Guwahati, May 24 : Peace and stability appears to eluding the people of Assam's North Cachar Hills.
The recent killing of twelve railway construction workers in Retzol by the insurgent outfit Dima Halam Doaga (DHD) has not only hampered a mega broad gauge conversion work in the region, but also severely hampered the lives of the common people.
The killings took place in retaliation for the killing of 12 DHD cadres by the Army.
Everything has ground to a standstill. Sixteen private railway construction companies in the region have decided to stop work after the rebel strikes.
With the suspension of trains, activity in stations like Haflong, have been severely affected.
Daily wage earners and passengers have to wait endlessly for the resumption of railway services in the area.
"We are suffering the most because we are totally dependent on resumption of rail services. We don't have any other source of income," said Bapa Das, a railway vendor, in Haflong.
Vishwa Das, a daily wager, said, "Essential commodities will fall short and what will happen. Besides food, there are health emergencies that people have been facing. How the people will travel?"
To condemn the killing of railway construction workers, citizens recently participated in a street march in protest. The rally was organized by the Indigenous People's Forum.
"All development has been severely hampered. Work on the railway lines as well as the national highway work has been stopped," said Josias Jeme, President of the Indigenous People's Forum.
The North East Frontier Railway has several ongoing projects in the region, including constructing new lines and converting meter gauge lines to broad gauge.
The 294 km Lumding-Silchar-Jiribam project, which covers the North Cachar Hills, is expected to benefit the people of both Assam and Manipur once it is completed. But the continuing violence has put a stop to the project temporarily.
"If any incident occurs in North Cachar, labour flees from the worksite. They move to the safest places to their homes. We have been working here since the last one-year. We have completed just four per cent of the work," said Aurobindo, a railway official.
The State administration and security forces have discussed the prospects of getting the development projects underway.
"This meeting result includes security cover for railway projects, the resumption of railway service of this area and also for other vulnerable areas such as cement plants and highway projects," said Rajiv Bora, Home Commissioner, Assam
The shadow of violence will continue to hamper growth and the people of Hill districts like the North Cachar Hills will not gain any reprieve. By Alex Todd