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Assam & The North-East

ISSUE NO. 21     NOVEMBER 1-15, 2000

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Assam University in turmoil
From Arijit Aditya

SILCHAR, Nov 1: Just a few hours after Union Minister for State Human Resource Development (HRD) in charge of Education Shahanawaz Hussain left Silchar, the Assam University experienced another night of turmoil and chaos as the outgoing Vice Chancellor and the Registrar had to be 'rescued' at the wee-hour today from the agitating non-teaching employees. Altogether 124 employees had been arrested at 3-30 am and later produced in the Court forcing a virtual "indefinite close-down" of the Barak Valley's much-cherished Central University. They were released on bail later in the evening.

Ironically yesterday was the last working day for the out-going VC Sri Mritunjoy Bhattacharyya who is flying back to BHU tomorrow. Meanwhile, Partha Sarathi Das, detained president of the Assam University Non-Teaching Employees Association (AUNTEA) told this reporter that until and unless the Registrar Rajarshi Bhattacharjee, who according to him, is "an agent, working against the interest of the valley" be removed the employees would not resume to their duty. Teachers' association and the students' body of the AU, in separate meetings, expressed solidarity towards the agitating employees as Sri Tanmoy Bhattacharjee, general secretary of the teachers' body condemned the authority's decision to call police in the university campus as "undemocratic and unnecessary.: On the other hand, the Registrar alleging "criminal conspiracy" against the employees, said, force was sought only to rescue the VC as the employees run amok, locking the VC and in an unauthorised way captured the entire office of the VC. At least three employees including one deputy registrar had been brutally assaulted by the police, alleged Das.

The incident started on Tuesday afternoon when the VC, reportedly refused to meet a seven-member delegation of the AUNTEA, which, wanted to enquire about the previous day's Executive Council's decision about the confirmation of the employees' job. It is learnt that VC allowed only two persons to meet him, which according to Tanmoy Bhattacharjee, was totally unnecessary. Meanwhile, some remarks, allegedly made by the Registrar regarding the validity of the AUNTEA irked the employees and they gheraoed the VC, and later the Registrar.

Santanu Thakur, DC told The Assam Tribune that he was requested by the VC over telephone to rescue him and accordingly force was sent to the campus. But till midnight, the force could not even enter the office of the VC as all the collapsible gates were locked from inside. The Registrar alleged that the employees did not even offer a glass of drinking water to the VC though they were "merrily" having their meals. Even the finance officer fell sick. Refuting the charge, Das informed that at around 2-30 am a group of jawans stormed into the office and indiscriminately started beating the employees who were mostly sleeping in the presence of the Registrar.

Meanwhile, the Registrar Rajarshi Bhattacharjee told The Assam Tribune that it was a well-knit design of a particular political party to create turmoil in the university. Local BJP MLA Sri Bimalangshu Roy had vehemently criticised the unruly behaviour of the employees. Ajit Bhattacharjee, president of the Cachar BJP also condemned the "shameless act" of the employees for whose "regular non-cooperation has forced the VC to quit." He, however blamed the university authority for its "inept handling" of the situation. Some Congress leaders including two MLAs met the detained employees and took initiatives to bail them out. Meanwhile, Silchar District Karmachari Parishad had expressed solidarity towards AUNTEA. [AT]

Coping with violence : some reflections from my diary
By Shumita Ghose

"It has been a difficult period in my life, since the fourth of July when my husband Sanjoy went with the ULFA for a discussion, and disappeared soon after. Days and weeks and months of fear, anger, helplessness, confusion followed, as we ran from pillar to post to find Sanjoy, or atleast get some authentic information as to his whereabouts and his well being. We tried everything, meeting politicians, bureaucrats, journalists, human rights activists, social workers, and religious and spiritual leaders in our search for Sanjoy.

There were numerous stories doing the rounds: The ULFA saying that Sanjoy had fallen off a cliff and died, the Assam police saying that he was probably killed on the 4th of July itself, the Central government with its various snoop agencies unable to come up with any credible information. Gradually everyone seemed to give up all hope, and believe in the worst, even if there was no proof. Well, almost everyone. Some of us who know Sanjoy well, and retain our faith in humanity, continue to believe that he is somewhere, making the best of the circumstances that he has found himself in, will return to us one day ...

However this letter is not only about Sanjoy.

It is about searching for the truth, and for answers, as well for strength in order to overcome problems and find solutions.

What is our normal reaction when confronted with a very difficult, traumatic situation? Let me share my experiences. I am sure that people in Assam, and elsewhere have been through similar situations, and have learned a lot in the process.

The overwhelming feeling is of being victimized. "Why did it have to happen to me, to us? After all we were doing everything with the best of intentions -- trying to help the people of Majuli, where we worked.' Trying to suppress fear and panic,  Shumita Ghose (in the middle). Photo: The Assam Tribunewe rushed around doing things in reaction to what others suggested or our oppressors dictated. Fear gave way to anger, when things did not turn out the way we wished them to. It was only normal. We tried harder, calling this one, that one, met anyone even remotely concerned with Assam or with the ULFA, but found nothing reassuring. And got angrier, cynical, condemning the ULFA, for the violence and lies that they were perpetrating, blaming the government for its inaction, criticizing the press for spreading rumours and stories not based on facts. The result? I met only falsehoods and more falsehoods when I looked for answers from the world outside. And then, refusing to believe the lies, and somehow just knowing that the truth was otherwise, I learned to look within myself. This happened partly as a survival instinct, in those terrible days of stress, and partly as a result of help from friends, who introduced to me a whole new world of peace within. Although I have always believed in a Divine Power, I have never been religiously or spiritually inclined. I had been living my life at a mental -- emotional -- physical plans, without having felt the need to explore other realms of my being. And when I turned within myself for answers, for peace, I found that I had been a stranger to my real self. I started getting drawn more and more towards this self. And in the process I found glimpses of what I was searching for. Peace and the Truth. However misleading and cruel the world outside maybe, my inner being does not fail me. It gives me the strength, not only to continue and cope, but also take a fresh look at life, separating the lies from the truth.

Gradually one is learning, even if it is with great difficulty, the necessity of rejecting negative emotions, feelings and thoughts. I no longer feel angry with ULFA or with the people of Assam. It has been a cleansing of sorts, of discarding negative emotions, that only hinder, never help.

The most difficult part has been getting rid of the victim syndrome. By admitting to being a victim, I was unconsciously acknowledging that the ULFA and the State had a power over me. The world outside was also reiterating that. But as I learned, more and more, to look within myself, I found that no human being, however powerful he or she may be has any power over the real me, cannot hurt the real me.

So, by giving in to, and sometimes being overwhelmed by negative emotions and thoughts, I was being untrue to myself, underestimating and misunderstanding myself. And only hurting myself in the process.

You will ask why I am sharing all these details about myself with you? The answer is, because all that is happening in Assam and in the rest of the country, is a reflection of what is happening within each one of us.

The 16 months that we lived in Assam, before the ULFA abducted Sanjoy, allowed us a glimpse into the strengths of your state -- the hardworking rural population, the natural resources, the celebration of life, not often visible to the world outside. How can it be visible? Even Assam's own people seem to be blind to her strength and beauty. Instead they have let themselves get overwhelmed by problems, and in the process also caught in the victim syndrome, and its ensuing vicious cycle. It is easier to blame the 'enemy outside' -- the immigrant labourer, the business classes the Central Government, to get angry and take to violence. Accepting that the protests are often valid, has the violent form of protests helped in bringing the state any closer to peace and prosperity? The frequent bandhs, are no big deal for those who earn regular monthly salaries, but for the thousands of labourers who have to live on daily wages, it is a difficult time to pull through. And the frequent extortions, kidnappings, and murders have only aroused revulsion in the hearts of people. Further, as the track record of the ULFA shows, the very people, who take to arms to fight an inhuman system, imbibe many of the very things they are supposedly fighting against -- oppression, undemocratic procedures, suppressing different views, arbitrarily using guns, just because they have them ... And worst of all, getting caught in deceiving themselves and the world. Till it gets more and more difficult, even for them, to distinguish the truth from the lies. Hate and violence has only led to darkness.

The time has come now, in Assam, to look for answers and for the truth, within. Only that can show the way out of the darkness and the falsehoods that engulfs Assam, and her people. It is time to reaffirm the strengths and the true power of Assam, from within, by her own people. It is time to throw away the victim syndrome, and think and work together, to work towards a new dawn, using the power of love, and based on truth, knowledge and wisdom of the land.

It will be a difficult process, but the only path to certain victory." [AT]

Chances of Panchayat elections bleak
Poll materials may go waste

By Bijay Sankar Bora

GUWAHATI, Nov 2: With no chance of holding panchayat election in the State this year, the Assam State Election Commission (ASEC) is now exploring ways to avoid wastage of some of the election materials it had already procured. After the State government had given go-ahead for preparation and provided fund to buy election materials to hold panchayat polls, the ASEC almost completed all preparation to hold election during October-November. The State Government had already provided Rs 6 crore to the Commission to prepare for the long overdue polls. With this amount the ASEC had bought various election materials including indelible ink, double fullscape (DFC), paper ballot boxes, paper seal, metal seal, etc. Some of the items, the indelible ink and double fullscape paper, have limited period of longevity. State Election Commissioner Abdul Malik informed that the indelible ink would outlive its utility after six months. The Commission spent Rs 12 lakh to buy the ink from outside the State for panchayat polls.

Similarly, the DFC paper may go waste if allowed to lie in the cold storage of the ASEC. The Commission paid Rs. 1.36 crore to the Hindustan Paper Corporation (HPC) to procure this special quality paper used for making ballot papers. Now, with no chances of holding panchayat polls in the State at least till the later part of next year and after the next round of Assembly polls in the State, the ASEC is worried about these two costly election items with limited period of utility value. Left with no other option, the Commission has requested the Assam State Election Department to take possession of the indelible ink so that it could be used in the Assembly polls. The State Election Commissioner, Sri Malik informed that the matter was discussed with the State Election Department and reply was awaited.

The ASEC has also requested the State Election Department to use a portion of the DFC paper procured by the Commission in the next Assembly polls to avoid waste of public money.

Malik informed that the State Election Department required pink variety of DFC paper to make ballot papers in the next Assembly polls. The Commission is in possession of 9000 reams of pink variety DFC paper. Malik further informed that other election materials such as paper seal, metal seal, ballot boxes etc. will remain with the Commission for future use and the money spent in procuring these items could be considered as investment on procuring assets. "Since panchayat election could not be held due to unavoidable circumstances despite the preparation, we hope the State Election Department will co-operate with us and make use of the election materials to avoid waste of public money," Malik said. [AT]

Police fail to solve murder mystery

GUWAHATI, Nov 2: Even after several months have passed by, the City Police have failed to solve the mystery surrounding the gruesome murder of former NF Railway employee Deepti Choudhury till date. The sleuths of the force have also failed to establish even the motive of the murder that rocked the city. The mystery became more mired in complicacies with the consequent kidnapping of the husband of the deceased a few days after the murder from near their rented house at Rajgarh road area. Police sources at Bharalumukh police station which is investigating the case informed that other than a few clues their inquiry had come to a standstill for lack of evidence and concrete leads. Sources also said that non-recovery of the body has hampered the investigations to a big extent. It may be mentioned that the deceased's head and hands and feet were found in a handbag in the TR Phukoon Park of Machkhowa locality. This recovery followed the missing entry filed by the husband of the deceased at Jalukbari police station on the previous day of the recovery.

Police and family sources informed that on that fateful day the victim boarded a city bus from Maligaon to Chandmari and they believe that she even got down from the bus at and had been missing after that point. But what baffled the police as well as family members more is the kidnaping of the husband reportedly by four Maruti car-borne youths. Chandmari police which had been looking into the matter have remained totally clueless till date about the whereabouts of the husband. So far police have managed to get the financial transactions of the couple sealed with a magisterial order for convenience in inquiry but are not sure how long it would take to solve the mystery or whether at all it would be solved.

Similarly, Chandmari police is yet to nab the culprits of the brutal killing of a city bus conductor who was hit around two months back in the Bamunimaidam Railway Colony Shiva Temple. Though quite a few suspects were rounded up nothing concrete could be established yet. But whenever asked about the cases the standard reply is that 'investigation is on for solving the cases.' [AT]

Lahe Lahe bureaucracy lands up in city 'canals'

GUWAHATI, Nov 2: Our celebrated bureaucrats and politicians have long been known as being squarely responsible for turning Assam into a land of lahe lahe -- a land where everything related to the vital interests of the State and its people moves at a snail's pace -- even though it is just the opposite when it comes to serving the vital interests of their own material well-being at the cost of the exchequer and the people. No wonder, therefore, most of the activities that our bureaucrats and politicians perform "in the interest of public service," end up as just rituals, having nothing to do with the objectives with which they are undertaken in the first place.

A classic case of total bureaucratic callousness, verging on criminal non-application of mind by people who ought to know what they are doing or intend to do, has recently come to light. It all started with a member of the Orissa Legislative Assembly putting up a question in the Orissa Assembly about the "prevalent water rate per acre of land for canal water used for agriculture" in Orissa and all other States of the country. The question was meant for reply by the Minister concerned of Orissa in its budget session last year. The Government of Orissa, Department of Revenue, wrote a letter to the Chief Secretary of Assam (No. 13950) on March 8, 1999 as also to all chief secretaries of the other States of the country. (Readers are requested to please note the date -- March 8, 1999). The letter, under the subject, "Collection of information on canal water rates of different States for replying to one Assembly Question," said.

"Sir, I am directed to say that information relating to water rate per acre of land for canal water used for purposes of agriculture in different States, is required for answering one Assembly question in the 15th session of the Orissa Legislative Assembly, Bhubaneswar.

"You are, therefore, requested to kindly ensure submission of reply for answering the Assembly Question." The letter ended with the address to which the reply has to be furnished, complete with fax and telephone numbers.

There are reasons to believe that the letter must have been received at Chief Secretary's office here in time, i.e. within days of despatch of the letter on March 3, 1999 from Bhubaneswar. In any case, it may have also been faxed in case there is postal delay. Since the letter came from the Revenue Secretary, Government of Orissa, it also becomes quite obvious that the Chief Secretary's office immediately endorsed it to the Revenue Department here.

It is in the Revenue Department that trouble started. And the trouble was not so much with the words "agriculture," "water rate per acre of land" etc., as with the word "canal", because not to speak about the farmers of Assam who do not see water flowing down canals constructed by our equally celebrated Irrigation Department as they do in other States of the country, even our officials seem not to know where in Assam the canals lie. And the department took -- hold your breath! -- one-and-a-half years to discover where in Assam the canals lie. And what a discovery it was! Why, canals lie in Guwahati! After all is not in Guwahati that the waters of the "canals" play havoc with the lives of the citizens everytime there is a smart shower! And that was it.

The Revenue Department endorsed the letter of the Orissa Government, together with the required instructions, to the Guwahati Development Department. And the Guwahati Development Department seemed to be impressed by the fact that queries about the "canal system" in Guwahati should come from as far away as Orissa! The department in a letter (No. GDD 17/95/141) on September 29, 2000 -- please note this date also -- wrote to the Commissioner, GMC under the subject, "Collection of information on canal water rates of different States for replying to one Assembly Question," thus:

"Sir, I am directed to enclose herewith a copy of letter No. 13950 dated 8.3.99 from Deputy Secretary, Government of Orissa, Revenue Department, addressed to secretary of all States and to request you kindly to furnish a reply in the matter to this department urgently." It was signed by Mr J.C. Bora (ACS), Deputy Secretary, Guwahati Development Department.

The GMC, Commissioner seemed equally impressed. In fact so impressed he was that he even forgot to put the designation of his subordinate official in his instruction on the body of the Guwahati Development Department's letter and marked it URGENT -- in capital letters -- as if there is some subordinate official under the designation URGENT! He told "URGENT" to "please put up urgently." This was on October 19, 2000. It is quite in fitness of things that the Guwahati Development Department (GDD) letter of September 29, issued from Dispur, should reach the GMC Commissioner, who sits near the DC office here, after 12 days.

The GMC Commissioner, Mr Ashish Bhutani's endorsement on the letter of the GDD was referred to the Additional Commissioner, GMC, Mr Kalyan Chakravarty (recently transferred as the DC, Nalbari). Mr Chakravarty was also quick to instruct the Chief Engineer, Water Works, GMC thus. "There may be canal water in Guwahati according to information. It would be good if you could provide some info (information that is) if you are aware."

Obviously, Mr Chakravarty was not sure if there is canal water in Guwahati for agriculture purpose. But since it came from the uparwallahas, who, by their genius had already discovered that there are not only canals, but also water in them in Guwahati, he thought it wise to take a chance and ask the Chief Engineer, Water Works, GMC, who is the best man to know, to provide "some information" about the canal of Guwahati.

But problem again seemed to arise with the Chief Engineer, Water Works, who must have jumped off his feet at the very idea of providing "more information" on water rate per acre of land for canal water used for agricultural purpose in Guwahati. Mercifully, he did not take any more chance and told the Commissioner and the Additional Commissioner, GMC that the subject matter is not for the GMC to tackle, but the Irrigation Department, which deals with canals, non-existent though, and rates of water for agriculture. Having discovered the goof-up, the GMC Commissioner, finally wrote to the Chief Engineer, Irrigation Department (No. GWS/39/98/622) on October 25, to provide the necessary information sought for by the Orissa Government, since "the matter is not related to the Corporation as no canal water is maintained for agriculture purpose by this corporation." He also sent a copy of the letter to the Guwahati Development Department so that it could also know how all of them had goofed things up.

The Irrigation Department, which received the GMC Commissioner's letter, complete with the letter of the Orissa Government, on October 30, is yet to start research on the subject. One only hopes that by the time the Orissa Assembly meets for their next Budget session in March-April, 2001, the department will be able to furnish the reply to the Chief Secretary for onward transmission to the Government of Orissa. [S]

Rs 4 lakh DRDA fund emlezzlement rocks Khowang Dev Block

DIBRUGARH, Nov 2: More than 150 men and women from the roadside villages of Moran Subdivision of PWD (Roads) under Khowang Development Block in Dibrugarh district staged dharna in front of the office of the Deputy Commissioner, Dibrugarh district on October 30. It is worth mentioning here that millions of rupees got wasted from the fund alloted to DRDA for development works in rural areas. It is alleged that several lakhs of rupees were misappropriated by the departmental Engineers, Development Officers and a section of contractors. A local source said that for the development of Barphukan Ali under Khowang Development Block in Dibrugarh district, Rs 4 lakh was alloted through DRDA in 1999. The public has complained with data and proof that Junior Engineer Pradip Dutta embezzled the amount showing the work as completed after spreading 15 or 16 trucks of gravel on the road.

The allegations said that the retired Development Officer of Khowang Development Block was also involved in the embezzlement. The Director of Dibrugarh district DRDA submitted an inquiry report to DC indicating the Junior Engineer. The people of Khowang area became agitated when the DC had not taken any appropriate action against the guilty engineer. As a result of this there was a fruitful discussion between the Additional Deputy Commissioner, Mr Bhabendra Saikia and Phukan Ali Unnayan Samiti on September 21. The Junior Engineer, Pradip Dutta promised to supply stones worth Rs 1.5 lakh within 10 days. But only 15 trucks of stones were supplied by Pradip Dutta and the people became very agitated. They staged dharna and submitted a memorandum to the Chief Minister with copy to Panchayat and Rural Development Minister demanding adequate punishment of the errant junior engineer. [S]

ULFA denies its hand in recent killings

GUWAHATI, Nov 3: ULFA Commander-in-Chief Paresh Baruah today dismissed all allegations of its involvement in the recent incidents of killing of innocent Hindi speaking people in Tinsukia, Dibrugarh and Nalbari districts as mere concoctions of the State Police.

Reacting to a news item 'ULFA killings : Gameplan of foreign agencies' published in The Assam Tribune on November 2, Sri Barua said in a faxed press release here that he had not issued any instruction from his Dhaka base to Deputy C-in-C of the outfit Raju Baruah to kill the non-Assamese people living in the State. The Assam Tribune report was based on the assertions made by Additional Director General of State Police (Operations) GM Srivastava.

Sri Baruah also alleged that the ruling Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) was involved in the Nalbari incident, in which ten people were killed on October 27 last. For, he reasoned, the Tata Sumo vehicle used by the killers in the incident was recovered from the residence of an active AGP worker Atul Das. Moreover, the confessional statements made by Nripen Das in police custody implicating the ULFA in the incident, was made under duress, he claimed.

The allegations of ULFA's involvement in all the above incidents are aimed at frustrating the legitimate struggle of the State's people, so is the allegation against the ULFA dancing to the tunes of the ISI, the ULFA C-in-C said.

He also alleged that the State Government is hatching a plot to attack the family members of the ULFA cadres and their leaders. [AT]

People of char areas passing their days in abject poverty

GOLAKGANJ, Nov 3: The problem of illegal infiltration across the border is not important for them. Their main concern is how to arrange two meals a day. The sense of patriotism is quite irrelevant for them as they are living in extreme poverty. This is the sad reality for the people living in nearby villages on the Indian side of the Indo-Bangladesh border in Dhubri district. In many of the border outposts, there are many villages consisting of both Hindu and Muslim population which are being ignored and neglected by the authorities concerned. Paresh Chandra Roy (56), who lives at Lakhimari border outpost, was delighted when this Correspondent along with some others from the press fraternity went to meet him. "Nobody comes to share our woes, we have not seen any government officials for a decade," Roy, a cultivator said. He said that it was very difficult for him to manage his family consisting of his wife and four children. "We are not getting adequate quantity of rice under the ration card system," he added.

Sirajul Sheikh (43), who also resides in the same village, said that the waters of the Gangadhar river submerge their village during the monsoon and cause damage to their properties. "But the government is not providing any relief to us. Even when we sent messages to the authorities concerned, they do not even bother to reciprocate," he lamented. Although there are some lower primary schools in these villages, the Government has not taken up any important scheme to educate the villagers.

The villagers of Lakhimari, Satrassal of Assam-Bangladesh border sector in Dhubri district are facing acute shortage of drinking water. There is not a single tube well in any of the villages situated along the Lakhimari border outpost. These villagers can make strong vigilance in the border areas to thwart any move of the Bangladeshi nationals from crossing the border. The need of the hour is to make them economically strong and educated.

As the fencing works along the border have not been completed and the BSF has failed to stop infiltration, it becomes pertinent for the authorities to make a network involving the villagers against infiltration.

Meanwhile, the local people in Dhubri district are aware of the danger posed by the illegal infiltration and are ready to launch a movement against it. Many of the youths who interacted with this Correspondent during a recent visit said that the entry of Bangladeshi nationals made the economy of their district imbalanced. [AT]

Indefinite curfew clamped in Imphal

IMPHAL, Nov 3: In order to prevent any organised protest and public agitations in connection with the mowing down of 10 civilians by the personnel of 8 Assam Rifles, the district administration has clamped prohibitory orders in Imphal West and East districts today. The two District Magistrates of Imphal West and East districts have imposed indefinite curfew since 5 am today fearing angry reactions from the general public against the killing of ten innocent civilians including a woman yesterday at Malom near Imphal airport in a retaliatory fire by the personnel of 8 Assam Rifles posted at Nambol, following a bomb attack by ultras. Following the promulgation of curfew under Section 144 CrPC, by the two District Magistrates, normal life was severely paralysed in the state today. Imphal looks like a ghost town. All the commercial centres in and around the Imphal city and its periphery areas wore desolate look as all the vegetable vendors and shop-keepers downed their shutters around 8 am today.

The personnel of the Manipur Police and personnel of other security forces deployed in the State have forced the general public, particularly the shop-keepers and passerbys to return to their respective homes. No vehicular movement except security vehicles were seen. As per the orders issued by the two district magistrates, even Mediapersons were also asked to collect their identity cards from the office of the District Magistrate. Unfortunately, some of local reporters faced humilitation when they were intervened by the Police team on their way to collect their cards from Babupara.

A reporter of Naharolgee thoudang a local daily, identified as Dhaneshwor Singh was manhandled by the personnel of security forces this morning when the reporter was on his way to collect cards. Hundreds of vegetables and fish vendors coming all the way from various rural areas of the state sold their items without any profit in view of the imposition of curfew suddenly by the district authority. [AT]

Tripura rebels buckle under tribal resistance

AGARTALA, Nov 3: The statefs tribal community is headed for a virtual civil war over the issue of militancy and interference in the religious faith and tradition of Hindus by banned insurgent outfits. Responding to the call for active resistance by their hoda okra (head priest and community leader), the martial Jamatya tribals have declared war against militants of the National Liberation Front of Tripura in the interior areas of the state. The Jamatyas are handing over militants to security forces or making them lay down arms to the Jamatya hoda (community council).

During the past four days as many as 17 NLFT rebels, mostly belonging to the Jamatya tribal group, have either been handed over to the police or surrendered to the hoda.

In several cases, Jamatya tribals have guided security forces to the hideouts of militants, leading to their arrests.

Police sources said in two successful operations yesterday, two hardcore NLFT militants, Kunja Kumar Murasingh and Utirai Koloi, were arrested from remote tribal villages under Melaghar police station of West Tripura and Birganj police station of South Tripura districts. Sources said the prize catches were made only after authentic information was given to the police by local tribals.

Regarding the active resistance put up by Jamatya tribals against the NLFT, sources said the tribals, responding to the call of hoda okra Bikram Bahadur Jamatya, had forced 17 NLFT rebels and their collaborators to surrender. All the arrests were made in the Tainani, south Maharani and Killa areas. The Jamatyas have threatened the militants and their families with dire consequences unless they mended their ways.

Bikram Bahadur Jamatya has been relentlessly fighting the NLFTfs oppression of Hindu tribals and interference with their religious faith and tradition.

What has peeved the Hindu tribals and Bikram Bahadur Jamatya is the conversion drive at gunpoint undertaken by the militants, who have been forcing tribals to embrace Christianity.

A number of Hindu tribal religious leaders have also been killed by the NLFT after they refused to convert to Christianity.

Sources said the stand taken by the Jamatya community and their hoda would put the NLFT in serious trouble. However, Bikram Bahadur Jamatya has been sharply criticised by Indigenous Peoplefs Front of Tripura members of the autonomous district council as they owe allegiance to the NLFT. [TT]

Factors responsible for drop in forest cover

GOLAKGANJ, Nov 4: Active political patronage and lack lustre attitude of the Forest department have allegedly accelerated deforestation in reserve forests of the state. Encroachment and illegal settlement inside forest areas have led to the alarming rate of loss of green cover endangering many species of birds and animals. According to data available here, Mahamaya reserve forest, one of the biggest forest areas in Dhubri division has been occupied by immigrants under the very nose of the forest authorities. This reserve forest has become the haven for illegal timber smugglers for the last several years. It was once green and virgin famous for valuable trees like sal, gameri, segun, titasopa, bonsom etc. The officials of Forest department surprisingly remain silent spectators, in front of whom wanton destruction of forests is going on in full swing. It seems that the destruction is sgoing on at the connivance of some forest officials, sources said.

Some forest beat check-post in Dhubri district could have done a commendable job in detecting the transportation of these illegally felled trees. Observers feel that this check post belied that exbectation. The performance of this check-post is found to be dismal in detecting forest-product-related offences. It is learnt that the timber businessmen encourage the local poor people to feel trees deep inside the jungle and to transport these by means of hand carts and bullock carts. The people deliver the logs to the businessmen at the site where trucks can be parked. Forest officials, despite having forces mysteriously remain silent spectators. These logs are transported outside the State by means of illegal line transit passes obtained from some of the local forest employees, sources said. On the other hand, destruction of forest resources, smuggling and encroachment in Bashbari, Rupshi forest and Mahamaya reserve forest have become a regular affair. According to sources, some people are engaged in the smuggling of valuable logs, like sisu, segun, non-sal etc. Forest fencing in many areas has been removed and carried away. Many youths have left their schools and are involved in the timber smuggling for earning easy money, it is learnt. [AT]

Why is Mahanta flouting rules to promote officers?

GUWAHATI, Nov 4: While there has been all-round chaos and confusion in the State administration -- courtesy our weak and unjustly happy AGP Government headed by Mr Prafulla Kumar Mahanta -- the frequent transfer of officers in the key posititions has further added to the present ineffeciency. On the other hand, the tendency of the AGP to patronize a favoured few, who are best known for their willingness to please their political bosses rather than impartial and apt handling of the administration, has come to such a stage where the State Government does not hesitate to flout the rules to keep the yes-men happy.

This is true in the case of IAS officers also. As we have had occasion to point out earlier, that some of these officers maintain close rapport with the leaders of the major ruling party of the State, especially the Chief Minister, and in return get prize postings, besides undue promotions.

The latest example of such favouritism has come to light with the order of promotion to three IAS officers -- Mr Ravi Kapoor, Mr B K Gohain and Mr Mrinal Kr Barooah -- to the super-time scale in the rank of Commissioner, long before completion of the requisite minimum service in the cadre necessary for such promotions.

The Assam Government notified their promotion through a press release issued on October 25. It may be mentioned that all these officers belong to the 1986 batch, and as per the Central Government rules they are eligible for promotion to the super-time scale only after 16 years of service, i.e., in the year 2002.

But the State Government was in a hurry. Why? Before replying to this question we would like mention that by taking the advantage of the "guidelines" issued in this connection, the State Government had, on previous occasions, applied discretion to promote a few favoured individuals. But the latest order issued in this connection by the Department of Personnel and Training categorically stated that the condition of minimum 16 years no longer remained a simple 'guideline' but had been made a 'rule'.

We quote below the relevant portion of the letter No. 20011/1/99-AIS(II)-A dated April 5, 2000 issued by the Department of Personnel & Training, New Delhi to all concerned as under:

"In the IAS pay Rules, 1954 in Rule 3 in sub-rule 2(a) after the proviso the following proviso shall be added.

"Provided further that no member of the service shall become eligible for appointment to the super time scale before completion of sixteen years of service, calculated from the year of allotment, unless prior approval of the Central Government is obtained."

This rule makes it abudantly clear that the promotion of Mr Kapoor, Mr Gohain and Mr Barooah to the super-time scale after completion of only 14 years of service was not only a violation of the rules, but also a case of undue patronage, because the State Government had not taken "prior approval" from the Centre before taking the decision and making it public.

The State Government, therefore, owes an explanation to the people as to why it was in a hurry to promote three officers even by flouting rules. The promotion of Mr Kapoor two years before it was due to him automatically raises a doubt about the real intention of the State Government, because this particular officer continues to get undue favours from the Chief Minister for some mysterious reason.

It may be recalled that Mr Kapoor was indicted by the Rao Committee of inquiry in the LoC scam for his role as the Deputy Commissioner of Sibsagar along with the then ADC, Mr N Haq. While the Committee had recommended action against both the above accused, the CBI also asked the State Government to initiate disciplinary proceedings against the co-accused. But we know of no such action against Mr Kapoor, although departmental proceedings have reportedly been initiated against the other accused Mr Haq.

When the Centre wanted to know what action had been taken against Mr Kapoor, the State Government wrote back to the Union Ministry of Personnel (vide letter No. AAP.34.98.352 dated April 4, 1998) : "No departmental proceedings are contemplated by the Govt. of Assam against Ravi Kapoor in this case." Why? One does not know. Why the State Government discriminated between Mr Kapoor and Mr Haq, and showed special favour to Mr Kapoor is a matter of speculation.

This speculation assumes greater significance when we come to know that on his return from Delhi, Mr Kapoor was initially posted in the Department of Welfare of Plain Tribes and Backward Classes (WPT&BC), but he did not join, and later managed the prize post of the Project Director of the Assam Rural Infrastructure and Agricultural Services Project (ARIASP) under a World Bank Scheme, with the blessings of the Chief Minister. The latest example of Mr Mahanta's special favours to Mr Kapoor is evident from the State Government's order of premature promotion to him in the super-time scale along with two others. [S]

Tripura police refurbish image
From Sekhar Datta

AGARTALA, Nov 5: Gone are the days when arrested militants bragged how they made policemen posted in far-flung areas sing bhajans within the confines of their "not-so-safe" outposts.

Even 20 years ago, a police constable posted in South Tripura's Raisyabari police station admitted to paying Rs 500 to the NLFT.

"But the officer-in-charge of the police station has to pay much more. He donates Rs 3,000 a year," said the constable with candour.

But policemen stopped paying "tax" to militants since last year and tough officers like Debjan Chakma, Sadhanmoni Chakma, Ratan Mazumder, Manoranjan Debbarma and Jiten Debbarma ensured that militants paid a heavy price for their depredations.

It has taken just two months to bring about the transformation but the new director- general of police (DGP) Bhusan Lal Vora, the key figure behind the "metamorphosis" of Tripura's much-maligned police force refuses to claim credit for it."Our officers and jawans are working very hard," said Vora, adding that the state government was extending full co-operation. He said a large cache of arms like SLRs and AK-series rifles as well as night vision devices have been procured and vehicles requisitioned for the force in the rebel-infested interior areas.

Vora has also started "refresher courses" for policemen, including arms training. Three firing ranges will be set up shortly with the help of Madhya Pradesh police. "We are now procuring authentic intelligence from people at the grassroots level and it is helping us a lot. It also proves that people have regained confidence in the police." However, shortage of manpower is proving to be a major hindrance for the force and Vora has already apprised the chief minister of the need for more people.

"The state government is also facing resource constraint and the chief minister has assured me that he will look into the matter. We have already received more than Rs 5 crore from the Union home ministry for modernisation," Vora added. Citing an instance of manpower shortage, he said the Kailasahar police station in North Tripura had a sanctioned strength of 15 constables as per rules framed in 1971. "But in view of the sharp rise in population and insurgency, the outpost requires at least 100 personnel," he said.

The DGP said since he took over three months ago, new police stations have been set up in Champahaor, Kachucherra and Khedacherra in West and North districts while another one has been set up in south Ananda Nagar area in Sadar subdivision.

Interaction between policemen in remote areas and senior officials has also increased and incentives have boosted the morale of the force.

Besides, the system of awarding cash rewards and the director-general's commendation disk as well as out-of-turn promotions to successful officers have also worked wonders.

Having worked as an inspector-general (Punjab police) under supercop K.P.S. Gill, Vora attaches "utmost importance to the human factor" and spares no effort to enthuse officers and jawans. He has already taken an initiative to launch a joint offensive against militants with Mizoram and Karimganj police. [TT]

Former ultras who prefer agriculture to 'gunculture'
From Surajit Khaund

KAHIKUCHI, Nov 5: After extending more than four years of service to the ULFA, Bipul, Julfiqar, Madan and Dipak are now realising the futility of armed revolution. After their return to the mainstream last year, the youths now have started mushroom cultivation at the initiative of State Institute of Rural Development (SIRD) at Kahikuchi farm, 10 km away from Guwahati.

"Agriculture is the only way to make Assam a prosperous State and, hence, we have chosen agriculture instead of gunculture," said Bipul who was a senior leader of the Birjhora Anchalik Parishad of the banned outfit. According to him, ULFA has alienated the people due to its wrong policies and frequent clashes among the leaders.

"We have wasted our time, but we have got nothing despite our relentless service defying all odds during the four years," disappointed Bipul said.

After completing a short duration course in poultry, fishery and mushroom cultivation conducted by SIRD, the youths have set an example that farming can bring a radical change in the State economy which has been shattered by insurgency.

"Initially some of our mates asked us to join the coal business, but we refused. We want to earn money by dint of hard labour instead of coal business which is now-a-days common among the surrendered members," Julfiqar, Madan and Dipak unanimously said.

They also informed that they had already sold 50 kg of mushroom and over three quintals of broiler chicken in different markets within a span of three months.

The trio, former leaders of Sankosh Anchalik Parishad of the outfit, want to expand their activities in other districts by involving the surrendered members with an eye to make them self-reliant. But main problem is that they are still facing threat from the ULFA.

"Our family members have been passing sleepless nights after our surrender. Sometimes they (ULFA members) come during night and threatens our parents with dire consequences if we do not return to the organisation," said Madan who was a member of the mobile action group.

Asked why they had joined the ULFA, they said, "it was our mistake."

Nurul Islam, instructor of the extension education of Kahikuchi informed that the SIRD had provided training to the surrendered ULFA members throughout the State to make them self reliant in the field of poultry, mushroom cultivation etc.

Islam further informed that several surrendered members had already set up small farms in various districts for mushroom cultivation and poultry.

The members would bring a new change in our society through their farming, Islam said. [AT]

About Assam's bhagyabidhata and his IAS officers
(Part I)

GUWAHATI, Nov 6: In the "Aap ki Adalat" television programme, the anchor is once reported to have said -- Upar mein Ishwar, nichey Hiteswar. One wonders whether the present Chief Minister, Mr Prafulla Kumar Mahanta also began to think on the same lines where he could consider himself as the Axom bhagyavidhata, and ignore totally the interests of the people who voted him to power.

From experience we know that the administrative scene in Assam today is one of total chaos and lack of direction. Development activities are at a virtual standstill or, as in the case of rural development, marching steadily along a path strewn with corruption and inefficiency. Assam is now flooded with unabated illegal infiltration of foreign nationals, who have the blessings of the politicians as well as the extremists. Lawlessness is rife with disturbing rumours that the police force is totally involved with the SULFA. Extremism, with or without external incitement from agencies such as the ISI, is raising its ugly head in a coordinated manner. Unrestricted corruption and looting of precious resources such as the forests has damaged the economy, perhaps beyond redemption. One can can go on adding to the list.

It is no use blaming the Centre alone for its neglect of Assam. The AGP Government and its predecessor Congress Government, and its sword-arm -- the bureaucracy headed by the IAS -- must take its share of the blame for this sorry state of affairs. It is true that up to a certain level the State Government may not be held responsible for the decline in administrative standards. It has no control over the selection and recruitment process, which is the prerogative of the Centre and the UPSC. Mr Mahanta and his cohorts can, and should, however, be held responsible for their approach to administration and the manner of dealing with the IAS. We had, therefore, put some specific open questions to the Chief Minister about this administrative fraternity. But he preferred to remain silent and, thereby, ignored the people. We are, therefore, duty bound to come out with the information available to us.

In the above backdrop, let us first take the issue of approach to administration itself. There is obviously something seriously wrong with an approach which manages to create an acute scarcity of water in Guwahati city itself with the mighty Brahmaputra flowing majestically a few hundred metres away; which tolerates long queues waiting endlessly for gas cylinders while million of cubic feet of natural gas are being continuously flared in the oilfields; which allows any ruffian or hooligan masquerading as a socially concerned citizen or organization to hold an entire economy to ransom and indulge in violence and intimidation in the name of bandhs; which spends crores of rupees in the purchase of medicines and equipment to control waterborne diseases without taking effective steps to provide sufficient potable water. And, of course, there is the spectacle of fruits and vegetables rotting or being sold off at throwaway prices by cultivators because facilities for marketing or preservation do not exist. And of course, there is the ubiquitous goonda tax.

In all this, the IAS officers, who are supposed to advise, guide and implement the decisions of the political executive, must take their due share of blame. The advice some of the IAS render is often motivated by a desire to toe the political line and is not objective and fearless. By pleasing the Minister or the Chief Minister, prize postings and other benefits such as trips abroad, frequent visits to Delhi and other places, free petrol, reimbursement of telephone bills exceeding a lakh of rupees, etc., are made available. Thus, the Cabinet is often deprived of the inputs it needs to take decisions.

This apart, there is no gainsaying that the politician-bureaucrat-contractor nexus has been working overtime in Assam, with the police being a willing handmaiden. To accommodate its own vested interests, this 'lobby', for so it must be called, takes several steps. Some of these are detailed below, because their implications are often disastrous for Assam and the people of the State.

A large number of IAS officers seem to have forgotten that they have some responsibility towards the State to which they have been allotted. This is particularly true of some officers of the Assam-Meghalaya cadre. Again, while some of the effecient local officers are being neglected by their political bosses, some others continue to receive patronage and prized postings. This has created such a situation where the question of the State's interests has been thrown to the winds. How and why this is happening are matters of vital concern to the people of Assam, because ultimately they are the worst sufferers. We would, therefore, like to go into a bit of detail with a view to highlighting what is actually happening behind the scenes.

The bureaucracy is said to be the pillar of present-day administration. While the political leadership comes from the Chief Minister, the Chief Secretary heads the bureaucratic set-up of a State. The team led by the Chief Secretary is responsible for translating into action the Government's policy and programme. Therefore, it naturally follows that the bureaucrats are directly responsible to the State Government and also to the people for the welfare and uplift of the common man.

Again, if the Chief Secretary fails to extract the best from the unwilling, allegedly corrupt and ineffecient IAS officers, and the Chief Minister remains a silent spectator, the blame for the malfunctioning needs to be shared by both the political and executive heads of a State. In this backdrop, one is inclined to peep into the state of affairs the bureaucrats of the State are in today, resulting in a chaotic administration, much to the dissatisfaction of the people.

When it is expected that the senior officers with their experience in administration should guide their juniors in the various departments and also be a source of inspiration to the younger IAS officers, we find with utter surprise that the top nine IAS officers belonging to the Assam-Meghalaya cadre have not been working in the State for almost a decade, and it is mainly the junior officers who are holding the fort here. Of the top nine in the seniority list, only Mr V S Jafa was in Dispur (as the Chief Secretary) for a brief period two years ago. He has gone back to New Delhi after adding further chaos to the State administration.

Of the nine top IAS officers, only one -- Mr S K Agnihotri -- is serving the region (he is currently posted in Meghalaya), and all the other eight officers are happily settled in the country's Capital, where sometimes the "cooling off" period is also spent as Mr V Pipersonia has currently been doing, on being posted as the State's Liaison Commissioner following his Central posting. [S]

[To be continued]       Part II >>

NSCN-IM in a spot over sex, extortion

SILCHAR, Nov 6: The prospect of Centre's peace talks with the NSCN (IM) still hangs in balance. The uncertainty is all the more pronounced because of the Naga outfit's insistence on Nagalim. And surprisingly, none of the other extremist organizations, whose own territorial integrity, although utopian, will be affected by this call for greater Nagaland, has dared to oppose it.

It is the political leaders like the Chief Ministers of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh who have voiced their concern over the NSCN (IM)'s extra territorial design on extending the ceasefire to other Naga-inhabitated areas.

On Friday, the All Dimasa Students' Union (ADSU), which is known to have emotional rapport with the DHD (Dima Halam Daoga) of North Cachar Hills, came out with the statement, asking the NSCN (IM) not to indulge in extortions in its geographical limit.

Significantly, the statement should have come from the DHD.

What, however, must have come as a great discomfiture to the NSCN (IM) is the involvement of its cadres in sexual exploits of helpless girls. Some militant outfits like the DHD, the MULTA, the PULF and the ZRA simply work under the tutelage of Isac-Muivah faction despite their contradictory ambitions.

The PULF, which is fighting for a separate State for Manipuri Muslims, has been pandering to the sexual pleasures of the NSCN (IM) activists. The HPC (D) shot dead not only the PULF "area commander" of eastern Cachar Abdul Gani, and his associate but also warned it would not tolerate such kind of inhuman act to innocent people in future.

The warning was issued in the name of Ramthang, "commander", Army Wing (HPC (D).

The HPC (D) is the breakaway faction of the Hmar People's Conference (HPC), also known as the Hmar Revolutionary Front. The HPC had surrendered before the Mizoram Government in 1994, culminating in the HPC-Mizoram Accord. The HPC (D) continues to stick to gun in order to exert pressure to the Mizoram Government for the complete implementation of the Accord. [S]

Breakthrough in Kakojan massacre, ULFA hand revealed

DIBRUGARH, Nov 7: The arrest of eight persons by the police for aiding and abetting the banned outfit in the killing of 11 persons at Kakojan area under Doomdooma police station in Tinsukia district has revealed the ULFA's hand in the spine-chilling incident.

Disclosing the arrest of eight persons in connection with Kakojan killing, Mr Hare Krishna Deka, new Director General of Police, who was on a day's tour to this part of the region, at a press meet held at Daulat Singh Negi Police guest house here today said that the confessional statements given by the arrested persons indicated ULFA's hand in the Kakojan mayhem. Mr Deka said that "Assam Tiger Force" is nothing but a ploy of the banned outfit to divert attention of the people from their nasty design. The DGP asserted that the ULFA has lost its sting and become so frustrated following surrender of large number of ULFA militants, including some top ranking cadres, that they have started picking on soft targets.

Mr Deka said that the Assam Police was fully capable to deal with the ULFA menace and would be able to provide security to all sections of people with the peoples' cooperation. He said, the ULFA with the assistance of its master, the ISI, has been trying to create chaos and rift among various sections of the people. Mr Deka, however, asserted that the police is capable of handling the situation and preparing a strategy to frustrate their evil design.

Asked whether Naoholia incident was also the ULFA's handiwork plan, Mr Deka said, the incident at Naoholia is totally different from the Kakojan though the occurrence took place on the same date and in the vicinity of Kakojan.

He emphatically stated that the modus operandi of the Naoholia killing indicates that, after killing the businessman, the militants had to open fire on the people who had gathered at the place.

The DGP stoutly denied any communal angle to the killing at Kakojan. Explaining his point, Mr Deka said that from the confessional statements made by the arrested persons, it was revealed that the ULFA killed the persons believing them to be Army informers which the outfit was convinced by the information provided by the arrested persons. It may be mentioned that the Army had killed five ULFA militants including, its area commander Pradip Gogoi a few days back, in the same area.

Answering a question relating to the increasing menace of the surrendered militants in the State, Mr Deka said that no one breaking law would be spared. He said that he has issued clear instructions to the police to firmly deal with such persons who take the law in their own hands. He said, the police is pledge bound to protect the innocent at any cost.

When asked about his role as a poet and police officer, the DGP replied that he is comfortable with both the roles and finds creative inspiration from his duties as a police officer. He denied any contradiction within himself because his poetic sensibility on the one hand, and tough conscientious police officer on the other. Mr G.M. Srivastava, DIG, Mr Umesh Kumar, DIG, Upper Assam, the SP Sivasagar were also present at the press meet.

Meanwhile, the police today arrested three more persons on the charge of abetting and assisting the ULFA in the killing of 11 persons at Kakojan under Doomdooma police station in Tinsukia district. Earlier, the police had arrested five persons in this connection. They are -- Bahadur Newar (44), son of Joy Bahadur Newar of No. 4 Kakojan; Haren Deka (25), son of late Kalicharan Deka of No. 2 Kakojan; Nek Mohammed (30), son of Mohammed Jan of Dowarmara Gwurani, Pradip Borgohain (31), son of Bhudeswar Borgohain of No. 2 Kakojan; Mustafa Ahmed (26), son of late Umar Anwar of No. 4 Kakojan; Babajan Khan alias Nirmaulla Khan, son of Jamdad Khan of No. 4 Kakojan; Faruk Ahmed (28), son of late Umar Anowar of No. 4 Kakojan and Niraj Mazumdar alias Hasu (22) of Dowarmara Gwuari. [S]

About Assam's bhagyabidhata and his IAS officers
(Part II)

GUWAHATI, Nov 7: Sidelining the honest : An honest officer is a stumbling block for the machinations of corrupt officers, politicians and contractors. Recently, one such officer, Mr Himangshu Shekhar Das, Planning Commissioner, created a serious problems when he refused to approve a proposal for purchase of shallow tubewells at much higher rates, thereby scuttling a move to siphon off about Rs 60 crore by the Agriculture Department. Mr Subhas Das, as the Finance Commissioner, seems to have had the temerity to question the Chief Minister's trip to Japan. Mr J P Rajkhowa took a principled stand on the issue of schoolteachers and the Manoharan Committee report. Mr Alok Perti went on leave because he appears to have been unable to tolerate some ministerial actions in the Transport Department.

While honest and upright officers from outside the State such as H M Cairae and Mr A K Arora do not work outside the principle, honest local officers are primarily concerned with the implications of the political decisions on the people and economy of Assam, and are, therefore, possibly more stringent in the application of rules. In either event, such officers are inconvenient and are not required in the State. The loss is only Assam's. The extremely talented officers are sidelined, and their services are snapped up by other States and Central organizations. Thus Mr J P Rajkhowa is cooling his heels in a minor department (Pension and Public Grievances) which already has a full time Commissioner. Such is the fate of Mr P K Dutta, who has been posted as the Chairman, Board of Revenue. Mr D Das is the Principal Secretary, Administrative Reforms and Training, with a Commissioner-level officer below him and a Chief Secretary-level officer (Mr C P Misra) as the Director General of the Administrative Staff College.

Arbitrary transfers: Security of tenure is an essential requirement of good administration. The Assam Government has accepted a tenure of three years in one posting. Nevertheless, officers are transferred without notice frequently and in a very humiliating manner. It is in the air that the transfers of senior IAS officers are known to the local paanwallah before the officers themselves come to know of them. A sudden transfer causes serious dislocation in the works of public importance in each and every department. If an officer is transfered very frequently, how is he expected to understand properly the problems of the people dependent on his department, much less serving them in a proper manner. An out-of-turn transfer also causes problems for the officer concerned : children's education is disrupted, new schools have to be sought often in mid-academic term, search for fresh accommodation in the new posting, additional expenditure and so on. Such transfers are a potent weapon for punishing officers who do not toe the political line of the ruling party. Many good and honest officers, therefore, choose to hold their peace in the face of irregularities rather than go in for a confrontation and invite retaliation in the form of frequent transfers.

It is unfortunate that the furtherance of vested interests often coincides with lack of progress in schemes and projects. To put it otherwise, if a road is constructed as it should be, the spin-offs are non-existent and the corrupt politician, bureaucrat and contractor lose out. Therefore, it serves the interests of the trio to have a corrupt officer, or at least one who does not interfere, in his place. Thus, officers like Mr Sumeet Jerath and Mr P K Tewari were forced to leave because they had been doing good work in the Municipality and the district; Mr I Jindal and Ravi Kota who did exemplary work in DPEP and in Golaghat district, were also forced to leave. The instances are legion. Such transfers destroy initiative and create a lack of interest in the job. A natural corollary is to leave the State and go out where their talents might be appreciated. Mr Ashok Saikia, acknowledged as an expert in Agricultural administration by the FAO, is with the Prime Minister and doing well, but his services were lost to Assam.

Tampering with the heirarchy: The IAS, like all other services, is hierarchical in nature. The term "bureaucracy" itself, one "bureau" or drawer on top of another, incorporates this concept. If the authority of a superior officer is undercut, the damage is severe and even irretrievable. The late Hiteswar Saikia brought the art of political interference to its present state of conclusion. In the State Government's "Rules of Executive Business", even an Under Secretary was defined as "Secretary". Since no files went to the Minister except through the Secretary, it has now been made possible to bypass the Secretary. Many honest and straightforward officers, who would not have tolerated or passed anything even vaguely improper, are being sidetracked. A new cult of personal loyalty to the politician or a politicized officer superseded the old traditions of respect for hierarchy.

Pliant officers: The process of disintegration was heightened by the posting of pliant and manageable officers as Chief Secretaries. Strong-willed, efficient officers like Mr S D Phene could not survive more than a few months as Chief Secretary. The process reached its logical culmination in Mr Arunodoy Bhattacharjee who, to put it mildly, never considered asserting himself on any issue to be a priority. A brand new IAS officer, disgusted at the treatment meted out to one of his colleagues, commented to this reporter that the way some of his senior colleagues run when summoned by ministers, he wondered why India never won medals at the Olympics. At least in sprint and gymnastic events the corridors of Dispur could provide many medal certainties.

Misuse: An estimate made recently indicated that 50 per cent of all petrol expenditure was government-related. If restrictions were to be imposed here, probably it would not be necessary to import petroleum from OPEC. This is true of other infructuous Government expenditures as well. Mr J S L Vasava's telephone bill of over Rs one lakh bimonthly is only an instance. The lavish furnishings in many Dispur and Directorate rooms and vehicles are other instances, which should include frequent trips to Delhi by IAS officers. All these can be curtailed with a little initiative from the Chief Secretary. TA bills of IAS officers are also needed to be verified properly by the Chief Secretary. A recent case would justify this. A number of IAS officers, most of whom do not have their roots in Assam, were not available in the State during the Puja holidays. Instead they had gone to Delhi on the pretext of some meeting. What were those 'meetings', and were those really necessary during that period of time, needs to be investigated and and people of Assam told about it, because, it is ultimately the people who have to bear the expenses of such manufactured tours.

Coteries: In an environment when the political leadership is inexperienced in law and administration, suspicion thrives. In such an atmosphere coteries and conspiracies flower, and officers who are well-meaning and honest and unable to play politics are victimized. There are many alleged Rasputins in Dispur today -- Messrs C K Das, P P Verma, K K Mittal, B K Gohain, among others -- who reportedly have the Chief Minister's ear, and are also not in the habit of saying good things about the honest and effecient colleagues to the political bosses. It was such a conspiracy that had devastating results in the removal of of some local officers from the seats of power in Dispur. The names of Messrs J P Rajkhowa, P K Dutta and D Das have already been mentioned. They were followed by Ms Emily Choudhury and Mr Subhas Das. Some were sent out with a golden handshake : Mr N K Das was removed from the crucial Lower Assam Commissioner's post and sent to the Tea Board; Mr Subhas Das was transferred from Finance to Industries (although there is hardly any industry); Ms Parul Das from Fisheries (which is important because of the World Bank assistance) to Upper Assam and Hill Areas. Mr Himangshu Das, despite his honesty, has probably survived because he is the brother of the evergreen C K Das. [S]

[To be continued]        << Part I

Ultras gun down 8 near Barpeta

GUWAHATI, Nov 8: Eight persons including a woman and two minors were killed and five others injured, three of them seriously, by a joint group of suspected ULFA and NDFB militants at Sukrungbari under Labdandguri outpost of Sarbhog police station in Barpeta district at around 2.30 am today.

Five of the killed persons belonged to minority community, two to Bihari community while the eighth victim was a member of majority Assamese community. Three of the injured were rushed to Guwahati Medical College Hospital here.

A big group of militants armed with sophisticated weapons swooped down at Sukrungbari at the dead of night and called out 13 people, six of them from a single family, before opening indiscriminate fire on them. Eight persons were killed on the spot.

Police suspected it to be a joint operation by ULFA and NDFB militants as there was information that a combined group of both the outfits were on the prowl in the area of late.

It may be mentioned that the State Director General of Police (DGP), HK Deka in a recent interview to The Assam Tribune said that the ULFA and NDFB in a recent meeting decided to launch some joint operations.

Of late, both the outfits have been under tremendous pressure from security forces engaged in counter-insurgency operations.

Massive search operation has been launched in the area. The Deputy Commissioner, Superintendent of Police and the DIG of State Police (Western Range) rushed to the incident site which is about 15 kilometre from Barpeta town.

The DGP, who was on a trip to upper Assam rushed back here today following the incident and will proceed to Barpeta tomorrow.

Our Correspondent adds from Barpeta Road: The slain persons were identified as Hussain Ali (48), Samsul Haq Sikdar (40), Sadarjan Bibi (38), Mahala Khatun (7), Jintu Khan (9 months), Biseswar Thakur (65), Boliram Shah (37) and Ratneswar Das (16). Five of the injured were identified as Arshad Khan (42), Jaharuddin Bhuyan (12), Rajuddin Bhuyan, Helima Khatun (35) and Riaz Mondal (12).

According to an eyewitness account, a group of 25 militants armed with sophisticated weapons and dressed in olive green fatigue forced into the house of one Arshad Khan around 2 am and six of the family members were directed at gunpoint to gather near a rice mill at the locality. The militants also picked up seven other persons from different houses while proceeding towards the rice mill. All the 13 persons were then tied to trees near the rice mill and fired upon. The ultras also burnt down the rice mill.

Meanwhile, the district administration declared ex-gratia of Rs 2500 to the next of the kin of each of the slain persons.

Meanwhile, the CPI(M) has called for a 12-hour dawn to dusk bandh in the Sarbhog constituency tomorrow while the local AGP leadership has decided to stage a dharna at Barpeta Road to protest the gruesome killings. [AT]

Illegal appointment of teachers
Supreme Court upholds HC's order

NEW DELHI, Nov 9: The Supreme Court, while upholding a Gauhati High Court order quashing appointment of large number of teachers, has ruled that if an appointment is made contrary to the statutory rules, the same would not confer any right on the appointee to have a claim to the post, reports PTI.

This ruling was given by a three-judge bench comprising Justice G B Pattanaik, Justice S Rajendra Babu and Justice B N Agarwal while dismissing a large number of appeals challenging the High Court order.

"This Court has held that the initial appointments having been made contrary to the statutory rules, the continuance of such appointees must be held to be totally unauthorised and no right would accrue to the incumbent on that score", Justice Pattanaik said quoting an earlier judgement.

A large number of assistant teachers were made by the Government, allegedly on the orders of the then Chief Minister, to primary schools in the year 1990.

These appointments were cancelled by the State Government after giving show cause notice to the appointees as the appointments had been made though no posts were available and also on the ground that appointments had been made without following the prescribed procedure.

The teachers challenged the termination of their jobs in the High Court and a single judge "by a cryptic order", without focussing attention to the relevant criteria, directed the Government to reappoint them.

On the same being challenged by the State Government in the division bench, the High Court ordered an inquiry in view of the alleged gross malpractices adopted in the appointment of teachers in different districts.

The inquiry committee in its report said that the appointments were not made in accordance with the statutory rules and without any advertisement calling for applications and without any constitution of selection committee and without any interview.

It also said that appointments had been made "under the orders of the then Chief Minister and communicated by the then Director of Elementary Education and/or the secretary in the education department".

The division bench of the High Court while dismissing the appeals filed by the terminated teachers said it could be inferred that "all was motivated by extraneous considerations" and added "all norms of procedural fairness had been thrown to winds, the rules were given a convenient go-by".

Justice Pattanaik said "in the facts and circumstances of the case, we are unable to persuade ourselves to give any such direction, other than the directions given by the division bench of the High Court".

Counsel for the teachers had contended that poor teachers should not be penalised, since they had the requisite qualification and appointed against available vacant posts by a competent authority.

On the question of adjusting the equities, Justice Pattanaik said "it may not be out of place to mention at this stage that even though the appointments made in favour of the appointees indicated clearly that the appointment is purely temporary and can be terminated without any notice.

"But before cancellation of the appointments, the Government did issue notice to the appointees and it is only after that the termination orders have been issued", he said.

"In the aforesaid premises, we do not find and merit in any of these appeals and the appeals accordingly fail and be dismissed" the bench said. [AT]

'Witch hunting' creates terror among Goalpara tribals

DUDHNOI, Nov 9: Although Dudhnoi and its adjoining areas have been witnessing a much-needed calm over the past several months away from the fear psychosis triggered by the ruthlessness of the ultras, a new social evil in the name of 'witch hunting' has emerged eliminating innocent lives in the nearby tribal settlements. It is learnt that during the past few months in tribal settlements of Dudhnoi and its neighbouring localities atleast seven persons, including women brutally killed for supposedly practising 'witchcraft'.

Many of them were subjected to severe physical punishment and some of them had to desert their native settlements to lead a miserable life elsewhere.

Initially, it was not only the lone case of Smti Subhadra Basumatary (45) of Dhobanipara village under Dudhnoi police station who during September this year after receiving severe physical torture luckily from the death trap laid by the village gang suspecting her to be a 'witch'. Her case came to light for timely intervention of Smti Vrinda Karate, the secretary of All India Democratic Women Federation. But fate of many such men and women in the tribal villages remain threatened. Close on the heels of Subhadra's murder attempt, another young farmer Sri Khagen Roy (32) of Kharahalgiripara near Dudhnoi was brutally killed near his native place by a village gang during night hours on September 13 for suspicion of being a witch. However, an investigation followed later on confirmed that enemity was the cause behind his organised murder.

Sources informed that during September '98, two tribal widows -- Smt Sandhya Bala Roy (58) and Smt Luteswari Bala Rabha (55) of Khara Halgiripava village, or the suspicion of practising 'witch-craft' were severely beaten by a group of village rustics in a school campus of the same village and were buried alive in broad daylight. Their bodies were later recovered from a nearby place. Incidentally, Sandhya Bala was the mother of Khagen Roy. Disclosing the pathetic incident, Sri Mahesh Roy (38), who lost his mother Sandhya and younger brother Khagen said that while his mother along with Luteswari were being brutally killed by the organised villagemen, he and Khagen could do nothing but witness their mother's killing as helpless onlookers. Mahesh and Khagen, however, had lodged a FIR at Dudhnoi police station but they had to withdrawn the case instantly as they were threatened with dire consequence by the organised villagers.

In another incident, on suspicion of being a 'witch' Sri Bapuram Kochari (45) and Smti Debole Bala Rabha (50) of Salpara village near Dhupdhara on May 13 this year were mercilessly killed by a village gang and buried in an abandoned place near the same village. Police later on unearthed their decomposed bodies.

During August this year, Sri Mokreng Rabha -- a poor village farmer of Khardang village near Krishnai was held responsible for practising 'witch-craft' for which villagemen pressurised him to desert his native villager. Recently, Sri Lotaram Boro of Upartola village near Dudhnoi was also held responsible for practising 'witch-craft' by the organised villagers, and he was publicly humiliated in a village meeting, he had to have his hair cut and admitted a fine Rs 5000 as absolution for his alleged evil practice.

Sources also informed that during September last year villagers of Sialmari village of Dudhnoi ransacked the dwelling houses of Sri Satya Basumatary and was badly beaten by an angry mob for being a 'witch'.

Even more astonishing fact is that during the last couple of months in two separate incidents of human cruelty two mentally-retarded women were killed by unidentified miscreants. Police reports said that both deceased bore marks of sexual torture. Sensible people here expressed the view that 'witch' or 'witch-craft' is an age old social prejudice and blind belief prevalent among the tribal societies since long past. Tribal people particularly among the Bodos and Rabhas have the firm conviction that any man or woman can clandestinely learn the secret art of witch-craft. After learning the secret art form he or she earn invincible power and thus they (witched) can attack people to death. And, as such, if a person is attacked by a witch, then no modern medical treatment can cure the sick person, the tribals believe. Surprisingly, students' organisation like -- ABSU unit of Goalpara district and its members are also learnt to have been involved in witch-hunting.

Meanwhile, the Goalpara district unit of CPI(M), Assam has submitted a memorandum to the district administration to contain the abnormal situation arising out of the witch-hunting prevailing among the tribal societies of Goalpara district. Sri Tarun Khakhlary, a noted social worker and elderly citizen of Dudhnoi has distributed his self-written leaf lets among the tribal chiefs and other social organisations calling upon the people to be aware against the blind belief and also to come forward for eradication of the social disease. [AT]

The Gunman as Arbiter
[Editorial, The Sentinel, November 10, 2000]

We had reached a stage of lawlessness in Assam when the gunman could settle any issue with a few shots of his weapon. But now we have reached a stage where he does not even need an issue. The urge to settle scores, the prompting of a political party or just an itching trigger finger is good enough reason for the gunman to pump bullets into totally innocent and defenceless people. And so, close on the heels of the cold-blooded killings in Kakojan, Naoholia and Nalbari, a group of 10 to 15 NDFB militants dressed in olive green and wielding AK-47s mowed down eight innocent and indigent souls (including a woman and a one-year-old boy) in a remote village called Sukrung Bazar about 12 kilometres north of Sarbhog in the wee hours of Wednesday morning. According to one report, the militants knocked on the doors of some of the huts in the village at about 2:30 a.m. identifying themselves as security personnel trying to ascertain if there were any BLT militants in the village. As soon as the villagers opened the door they faced a barrage of AK-47 bullets. According to another report, they were taken to a rice mill near by, and when they said they did not know anything about any BLT men in the area, they were lined up and shot down. According to this report, the injured bystanders of the gory spectacle saw about 20 militants who set fire to the rice mill before leaving.

We now seem to have reached a stage -- akin to the daily killings during the early seventies in Calcutta -- where people have got desensitized to such diabolic and cowardly massacres where the victims are invariably soft targets. One possible reason for this is that most militant groups in the State are on the run because of the counter-insurgency measures mounted by the unified command structure of the administration that now operates in Assam. Another is that with the Assembly elections approaching, some political parties are orchestrating these killings while leaving red herrings in the form of the names of non-existent militant outfits to mislead the security forces. The very fact that three of the eight persons arrested by the Tinsukia police for their involvement in the Kakojan massacre of October 22 -- Babujan Khan, Mushtaque Ahmed and Farooq Ahmed -- are active Youth Congress workers should be a clear pointer to this. [S]

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