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Blood blocks passage to China

With the wounds of Kakopathar still raw, the bridge to East Asia has been forgotten, writes Rahul Karmakar.

india Updated: Mar 29, 2006 19:21 IST

A heady mix of lush green tea gardens, unkempt coalfields, rainforests and oilfields, Margherita was the ideal launchpad for India's Look East policy — one that could have transformed this region into an economic and strategic centrepiece.

But with the wounds of Kakopathar — the stage for a Manipur-like uprising against army excesses — still raw, the bridge to East Asia has been forgotten.

After the 2001 polls, New Delhi seemed to wake up to the importance of the northeastern tip of this constituency — Lekha pani. On the Arunachal Pradesh border, it was the origin of another Silk Route — Stilwell Road, the passage to China.

Laid in 1944 under the command of American General Joseph Stilwell during World War II, the 1,700 km road is connected to Kunming in southern China.

Though much of the road through Myanmar and China is motorable, the 71-km Indian stretch is in disrepair.

There were efforts to reopen Stilwell Road. But apart from powers-that-be of Myanmar, China, Assam and elsewhere in India posing for a picture at Zero Point, nothing has been done.

Now, with another assembly election round the corner, Stilwell Road has virtually been erased from public memory.

All roads here lead to Kakopathar. The laidback area was witness to massive protests against the custodial death of alleged Ulfa linkman Ajit Mahanta on February 5.

Five days later, the police opened fire on protestors killing nine of them. The killings couldn't have come at a worse time for Congress candidate Pradyut Bordoloi.

The most suave minister in the Tarun Gogoi government, Bordoloi is expecting his third straight win despite the setback.

"Development has always been my credo, and I have never ignored my constituency," he says.

His rivals Lakheswar Moran of AGP, Nareswar Hazarika of AGP-Pragatisheel and Lakheswar Moran of AGP are banking on the Kakopathar tragedy while Sanjay Kumar Deb of BJP is relying on a sizeable population of Hindu Bengalis and 'saffronized' tea garden workers.

And as for the road to prosperity, it remains less travelled.

ht epaper

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