Agartala: A rail blockade called by tribal students hit railway services in parts of northeast India for the second day on Wednesday, snapping the crucial rail link of Tripura, Mizoram, Manipur and southern Assam with the rest of the country.
The Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) cancelled several important trains passing through the Lumding-Badarpur hill section due to the indefinite rail blockade agitation by the North Cachar Hill Indigenous Students Forum (NCHISF).
Hundreds of NCHISF members have blockaded rail tracks since Tuesday morning at Haflong, the district headquarters of Dima Hasao district, formerly known as North Cachar Hills District.
The NCHISF has been demanding compensation to the affected families, whose land and homes were taken away by the NFR during conversion of metre-gauge railway line to broad gauge in 2014 and 2015.
Acting Deputy Commissioner of Dima Hasao district Sonaram Khanikar held an inconclusive meeting on Tuesday with the agitating students body and the railway officials at the district headquarters at Haflong, 279 km from Guwahati.
"The NFR official failed to give a written promise to release compensation within 15 days as demanded by the Forum. The railway authorities sought four months' time to sort out the matter," Khanikar told reporters.
NCHISF President David Kevom said a total 300 hectares of land belonging to 500 families was affected by the construction of the broad-gauge railway line in the hill district.
"The NFR authorities had promised compensation to the affected families, but nothing has been done yet," Kevom told reporters.
NFR officials, however, said that the railway authorities had given compensation of around Rs 55 crore to the affected families, but they are demanding Rs 3-5 crore more.
The NCHISF President said that unless senior and responsible officials of the railways come to the spot, they would not withdraw the indefinite rail blockade agitation.
A railway official, on condition of anonymity, said Divisional Railway Manager AK Jain is expected to visit Halflong.
In a statement, NFR's Chief Public Relations Officer Pranav Jyoti Sharma said four trains — Guwahati-Silchar, Silchar-Guwahati train services, Sealdah-Silchar Kanchenjunga Express and Agartala-Sealdah Kanchenjunga Express — have been either cancelled or short-terminated.
Around 1,200 passengers were stranded at Haflong station due to the rail blockade. Some passengers were, however, trying to reach their destinations using other modes of transport.
The railway line from Guwahati passes through Lumding (in Nagaon district of central Assam) and Halflong, connecting Agartala and parts of Manipur and Mizoram, besides southern Assam, with the rest of India.
The Guwahati-Silchar railway route is the lifeline for southern Assam, comprising Cachar, Karimganj, Hailakandi and Dima Hasao districts, and the mountainous states of Tripura, Manipur and Mizoram.
The region is dependent on this railway route for supply of food grain, fertiliser, petroleum products, construction materials and other consumer goods.