NE Dispatch: Manipur to Ban Bandhs, Blockades; Nagaland to Introduce Local Dialects in Schools

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

Manipur: state cabinet decides to enact law banning bandhs and blockades

The BJP-led coalition government has decided to enact a law that would ban all calls for bandhs and blockades in the state.

In a meeting of the state cabinet on May 31, the possibility of such a law was discussed at length, citing judgements passed by the high courts of Kerala, West Bengal and Meghalaya, which called the bandhs illegal.

According to local media reports, the cabinet discussed the suffering caused to the people due to the perennial bandhs and blockades in the state called by various political and civil society organisations, and observed that such activities are an infringement of the fundamental rights of the people for free movement as guaranteed by the constitution.

The cabinet decided to lay on the organisers the responsibility of public inconvenience and damage to public property during the bandhs and blockades. The new law will enable the state government to recover the cost of damages to properties from the organisers. If found guilty, such people will be barred from joining government jobs and receiving benefits under government-run schemes in addition to facing criminal proceedings.

Over the last few decades, Manipur has seen umpteen bandhs and economic blockades. In the run-up to the May assembly elections, the United Naga Council, supported by the Naga People’s Front (NPF), blocked the arterial national highways to the state against the then state government’s decision to create new districts, thus leading to huge public inconvenience. Interestingly, NPF is now a part of the state government. It was not clear though whether NPF was a part of the May 31 cabinet meeting.

Sikkim: Monks take out peace rally demanding the Centre allow Karmapa to visit

Monks of Sikkim’s revered Rumtek monastery took out a peace rally in the state capital Gangtok on May 18 demanding that the Centre allows Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje to visit the state. A day later, a delegation of the monks met the union minister for home Rajnath Singh at the state Raj Bhavan, urging early permission for Karmapa.

The delegation presented to Singh, who was on a two-day trip to the state, the resolution taken after the peace rally requesting the Centre to grant the permission, terming it as one of the “most important demand and aspiration” of the Buddhists of the state. According to local media reports, Sonam Kelyon, the MLA and the elected representative of the monks in the state assembly, led the delegation.

Monks blocking the highway in Sikkim demanding early visit of Karmapa to Sikkim. Credit: Twitter

Presently, the Karmapa, recognised as the head of the black hat sect of Tibetan Buddhism by the Dalai Lama, resides in Dharamshala. There are, however, two more claimants to the title of the 17th Karmapa of that sect, which controls the Rumtek monastery in east Sikkim. While one claimant, Dava Sangpo Dorjee, resides in Nepal, the other one, Thaye Trinley Dorjee, escaped from Lhasa and now lives in New Delhi.

Ogyen Trinley also escaped from Tibet through Nepal in 2000 and took shelter in Dharamshala.

However, the central government barred him and the other two claimants from visiting Sikkim. Ogyen Trinley was also barred from visiting other states and foreign nations. Recently, that ban has been lifted, though he still can’t visit Rumtek.

The state government has since written to the Centre several times requesting it to allow him to visit the monastery. Last year, the monks, under the banner of Denjong Lhadey, also staged a protest against the central ban and decided not to celebrate Independence Day on August 15.

Assam: Historic Cotton College turned into university  

The premier institute of higher education in Assam and in the Northeast, Cotton College in Guwahati, has been turned into a university. From now on, it will be called the Cotton College State University.

Taking effect from June 1, the decision was as per a Bill passed by the state assembly in the last budget session. The Cotton University Act, 2017, will combine the human resource and properties of the college with Cotton College State University.

Assam education minister Himanta Biswa Sarma inauguration Cotton University. Credit: Twitter

Speaking at the function to upgrade the college to a university, state education minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, an alumnus of the college, said, “The merger would pave the way for the institution becoming a centre of excellence in the future.”

Established in 1901 by the chief commissioner of the then British province of Assam, Sir Henry Cotton, the college has attracted the best of students and faculty of the region over the decades.

Nagaland: State to introduce local dialects in schools

The Nagaland government has decided to introduce the dialects spoken by various tribes of the state in the school curriculum from the 2018 academic session.

A notification to that effect was issued by the Naga People’s Front government in mid-May stating that it would help the state education department effectively implement the three-language policy as well as preserve, protect and promote local languages.

Nagaland CM Shurhozelie Liezietsu. Credit: PTI

The notification, applicable to both public and private schools, however, said English would continue to be the medium of instruction in the schools though teachers would be encouraged to explain difficult concepts and terms in local languages.

Though Nagamese is the common language used among the tribes of the state, each has its own dialect. Nagamese, which doesn’t have a script of its own and uses the Roman one, is not recognised as a regional language. This has led English to be the medium of instruction in educational institutions. In 1964, the state assembly declared English as the official language of the state.

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