Railway construction work hit as rebels strike in Assam

May 13th, 2008 - 11:05 am ICT by admin  

Guwahati, May 13 (IANS) Authorities in Assam are in a quandary after 16 railway construction companies in the state’s North Cachar Hills district decided to stop work following a string of rebel strikes in which 12 workers were killed over the weekend. Northeast Frontier Railway suspended all night trains that pass through the district from Monday, while an estimated 3,000 workers engaged by 16 private construction firms for broad gauge conversion work in region decided to withdraw following fear of fresh attacks.

“Already about 12 of our workers were killed in three separate raids beginning Saturday. The government is unable to provide us with security and we cannot risk our workers now,” a construction firm manager who requested anonymity told IANS.

The withdrawal of operations by the construction companies was likely to hit the mega project of broad gauge conversion linking parts of southern Assam through the North Cachar Hills.

“Even the ongoing four lane highway construction work in the district has been severely hit due to frequent attacks and extortion demands by the Black Widow,” a police official said.

The Jewel Gorlosa faction of the outlawed Dima Halam Daoga (DHD), popularly known as the Black Widow, have unleashed a reign of terror in the district killing about 60 people so far this year.

The immediate provocation for the recent strikes follows claims made by the Black Widow group that the army killed 12 of their cadres Saturday. The army, however, denied any casualties although they admitted having an encounter with Black Widow rebels.

The North Cachar Hills is turning out to be a lawless region with heavily armed Black Widow militants targeting railway workers and security forces, besides politicians, in recent months.

The central government has, meanwhile, sought a detailed report from the state government on the recent spate of violence in the North Cachar Hills district.

“The situation is definitely not good in the area and we have sought additional security forces to combat militancy,” a state home department official said.

The Black Widow is a rebel group fighting for an independent homeland for the Dimasa tribe in the region.

A splinter faction of the DHD is currently in a ceasefire with New Delhi and is holding peace talks.

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