NE Dispatch: Tribal Parties Oppose Citizenship Amendment Bill; BJP Expands Cabinet in Arunachal

A round-up of what’s happening in India’s Northeast.

Police intervenes during a clash between Indigenous People's Front of Tripura (IPFT) members and local Bengali people following an IPFT rally in Agartala. Credit: PTI

Police intervene during a clash between Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT) members and local Bengali people following an IPFT rally in Agartala. Credit: PTI

Tripura: Non-Left tribal forum formed to oppose Centre’s Citizenship Amendment Bill

After being met with vehement protests in Assam, the Narendra Modi government’s Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 is set to face opposition from the tribal parties of Tripura.

On January 15, two powerful non-Left tribal parties of the state came together to form a common forum – All Tripura Indigenous Regional Parties Forum (ATIRPF) – to oppose the Bill.

Forum convener N. C. Debbarma told reporters at a press meet in Agartala on January 15, “ATIRPF has been formed by two indigenous political parties to safeguard and protect the interests of the tribals in the state who form one-third of the population. We are of the clear opinion that the Bill is detrimental to the interests of the indigenous people.”

He said, “If the Bill is passed in the Lok Sabha, lakhs of foreign people, like in Assam, will get citizenship status which could be a serious threat to the indigenous people.”

Bijoy Hrangkhawl, president of the Indigenous Nationalist Party of Tripura, said, “After a prolonged discussion among tribal-based anti-Left parties, the leaders have decided to join hands for spearheading a united movement for the cause of indigenous people.”

Animesh Debbarma, the president of National Council of Tripura, the other party to join the forum, said the forum would organise a peaceful movement against the Bill.

Starting with a 12-hour strike on February 8 in the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC), the forum then plans to hold a protest in New Delhi’s Jantar Mantar on February 21.

The IPFT, which has been demanding Twipra land – a separate state for the tribals of the state – held a protest march in Agartala in August that turned violent and resulted in injuries to as many as 17 people. In October, it blocked the arterial National Highway 44 to press its demand.

The TTAADC constitutes two-third of Tripura’s territory and is home to the tribal population. The rest of the state’s population mostly includes Bengalis, who are considered migrants.

According to local media reports, the two tribal parties, prior to forming the forum, tried to form an alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party. In December, party members including Hrangkhawl reportedly camped in New Delhi to meet BJP leader Rajnath Singh and Amit Shah, but they were not successful. The state BJP unit, however, welcomed the formation of ATIRPF.

Arunachal Pradesh: BJP state chief’s office ransacked after cabinet expansion

The Pema Khandu government inducted three new ministers into the cabinet on January 14, triggering a minor revolt within a section of party members.

According to media reports, a group of angry people said to be supporters of a legislator who won the last assembly elections on a BJP ticket, ransacked the office of the party president Tapir Garo.

The cause of their anger was the selection of three new ministers – Alo Libang, Bamang Felix and Mahesh Chai – who had defected to BJP on December 31 from the People’s Party of Arunachal (PPA) prior to which they were Congress legislators.

The ransacked office of the BJP Arunachal chief Tapir Garo on January 15. Credit: Special arrangement

The ransacked office of the BJP Arunachal chief Tapir Garo on January 15. Credit: Special arrangement

Though Garo was not present in the office at the time, the incident was taken seriously by the state leadership. The incident took place at a time when some national BJP leaders, including union minister Nitin Gadkari and Kiren Rijiju, were present in Itanagar for the state executive committee meeting scheduled for two days later.

A case of vandalisation was filed in the Itanagar police station, followed by an emergency meeting of the party which decided to suspend some of the members who were behind the act.

On December 31, following the suspension of Khandu from PPA – the party he defected to from Congress along with 43 MLAs to form a government in September – the BJP stepped in to form a government on December 31 with Khandu as the chief minister along with 33 MLAs.

Khandu dropped three ministers from his cabinet accusing them of working against his government, which necessitated the recent expansion of the cabinet. Presently, the strength of his cabinet stands at 12.

After the defection, there are now 45 BJP legislators in the 60-member house. Prior to it, BJP had 11 members.

Mizoram: US ambassador to India pledges continued cooperation to combat drug menace in the state

In a day-long visit to Mizoram’s capital Aizawl on January 13, US ambassador to India Richard Verma promised continued assistance of his country’s Drugs Enforcement Agency (DEA) to the state government to control illegal drug trade on the Indo-Myanmar border.

DEA has been helping Mizoram’s excise and narcotics department combat the menace of drugs by imparting special training to the personnel and providing them with specialised equipment for the job.

US ambassador Richard Verma with the officials of Mizoram State AIDS Control Society. Credit: Twitter

US ambassador Richard Verma with the officials of Mizoram State AIDS Control Society. Credit: Twitter

According to local news reports, Verma, who addressed the students of the Institute of Chartered Financial Analysts of India in Aizawl, stated the reason behind his government’s offer to help Mizoram, “The state is placed at a strategic location close to Myanmar through which drugs from the Golden Triangle are smuggled to western countries.” Mizoram shares a 404-km-long porous border with Myanmar.

Verma, who also met officials of the Mizoram State AIDS Control Society, said that the US government would continue to be associated with the state body through Project Sunrise, a programme tailored to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS in the state. The spread of HIV/AIDS in Mizoram is linked to the widespread use of drugs, mostly by the youth.

According to a report by the state narcotics department last year, at least 1,321 people had lost their lives due to drug abuse since 1984, the year when the first drug-related death was reported in the state.