Council head arrested, Assam recommends suspension of autonomous body

May 31st, 2009 - 6:36 pm ICT by IANS  

Guwahati, May 31 (IANS) The Assam government has recommended suspension of the North Cachar Hills Autonomous Council (NCHAC) after the arrest of the council’s chief executive member (CEM) Mohet Hojai for alleged links with separatist outfits, officials said here Sunday.
“Special Task Force (STF) commandos have arrested Hojai and two other senior officials late Saturday for alleged links with the outlawed outfit, Dima Haolam Daogah (DHD) or the Black Widow group,” a state government spokesman told reporters.

“Immediately after the detention of the CEM, the Assam cabinet at an emergency meeting chaired by Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi late Saturday night recommended to Governor Shiv Charan Mathur to suspend the NCHAC.”

Gogoi earlier told reporters that he had asked the STF to arrest Hojai and others associated with the militants.

The 28-member NCHAC looks after the development of the north Cachar hills region in southern Assam. The region has a population of a little over 200,000 and 68 percent of them belong to tribal communities including the Dimasa, Jeme Naga, Hmar, Karbi, Kuki, Jaintia, Hrangkhol, Biate, Thadao, Khelma, Vaiphei and Mizo tribes. The population also includes Bengalis, Nepalis and other communities.

The spokesman said Hojai was arrested following inputs gathered from two cadres of the DHD outfit who were arrested near the Assam-Meghalaya border April 2.

Police had recovered Rs.10 million, two pistols and some documents from them. According to police, one of the rebels confessed that the money was brought from Hojai’s residence.

The DHD guerrillas have unleashed a reign of terror in the North Cachar Hills district areas for the past several months. Since March 18, more than 30 people have been killed in a series of attacks by DHD rebels in the hilly areas.

Over 2,000 people belonging to both Dimasa and Zeme Naga tribes are now taking shelter in six relief camps opened by the district administration after their houses were set ablaze by the militants.

The chief minister said his government would consider holding peace talks with DHD only if they shun violence and surrender to authorities.

A high-level central team headed by Special Secretary (Internal Security) Raman Srivastava visited the trouble-torn southern Assam last week and held a series of discussions with state government, security and railway officials.

A North Cachar Hills district official said: “Since 2006, more than 80 people, including railway officials, have been killed in DHD militant attacks on trains on the Lumding-Badarpur hill section of the Northeast Frontier Railway and nearby villages.”

A railway official said all train services have been suspended on the section since April 15.

“There has been no movement of trains on the Lumding-Badarpur section since April 15 creating serious problems of transportation of both passengers and essentials, specially food grains for southern Assam, southern Manipur, Tripura and Mizoram,” said an official of the Food Corporation of India (FCI).

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