Extradition treaty signed between India and Bangladesh; First phase of Panchayat elections in Assam begun; Blast in oil pipeline in Tinsukia district, Assam; Blockade suspended in Manipur; Hmar People’s Convention – Democrats (HPC-D) signs pact with Mizor
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    In a significant development, reports noted that India and Bangladesh signed a liberalised visa agreement and a landmark extradition treaty on January 28 that would pave the way for the deportation of jailed ULFA general secretary Anup Chetia and other wanted criminals. Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde signed the agreement with his Bangladeshi counterpart Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir at the end of their bilateral talks, which also yielded a revised travel arrangement under which New Delhi as well as Dhaka eased their visa regimes under several categories. Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said after signing the agreement that these contracts will enhance ties in areas of security and people-to-people contacts. The extradition deal was inked hours after Bangladesh Cabinet approved its draft a week after the Indian Cabinet took the identical decision clearing the inking of the pact. Officials said the treaty would not be applied on persons accused offences of political character. 1

    In another development, reports noted that a total of 51,49,054 electorates in eight districts will exercise their franchise in the first phase of the Panchayat poll on January 30. The Assam State Election Commission has appointed 16 observers to ensure smooth and fair conduct of the local election. An official of the Commission informed that though no major election-related violence has been reported, security has been beefed up in all the sensitive areas. The second and third phases of the Panchayat election are scheduled on February 6 and 12 respectively. 2

    According to reports, an oil pipeline at Makum in Tinsukia was damaged in an explosion for which ULFA claimed responsibility. The explosion in the pipeline of the IOC-Assam Oil Division (AOD) created a 4-ft crater in Pachim Mamarani area. 3

    According to reports, the Kuki State Demand Committee (KSDC) sponsored public blockade on National and State Highways passing through Kuki-inhabited areas in Manipur has been suspended temporarily following an understanding with the State Government on January 28. Demanding a separate Kuki State and immediate dialogue with the Kuki militant groups, the KSDC imposed the public blockade from January 24 as part of Quit Kukiland movement in the Kuki areas. 4

    In other developments, reports noted that after over three years of bad blood, the Mizoram government and the Manipur-based Hmar People’s Convention – Democrats (HPC-D) finally signed a Suspension of Operation (SoO) pact in New Delhi on January 31. Negotiations ahead of the pact were in a cordial atmosphere and that the SoO would be effective for six months and could be extended if agreed to by both the parties. As per the pact, cadres of HPC-D would be allowed to move freely anywhere in the State sans firearms and explosives and that security personnel would not launch any operation against the HPC-D members. The Hmar militants were also asked not to indulge in any illegal and violent activities, including extortion and intimidation. Further, they are also not to do anything against the polling process. 5