The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Rebel jolt to railway project

Nagaon, Sept. 10: Northeast Frontier Railway’s broad gauge project in the remote North Cachar Hills of Assam was thrown into jeopardy last night by an anti-talks faction of one of the major tribal militant groups of the district.

Militants of the breakaway Jewel Gorlosa faction of the Dima Halam Daogah (DHD) set ablaze two labour camps at different construction sites because the companies involved in the project hadn’t paid them money.

It was the second such attack on the construction companies by militants of the anti-talks group — the DHD is in ceasefire with Delhi — in the past two weeks. On August 28, militants torched a truck belonging to one company, RL Construction, at Doutahaja and attempted to kidnap five of its employees from the staff barracks.

Additional superintendent of police (headquarters) Bidyut Buragohain confirmed that two labour sheds — one at Asong Haju and the other at Saron Basti, under Mahur police station — were torched by a 12-member group from the DHD (J) faction around 11.30 pm. The workers escaped unscathed, but the project did not.The camps had been set up by AC Naik Construction and Patel Engineering.

Over 90 per cent of the 214.82-km Lumding-Silchar rail track passes through the North Cachar Hills. Lumding is in Nagaon district and Silchar in Cachar district. Train services on the broad gauge track are expected to reduce the travelling time between the two districts considerably and open the floodgates for development.

An official source said the anti-talks faction of the Dimasa militant group had launched an extortion campaign across the district, targeting all companies involved in the broad gauge and East-West corridor projects. “The militants are holding the two projects to ransom. There have been massive investments in the two projects and the two attacks in less than a fortnight have been major setbacks.”

Militants suspected to be from the anti-talks faction have been particularly active since July 3. Five persons were killed and eight seriously wounded in five incidents in the district in two months.

The DHD (J) is not the only source of worry for those associated with the twin projects. The two NSCN factions, the Kuki Revolutionary Army, the Hmar People’s Convention (Democratic), the Karbi Longri NC Hills Liberation Front and the United National Liberation Front have a presence in the district.

The five companies involved in the East-West corridor project are Gamon India Ltd, Hindusthan Construction Company, Wallesa TBL Joint Venture, Continental and Punjolloid. They have all complained to the National Highways Authority of India about extortion by militant groups.

“The DHD (J) has demanded 10 per cent of our estimated cost. Our staff members have already left the district,”said an official of Gamon India.

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