Shillong Choir To Sing in Bangalore Soon

November 15, 2010

By Francis Sundar Singh

Shillong Chamber Choir meghalayaBangalore, Nov 15 : “I hope we have done justice to our country,” says Damon M Lyndem, coordinator and member of the Shillong Chamber Choir, who were given a chance to perform before US President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle at a banquet hosted by President Pratibha Patil at the Rashtrapathi Bhavan during their recent visit to India.

Performing at a VVIP banquet is no easy task, especially in the presence of several dignitaries, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and other leaders.

The 16-member choir from Meghalaya sang three pieces, including a Khasi opera, composed by its choirmaster Neil Nongkynrih; a tribute to their motherland.

“The entire evening was just fabulous. It was a proud moment for us to sing for President Obama, and we are glad we could sing in our native language, Khasi,” Lyndem said.

“The Khasi opera was composed as a tribute to our beloved motherland. Khasi is one of the dying languages of the world. We thought it right to perform this opera before President Obama and also showcase our tradition,” added Lyndem.
The choir sang My tribute, an American song composed by songwriter Andrae Crouch and a medley of Hindi songs that ended with Ye dosti hum nahin todenge — the evergreen number from Sholay.

My Tribute was the icing on the cake during the evening as it was an apt song for the visiting dignitaries and also has a direct connect with the American world, said Lyndem.

The performance comes at a time when the entire North-East region is dealing with several violence-related issues. However, Lyndem said that the performance is not just for their region, but the entire country. “Our performance is not only for the North-East, but for the entire country to show the world that we are also a major power. Our choir itself is happy that it got an opportunity to present India to the world,” he said.

Though the members of the choir were not able to meet the Obamas in person, they did get a positive vibe from Sonia Gandhi.

“The evening would not have been complete without you,” the Congress president was quoted as saying, said Lyndem.

Congress scion Rahul Gandhi is said to have appreciated the choir from Shillong.

“We feel ecstatic. I had been to the Rashtrapathi Bhavan many times for performances, but this was a totally different experience,” said Neil Nongkynrih, without whose guidance, the choir wouldn’t have performed so well.

The Shillong Chamber Choir is now setting its sights on performing in Bangalore, if the opportunity comes through.

“We have been performing in several places both in India and abroad. But, we would love to perform in Bangalore since the city has got a good music-loving crowd. We are just waiting for the right time and opportunity,” Lyndem added.

The choir will now be performing in Malaysia, Kuwait and Chennai over the next few months.


‘Corruption Almost Legalised in Nagaland’

November 15, 2010

corruptionDimapur, Nov 15 : Former Nagaland Chief Minister Dr SC Jamir has rued that corruption has become so legitimate in Nagaland that it has become an almost essential part of governance and administration.

Jamir, who also served as Governor of Goa and Maharashtra, stated this at the inaugural session of the first ever technical festival ‘Techaura 2010’ organized at the School of Engineering & Technology and Management (SETAM), Nagaland University, which concluded here recently.

Referring to the recent remark made by the State Vigilance Commissioner that ‘corruption in the State has become institutionalized’, he said the statement couldn’t be truer as corruption has indeed become a legalized institution in Nagaland.

He further voiced apprehension that if the trend of corruption which is being witnessed in almost all the functions of the State mechanism is to continue, the moral foundation which is the very basis of our societal structure will soon disintegrate.

The veteran leader reminded of the fate that society would fall into if its moral foundation decays away while citing instance of the history of the Roman Empire which collapsed because of moral degradation eventually leading to disintegration of its political, economic, religious and other social institutions.

HPC (D) and Govt of Mizoram Signed SoO

November 15, 2010

By David Buhril

hmar militants mizoramThe Government of Mizoram and the Hmar People’s Convention (Democratic) signed the ‘Suspension of Operation’ (SoO) on November 11, 2010 at Mizoram’s Aizawl for ensuring “peace dialogue in the common interest of finding political solution” to the Hmar issue in Mizoram.

Dissatisfied over the 1994 accord signed between the Hmar People’s Convention and the Government of Mizoram, which was seen as ‘blank and fruitless accord’ by the HPC (D), the armed group quest to find a “permanent solution” to the “unfinished agenda” by carving out “Hmar Territorial Council” in Mizoram.

The team, representing the Government of Mizoram, constituted by the Governor was headed by Lalmalsawma, Home Secretary. On the other side, the HPC (D) was headed by Lalropui, Chief of Army. The SoO document was signed by the two leaders “to build confidence and trust in the common pursuit of finding permanent solution”.

While agreeing to cease all operation against each other, the Government of Mizoram categorically “reserves its right to continue operation against other militant groups who are not a party to the Suspension of Operation agreement. The two parties agreed to set up a Joint Monitoring Group (JMG) with equal representation “to enforce an effective implementation of SoO ground rules.

Paving the way for a meaningful and honourable political dialogue, “the HPC(D) shall have the liberty to appoint any respectable person(s) to assist them in their dialogue with the Government”. Moreover, in the interest of building peace, trust, confidence and goodwill, “the HPC (D) shall be allowed free movement in Mizoram and to conduct peaceful political activities in its demand areas.”

Taking into account the harsh reality of the Hmar people who are divided by five State boundaries, the Government of Mizoram has taken into its obligation to request the Government of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Manipur to allow free movement to the HPC(D) during the suspension of operation. The Government of Mizoram will also issue appropriate direction to security agencies to stand down and cease offensive operation against the HPC(D) during the period of suspension of operation.

While the core issues are yet to climb the table, the suspension of operation has not only paved the way but also put the two engaging parties in the same direction for finding a political solution to the Hmar issue in Mizoram. In a State where identity, culture, tradition, language and memories are dying fast the table for political dialogue has already raised high expectations for the Hmar people, one of the biggest Mizo tribe.

It may be remembered that the 1994 accord between the Hmar People’s Convention (HPC) and the Government of Mizoram was signed by Lalthanhawla, the present Chief Minister of Mizoram. Leaders of the HPC (D) expressedly said that the present Government of Mizoram headed by Lalthanhawla must be responsible for the infamous accord, which only resulted in creating a divisive political wheelchair. “We have a strong resolution, we are serious and we have high expectation”, Lalropui, Chief of Army, HPC(D) said. Representatives of the Government of Mizoram also said that signing the Suspension of Operation document was a smooth affair.

For a State blessed with the manna of peace bonus, it would more than justify the purse if the Government of Mizoram goes beyond the suspension of operation to find real solution to the issues at stake.

Quit Notice to Myanmarese Nationals in Mizoram

November 15, 2010

mizoramAizawl, Nov 15 : Close on the heels of the gruesome incident of rape and murder of a five-year-old girl in Muallungthu village allegedly by a Myanmarese national, village councils under Aizawl South III assembly constituency issued quit notice to all Myanmarese migrants residing in the constituency.

A joint committee of the village councils of the constituency, which included the village council of Muallungthu issued an order asking Myanmarese nationals not to enter the constituency and asked all those currently staying to immediately leave.

Justifying its order the joint village council committee said yesterday that the eviction order was issued to prevent re-occurrence of such ghastly incident within the constituency.

A Myanmarese national, Henry Vanneichung was accused of murdering a five-year-old girl after raping her on November 8 near Muallungthu village.

Vanneichung was nabbed at nearby Sateek village by the villagers and was lynched after he was handed over to the search party from Muallungthu the next day.

The incident shocked the whole state which was recovering from the rape and murder of another five-year-old girl at Thakthing locality in Aizawl on October 18. The accused, Lalrammawia, is now incarcerated at the central jail near Aizawl.

The two incidents and other recent incidents of sexual molestation and rape prompted the Mizo Hmeichhe Insuihkhawm Pawl (MHIP) or the Women Federation to observe ‘Black Day’ yesterday and a massive protest rally was organised in Aizawl.

The demonstrators at the rally offered mass prayer asking for an end to violence and crime against minors and women.

They demanded that the harshest punishment should be awarded to the rapists and murderers in accordance with the laws of the land.

There have been 331 incidents of rape since 2006 till November this year in the state and the number of rape victims were 344.

Wine Festival Intoxicates Shillong

November 15, 2010

meghalaya wineShillong, Nov 15 : As many as 14 home-brewers from all over Meghalaya descended in this hill city to give wine enthusiast a unique opportunity to raise a toast to the ensuing chill in this unique festival held for the seventh consecutive time in the state.

Ginger, mulberry fruit, strawberry, passion fruit, blackberry, plum, banana, jackfruit or even cashew apple, name it and they have been fermented to produce a sensual variety of wine.

An all pervading passion descended at the Crinoline Swimming Pool here last night, the final day of the only-of-its kind festival, with people, including foreign tourists, thronging the place in hordes.

“The ginger wine we make is soothing to a soar throat and is appropriate for the cold climate in Shillong,” said A Marbaniang, who has been fermenting wine in the backyard of her house in the city. “The wine we make is only for family and friends not for commercial purpose.”

Most of these brewers make wine as a hobby and not for commercial purpose.

“We have been making wine from the local fruit sohiong for years now. People from all over the country, especially those in the medical profession take our wine for its medicinal properties,” says J Laloo.

Laloo, who sells his wine under brand name of ”Mummy’s wine”, said “There should be legal outlets for locally made wine.”

“This festival will create awareness not only on the art of wine making but also its commercial potential as an industry which will in turn encourage the farming community to grow more fruit trees thereby realise the full horticultural potential of our state with an economy to match,” Michael Syiem, president of Forever Young Club, the organizers of festival told PTI.

He rued that wine making is still to be legalised by the Meghalaya government.

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.


Economics of Transit

November 15, 2010

By Ashfaqur Rahman

Begum Khaleda Zia, leader of the opposition, had said publicly that she was given an impression that transit to India would bring Bangladesh so much money that the country would be as rich as Singapore. Now the Indians are unwilling to give any transit fee even for the existing transit

arrangement through the river route. She was therefore critical that the government was giving erroneous impressions.

Begum Zia should know better. It is not transit charges that are likely to give Bangladesh the revenues. The income that will be generated by accessing the market of north-east Indian states for trade and investment could bring profits. How far this is correct also needs to be verified.

But let us first examine what we are getting into, on the matter of transit with India, and whether we are really going to benefit monetarily. In essence, allowing the Indians to move from one part of their country to another part through Bangladesh is not what we can strictly call as giving transit. It is essentially providing an economic corridor.

This is a special dispensation which Bangladesh will be giving to India. To be politically correct, we can use alternative words — that we are helping India to establish easy connectivity with its north-east portion through Bangladesh.

Such corridors are allowed usually in times of hostility or in very special circumstances. During the Second World War, Poland gave Germany a corridor to reach the port of Danzig. Today, Russia needs a path or a corridor through Lithuania to reach her port city of Kaliningrad.

India’s request to Bangladesh to connect to her north-eastern states is basically to fulfil her urgent interest in saving time and money in transporting essential goods and services by avoiding a trip of 1,650 km around what is known as the “chicken’s neck” north of Bangladesh to West Bengal. The road route traveling through Bangladesh would save India almost 1,000 km, and she would be able to reach West Bengal from these north-eastern states by traversing 500 to 750 km only.

The question that arises in the minds of many Bangladeshis is how much of the cost saved by India would be shared with Bangladesh. How much will India give to Bangladesh for this special consideration?

There is no doubt that Bangladesh can charge from India the usual fee for use of our roads and our railway lines. The fee would also include the cost of maintenance and upkeep of the infrastructure. Bangladesh can charge another fee for the damage caused to our environment. We can also levy a small charge for the congestion they would cause, which would not happen if no connectivity was allowed.

But beyond this it is not likely that we can levy any other charge and realise it. Of course, we need to study more about what other countries in the world that allow such passage to a neighbour do. But if nothing else is forthcoming are we going to remain satisfied with this pittance ?

Here, our government needs to look closer and work out solutions. First, India should be encouraged to invest in the roads they are going to use. These roads will be used by Indian multi-axle trucks, and they need to be made ready. Laying of fresh railway tracks to cater to transit traffic should also be Indian responsibility.

India should pay for setting up border railway stations, which would not have been set up if no connectivity was envisaged. India should pay Bangladesh to dredge Bangladeshi rivers where cargo vessels will ply. Bangladesh will, of course, sell fuel to Indian trucks and be involved in their repairs within the territory of Bangladesh.

We all know that transshipment is often cumbersome, time consuming and costly. Hence, it could be a private sector company with majority

Bangladeshi shares which can carry cargo through Bangladesh and earn carrying and service costs. Such a company’s vehicles could load in West Bengal and move into north-east India. India, Nepal and Bhutan can own minority shares in this company.

The critical question is whether India will agree to give to Bangladesh the portion of its savings due to the diversion of its cargo through the shorter Bangladesh route. Not all the states will uniformly divert all their cargo. For example Assam is likely to divert only 30% of its overall traffic.

The other states can do more, if not less. It is too early to say how much savings per ton of cargo it would have from each route used. Bangladesh would have to negotiate hard with India on this issue and get the best result.

The important thing that needs to be kept in mind, before any final decision is taken to grant connectivity to India, is that Bangladesh should raise and resolve with India some of the major bilateral issues like sharing of the waters of the common rivers, demarcation of maritime boundaries and easy access of Bangladeshi products to Indian markets. This will generate confidence about Indian intentions and give a positive spin to this exercise.

In spite of our prime minister’s keen desire to make things as transparent as possible, why is it that the Bangladeshis are kept in the dark about such a substantive issue as allowing connectivity to India? What is so secret about this. One can understand that the government cannot bind itself to any public commitment before negotiation with India.

But why can’t the Jatiya Sangshad start the discourse in its Committees and help the government. It can identify our national interests, mark out the sources of revenue and debate on the various options available to us. In any case, they can give the government a general sense of direction. The people will feel associated with the decisions that the government will subsequently take on this critical matter. History is usually unforgiving.

Ashfaqur Rahman is a former ambassador and Chairman, Centre for Foreign Affairs Studies.

Meghalaya CM Lay Base of ICFAI University at Tura

November 15, 2010

meghalaya-icfaiTura, Nov 15 : Meghalaya’s state capital Shillong, labeled as the ‘Scotland of the east’ for ages has been known as the educational hub in the North East India. Meghalaya government realizing the importance of education sector has decided to promote investment in the education sector and three new private Universities have been granted permission to set up their base in the state. Meghalaya Chief Minister Dr. Mukul Sangma today laid the foundation stone of ICFAI University at Tura in West Garo Hills, marking the beginning of this initiative.

North East, which is often projected as landlocked and a region which has not much potential for development and investment to boost to its fold is now gaining limelight as investors are now coming to North East India. The hill state of Meghalaya is proud to have the foundation laid for a 20 Crore self financing private University in Tura, the educational and business hub of Garo Hills region. The foundation of ICFAI University Meghalaya was laid by Chief Minister Dr. Mukul Sangma in presence of theVice Chancellor of the University Mr Y K Bhusan and Pro Vice Chancellor Dr. Milton Sangma.

Speaking on the occasion, Dr. Mukul Sangma said that emphasis is being accorded by the government to tap the potentiality in the education sector. Dr. Sangma observed that Meghalaya has the atmosphere and a reputation of being the educational hub for ages and a pool of youth resources.

The CM said that the state government is making every effort to create a conducive atmosphere. for investment. He also observed that development must spread to all parts of the state and not just remained confined to the state capital.

The Vice Chancellor of the University Y K Bhushan stressed the importance that North East is full of potential and there was a need to set up institution to provide employment oriented programmes. He informed that ICFAI is in touch with various educational institutions, including American Universities to tap the opportunities in education sector.

The Institute of Chartered Financial Analysts of India also known as ICFAI was established in Meghalaya under the provision of an Act in 2005. The University believes in creating and disseminating knowledge and skills in core and frontier areas through innovative educational programs, research, consulting and publishing, and developing a new cadre of professionals with a high level of competence and deep sense of ethics and commitment to the code of professional conduct.

A number of educational programs are offered in management and science & technology at bachelor’s and master’s levels at the university.

Aung San Suu Kyi Released From House Arrest

November 13, 2010

aung san suu kyiMyanmar activist Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest Saturday, police outside her home said.

Witnesses said that they had seen Suu Kyi as crowds of supporters gathered near her home in Yangon.

At party headquarters in the same city, hundreds waited near her National League for Democracy.

The Nobel Peace Prize laureate has spent 15 of the past 21 years under house arrest because of her fight for democracy in the nation formerly known as Burma.

Security has been stepped up in Myanmar, but it was unclear whether that was because of the country’s first elections in two decades Sunday.

Garo Drums Fest Gets Off to Thunderous Start

November 13, 2010

100 Drums Wangala FestivalAsananggre (Meghalaya), Nov 13 : The 100 Drums Wangala Festival – the harvest festival of Garos – entered its second day on Friday in this sleepy hamlet 17 km north of Tura in Meghalaya’s West Garo Hills district.

Catapulted to prominence following its performance at Commonwealth Games opening ceremony, the thanksgiving harvest dance, was converted into a community event 32 harvests ago under the patronage of then chief minister Capt Williamson A Sangma.

The festival which has grown exponentially in size and popularity is organised in a competitive format to integrate the scattered ethnic group across state and national borders while preserving and promoting indigenous A’chik culture globally.

Each year 10 contingents drawn from as many a’king or community-owned clan holdings converge on the community development block of Rongram where they wow domestic and overseas audiences with their percussive skills.

Initially restricted to the drum-dance competition, the 100 drums festival is increasing in popularity as audiences continue to be enraptured by the mesmeric staccato of the 2-2-1 beat of the dama – A’chik long-drum, and the saber-rattling war-cry of the ‘nokma’.

Tailored to meet the requirements of a spectator ‘sport’, the competition increases in intensity by the second day with teams vying to out-drum and out-dance their rivals.

According to the Organising Committee Chairman and A’chik elder L K Marak, the organising committee had been presented with a ‘brand identity’ by the Shillong-based corporate consultancy, Cognet Solutions.

Eminent litterateur and poet-musician, Llewlyn R Marak, a key personality in the organising committee, expressed happiness that the festival was finally getting its due prominence in the outside world, which was long overdue.

Welcoming the introduction of a brand identity for the Festival, parliamentary secretary in-charge industries, Ismail R Marak said this would put a ‘face’ on the annual event and help market it to tourists in India and overseas. He said the 100 Drums Festival was suitably poised to become the flagship festival of the state.

State Medicinal Plants Board chairman Tony TC Marak, who is steering an ambitious state venture to promote its rich non-timber forest resources, said publicity and packaging played a vital role in the promotion of tourism, art and culture.

His organisation is showcasing herbal remedies that promise painless and permanent ‘organic cures’ for a host of diseases and afflictions. He said herbal oil massages by indigenous ‘ojas’ – barefoot doctors – would provide tourists the opportunity of experiencing the legendary curative powers of A’chik medicine.

Meanwhile, the festival is to conclude on Saturday with the grand 100-drums tattoo in the presence of Chief Minister Dr Mukul M Sangma and other prominent members of government and civil society.