NE Dispatch: Arunachal CM Accused of Sexual Assault; 114 Candidates in Nagaland Polls Millionaires

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

Arunachal Pradesh: Chief minister accused of sexual assault; NCW refuses to act on the woman’s complaint after CJM’s court dismisses allegations

A woman from Dorzeling village in Arunachal Pradesh’s West Siang district has accused the state chief minister Pema Khandu of sexually assaulting her along with two others in 2008.

According to local media reports, she alleged that Khandu, along with two others – Phurpa Lama Thumpeeen Tashi and Dorjee Wangchu – first drugged her at the circuit house in Tawang after luring her there on the pretext of offering a job, and thereafter gangraped her.

Belonging to a powerful political family of Tawang, Khandu, son of former state chief minister Dorjee Khandu, is an MLA from Mukto constituency in Twang district and went on to become the state chief minister in July 2016.

According to a complaint filed with the National Commission for Women (NCW) in New Delhi on February 15, the woman said Khandu posed as an army officer.

Claiming that she first came in contact with Phurpa Lama, who asked her to visit the circuit house to meet “a few powerful persons” who could give her a job, she wrote in her complaint, “I was given some intoxicant mixed with cold drink which rendered me senseless. I was repeatedly gangraped by the above-named persons. When I came back to senses, I saw the man who was raping me at that time. He introduced himself as Colonel Pema Khandu. When I tried to resist, he slapped me hard.”

The complainant wrote to NCW that she approached the state police in 2011 after seeing Khandu’s picture in a newspaper and recognising him, which led the Itanagar Police to conduct a preliminary investigation. However, the police refused to register her FIR. She thereafter approached the women police station in Itanagar in December 2015 and in January 2016.

“I have suffered immense mental agony for endless time before gathering courage to lodge complaint against them at the Itanagar woman police station,” she wrote.

After the women police station also refused to act, she approached the court of the chief judicial magistrate in Itanagar which dismissed her complaint as “devoid of any merit”.

On February 20, the NCW too refused to act on her complaint stating that it “doesn’t have the mandate to entertain such a complaint after a decision on merit (had been taken by the court of) the chief judicial magistrate.”

In a letter written by the Commission’s consultant Ravinder Singh, she was informed that “keeping in view the fact that the Court of the Chief Judicial Magistrate had already decided the case on 30.05. 2016 and concluded that in the light of the entirety of the facts as summarized in the aforesaid order, the complaint filed under Section 156 (3) of the Criminal Procedure Code is devoid of any merit and the complainant is not entitled to the orders as prayed for. The complaint was accordingly dismissed by the CJM.”

Singh, however, suggested her to follow the advice of the NCW chairperson to file an appeal in the Supreme Court.

On February 21, in a statement issued to the press, Khandu termed the allegations as “false and politically motivated and crafted by my opponents,” adding that he had full faith in the NCW.

On February 24, the complainant held a press meet in New Delhi where she mentioned “threats” to her life if she pursued the case further.

Nagaland: 114 of the 193 candidates in the February 27 assembly polls are millionaires

In terms of per capita income, Nagaland may be one of the poorest states of the country. A look at the assets declared by the candidates contesting the February 27 assembly elections in the state, however, points at a different picture – that the wealth in the state is concentrated among a select few.

According to the details furnished by 193 candidates, 114 of them have declared themselves to be millionaires.

The figure has emanated from an analysis conducted by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR). It found that 59% of those in the fray have mentioned assets worth crores. The richest candidate contesting the polls is the Janata Dal (United)’s Ramonga Lotha (at Rs 38.92 crore), followed by BJP’s K. L. Chishi (at Rs. 38.2 crore) and former chief minister Neiphiu Rio of the newly formed Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party at Rs 36.41 crores. State chief minister T. R. Zeliang announced assets worth Rs 3.52 crore.

Former Nagaland chief minister and NPF leader Neiphiu Rio. Credit: PTI

With no industry, the insurgency-infested state comprising a population of about 20 lakh people is mostly dependent on the Centre for its annual budget. In such a scenario, the steady rise of the assets of the candidates is noteworthy. The ADR report said while in 2008 only 27% of the candidates declared their assets in crores, the figure rose to 45% in the 2013 polls. It has now escalated to 59%.

Mizoram: Regional centre for agriculture with Israeli collaboration to open in the state on March 7

A centre for agriculture with Israeli collaboration is set to be operational from this March 7 in Mizoram.

Set up at a cost of Rs 8-10 crores as per a tripartite agreement between the state government, the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare and the Israeli government, the centre will be the first such facility in the Northeast.

According to the ministry, the centre, which will receive professional support and expertise from Israel, is exclusively for processing citrus fruits.

In a meeting in New Delhi with Jitendra Singh, the minister for the Department of North East Region (DoNER) on February 21, the Israeli ambassador to India Daniel Carmon said the centre would cater to the entire Northeast even though it would be located in Mizoram. He said, in the long run, his government would want to establish one such centre in each of the northeastern states whose economy is mainly based on agriculture.

Jitendra Singh with the Israeli ambassador to India Daniel Carmon. Credit: Twitter/@DrJitendraSingh

The Israeli government runs 22 such operational centres in India. The first such centre was established in Haryana in 2008.

In another recent step towards bringing development to the region, the central government has decided to set up a platform to “identify various constraints and recommend suitable interventions” for speedy and sustainable growth.

The platform, named Niti Forum for North-East, would be co-chaired by the vice chairman of NITI Aayog and the DoNER minister. It would have its secretariat in the DoNER ministry. Among others, the chief secretaries of all the northeastern states would be members of the forum.

According to a press note issued by the government on February 21, the forum “is tasked to identify various constraints on the way of accelerated, inclusive and sustainable economic growth in the North Eastern Region” and “to recommend suitable interventions for addressing identified constraints.”

It would also review the development status of the region.

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