Lampi: a victim of one-upmanship Progress eludes 'apple of discord'

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By DIPANKAR ROY AND PANKAJ SARMA
  • Published 16.05.10
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Lampi, May 15: In its present condition, this nondescript village is not worth dying for.

Yet, Lampi — Langpih, according to Meghalaya government records — continues to shed precious blood and human lives are being lost as it pays the price of one-upmanship between two states, both of which, ironically, lay claims over it.

A day after four persons were killed in Lampi in police firing — following clashes between two groups of people — residents of the area questioned how long they would remain a “political football” in a game which neither Assam nor Meghalaya seems keen on winning.

Even the dead are not spared the ignominy of becoming tools in this war zone. Yesterday, two bodies were carried over to the Meghalaya side and two others ended up in Assam.

Hence, the death toll officially was mentioned as two by either of the governments.

The village has no power supply, pathetic road, a government health sub-centre but without a doctor and two schools where teachers come only once in a fortnight.

“Even for treatment of minor ailments we have to travel to Boko, which is about 60km away,” said Kali Bahadur Limbu, a resident of Lower Lampi.

The kutcha hilly road that connects Lampi with Boko, which is barely 15 feet wide, resembles more of a dirt track, travelling on which is a backbreaking experience.

Though health and family welfare minister Himanta Biswa Sarma had laid the foundation stone for construction of the road on May 31, 2008, the work is yet to start.

“Doctors and teachers do not come to our village owing to the pathetic condition of the road. We have a lower primary school and middle elementary schools, where classes are held once in a fortnight,” Dilip Upadhyay, another villager, rued.

“Though both Assam and Meghalaya claim our village to be theirs, none of the state governments has taken any step for development of our village,” he said.

He said when the border dispute had made headlines in the newspapers, their everyday problems had neither caught the attention of the concerning agencies nor the media.

Echoing Upadhyay, another villager Dipendra Limbu said that though Dispur claimed to have laid maximum emphasis on developing border areas of Assam, the state of affairs in Lampi belied their tall claims.

He said that though teachers come to take classes once in two weeks, they had not seen a doctor for months together.

“Once in a while nurses come for vaccination and immunisation drives. That’s all we have in the name of the health sub-centre,” he said.

Village headman of Lampi Chakra Bahadur Chetri said that villagers were fighting twin battles — the encroachment from the Meghalaya side and lack of minimum infrastructure in the village.

“In its own interest, the Assam government should develop basic infrastructure in the village, which will make our lives much easier,” he said.

AGP MLA from Boko Jyoti Prasad Das, who is the local legislator of Lampi, during a meeting with the villagers today, acknowledged that a lot needed to be done to improve the condition of the village.

Das said he would prepare a comprehensive plan for development of the area in consultation with the villagers and place it before both the state and central governments for funding.

Das also took stock of the situation in the area following yesterday’s incident, which claimed four lives.

Apart from him, revenue minister Bhumidhar Barman and health and family welfare minister Himanta Biswa Sarma accompanied by senior police and government officials visited the village today.

Barman and Sarma also held a meeting with Meghalaya home minister and MLA Hopingstone Lyngdoh.

“It was he (Hopingstone) who had orchestrated it,” said Irele Herre.

Irele is also a cousin of Hopingstone. “I keep telling him that what he is doing is wrong, but he doesn’t want to listen,” she said.

As for Hopingstone himself, he is rooted in his conviction that there was no dispute over the territory.

“It is Meghalaya’s,” he told The Telegraph, soon after a meeting with Assam ministers Bhumidhar Barman and Himanta Biswa Sarma. “I have been telling the Assam government from 1964 to hand over the area to Meghalaya,” he said.

Boko circle officer Prasanta Boruah, however, said all available documents showed that the 25 villages under dispute belonged to Assam. “Beyond any doubt,” he said.

The fate of Lampi is, as things stand, as uncertain as the spelling of its name; the two signboards staring at each other and put up by the 4 Assam Police Battalion and the Assam police post spell the name as Lumpee and Lampi respectively.