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Assam

13 killed, 15 injured as terrorists open fire near Kokrajhar in Assam

At least 13 people were killed and more than 15 others suffered injuries when a group of terrorists opened fire at a crowded weekly market near Kokrajhar town in Assam on Friday afternoon.
 
13 kiled in terror attack at Kokrajhar in Assam
At least 13 people were killed and more than 15 others suffered injuries when a group of terrorists opened fire at a crowded weekly market near Kokrajhar town in Assam this afternoon.
 
Sources said the three or four masked gunmen, wearing Army-style fatigues, struck at Balajan Tiniali near the town, about 220 km west of Guwahati, around noon, leaving at least 12 civilians dead.
 
The gunmen arrived in an autorickshaw, hurled grenades and then opened fire indiscriminately in the market before fleeing from the scene.
 
Security forces managed to shoot down one of the militants and have launched a manhunt for the remaining men, who are believed to have escaped into a nearby forest.
 
The attack has taken the security forces as well as the Assam Government and the Centre by surprise. Media reports quoted top police officials as saying that they suspected the militants were part of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland-Songbijit (NDFB-S) faction.
 
Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, who was in Delhi, told journalists that both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Narendra Modi had been in touch with him and had promised all help from the Centre to tackle the situation. National Security Adviser Ajit Doval met Mr. Sonowal to discuss the latest developments.
 
Condemning the attack, Mr. Sonowal said the state government was committed to ensuring protection of the lives and property of the people of Assam. He said the security forces would deal strictly with the situation.
 
He said the Director General of Police (DGP) of Assam and other senior officials were rushing to the scene of the incident.
 
Mr. Sonowal announced an ex-gratia payment of Rs. 5 lakh for the next-of-kin of those killed in the attack and Rs. 1 lakh each for those who suffered injuries. He also appealed to the people of Assam to maintain peace and harmony. 
 
The Chief Minister said senior Minister Hemanta Biswa Sarma had left for Kokrajhar.
 
Reports said additional columns of the Army and teams of para-military forces had been moved to the area. Police officials said an AK-56 rifle and some grenades were recovered from the scene.
 
The injured persons were rushed to nearby hospitals for treatment even as security forces cordoned off the area and launched a combing operation.
 
In Delhi, Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju described the incident as "unfortunate" and said it had taken place at a time when peace was returning to the state. 
 
“This incident has given us a shock and it is unfortunate so many people have lost their lives," he said, adding that the elements behind the "dastardly" attack would have to be identified.
 
This is the first major incident of violence in Assam since Mr. Sonowal assumed office as the head of the first Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in the stte on May 24 this year.
 
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Heavy turnout of voters in first phase of Assembly polls in West Bengal, Assam

More than 80.92 percent of the voters exercised their franchise in the first phase of polling in the elections to the legislative assembly of West Bengal and 78 percent in Assam amidst tight security on Monday.
More than 80.92 percent of the voters exercised their franchise in the first phase of polling in the elections to the legislative assembly of West Bengal and 78 percent in Assam amidst tight security today.
 
Polling was by and large peaceful in both the states, with no major untoward incident reported from anywhere, official osurces said.
 
In West Bengal, voting was held today in 18 constituencies in Phase IA of polling. They include six seats in Paschim Medinipur, nine in Purulia and three in Bankura district.
 
These constituencies have a total electorate of 40,09,171 voters, including 20,47,202 men and 19,57,453 women. There are 4500 service electors in these constituencies.
 
There were a total of 133 candidates in these constituencies, including 11 women.
 
The Election Commission had set up 4945 polling stations and made elaborate arrangements to ensure a smooth poll in these constituencies.
 
As many as 65 constituencies went to the polls in the first phase of voting in Assam. There were 566 candidates in all, including 44 women. Prominent candidates in the fray included Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi of the Congress, who is seeking a fourth conseccutive term, and Union Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, the chief ministerial candidate of the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP).
 
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Five killed as magnitude 6.7 earthquake hits Manipur, other NE states

At least five people were killed when a strong earthquake, measuring 6.7 on the Richter scale, hit Manipur and other North-Eastern states of India and neighbouring countries like Myanmar, Bangladesh and Bhutan in the early hours of Monday.
 
Massive 6.7 quake strikes northeast India
 
At least five people were killed when a strong earthquake, measuring 6.7 on the Richter scale, hit Manipur and other North-Eastern states of India and neighbouring countries like Myanmar, Bangladesh and Bhutan in the early hours of today.
 
Official sources in Imphal said more than 45 people had been reported injured in the quake.
 
A bulletin from the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said the quake, which had its epicentre at latitude 24.8°N and longitude  93.5°E, occured at 0435 hours at a focal depth of 17 km.
 
According to IMD, the epicentre of the earthquake was in Tamenglong district of Manipur, about 35 km from Imphal, the state capital.
 
The tremors were also felt in Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, West Bengal, Jharkhand and Bihar, among other places.
 
Initial reports from Manipur spoke of damages to many buildings and houses. People in many places ran out of their homes to safety as a precautionary measure. Many people posted pictures of damaged buildings and walls with cracks on social media sites. Some government offices and a six-storeyed building in Imphal were among those affected.
 
Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke over the telephone to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who is on an official visit to Assam, and asked him to oversee the situation.
 
Mr. Modi also spoke to Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi and Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Nabam Tuki on the situation.
 
The Manipur Government has sought the assistance of the Army and the Assam Rifles in the rescue and relief efforts.
 
The Prime Minister's Office (PMO) said Mr. Modi was continuously monitoring the situation.
 
Two teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) have been instructed to move from Guwahati to the areas affected by the earthquake.
 
Mr. Rajnath Singh said he had spoken to Mr. Gogoi and the Manipur Chief Secretary about the situation and assured them of all possible help from the Centre.
 
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"I'm also contacting other North Eastern states to know the extent of damage caused by the earthquake," he added.
 
In New Delhi, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) is coordinating with the State Governments concerned, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), Ministry of Defence (Mod), NDRF, Ministry of Communications and other Departments and agencies for seach, rescue and relief efforts.
 
NDMA officials have spoken to the Control Rooms and Relief Commisioners of all the States in the North-East and West Bengal.
 
Communication systems are functioning, particularly those of state-owned BSNL, in the affected areas.
 
The National Crisis Management Committee headed by the Cabinet Secretary held a meeting here this morning to assess the situation and provide all necessary help from the Government of India.
 
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1 dead, 14 hurt in twin blasts on Bangalore-Guwahati Express at Chennai station

A 24-year-old woman was killed and 14 others suffered injuries in twin blasts which occurred in two coaches of the 12509 Bangalore-Guwahati tri-weekly express train minutes after it pulled into the Chennai Central station on Thursday morning.
 
Chennai train blasts: 14 injured passengers stable
A 24-year-old woman was killed and 14 others suffered injuries in twin blasts which occurred in two coaches of the 12509 Bangalore-Guwahati tri-weekly express train minutes after it pulled into the Chennai Central station here this morning.
 
Southern Railway sources said two of the injured had suffered serious grievous injuries while the others had received minor injuries.
 
Southern Railway General Manager Rakesh Mishra told reporters at the scene that the "minor intensity" blasts occurred in sleeper coaches S4 and S5 at about 7.15 am, some ten minutes after the train arrived on platform number 9.
 
Three coaches of the train -- S3, S4 and S5 -- were affected by the two explosions, the sources said.
 
The deceased passenger was identified as Ms Swati who was travelling from Bangalore to Vijayawada on her way to her home town of Guntur in Andhra Pradesh, he said. Media reports said she was an employee of Tata Consultancy Services (TCS).
 
Sources said the blasts appeared to have been caused by some devices placed under seat 70 of coach S4 and seat 30 of coach S5.
 
Mr Mishra said the train was running slightly late and had arrived at the station at 7.05 am instead of its scheduled time of 5.45 am.
 
The injured were rushed immediately to the Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital near the station.
 
Minister of Railways Mallikarjun Kharge has sanctioned an ex-gratia payment of Rs 1 lakh for the next-of-kin of the deceased passenger, Rs 25,000 for each of those with grievous injuries and Rs 5,000 for each of those with minor injuries.
 
Police officials, accompanied by dog squads and bomb disposal squads, rushed to the scene of the blasts immediately and platform number 9 was cordoned off.
 
The entire train was checked by the police and it later resumed its journey to Guwahati, Assam after the affected coaches were detached and replaced with new coaches.
 
Mr Mishra said the entire train was being checked and it would resume its journey to Guwahati, Assam an hour later after the two affected coaches are detached.
 
The Railways have set up a helpline at Chennai on telephone number 044-25357398 to provide information to relatives of the passengers of the affected train.
 
Operations on other platforms as well as on the nearby suburban section continued to remain normal, Mr Mishra added.
 
A team from the National Investigation Agency (NIA) from Hyderabad will reach Chennai later today to probe the incident.
 
Security was intensified at Chennai Central railway station after the incidents.
 
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Among the seriously injured passengers, one was identified as Sumantho Devnath (37, Male), while the other was an unidentified male.
 
Those with minor injuries were identified as follows:
 
1. Shaiful Haque – 27 years Male
2. Anjanedu– 29 years Male
3. Vimal Kumar Das – 43 years Male
4. Shagun Kumar Rai– 23 years Male
5. Altaf Khan – 17 years Male
6. Uma – 35 years Female
7. Jitendra Mohanto Deka – 58 years Male
8. Sari – 21 years Male
9. Murali – 27 years Male
10. Bijoy Kumar – 14 years Male
11. Sudanchand Debnath – 64 years Male
12. Surendra Varma– 31 years Male
 
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At least 40 drowned, scores missing after ferry carrying 300 people sinks in Assam

Rescue teams continued to search for survivors on Tuesday after a ferry carrying about 300 passengers, capsized in the Brahmaputra river in the western Assam district of Dhubri Monday evening, killing scores of people and leaving many more missing.
Map of Dhubri district
Map of Dhubri district

Rescue teams continued to search for survivors today after a ferry carrying about 300 passengers,  capsized in the Brahmaputra river in the western Assam district of Dhubri yesterday evening, killing scores of people and leaving many more missing.

Official sources said at least 40 bodies had been fished out, but scores of people were missing and they felt the toll could be much higher. The sources also said about 60 people had managed to swim to safety.
 
Rescue efforts by personnel of the Army, the Border Security Force, the National Disaster Response Force, the state police and the district administration were hampered overnight because of the bad weather and darkness. 
 
Details about the tragedy remained sketchy because it happened in a very remote location and also because the bad weather had disrupted communication links with the area.
The ferry was filled with passengers far beyond its capacity, many of them returning from a weekly market, and they included several women and children. People of the area are known to be good swimmers, but, given the weather conditions at the time of the mishap and the strong undercurrents in the river, there are fears that not many would have survived, the officials said.
 
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The boat was said to be on its way from Dhubri town to Medertari ghat when it got caught in the storm. It was tossed around and finally broke into three parts around 5 pm, the sources said.
 
The weather had cleared considerably by this morning and more rescue teams were being rushed to the area and helicopters were being pressed into service to help them.
 
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has announced an ex-gratia assistance to the families of those who lost their lives in the tragedy.
 
An official press release said an assistance of Rs 2 lakh would be given to the next-of-kin of each of the deceased from the Prime Minister's National Relief Fund. 
 
Dr Singh had earlier spoken to Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi and offered all possible help to the state government in the relief operations.
 
By late this evening, official sources said the final toll could be much lower than initially estimated.
 
They said the capsized ferry had been brought to the river bank and, contrary to fears, no bodies were found in it.
 
They also said that divers scoured the area where the ferry was found for hours today and did not find any body.
 
The officials said the entire downstream of the river was being searched for victims. At this stage, it would appear that many more people than initially thought had managed to swim to safety, on the one hand, and that the number of people on the boat could have been lower than given out yesterday, they added.
 
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Chidambaram welcomes ULFA ceasfire; says it wil lead to peace, normalcy in Assam

The Centre on wednesday welcomed the announcement made by ULFA on Tuesday to cease all forms of armed campaign for an indefinite period to create a conducive atmosphere for the peace talks with the government.
File photo of Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram
File photo of Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram
The Government of India today welcomed the announcement made by the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) yesterday to cease all forms of armed campaign for an indefinite period to create a conducive atmosphere for the peace talks with the government and expressed confidence that it would contribute to peace and normalcy in Assam.

"It is expected that a Suspension of Operation (SoO) Agreement will be signed and ground rules for observing the agreement will be finalised in the near future. Government of India, in consultation with Government of Assam, will facilitate an early start to the talks," Union Home Minister P Chidambaram said in a statement here.

He recalled that, in February 2011, the leaders of ULFA, including its Chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa, had called on the Assam Chief Minister, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and him and expressed their desire to seek a political solution to their demands.

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"Subsequently, the government of Assam and the Government of India have been in touch with the leaders of the organisation. Government has always expressed its willingness to hold a dialogue with any militant group that will abjure violence, lay down arms and seek a solution through peaceful and democratic means.

"Government of India is confident that the announcement by ULFA will contribute to peace and normalcy in Assam," Mr Chidambaram added.

In a statement yesterday, Mr Rajkhowa had said that the ceasefire shall be with immediate effect and binding on all its cadres.

"The ULFA, with a view to explore a lasting peaceful resolution of the ongoing conflict, resolves to cease all forms of armed campaign for an indefinite period,'' he said.

''All members of the organisation are commanded hereby to scrupulously implement the decision in letter and spirit and any infringement thereof will be considered as an anti-organisational act and shall be dealt with accordingly," he said.

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The ULFA leader said he had declared the ceasefire in accordance with a decision in the 5th general council of the outfit on February 22, which had authorized him to make the announcement, whenever needed.

Mr Rajkhowa said the decision to declare the ceasefire was in keeping with the desire by all to create a conducive atmosphere for political dialogue.

Referring to the ULFA leadership’s meeting with the Prime Minister, the Union Home Minister and the Assam Chief Minister, among others, he said, ''In the course of such exchanges, everybody has expressed their earnest desire that an honourable, meaningful discussion should continue in a peaceful atmosphere conducive for political negotiations.''

Mr Rajkhowa is leading the ULFA faction that is engaged in formal talks with the government, though a section of the outfit, led by its elusive ‘c-in-c’ Paresh Barua, has stayed out of the peace process.

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37 killed, over 270 injured in two train accidents in UP, Assam

At least 37 people were killed and over 270 injured today when over a dozen coaches of two superfast Express trains got derailed in Uttar Pradesh and Assam.
A TV grab of Kalka mail, which derailed at Fatehpur-Kanpur (UP) on July 10, 2011. UNI PHOTO
A TV grab of Kalka mail, which derailed at Fatehpur-Kanpur (UP) on July 10, 2011. UNI PHOTO
At least 37 people were killed and over 270 injured today when over a dozen coaches of two superfast Express trains got derailed in Uttar Pradesh and Assam.

At least 37 people were killed and over 200 injured when 12 coaches of the 12311 Up Howrah-Kalka Mail derailed near Malwan railway station on the Howrah-Delhi route of the North-Central railway in Fatehpur, Uttar Pradesh.

In another mishap, at least 70 people were injured, 30 of them critically, when a suspected blast derailed four coaches and overturned four others of the Guwahati-Puri Express in lower Assam's Nalbari district this evening.

Police sources here said 37 passengers have been killed in Kalka Mail accident and the death toll could rise as many passengers were still trapped inside two derailed coaches.  However, unconfirmed report put the death toll at over 50.

More than 250 injured are undergoing treatment in different hospitals. As many as 190 of them were admitted to the district hospital here and 54 were admitted to private nursing homes in Kanpur and Fatehpur.

Four helicopters of the Indian Air Force (IAF) were deployed to help in the rescue operations. Several seriously injured passengers were rushed to hospital by army jawans.

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Passengers of the ill-fated train complained of delay in the rescue and relief efforts by the Railways.

A special train has been made available from Kanpur for the passengers of the Kalka Mail for their onward journey. Besides, food packets and water bottles have been provided to the passengers, railway officials said.

NCR spokesman Sandeep Mathur told UNI from Allahabad that the derailed coaches included two AC three-tier, one AC two-tier, two general, five sleeper, one pantry and an SLR coach.

He said 11 coaches had been totally damaged and gas cutters were being used to bring out the passengers from the derailed coaches. The train was running at a speed of 108 kms per hour when the accident occurred.

"A medical relief train with seven doctors and medical equipment has reached from Allahabad. A similar train from Kanpur has also reached the spot," Mr Mathur said.

All the derailed coaches either had overturned or climbed onto other coaches, he said.

Railway Board Chairman Vinay Mittal, along with some of the members of the Board and the Director General of Railway Protection Force (RPF), has rushed to the spot.

The Railways announced an ex-gratia payment of Rs 5 lakh for the next of kin of those killed in the mishap, Rs 1 lakh for the critically injured and Rs 25,000 for those with minor injuries.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati has expressed her grief over the accident and announced an ex-gratia payment of Rs 1 lakh for the kin of the deceased, Rs 50,000 for the critically injured and Rs 25,000 for victims with minor injuries.

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State Cooperative Minister and Bahujan Samaj Party state president Swami Prasad Maurya, along with UP Chief Secretary Anoop Mishra, have reached the spot and were supervising the relief and rescue operations.

Rescue efforts had picked up with Army jawans taking full control of the operation. A 150-member team from National Disaster Response Force had also reached the scene. Railway officials said the rescue work would continue overnight. Official said the restoration of the route would take at least 48 hours.

The railway officials were yet to establish the cause of the derailment.

In the district hospital, there was a shortage of beds and many of the injured were forced to lie on the floor. Most of the deceased were yet to be identified except for one Kallo Devi (35) of Kanpur. A woman died with her infant child on her lap.

The railways have asked Commissioner Railway Safety P K Vajpayee to inquire into the accident.

Regarding the second incident, Northeast Frontier Railway sources said it occurred at Bhatkuchi, between Rangiya and Ghograpar railway stations.

The train had left Guwahati railway station at 1915 hours on its way to Puri and the accident occurred at about 2020 hours, the sources said.

Four coaches of the train derailed and fell into a paddy field, while four more overturned. All the coaches involved were those immediately behind the engine.

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The sources said preliminary findings pointed towards a blast on the tracks, though confirmation is yet to be received. Passengers of the ill-fated train as well as people of nearby villages also claimed that they had heard a loud explosion just before the accident.

The injured were being rushed to Rangiya and Guwahati, where the state government has issued orders for treatment of the victims on a priority basis. The condition of at least 30 injured was stated to be critical.

Rescue and relief teams have reached the spot and were trying to ensure that no person was trapped in the coaches as well as providing medical aid to those injured.

The main railway line through the section has been blocked following the incident and trains were being diverted via Goalpara, the sources said.

The NFR has set up following helpline numbers after the accident: 0361-2737154/2737155/2731621/622/623 and 9957554804.

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Boxing: Mary Kom, Shiva Thapa, Amit Panghal fight their way to gold in India Open

Indian boxer Mary Kom celebrates her win and gold medal at the 2nd India Open on May 24, 2019 at Guwahati.
Indian boxer Mary Kom celebrates her win and gold medal at the 2nd India Open on May 24, 2019 at Guwahati.
Six-time world champion Mary Kom was crowned the 51kg champion while Amit Panghal (52kg) won his third gold medal of the year and Shiva Thapa finished on top in 60kg at the second edition of the India Open International Boxing Tournament at the  Bordoloi Indoor Stadium here on Friday. 
 
Fresh from winning her eighth medal at the Asian Championships, Sarita Devi added the India Open 60kg gold to her resume and Neeraj carried on her giant-killing form to stun Asian Championships bronze medallist Manisha Moun in 57kg. 
 
Mary displayed her experience to blow away the challenge of Vanlal Duati in a facile 5-0 win. This was the London Olympic bronze medalist’s second gold from the India Open to add to the 48kg gold she won last year in New Delhi.
 
Panghal smartly evaded the taller Sachin Siwach’s attacks in the first round to begin with a defensive approach. It was towards the end of the second round that the Asian Games gold medallist found his rhythm and started choosing the right moments to land his blows over the former world youth champion. Amit dominated the third round to make his way to the yellow metal following gold medals from the Strandja Cup and Asian Championships in 2019.
 
“Sachin's very tall. I think he's the tallest boxer I faced till date. I fought with some tall boxers in the Asian Championship but Sachin is taller than them,” said Panghal after his win. “My strategy was to either get close to him or stay away from his range. By staying away, it also helped me to assess his technique and then get close to attack from close range,” he added.
 
Much to the delight of the crowd, Shiva Thapa grabbed the 60kg gold in a revenge bout against 2018 champion Manish Kaushik a year after losing to him in the semi-finals. The Guwahati boy, who won a bronze at the continental event this year, was fierce and aggressive and did not put a foot wrong in the 5-0 demolition.
 
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Sarita Devi endured a tough fight from Simranjit Kaur to edge the World Championships bronze medalist for a 3-2 win. This was the former world champion’s first gold medal in any competition in three years following her victory at the South Asian Games in 2016 in Shillong. The veteran pugilist dedicated the prized medal to her mother whom she lost to cancer last year.
 
A day after knocking out World Championships silver medalist Sonia, Neeraj continued her sublime form to notch up a commanding 5-0 victory over Manisha, who had changed category from 54kg to 57kg.
 
Asian Championships bronze medalist Ashish showed his prowess in 69kg to soar to a 4-1 win over compatriot Duryodhan Singh Negi. Local girl Jamuna Boro delivered a flurry of punches that earned her a perfect 5-0 win over Y. Sandhyarani. World Championships bronze medalist Lovlina Borgohain did not share the same fortunes despite vociferous cheers of support from the crowd. The 69kg exponent missed out on the gold in a tight contest where she ended up 2-3 to Italy’s Assunta Canfora.
 
There was no stopping Deepak in 49kg. Oozing confidence with every punch, the Asian Championships silver medalist knocked out Govind Kumar Sahani 5-0. Kavinder Singh Bisht had to settle for the silver in a 2-3 result in a hard-fought contest with 2015 Asian champion Chatchai Decha Butdee. This is Bisht’s second consecutive silver this year after the Asian Championships last month.
 
In 64kg, Rohit Tokas suffered a knee twist in the first round and was forced to forfeit his bout to 2010 Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Colin Louis Richarno of Mauritius. Tokas, who secured the India Open bronze a year before, had to be content with the silver.
 
Ashish Kumar’s hopes of adding the 75kg gold were dashed as he had to give a walkover to Philippines’s Eumir Felix Delos Santos due to a cut that he sustained on his forehead in the semi-finals.
 
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Modi wave takes BJP to 14 seats in northeast, NDA tally 17

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Powered by the "Modi wave", the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was alone set to win 14 of the 25 Lok Sabha seats in eight northeastern states, against 8 in the 2014 polls.
 
With three NDA constituents - the Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) of Nagaland, the Mizo National Front (MNF) in Mizoram, the National People's Party (NPP) in Meghalaya - winning three seats, the tally of National Democratic Alliance (NDA) would be 17 against 11 in 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
 
On the other hand, the Congress, which had a strong base in all the northeastern states but currently no government under its rule in the region, had won or was set to win only four seats (three in Assam and one in Meghalaya) against eight in 2019. 
 
The counting of votes, which started at 8 a.m. on Thursday morning, was on till midnight in many of the region's 25 Lok Sabha seats.
 
In Assam, the ruling BJP had either won or was leading on in nine Lok Sabha seats, while the Congress won or was ahead in three seats this time like in 2014, including Kaliabor which was won by former Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi's son Gaurav Gogoi. However, All India Women Congress President Sushmita Dev lost her Silchar seat to BJP's Rajdeep Roy.
 
The Assam-based All India United Democratic Front, which had won three seats last time, was leading in only one seat -- Dhubri -- where party supremo Badruddin Ajmal was in the fray. In the tribal-dominated Kokrajhar constituency, Independent sitting Lok Sabha member Naba Kumar Sarania is leading with a significant margin over Pramila Rani Brahma of Bodo Peoples' Front (BPF), an ally of BJP in Assam.
 
Like outgoing Lok Sabha, the two BJP allies, the BPF and the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), would have no representation in the Lok Sabha this time, too. 
 
The ruling BJP was set to win both the Lok Sabha seats in Arunachal Pradesh -- Tapir Gao (Arunachal East) and Kiren Rijiju ((Arunachal West). The BJP wrested the Arunachal East from the Congress while the party retained the Arunachal West constituency.
 
In its maiden victory in Tripura's Lok Sabha battle, the ruling BJP, which in alliance with the tribal Indigenous People's Front of Tripura wrested power in the state in the 2018 Assembly polls, is on the verge of winning both the state's two seats.
 
In Manipur, both the Inner Manipur and Outer Manipur seats were wrested by the BJP's Rajkumar Ranjan Singh and Naga Peoples Front candidate Lorho S. Pfoze, respectively, from the Congress.
 
In Meghalaya, former Union Minister and National People's Party (NPP) candidate Agatha Sangma won the Tura Lok Sabha seat while sitting Congress MP Vincent Pala retained the Shillong seat.
 
Sangma, the younger sister of Chief Minister Conrad Sangma and daughter of former Lok Sabha Speaker late Purno Sangma, defeated her nearest rival and former Chief Minister Mukul Sangma of the Congress by a margin of 63,775 votes.
 
In Sikkim, putting up a stunning electoral performance, the Sikkim Krantikari Morcha (SKM) nominee Indra Hang Subba wrested state's lone Lok Sabha seat from the ruling Sikkim Democratic Front, defeating Dek Bahadur Katwal by a margin of 11,585 votes.
 
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Boxing: Amit Panghal, Shiva Thapa enter semis at 2nd India Open

Amit Panghal in action at the Indian Open International Boxing Tournament in Guwahati, Assam on May 22, 2019.
Amit Panghal in action at the Indian Open International Boxing Tournament in Guwahati, Assam on May 22, 2019.
Asian Games gold medalist Amit Panghal (52kg) and Asian Championships bronze medalist Shiva Thapa (60kg) led 12 Indian pugilists into the semi-finals to confirm medals on the third day of the ongoing second edition of the India Open International Boxing Tournament at the  Bordoloi Indoor Stadium here on Wednesday. 
 
Former world youth champion Sachin Siwach’s dazzling performance was the highlight of the day as he knocked out the 2018 Asian Games silver medalist Rogen Siaga Ladon of Philippines 4-1 to make the last-four stage of 52kg.
 
Fresh from his Asian Championships gold medal, Panghal faced some early resistance from Thailand’s veteran Chakapong Chanpirom whom he was meeting for the very first time in his career. But the 23-year-old soon proved his mettle to earn a 5-0 win and march his way into the semi-finals.
 
“It was a tight bout. A lot of boxers have changed category from 49kg to 52kg like me. So it’s important to study each one carefully and chalk out separate strategies for each,” commented the victorious Amit after having changed his weight category from 49kg to 52kg with an eye on the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
 
Amid deafening roars of support, local boy Shiva Thapa soared to a 5-0 win over Hellene Damien of Mauritius. Thapa, who became the first Indian to win medals from four consecutive Asian Championships just last month, started with a defensive attitude until he freed up from the second round to deliver the blows.
 
“Never have I contested against such a tall boxer before. So my strategy was to attack from inside and I am glad I could execute with perfection,” said Thapa after the win.
 
Kavinder  Bisht (56kg) continued his fine form after winning a gold at the GeeBee Boxing tournament and a silver at the Asian Championships this year. He held his nerves to stave off some stiff resistance from Mario Fernandez of Philippines and register a 3-2 win in a split decision. Mohammed Hussamuddin was not so lucky in the same category as he fell to a 2-3 defeat to Thailand’s former Asian champion Chatchai Decha Butdee in a hard-fought bout.
 
In 49kg, Asian Championships silver medalist Deepak outclassed Thailand’s Samak Saehan 4-1 to advance to the semi-finals.
 
Former World Championships bronze medalist Gaurav Bidhuri also progressed into the last-four stage of 56kg by dint of a commanding 5-0 win over Turkmenistan’s Bayramhan Permanov. In 52kg, Commonwealth Games champion Gaurav Solanki did not waste any time to assert his supremacy over Mauritius’s Louis Fleurot en route to a 5-0 win.
 
Last year’s India Open 60kg champion Manish Kaushik began the successful defence of his title with a 5-0 win over Thiwa Janthacumpa of Thailand. 2018 World Youth bronze medalist Ankit showed his maturity in his 5-0 demolition of Nepal’s Prakash Limbu Ijam.
 
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Boxing: Mary Kom, Nikhat Zareen to meet in semis at 2nd India Open

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Six-time world champion Mary Kom and Asian Championships bronze medallist Nikhat Zareen set up a semi-final showdown in 51kg at the second edition of the India Open International Boxing Tournament at the Bordoloi Indoor Stadium here on Tuesday. 
 
Manju Rani, Monika and Kalavani also entered the 48kg semi-finals to confirm five medals for India on the second day of India’s premier boxing tournament and bring India’s total medal tally to 15.
 
Nepal’s Mala Rai was no match for the London Olympic bronze medallist Mary Kom who wasted no time in progressing into the last four with a commanding 5-0 win. 
 
Strandja Cup gold medallist Nikhat too was equally impressive with her flurry of punches against compatriot Anamika and registered a comfortable 5-0 victory.
 
Strandja Cup silver medallist Manju Rani kept attacking her opponent, Cleo Claveras Tesara of Philippines, right from the start to earn a win by RSC (Referee Stop Contest) in Round 1 to move into the 48kg semi-finals. Monika was equally dominant in her quarter-final bout with Thailand’s Apaporn Intongsee to earn a 5-0 win.
 
Kalavani was deemed the winner by RSC in Round 2 over Bhutan’s Tandin Lhamo while Nitu did not enjoy the same fortunes and was blanked 0-5 by former world champion Josie Gabuco of Philippines.
 
Ten Indian boxers had already confirmed medals even before the start of the event with 6 in men and 4 in women being placed in the semi-finals because of the smaller size of the draw.
 
On the men’s side, Brijesh Yadav and Sanjay are already into the 81kg semi-finals and so are Naman Tanwar and Sanjeet in 91kg and Satish Kumar and Atul Thakur in +91kg. In women’s, Lovlina Borgohain and Anjali are already assured of medals in 69kg while Bhagyabati Kachari and Saweety Boora are through to the last-four in 75kg by virtue of a first-round bye.
 
Earlier in the day, four Indian men pugilists made it to the quarter-finals. Pawan Kumar made short work of reigning Youth Olympic champion Brian Agustin Arregui of Argentina 4-1 for a place in the 69kg quarter-finals.
 
Promising Indian boxer Dinesh Dagar, who upset 2012 London Olympic bronze medallist at the GeeBee Boxing tournament recently, continued his fine form to notch up a hard-fought 3-2 victory over Marjon Angcon Pianar of Philippines in the 69kg. In 60kg, Ankit proved too strong for Ryan Boy Empoc Moreno of Philippines whom he blanked 5-0.
 
In 75kg, Manjeet Panghal got a walkover into the last eight while Ashish lost 0-5 to Colin Louis Richarno.
 
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Boxing: Sonia, Manisha, Sachin give home side a winning start at India Open

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World Championships silver medalist Sonia Lather (57kg), Asian Championships bronze medallist Manisha Moun (57kg) and former world youth champion Sachin Siwach (52kg) gave India a bright start as the second edition of the India Open International Boxing Tournament began here on Monday. 
 
2017 youth world champion Jyoti (51kg), 2018 world youth silver medallist Anamika (51kg) and Shashi Chopra (60kg) led the youth brigade to wins as all seven Indians emerged victorious on the opening day to move into the quarter-finals.
 
Sonia proved too strong for Nepal’s Chandra Kala Thapa and was declared a winner by unanimous decision to move into the 57kg quarter-finals. 
 
Manisha, who won the bronze in the continental event in 54kg, continued her good form to notch up a 4-1 win over Nesthy Alcayde Petecio of Philippines and join Lather in the last-eight.
 
Having impressed at the GeeBee Boxing tournament this year with a bronze, the lanky Sachin Siwach used his height and exuded confidence with his flurry of punches to secure a flawless 5-0 win over Argentina’s Ramon Nicanor Quiroga.
 
In 60kg, Preeti Beniwal boosted her medal-winning hopes with a commanding 5-0 win over Nepal’s Sangita Sunar. Among the rising stars, Jyoti put up a spirited display in her 4-1 win over Irish Ardiente Magno of Philippines while Anamika was deemed the winner by virtue of RSC (Referee Stop Contest) over Filipino Claudine Decena Veloso in Round 3.
 
Shashi Chopra, youth world champion in 2017 in 57kg, made a seamless transition to 60kg to start off with a one-sided 5-0 victory over Tandin Choden over Bhutan.
 
Thailand’s two-time Olympian and former Asian champion Chatchai Decha Butdee asserted his supremacy in 56kg with a dominant 5-0 victory over Nepal’s Surendra Rai.
 
On Day 2, some of the key bouts will feature Mary Kom, Nikhat Zareen in 51kg, local girl Ankusihta Boro (64kg) and Ankit (60kg), Ashish (64kg) and Pawan Kumar (69kg) in men.
 
Key Results:
 
Sonia Lather (57kg) def Chandra Kala Thapa (Nepal) 5-0
Manisha (57kg) def Nesthy Alcayde Petecio (Philippines) 4-1
Jyoti (51kg) def Irish Ardiente Magno (Philippines) 4-1
Anamika (51kg) def Claudine Decena Veloso (Philippines) RSC (Round 3)
Shashi Chopra (60kg) def Tandin Choden (Bhutan) 5-0
Preeti Beniwal (60kg) def Sangita Sunar (Nepal) 5-0
Sachin (52kg) def Ramon Nicanor Quiroga (Argentina) 5-0
Chatchai Decha Butdee (56kg) (Thailand) def Surendra Rai (Nepal) 5-0
 
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Indian pugilists confident of good show at India Open

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Indian pugilists have promised a good show as the second edition of the India Open kicks off at the Karmabir Nabin Chandra Bordoloi Indoor Stadium here from Monday evening. 
 
As many as 16 countries are participating in this edition of the tournament In which about  200 boxers will vie for the podium. The preliminaries will be held on May 20 and 21 to be followed by the quarter-finals and semi-finals, culminating in the grand finale on May 24
 
Having trained rigorously on improving their attacking game, the India Open is a place where the country’s pugilists are ready to show their supremacy despite some stiff international competition.
 
"We have been training our boxers for the last few months in such a way that they understand the need to switch from defensive mode to offensive mode faster and make it effective as well,” said Santiago Nieva, India’s chief performance director.
 
“This has resulted in many of our boxers being attacking and aggressive-minded, yet they have been able to hold their ground when needed,” he added.
 
This approach resulted in India’s unprecedented success at the Asian Championships last month where the country had a rich haul of 13 medals while individual boxers have also benefitted from it.
 
Former World Championships bronze medallist Shiva Thapa, who had suffered a shocking semi-final loss to compatriot Manish Kaushik in 60kg at the India Open last year, agreed. The setback coupled with a few more unexpected losses made the 25-year-old introspect and work hard extensively with the coaches to change his game, which was rewarded with a bronze at the continental event this year.
 
“I have changed my game. Even in the last Asian Championships, I played much more freely. I am being more aggressive now. This is the style of boxing I have adopted now and our coaches, too, are helping me with my technique,” said Thapa.
 
The confidence of the Indian squad is bolstered as foreign boxers are now wary of India even before the start of the tournament as several teams have been thoroughly studying the Indian boxers.
 
Chatchai Decha Butdee, a two-time Olympian boxer from Thailand and former Asian champion considers the Indian challenge in 56kg to be tough. 
 
With the 2019 Asian Championships silver medallist Kavinder Bisht and 2018 Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Mohammed Hussamuddin from India in the same category, his work is cut out.
 
“I have watched videos of Kavinder Singh Bisht to be aware of his style. I even watched his 56kg final at the Asian Championships in Bangkok this year. He definitely won’t be an easy opponent to deal with,” said the  Thai pugilist.
 
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Rain lashes Assam due to Fani impact

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Most parts of Assam witnessed incessant rains on Saturday due to the impact of cyclone Fani, one of the strongest storms to batter the Indian sub-continent in decades.
 
Following the rains, the state government has issued an alert to suspend ferry services between Jorhat and Majuli, Guwahati and North Guwahati, Dhubri and other places from Saturday to Sunday.
 
While flight services from Guwahati has been suspended till Saturday evening, the Northeast Frontier Railway has also cancelled several trains to Kolkata and Odisha. Similarly, trains from Kolkata and Odisha to Assam were also cancelled.
 
Weather experts at the Regional Meteorological Centre at Borjhar had warned of heavy rains accompanied by strong winds to lash the northeastern states on Saturday and Sunday.
 
Assam government had earlier warned the district administrations to remain alert ahead of Fani and deployed 40 companies of National Disaster Rescue Force at some vulnerable locations across the state.
 
As of Saturday, Fani has weakened into a "cyclonic storm leaving no more major threat" for West Bengal. It is situated at Shantipur in Nadia district about 60 km north of Kolkata, and is likely to enter Bangaldesh around Saturday noon.
 
The cyclone made landfall in Odisha on Friday morning.
 
IANS
 

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Assam on alert as Fani likely to hit on Saturday

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The Assam government has sounded an alert in all districts of the state following a warning that cyclone Fani will lash the state and other parts of the northeastern region for two days starting Saturday early hours.
 
The Regional Meteorological Centre (RMC) at Guwahati said that there will be heavy to very heavy rains in most of the northeastern states including Assam on April 4 and 5 and strong surface winds with speeds of up to 40 km per hour.
 
"Extremely severe cyclonic storm, Fani over west central Bay of Bengal has already hit coastal region of Odisha. It is very likely to impact Assam and other northeastern states on late Friday night or Saturday early morning. There will be heavy to very heavy rain accompanied by strong winds," said Sanjay O'Neill Shaw, Deputy Director General of the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) based in Guwahati.
 
Following the warning, the government has asked the district administration in all districts of the state to remain on alert during the cyclonic storm and to extend help to people in case of any eventuality.
 
The Assam government had on Thursday evacuated over 100 pilgrims from the state who had gone to Odisha. The government in coordination with the Eastern Railway had arranged three special trains to bring the pilgrims from Odisha to Kolkata.
 
Meanwhile, Assam and some other parts of the Northeast have been witnessing light to moderate rains since Friday morning. Officials of the Airport Authority of India at Guwahati also said that departure of most inbound and outbound flights from Guwahati and Kolkata have been cancelled from 3 p.m on Friday till 8 a.m on Saturday.
 
IANS

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'Won't be browbeaten': SC dismisses demand for CJI's recusal

The Supreme Court on Thursday said that it would not allow anybody to "browbeat" it as it rejected a plea for recusal of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi from hearing a matter on the detention centre housing illegal immigrants in Assam.
 
It also removed the former bureaucrat Harsh Mander, who had moved the plea, as the petitioner in the case.
 
"We will not remotely think of recusal as it is destructive of the institution. We will not allow anybody to browbeat the institution (the top court)," said the bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Deepak Gupta and Justice Sanjiv Khanna as Mander alleged bias by the CJI. 
 
Dismissing the plea, the court said it has the potential of causing damage to the institution.
 
"You take news from social media and throw at the CJI asking him to recuse himself. What will happen if institutions collapse, where will we be?" CJI Gogoi said as Mander said that he got the news of the court's observations from news portals.
 
"The day you don't trust your judges, you do great damage to the institutions," the CJI told Mander, adding that "We make mistakes and of course we do and correct them later."
 
In an apparent suggestion that petitioners can't act on the contents of social media, he asked Mander: "What if I say that you have been set up by the Assam government to save the Chief Secretary from disciplinary action."
 
"I would say that it is simply say not true," Mander said.
 
The court directed its registry to strike off Mander's name as the petitioner and substitute it with the Supreme Court Legal Aid Committee. It also appointed counsel Prashant Bhushan as amicus curiae in the matter confined to the detention centres where illegal immigrants are lodged. 
 
The court said that it was appointing Bhushan as amicus as he was appearing for Mander in the matter. 
 
Describing as "scandalous" the plea for the recusal of CJI Gogoi from hearing the matter, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said that it was contemptuous as Mander is alleging that the court is using his petition for other purposes.
 
He also termed the petition - "well drafted with judgments quoted" as "nothing but forum hunting".
 
Questioning Mander for "lecturing judges as to what they should do", he said: "You can't get up as public spirited person and spit venom on anyone." 
 
Also defending the Assam Chief Secretary, Mehta told the court that he was not behind the plea for the recusal of the CJI. 
 
"The Chief Secretary did not know of the application (seeking the recusal of the CJI) till it was filed and asked me to oppose it," Mehta told the court.
 
IANS
 

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Bengaluru-bound Hamsafar express derails in Assam

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Two wheels of Bengaluru-bound Hamsafar Express derailed on Tuesday in southern Assam bordering Tripura, an official said.
 
"Two wheels of Agartala-Bengaluru Hamsafar express derailed at Margram under Karimganj district of Southern Assam today (Tuesday) morning. Accident relief train has reached the site from Badarpur (in Southern Assam). There is no casualty," said Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) Chief Public Relations Officer Pranav Jyoti Sharma said.
 
The cause of derailment was under investigation and work of rerailment was under progress, he said.
 
Several trains bound for Agartala, Guwahati and Kolkata were stranded in different locations in Assam and Tripura due to the accident.
 
The NFR runs several express, passenger and goods trains from Tripura capital Agartala and southern Assam through a single line up to Lumding junction, 200 km from Assam's main city of Guwahati.
 
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Heat wave, deficit rain affect normal life in NE

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Normal life in the northeastern region has been affected due to heat wave in several areas and deficit pre-monsoon rains, officials said on Monday.
 
According to the India Meteorological Department (IMD), the maximum temperature in several N-E states, especially Assam, Mizoram and Tripura, since the past one week is hovering between 35 degrees Celsius and 38 degrees Celsius -- two-five degrees above the normal for this time of the season.
 
The IMD, since March 1, also recorded 36 mm deficit pre-monsoon (March to May) rainfall in the seven N-E states, excluding Sikkim. 
 
The Arunachal Pradesh meteorological sub-division recorded highest 47 mm deficient pre-monsoon rainfall, followed by Assam and Meghalaya sub-division with 33 mm and Nagaland-Manipur-Mizoram-Tripura sub-division 28 mm.
 
Sikkim and adjoining areas have recorded 152 mm pre-monsoon rainfall since March 1.
 
IMD Director Dilip Saha said in view of deep depressions over the Indian Ocean and adjoining Bay of Bengal, and subsequent cyclone 'Fani', the heat wave had continued in the mountainous northeastern region.
 
"After the end of the cyclone's affect, the wind pattern is likely to change and the heat wave is expected to subside. We expect the situation to normalise within two-three days," Saha told IANS.
 
Agricultural officials in Assam, Mizoram and Tripura said various summer crops would be affected due to the deficit pre-monsoon rainfall. "If the rain does not occur in the next few days, the damage to the summer crops would be much larger," agricultural expert Samar Mitra told IANS.
 
The deficit in rainfall also resulted in water scarcity, including supply of drinking water.
 
Tripura Drinking Water and Sanitation Department Chief Engineer Baishapayan Chakraborty said the department had been providing drinking water through tankers in the scarcity-prone areas as well as remote, isolated hamlets and tribal areas.
 
"We are setting up deep tube wells in the areas where the level of ground water has gone down, mostly in the hilly areas," Chakraborty told IANS. 
 
The Health Departments in the region have been alerted and suggested to take precautionary measures besides organising special health camps to tackle the seasonal diseases.
 
IANS
 

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Rahul targets Modi for failing on Rs 15 lakh promise

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Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday said that while the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led BJP government had failed to deposit the promised Rs. 15 lakh into everyone's bank account, he had given Rs. 30,000 crore to an industrialist friend.
 
"Modiji came here in 2014 and announced that everyone will be given Rs. 15 lakh in their bank accounts. However, not a single penny got deposited in last five years. That was a lie. I am assuring that 20 percent of the countrya's extremely poor people will be given Rs. 72,000 each every year. The amount will be deposited in the account of the women of the family. This is truth, we don't lie," he said while addressing a public rally in Assam's Bokakhat area on Wednesday.
 
He also appealed to the people to ensure victory of the Congress candidate so that the attack of the RSS on the language, culture and history of Assam could be stopped.
 
Gandhi was campaigning for Congress' sitting Lok Sabha MP Gaurav Gogoi, who is contesting from the Kaliabar Lok Sabha seat for a second consecutive term.
 
"Narendra Modi has started asking questions as to from where the money will come. I am going to tell you from where the money will come. Modiji has given Rs. 30,000 crore from the Indian Air Force to Anil Ambani, we are going to get that money and distribute among the 20 percent extremely poor people of the country," he said.
 
Terming the BJP government's effort to implement the Citizenship Amendment Bill in northeast as an attack, Gandhi said that the Congress has kept its promise of opposing the Citizenship Bill. "The CAB is an attack on the culture, thought and Independence of the people here. We stood by the people of the northeast during the CAB protests and ensured that it is not passed in Rajya Sabha," said Gandhi.
 
Attacking the BJP further, Gandhi said while Modiji had assured to create 2 crore employment opportunities, the country is at present witnessing highest unemployment rate in 45 last years. "He promised Achche din ayenge but acheche din chale gaye. He (Modi) terms himself as chowkidar, but we say chowkidar chor hain," said Gandhi.
 
"Modiji imposed Gabbar Singh Tax, which is affecting the small and medium size businessmen across the country. The moment our government comes we will abolish the Gabbar Singh Tax and implement easy and minimum GST," he said.
 
Referring to Nirav Modi and Anil Ambani, Gandhi said that they had not created any job for the youth of the country but taken out poor peoples' money. "The RSS is attacking the history, culture and language of the people of the region. It must be stopped by defeating the BJP and voting for the Congress in the Lok Sabha polls," he appealed.
 
IANS
 

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BJP axes five sitting MPs in Assam

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The ruling BJP in Assam has axed five sitting MPs from contesting the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls and selected new faces instead.
 
The BJP's first list of candidates dropped three sitting MPs including Bijoya Chakravarty (Guwahati), Ramen Deka (Mangaldai) and Kamakhya Prasad Tasa (Jorhat). The party has given tickets to Queen Ojah in Guwahati, Dilip Saikia in Mangaldai and State Minister Tapan Gogoi in Jorhat.
 
The second list of the saffron party announced on Friday axed sitting Lok Sabha MP from Tezpur constituency, Ram Prasad Sarmah, and named State Minister Pallab Lochan Das to contest from the constituency.
 
Although the party is yet to name its candidate for the Nowgong Lok Sabha constituency in Central Assam, sources in the party on Saturday confirmed the name of sitting legislator from Nowgong Sadar Assembly constituency Rupak Sarmah to contest the Lok Sabha polls this time from Nowgong.
 
While the party leadership seemed to have axed Chakravarty due to her age, she is 79; Deka and Tasa were replaced due to poor performance.
 
Union Minister of State for Railways Rajen Gohain withdrew his name from the race due to charges of rape and molestation filed against him by a woman last year. Ram Prasad Sarmah was axed after his name cropped up in the multi-crore cash-for-jobs scam in Assam where one of his daughters was also found to be involved. 
 
Ram Prasad Sarmah had allegedly bribed the Chairman of the Assam Public Service Commission (APSC) along with many others to get his daughter selected for the Assam Police Service Commission -- a major scam unearthed after the BJP-led government in Assam took over in 2016 and got over 30 selected candidates jailed for their involvement in the cash-for-job scam. His daughter is one of them.
 
Gohain lobbied hard in New Delhi to get a ticket for his wife Rita Gohain in Nowgong but to no avail as, according to sources, the party has selected Rupak Sarmah.
 
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Minor earthquake recorded in Karbi Anglong region of Assam

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An earthquake of slight intensity, measuring 3.2 on the Richter scale, was recorded in  the Karbi Anglong region of Assam in  the early  hours of today.
 
The  quake, which had its epicentre at latitude 26.5°N and longitude 93.4°E, occurred at 0156 hours today ata focal  depth of 30 km, a bulletin from the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said.
 
Earlier, a tremor of magnitude 4.5 shook the Myanmar-Mizoram border region yesterday evening.
 
The quake, which had its epicentre at latitude 22.8°N and longitude 94.0°E, occurred at 1913 hours yesterday at a focal depth of 10 km, IMD said.
 
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Badminton: Saina Nehwal, Sourabh Verma win men and women's National titles

File photo of Saina Nehwal
File photo of Saina Nehwal
In a  tense  battle  Saina Nehwal beat P V Sindhu 21-18, 21-15 to win her fourth title at the Yonex-Sunrise 83rd Senior National Badminton Championships 2018-19 here on Saturday.
 
 In men’s section, Sourabh Verma won his third Nationals title with a 21-18, 21-13 triumph over Asian junior champion Lakshya Sen.
 
The singles winners were awarded prize money of Rs. 3.25 lakh while the runners-up got Rs. 1.7 lakh. Each of the singles semi-finalists and the quarter-finalists got richer by Rs. 62,500 and Rs. 27,500 respectively.
 
The showdown between Saina and Sindhu, a repeat of their enthralling final from the previous edition, was undoubtedly the cynosure of all eyes at the packed stadium attended by Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and BAI president Himanta Biswa Sarma among others.
 
Saina overcame an erratic start to slowly gain in confidence. After trailing 1-3, she drew level at 5-5 with husband Parupalli Kashyap egging her on. With not much to choose between the two, the hard-fought match continued to be even until 10-10. That was where Saina's brilliant movement and unwavering focus made a difference and the defending champion went up to 16-12.
 
Saina kept targeting the corners to keep Sindhu out of position and soon bagged the opening game.
 
A more aggressive approach from the tall Sindhu sent her up to 5-3 in the second game. The momentum soon swung Saina's way, who once more started restricting her opponent from playing her naturally attacking game.
 
With Sindhu's game collapsing into errors, a calm and steady Saina built a 12-9 advantage and soon extended it to 17-13 by pushing Sindhu to the backcourt and finding the opening for smashes. The persistent approach and her spectacular court coverage helped Saina wrap it up in 44 minutes.
 
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This was Saina’s fourth title after earlier triumphs in 2006, 2007 and 2017 while Sindhu had been looking to add to her 2011 and 2013 titles.
 
In men’s singles, Verma and Sen met in a repeat of their 2017 final. Even though Sen stormed out of the blocks, it was the patient Verma who once again mastered the younger player.
 
The 17-year-old made a fabulous start as he broke away from a 6-6 tie to race ahead to 11-6. Verma tried to prolong the rallies after that and took four points on the trot. After Sen smashed his way up to 15-13, his barrage of unforced errors cost him the lead and Verma's composure allowed him to go up to 18-16 and pocket the opening game.
 
Sen fought back to 4-4 from 0-3 down in the second game but once again could not do enough to make a dent in Sourabh’s confidence levels. The latter banked on his precision and control to surge to 11-7 before finishing in 44 minutes.
 
Verma thus tasted success at the Nationals for the third time following victories in 2011 and 2017. Sen had to remain content with a two-time runner-up show.
 
Having lost in the men’s doubles final with Satwiksairaj Rankireddy in the last edition, Chirag Shetty made up for it this time in partnership with Pranaav Jerry Chopra. The second seeds upset the top seeds Arjun MR and Shlok Ramchandran 21-13, 22-20 to take the men’s doubles title.
 
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Modi to visit Guwahati, Itanagar and Agartala on Saturday

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit Guwahati in Assam, Itanagar in Arunachal Pradesh and Agartala in Tripura tomorrow as part of a one-day trip during which he will launch several development projects.
 
In Itanagar, he will unveil a series of development projects at IG Park in Itanagar. 
 
Among other things, he will lay the foundation stone for the construction of a greenfield airport at Hollongi. At present, the nearest airport to Itanagar is at Lilabari in Assam at a distance of 80 km.
 
The airport at Hollongi will reduce the distance by a fourth. In addition to providing better connectivity to the region, the airport will also unravel the tourism potential of the state. The airport will boost the economic growth of the region and will be strategically important to the nation. The airport will have various sustainability features like green belt along approach road to act as noise barrier, rain water harvesting, use of energy efficient equipment, and so on.
 
Modi will also lay the foundation stone of Sela Tunnel in Arunachal Pradesh. It will provide all-weather connectivity to Tawang Valley for civilians as well as security forces throughout the year. The tunnel will reduce travel time to Tawang by an hour and boost tourism and related economic activities in the region.
 
A new dedicated DD Channel, for Arunachal Pradesh, DD Arun Prabha, will be launched by the Prime Minister. It will be the 24th channel operated by Doordarshan. 
 
He will also dedicate the 110 MW Pare Hydroelectric Plant in Arunachal Pradesh to the nation. The project, constructed by NEEPCO, will harness hydro power potential of the river Dikrong (tributary of Brahmaputra) and provide cheap hydro electric power to the North Eastern states, thereby improving power availability in the region, an official press release said.
 
Modi will also lay the foundation stone for a permanent campus of Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) at Jote, Arunachal Pradesh. It will cater to film students especially those from the North Eastern states. 
 
He will inaugurate the upgraded Tezu Airport in Arunachal Pradesh. The airport has been retrofitted and a new terminal constructed for making it fit for commercial operations under UDAN, the regional connectivity scheme.
 
As many as 50 health and wellness centers in Arunachal Pradesh will be inaugurated by the Prime Minister. He will also declare 100% household electrification in Arunachal Pradesh under Saubhagya Scheme.
 
From Itanagar, the Prime Minister will return to Guwahati, where he will  lay the foundation stone of the North East Gas Grid which will ensure uninterrupted availability of natural gas across the region and boost industrial growth in the region. The grid is part of Government’s plan to provide cheap and quality gas to the entire North East Region. He will lay foundation stone of City Gas Distribution Networks in Kamrup, Cacher, Hailakandi & Karimganj districts.
 
He will inaugurate Hollong Modular Gas Processing Plant in Tinsukia, Assam. The facility will deliver 15% of the total gas produced in Assam. He will also inaugurate LPG Capacity Augmentation of Mounted Storage Vessel in North Guwahati. 
 
The foundation stone of NRL Bio Refinery at Numaligarh and a 729 km gas pipeline from Barauni to Guwahati, passing through Bihar, West Bengal, Sikkim and Assam, will be laid by him on the occasion.
 
The last leg of the Prime Minister's visit will be in Agartala.  He will dedicate to the nation the Garjee - Belonia Railway Line through unveiling of plaque at Swami Vivekananda Stadium here. The line will boost Tripura as the gateway to South and Southeast Asia. He will also inaugurate the new complex of Tripura Institute of Technology at Narsingarh.
 
He will unveil the statue of Maharaja Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya Bahadur at Maharaja Bir Bikram Airport, Agartala. Maharaja Bir Bikram is widely regarded as the creator of modern Tripura. He is credited with planning of Agartala city. Unveiling of his statue is in line with the Union Government’s policy of honouring the unsung heroes of India, who have contributed greatly to nation building, the release added.
 
NNN
 

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Sonowal, Bodo leaders meet Rajnath Singh

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A delegation from Assam led by Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal met Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh here during the weekend to discuss issues related to safeguards for preserving the cultural and linguistic identity and heritage of the state.
 
They also discussed the implementation of Clause-6 of the Assam Accord and issues related to grant of tribal status to six communities. 
 
Several representatives of the Bodo groups including the Bodoland Territorial Council chief Hagrama Muhilary, Chandan Brahma, Minister from BPF in the State Government and Biswajit Daimary, MP also met the Union Home Minister and discussed the various outstanding demands of Bodo community, an official press release said.
 
The Union Home Minister said that,  while introducing the Citizenship Amendment Bill in the Lok Sabha on January 8, he had made it abundantly clear that the Bill was not meant for the individuals belonging to six minorities who have come from one particular country. 
 
It was also not meant for individuals living in one particular State. At the same time, it was a fact that Assam has borne the disproportionate burden of migration due to religious persecution in our neighbouring countries.   
 
Mr Rajnath Singh said he had therefore made it clear that Assam should not bear this burden alone.  It was the responsibility of the entire country and the burden should also be shared by the entire country, he added. 
 
“We are committed to helping the persons belonging to six minority communities, who have been compelled to come to India because of religious persecution in the three neighbouring countries.  Those who qualify for citizenship under the amended Citizenship Act would be free to reside and settle in any State,” he added.
 
He said the Government will also expect the recommendations of the High Powered Committee  set up to suggest measures for the implementation of the Clause 6 of the Assam Accord.   
 
The action taken by the Government to set up this High-Level Committee is a landmark step in the direction of preserving the cultural, linguistic identity of Assam. This Committee has a very broad mandate. He urged all those who have the interest of Assam and the Assamese people in their heart, to take advantage of this historic opportunity, he said.
 
The Union Home Minister said the decision to grant tribal status to six communities should also be seen in the same spirit. He assured the Bodo leaders that this decision will be implemented only after ensuring that the political and employment-related privileges and rights of the existing tribes in Assam were fully protected.  
 
The necessary modalities for this will be worked out by the State Governments in consultation with all the stakeholders, he said.
 
Mr Rajnath Singh said certain misgivings about the Citizenship Amendment Bill were being spread.  He will soon be calling a meeting of the Chief Ministers of the concerned States.  
 
They will further discuss the safeguards that need to be provided for protecting the interests of these States and protecting their cultural and linguistic identity, he added.
 
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AGP ends ties with BJP over Citizenship Bill

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The AGP on Monday quit the alliance with the BJP over the Modi government's decision to go ahead with the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 which seeks to give citizenship to non-Muslim minorities from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
 
Asom Gana Parishad President Atul Bora said this here on Monday after an AGP delegation led by him met Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh. 
 
"We have made our best efforts to convince the BJP leadership about the negative impact of the Bill and the stand of the people of Assam, But the BJP has decided to go ahead with the Bill leaving us with no option but to quit the alliance," he told the media.
 
The Union Cabinet earlier cleared the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 after a Joint Parliamentary Committee submitted its recommendations to the Lok Sabha. The Bill is likely to be debated in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday.
 
The snapping of the ties by the AGP, however, does not threaten the Bharatiya Janata Party-led alliance government in Assam. 
 
The BJP has 61 members and the support of an Independent member in the house of 126 while its ally BPF has 13 members. While the AGP has 14 members, the Congress and AIUDF have 24 and 13 members, respectively.
 
Bora said: "We fought a long battle over the Citizenship Bill. We protested on the streets and we met different political parties and members of the JPC over the Bill. We tried our best to stop the Bill being a part of the government. However, now that the BJP has decided to go ahead with it, we have no other option but to walk out of the alliance," said Bora.
 
He said the alliance with the BJP before the 2016 Assembly polls was a demand of the time.
 
"The Congress was in power from 2001 to 2016 and we decided to oust the Congress from power by forging an alliance with the BJP. The people did not only vote for the BJP but voted for AGP and BJP combine. However, the BJP failed to keep the promises of the alliance partner. Being a regional party, we have to respect the wishes and sentiments of the people of Assam," Bora added.
 
IANS
 

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