NE Dispatch: BSF Personnel Accused of Rape; Workers in Assam on Strike; BRO to Build Tunnels in Tawang

A round-up of what’s happening in India’s Northeast.

Indian Border Security Force on Patrol of the Indio-Bangladesh border fence.

Indian Border Security Force on Patrol of the Indio-Bangladesh border fence.

Mizoram: Two BSF personnel accused of rape; decomposed body of one of the victims recovered 

Two Border Security Force (BSF) personnel, posted along the India-Bangladesh border in Mizoram, have been accused of rape by a local woman.

The woman, belonging to Chakma tribe in the border village of Silsury in the state’s Mamit district, told the police she was accompanied by another woman to the forest to collect bamboo shoots when the BSF personnel posted at the Silsury outpost allegedly waylaid and raped her on July 16. While she managed to run away to her village after the sexual assault and narrated her ordeal to the members of the village council, the other woman couldn’t be traced. Five days later, the woman’s body was recovered in a decomposed state from near the forest. It is, however, yet to be clear if she was sexually assaulted before death.

Quoting the victim, local media reports said, “When she resisted, the duo rubbed acid on her face with a cloth and injured her eyes. She somehow managed to reach her village and relate what happened to her. The villagers then informed the police and took her to the hospital where she is being treated.”

Local police said they are investigating the case. The victim’s medical report has not been released yet.

Assam: North Cachar Hills autonomous council employees protest non payment of salaries for nine months

As many as 2000 employees of Assam’s North Cachar Hills Autonomous Council (NCHAC) have been on strike since July 10 demanding unpaid salaries for the last nine months.

On July 18, the employees, demanding release of the pending salaries, were baton charged by local police when they tried to block the chief executive member and his cabinet colleagues from entering the council premises in Haflong, the headquarters of the Dima Hasao district. The NCHAC is run by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Employees of Assam’s North Cachar Hills Autonomous Council (NCHAC). Credit: Daniel Langhtasa

As per local media reports, over a dozen employees were injured when police fired tea gas shells and caned them. Five policemen were also injured in the melee.

The protest was also to coincide with the two-day visit of governor Banwarilal Purohit to Haflong. The autonomous council, set up under the sixth schedule of the constitution, bestows powers to the governor in its formation, re-organisation, etc.

“We have not received salaries for the past nine months but instead of clearing our salaries our leaders are suspending us and ordering a baton charge,” NCHADC employees union president Prasono Hasnu told reporters. He said, “A few of our colleagues have committed suicide. Children of the employees have been thrown out of school for non payment of fees. We have no other way but to protest as our council leaders are trying to crush our legitimate demand.” Some reports said many employees are working as daily wage earners to make ends meet.

Local reports quoted executive member of the council Samuel Changsan saying at a press meet on July 18, “We are ready to talk to the employees. Agitation cannot solve the salary issue. We are a family and we can solve it by discussion, not by agitation.”

The employees’ union has sent a memorandum to the state chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal to look into the matter.

Arunachal Pradesh: BRO to construct two tunnels through Sela Pass to shorten distance to China border in Tawang

An army truck passing by Sela Pass. Credit: Sangeeta Barooah Pisharoty

An army truck passing by Sela Pass. Credit: Sangeeta Barooah Pisharoty

In an attempt to provide an all weather access to the army in the China border along Arunachal Pradesh’s Tawang district, the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) will construct two tunnels through the Sela Pass.

The tunnels, through the 4170-metre-highpass, would also cut down the distance to the Chinese border by 10 km.

In a press note released from the BRO headquarters in Itanagar on July 24, the central road construction agency said, “The tunnels would cut down at least an hour of travel time between the Army’s 4 Corps headquarters at Tezpur (in Assam) and Tawang. Moreover, the tunnels would ensure that National Highway 13 and especially the 171 km stretch between Bomdila and Tawang, remains accessible in all weather conditions.”

The BRO decision comes after failing to make any headway with neighbouring Bhutan to get surface access to be able to connect Tezpur with Tawang by road.

The release said the BRO, under its Project Vartak, has already begun the process of formal requisition of land in the West Kameng district for the construction of the tunnels. While one tunnel would be of 475 metres, the length of the other would be 1,790 metres through Sela-Chabrela ridge meeting the Balipara-Chaudar-Tawang road on the Nuranang side.

The project also constitutes widening of the single lane national highway to double lane from the Baisaki army post.

Besides giving better access to the army to the border, particularly in the winter months where commuting becomes difficult in the Sela Pass area due to heavy snow, the BRO said the new tunnels would also boost tourism in Tawang.

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