States Round Up Issue-01 July to September 2010 Index Page
Full version of the report

Assam

I. Highlight: No peace despite peace talks

During the reporting period from July-September 2010, Assam ruled by the Indian National Congress remained engaged for peace with a number of armed opposition groups in the State. The Dima Halam Daogah (Nunisa faction), National Democratic Front of Bodoland (Pro-talk faction), United People’s Democratic Solidarity (UPDS), Adivasi Cobra Militants, Karbi Longri National Liberation Front (KLNLF) are already in talks with the Government of India. On 1 July 2010, the Central Government extended the ceasefire agreements with the NDFB (pro-talks faction) and DHD (Nunisa) for another six months till 31 December 2010.[1] Similarly, on 5 August 2010, the ceasefire pact among the Central government, State Government and the UPDS was extended for six months till 31 December 2010. [2] Former Intelligence Bureau Chief, P C Haldar who was appointed as the interlocutor for the on-going peace process with armed groups including DHD (Jewel Garlosa), DHD (Nunisa), NDFB, UPDS and the KLNLF was appointed as Central Government’s interlocutor for talks with ULFA [3] On 15 September 2010, Haldar met United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa at the Guwahati Central Jail [4] but no forward move in the talks was noticed.

II. Violations of civil and political rights

The Justice SN Phukan Commission of Inquiry that probed the death of Dulen Baruah of Himpara village of Moran in Sivasagar district on 13 April 2008 indicted the Central Reserve Police Forces (CRPF) personnel. The Commission whose findings were submitted before the State Assembly on 19 July 2010 concluded that the victim had died due to firing by the CRPF personnel. [5]

During July-September 2010, the ACHR documented numerous cases of human rights violations including the right to life by the security forces including through indiscriminate use of fire-arms.

On 9 July 2010, around 20 leaders and workers of the Bharitya Janata Party (BJP), including women, were injured when police baton charged them to stop them from proceeding towards the main gate of the State Secretariat. The BJP members were protesting against price rise and the scam in the North Cachar Hills. [6]

On 21 July 2010, four persons identified Majam Ali (55 years), Siraj Ali (25 years), Motaleb Ali (30 years) and Moitul Mullah (30 years) were killed and more than 50 others were injured in indiscriminate use of firearms by police at a protesting mob at Barpeta town in Barpeta district. The protestors were demanding the cancellation of the pilot project of updation of the National Register of Citizens. [7]

On 15 September 2010, armed police personnel from Nagaland beat up several members of the All Assam Students Union (AASU) at Thoramukh under Golaghat district for blocking the National Highway No.39 in protest against the Government’s failure to improve delivery of civic amenities in the area. Twenty-two of them were severely wounded while 60 of them received minor injuries. [8]

On 30 August 2010, the Assam Government appointed a retired judge of the Gauhati High Court to probe into the police firing on 14 May 2010 in Langpih, a border village that is being claimed by both Meghalaya and Assam. [9]

The ACHR also documented a number of cases of torture during the reporting period.

In the first week of August 2010, one personnel of the Border Security Forces (BSF) beat up one Ajit Das (35 years-old) of Charbazar area of Karimganj town with a stick while the victim was returning back home from market allegedly for his refusal to give the assailant security personnel about 25 coconuts free of cost a couple of days earlier. [10]

On 4 September 2010, a constable of Assam Police Battalion and four Home Guard jawans allegedly beat up five youths in Barpeta district of Assam. The policemen also took away money from the youths. [11] In another case on 4 September 2010, police tortured one Rahul Malakar of Bakalia town in Karbi Anglong district of Assam. The victim sustained severe injuries and had to be taken to Guwahati for specialized medical treatment. Police reportedly picked him up on the basis of a complaint lodged by the guardians of a girl with whom Rahul was in love. [12]

III. Abuses by the AOGs

The armed opposition groups were responsible for gross violations of international humanitarian law.

On 26 July 2010, two armed members of the NDFB (anti-talk faction) allegedly killed a 55-year-old villager, Labaram Khaklari of Lalboragi village in Sonitpur district. [13]

On 20 August 2010, suspected member of NDFB reportedly shot dead Chinna Narzary, a teacher at Rangapara Gorungjuli Primary School in Sonitpur district. [14]

The AOGs also committed abductions and attacked civilians for  extortion. Tea planters and traders in the two upper Assam districts of Tinsukia, Dibrugarh and Karbi Anglong district suffered the most. [15]

On 1 July 2010, a group of alleged ULFA cadres reportedly beat up the manager and an employee of Luit Tea Estate at Phillobari Bijuliban under Pengeri police station in Tinsukia district for not paying Rs.1 million to them by the tea estate owner. The victims identified as Sadhan Kumar Tamuli and Bhaskar Jyoti Changmai Phukon sustained injuries and had to be admitted in the hospital. [16]

On 23 August 2010, a group suspected ULFA cadres reportedly abducted a tea planter from Duarmara Singpho village under Pengeri police station in Tinsukia district. The victim was identified as 48-year-old Bhagwan Swami. [17]

On 29 August 2010, suspected members of the NDFB (anti-talk faction) reportedly abducted loco pilot A.C. Phukon and assistant driver N.C. Borgohain from Gamani area under Chariduar police station in Sonitpur district. [18]

On 14 September 2010, suspected ULFA cadres reportedly abducted 45-year-old Ajoy Subba from Borbheta section of Chota Tingrai Tea Estate under Bordubi police station in Tinsukia district. [19]

The armed opposition groups also targeted public properties. On 8 July 2010, the NDFB (anti-talks faction) triggered a powerful blast that derailed the Calcutta-bound Garib Rath Express at Gossaigaon in Kokrajhar district. A six-year-old boy was killed while 23 others were injured. [20]

IV. Violations of ESCRs

a. Violations of the right to work-NREGA

The Assam government continued to deny the right to work because of the non-implementation of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA). Apart from the failure to provide 100-day employment, the Rural Development and Panchayat Department of the State Government did not utilized the NREGA fund sanctioned by the Centre. In the fiscal year 2009-10, the State Government failed to utilize a total of Rs 35, 279.65 lakhs sanctioned by the Central Government for various NREGA schemes in the state. [21]

Not a single district in Assam reportedly provided the guaranteed 100 days of employment to the job card holders under the NREGA. Out of the 27 districts, 19 districts did not provided 100-day employment to more than 500 persons during the financial year 2009-10. The 19 districts with miserable performance were identified as Goalpara, Barpeta, Cachar, Hailakandi, Marigaon, Baska, Chirang, Dhubri, Dibrugarh, Golaghat, Jorhat, Kamrup, Kamrup (Metro), Karimganj, Nagaon, Sivasagar, Sonitpur, Tinsukia and Odalguri. [22]

b. Right to Education

In a significant order, on 8 September 2010, the Supreme Court directed the Government of India to evict armed forces and paramilitary forces from schools and hostels in Assam within two months. The directions were passed after the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights informed the Court that children from the north East Indian states were leaving their home states in search of education and were getting involved in trafficking. [23]

Tribal students continued to face difficulties to realize the right to education. There is reportedly no government school for the three forest villages of Garbhanga, Pahamjila and Natun Garbhanga located on the outskirts of Guwahati. [24] 

The State Government failed to support even the existing schools meant for the tribals. Most schools in tribal areas ran without government support. The All Bodo Students Union claimed that 849 Lower Primary schools, 374 Middle schools and 218 Bodo medium high schools were functioning without any Government support and even the Central schemes did not reach those schools. [25] Further, Bodo children continued to be deprived of being taught in their mother tongue. The Assam Government reportedly appointed several Assamese medium teachers in Bodo medium schools across the State. Since the Assamese medium teachers were not trained in Bodo medium they could not teach the students in Bodo medium schools. [26]

c. Forcible eviction/displacement

The impact of the proposed dams including 2,000MW Subansiri Lower Hydroelectric Project in Arunachal Pradesh upon the downstream dwellers of Brahmaputra River in Assam has been subject of serious debate. An Expert Committee consisting of various experts from the Guwahati University, the Indian Institute of Technology, Guwahati and the Dibrugarh University was formed in 2008 to assess “Downstream Impact of the Ongoing Subansiri Lower Hydroelectric Power Project”.

The report was submitted in June 2010. [27] With regard to the feasibility and the safety of the dam, the Expert Committee recommended- (i) not to construct the mega dam in the present site; (ii) not to consider the Himalayan foothills, south of MBT for any mega hydropower project; and (iii) to redesign the project by sufficiently reducing the dam height and production capacity. [28]

With regard to Downstream Impact of the Redesigned Dam, the Expert Committee among others, recommended that (i) upstream catchment area needs to afforested while maintaining slope to minimise soil erosion; (ii) minimize dam induced flash floods by keeping proper and adequate cushioning in the reservoir; (iii) re-examine and redesign spillway; (iv) provide attention to riparian rights and indigenous people; (v) to maintain minimum discharge of 320 cumec; (vi) raise and strengthen embankments of the river; and (vii) maintain a minimum 3-metre depth in the dolphin habitat stretches. [29]

As the protests against the dam grew, the Assam Assembly’s House Committee recommended in July 2010 that no dam be constructed without a proper comprehensive and scientific assessment. [30] It remains to be seen whether the State implements the same. In the last week of September 2010, the Assam Government delayed signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the National Hydro Power Corporation alarmed by the hue-and-cry over the 2000 MW Subansiri Lower Hydroelectric Power Project. [31]

Endnotes:
1. Centre extends truce with NDFB, DHD, The Assam Tribune, 2 July 2010
2. Centre extends truce with UPDS, The Assam Tribune, 4 August 2010
3. Former IB chief to act as interlocutor in ‘ULFA talks’, Rediff news, 17 June 2010
4. Ulfa talks hope alive: Haldar, The Hindustan Times, 16 September 2010
5. Probe panel indicts CRPF over Dulen Baruah killing, The Assam Tribune, 20 July 2010
6. Police lathicharge BJP workers, The Assam Tribune, 10 July 2010
7. Complaint of Asian Centre for Human Rights to National Human Rights Commission, 22 July 2010
8. Naga Police beat up AASU picketers, The Assam Tribune, 16 September 2010
9. Assam Govt constitutes Judicial Enquiry Commission into Langpih firing incident, The Shillong Times, 31 August 2010
10. Youth beaten by BSF jawan, hospitalized, The Sentinel, 9 August 2010
11. Cop arrested for assault on youths, The Telegraph, 6 September 2010
12. AASU, NSU, Bangali Samaj rally against police atrocities, The Sentinel, 8 September 2010
13. NDFB rebels kill villager in Assam, available at: http://www.indiablooms.com/NewsDetailsPage/newsDetails260710s.php
14. School teacher shot dead by NDFB militants, The Times of India, 21 August 2010
15. ULFA intensifies extortion drive in upper Assam, The Assam Tribune, 10 July 2010
16. ‘Ulfa’ attacks planter, torches cars, The Telegraph, 2 July 2010
17. Tea planter abducted, The Telegraph, 25 August 2010
18. Forces launch hunt for abducted train drivers, The Telegraph, 31 August 2010
19. Mani Subba’s nephew abducted, The Assam Tribune, 16 September 2010
20. NDFB blast on tracks kills boy, Outfit flashes muscle power, The Telegraph, 9 July 2010
21. NREGS failure in 19 districts, The Sentinel, 16 August 2010
22. Ibid
23. Evict forces from schools in north east: SC to govt, The Hindustan Times, 7 September 2010
24. Garbhanga villages waking up to new dawn, The Assam Tribune, 18 August 2010
25. ABSU moves Governor on Bodo Accord, The Assam Tribune, 10 August 2010
26. Appointment of non-Bodo teachers in Bodo medium schools irks ABSU, The Sentinel, 23 August 2010
27. Report on Downstream Impact of the Ongoing Subansiri Lower Hydroelectric Power Project, available at: http://www.downtoearth.org.in/dte/userfiles/images/NHPCL_Report.pdf
28. “Report on Downstream Impact Study of the Ongoing Subansiri Lower Hydroelectric Power  Project at Gerukamukh of National Hydroelectric Power Corporation Limited” available at http://nealliance.net/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/observations-and-recommendations-dwnstrm-study-lower-subansiri-hep2.pdf
29. “Reduce Subansiri dam height: expert panel”, Down To Earth Magazine, Centre for Science and Environement, 13 July 2010
30. Dispur move on dam safety, The Telegraph, 24 July 2010
31. State refuses to sign MoU with NHPC, The Assam Tribune, 24 September 2010
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