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AS I WRITE THIS, the traffic restrictions in Kochi are just being lifted after Prime Minister Narendra Modi bid farewell to the city following a packed, two-day visit. In addition to the port city, the prime minister visited temples in Thrissur district: the Thriprayar Sree Ramaswami Temple and the Guruvayur Temple, where he attended the wedding of actor-politician Suresh Gopi’s daughter Bhagya with businessman Sreyas Mohan.


In Kochi, the prime minister had a roadshow, inaugurated projects at the Cochin Shipyard and met BJP functionaries from all over the state. Political pundits are calling the visit an inauguration of the state-level campaigning for the Lok Sabha polls. And it is not a surprise to me, because it is par for an electoral year.


Resident Editor R. Prasannan’s column, Power Drive, this time is about the possibility of the parliamentary elections being just around the corner. And, it is against the backdrop of these developments that we must view this week’s cover story.


Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma spoke to Chief Associate Editor and Director Riyad Mathew and Deputy Bureau Chief Namrata Biji Ahuja about his promise to deliver 22 of 25 Lok Sabha seats in the northeast. Sarma also discussed the pact with the United Liberation Front of Asom and his hope for peace in the state. I thank the chief minister for taking out time for a detailed interview; true to his nature, he did not duck any questions. To round off the package, we have interviews with ULFA leaders Arabinda Rajkhowa and Anup Chetia.


THE WEEK’s coverage of the northeast has been consistent over the years. I remember that the Assam Accord under prime minister Rajiv Gandhi’s leadership came barely three years after THE WEEK was born. The names from the news are so fresh in my mind, starting from a young Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, Bhrigu Kumar Phukan and Biraj Kumar Sarma as signatories. From the government’s side, there was the seasoned R.D. Pradhan, who was the home secretary and later governor of Arunachal Pradesh, and the lone woman—P.P. Trivedi, then chief secretary of Assam. The Himanta Biswa Sarma cover is an affirmation of our continued commitment to the region.


This issue also covers the land wars in Lakshadweep. Correspondent Nirmal Jovial says that the islanders feel the Centre is trying to acquire land without compensation. For those who love a whiff of history, there is Principal Correspondent Pooja Biraia Jaiswal’s interview with conservation architect Abha Narain Lambah. Another @leisure offering is former cabinet secretary K.M. Chandrasekhar’s take on diplomat Bhaswati Mukherjee’s book on indentured labourers from India.


Coming back to the northeast, THE WEEK could cover the region comprehensively in those pre-internet days because we had a bureau in Guwahati, with a fine writer in residence (Debashish Mukerji, if you remember). Flipping through the issues from 1985, I found that one of the finest photojournalists in the Malayala Manorama was also on duty there.


We lost chief photographer Victor George to a landslide in Kerala’s Idukki district in July 2001. He was only 46.