take all possible steps to apprehend the culprits.

Assam Massacre: They Saw Their Parents Being Shot Dead

November 10, 2010

Guwahati: Siblings Anjali and Manoj, students of Class 4 and 2 respectively, were orphaned on Monday.

They watched as their parents were shot dead by Bodo militants in their small village, Belsiri, in Sonitpur district of Assam.

Their parents were among 19 people massacred since last evening by the Bodo militant outfit NDFB in nine attacks across Sonitpur district.

Nine people have been injured. In some cases, bus passengers were lined up and shot dead. Most of those killed were Hindi-speaking people.

The NDFB had earlier threatened to kill 20 civilians for every member of their cadre that they lost in encounters.

Anjali and Manoj witnessed their parents being shot dead near their grandfather’s barber’s shop in Belsiri.

Their grandfather, Ramji Thakur, settled decades ago in Assam. The children are now with relatives at a nearby tea-garden, their trauma unimaginable.

NDFB Rebels Gun Down 18 Hindi Speaking Migrant Workers in Assam

November 9, 2010

assamMen with Automatic Weapons Target Bus

Guwahati, Nov 9 : Police say suspected rebels using automatic weapons have killed at least 18 people in attacks on a bus, a barber shop and migrant worker settlements in northeast India.

Bhaskar Jyoti Mahanta, a state inspector-general of police, says another five people were wounded in Monday’s serial attacks at five places in Assam state in India’s insurgency-hit northeast.

He said the attacks appeared to be retaliatory as security forces had killed nearly two dozen militants belonging to a faction of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland in Assam state in the past few weeks.

Suspected rebels have targeted hundreds of Hindi-speaking migrants who they claim usurp the local population’s job opportunities.

Chinese-Origin Assamese Community ‘Forcibly Deported’ by India Now Welcome

November 9, 2010

makumWang Shing Tung (in a cap) with his family, the former Chinese school in Makum, the shed in which the Chinese were kept and a house in Chinatown that is now a godown

Guwahati, Nov 9 : Assam Chief Minister has rolled out the red carpet for Chinese -origin Assamese forcibly deported to China after the Chinese aggression in 1962. The displaced people can visit their birthplace if they wanted to.

A recent novel Makam’ (golden horse in Chinese) by Sahitya Akademi winner Rita Chouwdhury brought to fore stage the agony of Chinese-origin Assamese community.

Mentioning the untold difficulties the community when through since the Chinese aggression of 1962, the writer urged the Indian government to accept the wrong it did to these people and publicly display the country’s concern for their wellbeing and express its solidarity.

”These people do not want to return here permanently, but want to visit their birthplace once. They are hurt, but do not blame anyone,” Ms Chouwdhury, who had interacted extensively with the community for research of her book, said.

The Chinese origin people who were brought to India by the British for the tea plantation. They married to different communities and settled down in Assam.

But the Chinese aggression of 1962 changed India’s view of these settlers and around 1,500 Indian Chinese were picked up from Makum, a small town of upper Assam, and some other parts of the state, and sent to a detention camp in Deoli, Rajasthan. From the camp, several were deported to China in batches, while a handful were allowed to return to Assam after about three years, only to find their belongings confiscated as ‘enemy property’ and auctioned off

”There are just nine families in Makum now and they lead a closed life, fearing more trouble,” Chouwdhury says.

”News reports of tension along Chinese border still worry them,” she adds.

Most of those deported were sent to work in farms and industries of China and their future generations are spread across the globe, from Hong Kong to Canada to Australia.

”We cannot return what they lost, but we can at least stand up with them and express our solidarity,” Chouwdury urged.

Jatinga Awaits its Visitors

November 7, 2010

By Samudra Gupta Kashyap

jatingaJatinga has never had too many visitors; only some suicidal birds. For a few months every year, this village that’s about eight km south of Haflong town in Assam, exotic species of birds, like the ashy-headed green pigeon and green-breasted pitta, fly into Jatinga, bang against walls and trees and drop dead, an event that has come to be known as the Jatinga phenomenon among ornithologists.

Till a little over a year ago, the entire North Cachar Hill district (now called Dima Hasao), of which Jatinga is part, was in the grip of militancy and violence. Though Jatinga was not directly affected, it suffered enough collateral damage. Now, the village wants to fight back by opening its doors to outsiders.

“We do not want to perish in this cycle of meaningless violence. Our village, like every other village in this hill district, is a little paradise. People here have realised that tourism is the only road to development,” says Sylvia Suchiang, a school teacher who is part of the Jatinga Mothers’ Association.

Jatinga, a village of 3,000 people, is picture-postcard perfect. Perched on a spur of the Haflong ridge, an offshoot of the Barail mountains, Jatinga is located at a tri-junction of roads leading to Haflong, Lumding and Silchar. It is also connected by a metre-gauge railway track that winds its way through tunnels and over gorges, leisurely or lahe-lahe, as they say in Assamese.

“Jatinga is a 100 per cent literate village,” claims Evelyntice Sajem, who retired as principal of the Haflong Girls’ Higher Secondary School. “Also, women here contribute immensely towards the family income.”

Every morning, women walk down to their fields on the main Barail range, trekking 10 to 12 km each way, carrying home ginger, turmeric, oranges, pineapples, bay-leaf and potatoes. “Lakhonbang Suchaing, the founder of our village, had in 1920 also built a guest house for visitors. Probably he had tourism in his mind,” says Sajem.

“More than anything else, the bird suicide mystery has the potential to attract tourists and ornithologists from all over the world to Jatinga,” says External Siangshai, a youth from this village who is associated with an NGO called Community Resource Management Services.

And that exactly is what the Dima Hasao Autonomous Council—the local-self government in the tribal districts of Assam—is trying to cash in on. The first-ever Jatinga International Festival took off last week and despite teething troubles, tour operators from Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata came to the village.

Way back in 1957, when legendary amateur naturalist Edward Pritchard Gee—originally an Anglo-Indian tea planter in Assam—wrote about birds committing suicide in Jatinga in his book Wildlife of India, not many believed him. But when the celebrated bird-man, Salim Ali, agreed that it was indeed a mysterious phenomenon, the Zoological Survey of India sent Sudhir Sengupta to unravel this mystery. Sengupta linked the suicide tendency of the birds to “changing weather conditions” that disturbed the “physiological rhythm” of the birds. Several studies that followed Sengupta’s have tried to solve the Jatinga phenomenon but there has been no conclusive evidence so far.

While people in Jatinga realise that the bird suicide mystery is their unique selling point, they know it can’t be at the cost of the birds.

“There was a time when every household here put up lights to attract the birds during those particular weeks. We can’t stop the birds from banging against walls but with increasing awareness, we have started taking care of the birds and provide them first-aid,” says Manba Sajem, president of the Jatinga Youth Cultural Organisation. Sajem and his friends organise regular awareness programmes for the villagers, telling them that if the birds stop coming to Jatinga, the tourists too won’t come.

The forest department has set up a watch tower where visitors can watch the rush of birds on specific nights, with as many as 44 species of birds recorded over the years.

The list of avian visitors to Jatinga include the yellow bittern, ashy-headed green pigeon, green-breasted pitta, blossom-headed parakeet, greater rocket-tailed drongo, pheasant-tailed jacana, button quail, paradise fly-catcher, slaty-legged banded crake, white-winged wood duck and many more.