A round-up of what’s happening in India’s Northeast.
Assam: Sonowal returns to New Delhi after NSCN chief’s comment on Centre “recognising” its “greater Nagalim” demand
Just a day after he returned from New Delhi, Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal flew back to the national capital on March 25, leaving behind a trail of speculation in the state that his sudden trip was triggered by NSCN (Isak-Muivah) chief T. Muivah’s statement regarding the Centre “recognising” the separatist outfit’s “greater Nagalim” demand.
On March 23, Muivah, addressing the “38th Republic Day” of the “Government of People’s Republic of Nagalim” at Camp Hebron, 38 km from Dimapur town of Nagaland, reportedly said, “The framework agreement recognises the unique history, the identity, the sovereignty, the territories of the Nagas. It also recognises the legitimate right of the Nagas to integrate all Naga territories.”
The integration of “all Naga territories” or the “greater Nagalim” demand of the NSCN (I-M) comprises land from Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur besides Nagaland. Though the framework agreement was signed between the Narendra Modi government and the NSCN (I-M) in August 2015, its clauses have been kept under wraps, leading to a lot of uneasiness in the three states neighbouring Nagaland.
Muivah’s March 23 statement led many civil society organisations and political parties in Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh to demand that the Centre clarify its position on the agreement. To prevent the sensitive issue from getting out of hand, the union home ministry issued a statement on the evening of March 24 categorically refuting the claim.
Though Sonowal’s office called his March 25 trip routine and pre-scheduled, after a two-hour-long meeting with Rajnath Singh later in the day, he tweeted about drawing his attention to Muivah’s statement.
Sonowal also discussed with Singh a range of other issues, many of which were electoral promises of the Bharatiya Janata Party made to the voters of the state. Among those included sealing of the India-Bangladesh border as per the Assam Accord and granting of scheduled tribe status to six ethnic communities.
According to a government release, he also apprised Singh of the critical issues around the ongoing work to update the national register of citizens. The home minister agreed to give extension to the hundred foreigners tribunals functioning in the state as per a Supreme Court order to detect undocumented immigrants from Bangladesh.
Sonowal also urged the home minister to hold tripartite talks with various groups at the political level including the All Assam Bodo Students Union, Peoples Joint Action Committee for Bodoland Movement, National Democratic Front of Bodoland (Progressive) and NDFB (Ranjan Daimary) on the demand for Bodoland. The BJP in its 2014 Lok Sabha poll manifesto promised to solve the Bodoland issue.
He also requested Singh to hold a tripartite talk with the representatives of the six communities who were promised an ST status by the BJP prior to the last state assembly polls.
More importantly, the chief minister also urged Singh to look into the “payment norms, training and camp maintenance charges of the cadres of the SOO (suspension of operation) groups and the designated camps” they reside in besides appointing a new interlocutor for peace talks with the pro-talks faction of the ULFA, NDFB (Ranjan Daimary) and NDFB (Progressive). It is not clear whether retired bureaucrat P.C. Haldar would continue as the interlocutor for the ULFA talks.
Arunachal Pradesh: Deputy speaker’s son allegedly shot dead a Congress youth wing leader
The deputy speaker of the Arunachal Pradesh assembly Tumke Bagra’s son Kajum Bagra, allegedly shot dead a Congress youth wing leader in the state’s West Siang district on the night of March 26, media reports quoting state police said.
Reports quoting district superintendent of police Mari Riba, stated that Kajum shot at Kenjum Kamsi, the district secretary of the Youth Congress, in front of a hotel in Aalo town around 10 p.m. after a scuffle between the two. Riba told local reporters that Kajum, 30, was arrested with the revolver he used and a case has been registered against him.
State Congress unit condemned the attack and accused the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party of “reflecting its true colours to which the deputy speaker belongs.” The party also demanded Tumke’s resignation and “exemplary punishment to the accused.”
Tumke was elected in the last assembly polls from the Aalo West constituency. He became the deputy speaker in March 2016.
Manipur: First bandh in the state after BJP forms government partially affects normal life
Though the BJP formed a government in Manipur earlier this month with the promise of removing the “culture of bandh and blockades”, the state saw one on March 26.
The 17-hour bandh starting from the midnight of March 25 was called by the student organisation Democratic Students Alliance of Manipur against the induction of independent MLA Ashab Uddin as a parliamentary secretary in the N. Biren Singh government.
The bandh partially affected normal life in the state capital Imphal and the neighbouring areas with few vehicles plying on the road and many shops seen with their shutters down.
DESAM claims that Uddin, elected from the Jiribam constituency of the state in the recent assembly polls, “is a non-indigenous person”. Media reports quoting its president Nameirakpam Edison said that Uddin’s family “came to the state only in 1905.” DESAM demanded that the BJP-led government withdraw the decision to appoint him as the parliamentary secretary for education.
Though the state chief secretary O. Nabakishore appealed to DESAM to withdraw its bandh call in the interest of public, Edison told local reporters that “a stronger form of agitation will be taken up after the ongoing high school board examination ends if the government doesn’t remove him from the post.” A press note released by the government on March 25 also reminded the outfit of the Supreme Court and state high court orders declaring bandhs illegal “as it infringes upon the fundamental rights of a citizen” and “is liable to punishment under appropriate laws.”
The note added, “The state government cannot remain silent spectators when the people are suffering” and urged the public to continue their normal activities on March 26.
Nagaland: Home minister admits to 2,078 appointments in police department without government’s knowledge
The Nagaland government told the state assembly this past week that there had been as many as 2,078 appointments in the state police department without any interviews and newspaper advertisements, in violation of the government’s appointment rules.
Interestingly, the state home minister Y. Patton blamed the commandants and the superintendents of police of various battalions and the district police for making those appointments without the knowledge of his ministry. He said he would look into it.
Replying to a starred question posed by the BJP MLA M. Kikon in the state assembly on March 23, Patton said that 2,078 posts (USI-20, ABSI-21, NPTO -21, MTSI -2, ASI -17, havildar -35, THC -22, constables -1901, clerical staff -39) were appointed by the police department between 2013 and 2017 “directly”.
Days before the budget session of the assembly began, Kikon told reporters that he received threats “from intermediaries of the home ministry” for submitting the starred question on appointments made in the police department. He told The Wire on March 20 that he was asked to withdrew the questions through threats to his family.
The home minister’s March reply substantiates the protest made by civil society organisations like Against Corruption and Unabated Taxation against such “backdoor appointments” made in various government departments. Reacting to it, ACAUT on March 26 asked state chief minister Shurhozelie Liezietsu as to how exactly he would go about tackling the menace of “illegal backdoor appointments in the police department and the government departments in general.”
In a press note, it stated, “As far as the 2,078 backdoor appointment in the police department is concerned, the home minister cannot escape responsibility. Secondly, if the commandants and SPs have been making unauthorised appointments as alleged on the floor of the assembly, the ACAUT asks what action the home minister is going to take against these authorities for making illegal appointments – a clear case of insubordination.”
ACAUT asked whether the government would terminate all those appointees “in the interest of capable Naga youths?” It also demanded that the government “terminate all the BDOs, senior lecturers, medical officers, SDOs, JEs, CDPOs and other gazetted backdoor appointees in the RDD, Social Welfare Department, Department of School Education, PWD, SCERT, higher education and medical department, etc. made in the last several years.”
In June 2016, the state government issued a notification stating that appointments should thereon be done only against vacancy. However, the home minister’s statement in the state assembly showed that the notification has clearly been violated.