Thursday, August 19, 2010


1) UT status for Gorkhaland Linky

The Centre is considering granting Union territory status to the Darjeeling hills on the lines of the Delhi model after the expiry of the proposed interim authority’s tenure. The term of the interim authority, according to the Centre’s proposal, ends on December 31, 2011. The Centre is trying to find a permanent solution to the statehood problem, particularly with the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha unwilling to accept an extension in the proposed authority’s term. The Centre feels there is little possibility of the Bengal government agreeing to the Morcha demand for additional territory — the party wants the Dooars and the Terai besides the Darjeeling hills — or statehood.

Granting Union territory status to the hills is being seen as a face-saver for the stakeholders with all sides compromising on their stand on additional territory, officials in New Delhi said. The proposed plan, based largely on the National Capital Territory model of Delhi, will offer an elected Assembly with sizeable legislative powers to the hills. At present, only two of the seven Union territories — Delhi and Puducherry — have elected legislative Assemblies. The Centre wants the Bengal governor to play the role of the lieutenant governor. However the Centre’s plan needs to cross several hurdles, including convincing the new government at Writers’ Building after the Assembly polls next year.

2) If one had read the Namrata Goswami's four scenarios, one of them visualizes the Northeast as a tourism haven. Here is a report on this matter: Linky

According to a report of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation, India’s position based on foreign tourist arrival is 41, while that of China is four and Malaysia 11. Even Thailand, with 14.5 million tourists, is far ahead of India.

“The pages of a magazine in an airline have beautiful advertisements of the Incredible India campaign. The tourism department of Tamil Nadu proudly splashed the pages with all the beautiful destinations one can visit... Now turn to the page where the advertisement is about the tourism prospects of Assam and the pictures of chief minister Tarun Gogoi and tourism minister Rockybul Hussain stare back at the reader. Is this what Assam has to offer to its tourists?” asked Shantikam Hazarika, the director of Assam Institute of Management at a seminar on Tourism, Destination North East Tourism as an Engine of Growth, at Sankaradeva Kalakshetra today. The auditorium burst into applause — more appalled than thrilled.

3) Updates on ANVC Linky. Read it along with my previous report on ANVC at Linky

The Meghalaya government is examining the memorandum on the demand of the Garo hills-based militant outfit, the Achik National Volunteers Council (ANVC), for a Garoland Autonomous Council. Meghalaya chief secretary W.M.S. Pariat today said the state government was examining the various points in the ANVC memorandum.
The primary demand of the ANVC is creation of the Garoland Autonomous Council, unlike the existing district councils in the state. The Garo hills has the Garo Hills Autonomous District Council, a constitutional body formed more than 50 years ago. However, with the setting up of the Garoland Autonomous Council, the ANVC hopes to get direct funding from the Centre to run the administration. The autonomous body suggested by the ANVC is on the lines of the Bodoland Territorial Council in Assam.

On June 30, the outfit had agreed to the extension of the tripartite ceasefire agreement for three months on the condition that its demand for setting up of the Garoland Autonomous Council, among others, would be fulfilled within this period. The ANVC entered into the ceasefire with the Centre and the state on July 23, 2004. Though the initial demand of the militant outfit was for the creation of a separate Garo state, they now want the state government to set up an autonomous body, the Garoland Autonomous Council. During a meeting on July 30 with government officials, the ANVC promised that it would make sure that the ceasefire ground rules were strictly adhered by its cadres.

The Rock for Peace concert organised by the outfit in Tura in the West Garo Hills on August 15 was an initiative to show the government that it wanted peace and development to go hand in hand. The ANVC is also planning to take up similar initiatives in the future, which it hoped will pave way for early solution to their various demands pending for the past six years. During the period of ceasefire, there was relative peace in the three districts of Garo Hills. Other than the usual ceasefire monitoring committee meetings with the ANVC, there were two rounds of political talks this year with the outfit initiated by the Centre’s mediator, P.C. Haldar.

4) Meanwhile in Assam, Linky

Traffic was disrupted for several hours on National Highway 37 after protesters blocked the road at Bamunigaon under Chaygaon police station this morning. Several hundred protesters were on their way to block the Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport when they were stopped by a contingent of state police and CRPF. The protesters, comprising Garos and non-tribals from the Goalpara-Kamrup areas, were demanding exclusion of their villages from the Rabha Hasong Autonomous Council’s jurisdiction and holding of panchayat elections. “We are demanding that our villages be taken out of the Rabha Hasong Council and panchayat elections be held immediately,” Pradip Kalita, vice president of the Kamrup district unit of Ajanajati Surakhya Manch, said over telephone. The Manch had organised the march to the airport along with several other organisations representing the Garo community in Kamrup and Goalpara districts, like the Garo National Council and the Garo Women’s Council.
Panchayat elections in the Rabha Hasong council areas were put on hold after various organisations, led by the All Rabha Students Union, objected to it. Non-Rabha groups, on the other hand, demanded the elections be held leading to clashes in 2008. Kalita said majority of the 779 villages under the Council was inhabited by non-Rabhas and hence there was no justification of keeping these villages under its jurisdiction. “Approximately 500 villages are not inhabited by Rabhas, so where is the justification?” he asked. Garo organisations also raised the demand for a Garo autonomous council in Assam, comprising areas inhabited by the community in Kamrup and Goalpara districts. “We have no objection to such a council as long as the non-tribal villages are not included,” Kalita said. According to him, there are approximately 300 such villages.

One has to understand the constraints faced by GoI and babus when such inter-community angst exists on the ground. Not like there is no inter-community angst elsewhere in India, but the situation is so grave in the Northeast that the "rent-a-crowd-and-make-a-ruckus" mentality constrains the bulldozing of prosperity to this part of the country.
5) Elsewhere, from SATP: Why would nt taking to arms not be a career-based move if the state government does stuff to prove the terrorism-politicians' nexus?

Shillong Times reports that the surrendered Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC) cadres are slowly taking charge over some crucial business interests in Meghalaya. Sources said the surrendered cadres are also getting the bulk of contract works in North-Eastern Hill University (NEHU). The unemployed youths in the State allege that the Government is tilted towards the surrendered militants instead of encouraging educated youths for productive growth. Sources said that whenever any tenders are floated by NEHU the officers of the construction wing direct the youths to meet and seek permission from Julius Dorphang, the former self-styled HNLC ‘chairman’ and his associates. Incidentally Dorphang is also a seasoned businessman now. Some registered contractors of NEHU on request of anonymity said, "Surrendered HNLC cadres are the bosses in NEHU and they are the ones who control the tendering process now."

According to these contractors, the surrendered HNLC has formed its own association of contractors particularly for NEHU construction works. All registered contractors seeking work in NEHU have been advised to seek membership of the association or they would not be allowed to participate in the tendering process. "We are required to pay a commission ranging from two to five per cent of the total value of the project to the surrendered HNLC association for each and every contract allotted to us," a contractor said. The report adds that the surrendered militants take full charge during the submission of tenders. They are at the gate to scan all tenderers and oversee the entire tender process. Contractors are actually short listed and selected by these former militants. Sources have also informed that most of the parking bays under the Meghalaya Urban Development Agency (MUDA), too, are controlled by the surrendered HNLC cadres.

6) It was only recently feared the a tri-some on motorcycles would launch attacks on paras and melt away in the crowd. I am seeing the first report of such a modus operandi. Linky

A surprise attack by a Maoist trio on a CRPF camp in Vishnugarh near Bokaro-Giridih border and an ensuing gun battle resulted in the death of a rebel in the small hours today. Two Maoists and a CRPF jawan also suffered bullet injuries in the incident. Around 3:45am, three Maoists on a bike, armed with AK-47 and SLRs, entered the block office of Vishnugarh from the back gate where the CRPF’s 22 Battalion was camping. They opened fire and a jawan, Mukesh Kumar, sustained a bullet wound in his hand.
CRPF officers said the Maoist attack reflected a strategy used by terrorists in Kashmir — attacking an establishment from the rear end. While the gunfight was on, hundreds of local residents were offering a special puja at a Shiv Mandir barely 500 metres away. Although the camp has a 10-point security network round the clock, devotional songs from the Shiv Mandir drowned the sound of rebel firing and delayed reinforcement, said a CRPF guard.

May be it is time we accepted that the maoists' success is because they out-think the cops. That is one reason why we need to neutralize the well-educated strategists in the Politburo. Some of the tribals may be willing pawns in this war, but the key to win the war is to cut the head off (no puns intended). At this stage, there should be no sympathy for the Politburo, even if there is some empathy for the tribals.
7) Linky

A group of Bhutanese refugees expelled from their Himalayan homeland nearly two decades ago left Nepal for Britain on Monday to begin new lives after living in United Nations-run camps for years. Thirty-seven refugees left Monday and will be followed by many more, said Stephen Jaquemet, an official with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in Nepal. Britain is the eighth nation to take in Bhutanese refugees. So far 32,000 have left for Western countries, most to the United States. More than 100,000 ethnic Nepalese — a Hindu minority in Bhutan for centuries — were forced out of Bhutan in the early 1990s by authorities who wanted to impose the country’s dominant Buddhist culture. They have lived as refugees in Nepal ever since.

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