Assam separatists demand Rs.20 mn from power company

February 22nd, 2008 - 4:59 pm ICT by admin  

By Syed Zarir Hussain
Guwahati, Feb 22 (IANS) A ragtag tribal separatist group that has unleashed terror in parts of Assam has slapped a Rs.20 million extortion demand on a power company, creating panic among its staff. “Black Widow rebels have made a demand of Rs.20 million from the Kopili Power Project in southern Assam’s North Cachar Hills district and said the first instalment must be paid by Feb 28,” a state power and industry department official said on condition of anonymity.

The Black Widows, formed in 2003, is a breakaway faction of the Dima Halam Daogah (DHD) that is fighting for a homeland for the Dimasa tribes people who dominate the district of North Cachar Hills and some of its adjoining areas.

Led by rebel chieftain Jewel Garlossa, Black Widows was formed in opposition to the DHD’s Jan 1, 2003 ceasefire with New Delhi.

“NEEPCO authorities have not lodged any formal complaint with the police regarding receiving any extortion demand. But it is true there are militant threats,” Assam Power Minister Pradyut Bordoloi told IANS.

The 275 MW Kopili power project, run by the North Eastern Electric Power Corporation (NEEPCO), is located in the Black Widows stronghold of Umrangshu in the district. It is in a heavily wooded and remote area.

On Thursday, Black Widow cadres attacked a camp of its rival DHD near Maibong, apparently with rocket launchers.

On Wednesday, Black Widow militants killed four workers of a cement company near Umrangshu and wounded three others in an ambush.

A few days before that on Feb 12, Black Widow rebels ambushed a truck belonging to the power project, killing four NEEPCO workers and injuring two others.

NEEPCO officials said the rebels had snapped the 33 KVA line and a number of telephone lines to the Umrangshu plant of the Kopili Hydropower Project before the attack, disrupting power generation.

The attack had led to panic among the nearly 300 families of NEEPCO employees in Umrangshu town.

On Jan 14, Black Widow militants had opened indiscriminate fire at the powerhouse gate at Umrangshu killing five people, including a minor and two security personnel.

The power plant was shut for more than a week following the attacks, leading to a severe power crisis in Assam.

The group’s writ runs large in the North Cachar Hills district. According to Assam police sources, the outfit is also trying to extend its sphere of influence to the northeastern parts of the Cachar district. Black Widow cadres have constantly clashed with their rival DHD cadres and several deaths have been reported in such clashes.

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