NE Dispatch: Rally Against BJP Policies in Assam; Nagaland Village Chiefs Meet Modi Over Naga Accord

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

A boat clinic run by the Centre for North East Students and Policy Research seen rescuing the flood hit in Assam's Nalbari district. Credit: Special arrangement

A boat clinic run by the Centre for North East Students and Policy Research seen rescuing the flood hit in Assam’s Nalbari district. Credit: Special arrangement

Heavy rainfall continues to create havoc in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram

Perennial rains have created havoc across most parts of the Northeast. While Assam is undergoing a fresh wave of floods which had already taken 60 lives till August 18 and affected life and property of over 11 lakh people in 19 of the 33 districts, three deaths were reported from neighbouring Meghalaya on August 12 after a huge tree fell on them in Shillong due to the heavy rains.

The fresh floods have since August 12 snapped the rail link of Assam with the rest of India. Northeast Frontier Railway officials told local reporters that effort is on to restore connectivity and trains are expected to resume service from August 20 onwards.

The new wave of floods in the state have yet again submerged the rhino habitats in both Kaziranga National Park (KNP) and the Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary, forcing the animals to take shelter on highlands.

Rohini Ballav Saikia, KNP divisional forest officer, told local reporters on August 14 that over 85% of the 430 sq km park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is under water which came from river Difloo. He said the breach of the embankment at Hatimura also led to further flooding of the national park.

Life of over a hundred rhinos is in danger as most parts of Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary have come under water. Pobitora is said to have the densest population of one-horned rhino in the world.

According to reports from Shillong, besides causing the death of three people, the falling of a huge tree inside the Raj Bhavan premises on August 12 also led to two people being injured and three vehicles being destroyed.

Reports quoting government officials stated nearly 800 people have become homeless in South and West Garo Hills of the state after some villages submerged under the rising flood waters. Landslides have also been reported from the district.

Officials said the flood affected have been put up in six relief camps. Reports of flash floods and landslides caused by the incessant rains have been reported from the West Khasi Hills too.

The rains have led to a rise in the water level at the Umiam reservoir in Ri-Bhoi district near the danger mark, leading the government to open the floodgates of the dam as a precautionary measure.

In Tripura, a heavy downpour since August 10 had led to the flooding of state capital Agartala and the adjoining sub-divisions, leading hundreds of people to take shelter in 50 relief camps. Local media reports quoting state government officials said over 2,000 families had taken shelter in the camps set up in different parts of the state.

Even though two months have passed since cyclone Mora in neighbouring Bangladesh caused flash floods and landslides in Mizoram due to heavy rains, many villages in the state’s Lunglei district are still under water.

According to local reports on August 16, villages in Tlabung sub-division of the district along the Bangladesh border have been submerged since the cyclone hit the areas in mid-June, leading local communities to struggle to live a normal life. Many families are still living with their relatives, waiting for the water to recede.

Assam: Public meeting and procession in Guwahati against BJP government’s policies

On August 12, in spite of the heavy rains, about 500 people comprising local intellectuals, thinkers, authors and cultural personalities among others got together in Guwahati’s Lakhidhar Bora grounds to register protest against the BJP-ruled state government’s “increased attempt at creating a communal divide” and “failure to usher in poriborton (change)” as promised in its election manifesto.

Led by well-known Assamese intellectual Hiren Gohain, the public meeting, followed by a silent procession through the city streets, saw a number of well-known personalities besides common people and students accusing the Sarbananda Sonowal government of “trying to destroy the secular fabric of the state” by undertaking various policies based on “extreme Hindutva agenda.”

“There is an attempt to create a sense of fear among the minorities living in the state. Those who question the agenda are termed anti-national. Actually, it is an attempt to destroy the fabric of unity and brotherhood among people of all religions in the state,” Gohain told reporters.

Public procession on a Guwahati street. Credit: Special arrangement

Public procession on a Guwahati street. Credit: Special arrangement

Addressing the public, he said that the Sonowal government is turning out to be dangerous for the democracy. Though it came on the promise of bringing poriborton, there is rising unemployment among the youth. Instead of working on real issues facing the state, what people are increasingly witnessing is an agenda of extreme Hindutva ideology.

Among other decisions of the state government, the July 31 announcement by the state education minister that the government would name 21 colleges after RSS-BJP ideologue Deendayal Upadhyay has created a huge uproar in the state. A few months ago, public opposition was palpable when the state government spent crores to organise a state-wide festival, Namami Brahmaputra, on the lines of Namami Ganga, to worship the river by bringing priests from Haridwar. Though Brahmaputra is an important part of Assamese life and culture, the river is never worshipped.

Soon after the Narendra Modi government came to power in 2014, it also brought in a proposed amendment to the Citizenship Act to facilitate granting of Indian citizenship to Hindu Bangladeshis. The move received strong opposition in the state as it would violate the Assam Accord, signed in 1985 by the state and central governments along with the powerful student organisationsAll Assam Students’ Union and Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuba Chatra Parishad. The accord brought to an end six years of agitation against “illegal Bangladeshis” residing in the state.

One of the resolutions adopted at the August 12 public meeting in Guwahati reportedly said, “The indigenous people are facing a threat to their existence and identity due to the presence of a large number of illegal migrants from Bangladesh but the BJP government is trying to address the issue by offering citizenship to Hindu Bengali migrants.” Speakers stressed on the point that the ongoing process of updating the National Register of Citizens, 1951 with the cut-off date of March 24, 1971, to detect “illegal immigrants” as per the Assam Accord irrespective of religion, be completed as soon as possible.

Nagaland: Village chieftains meet PM Modi on Naga Accord

Prime Minister Narendra Modi met a delegation of village chieftains or gaon burrahs from Nagaland on August 3 in New Delhi in relation to the proposed Naga Accord.

According to news reports from Kohima, the 15-member delegation representing the Nagaland Gaon Burrah Federation urged the prime minister to take the peace process “to a logical conclusion”.

The reports said the delegation told the prime minister that all civil society organisations and tribes of Nagaland “have stated their desire for peace”.

In August 2015, PM Modi announced on Twitter that a “historic” peace accord had been signed with NSCN (I-M). Though later, home ministry officials termed it a “framework agreement” which would lead to the Naga Accord, the terms have since been kept secret by the negotiating parties.

Home minister Rajnath Singh, PM Narendra Modi and T Muivah of NSCN (I-M. Credit: PTI

Home minister Rajnath Singh, PM Narendra Modi and T Muivah of NSCN (I-M. Credit: PTI

According to local media reports, members of NSCN (Isak-Muivah), led by T. Muivah, “are in the final stages” of peace talks with the central government interlocutor R. N. Ravi.

Muivah, along with NSCN members, engaged in a meeting on August 18 with Ravi and “is likely to meet again on August 19”.

According to local media reports quoting “NSCN (I-M) sources”, “The negotiating parties are in a hurry to ink a final accord while there is a BJP government in the neighbouring states (Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh) and the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre which is in a position to convince the RSS, the Hindu right-wing group which firmly stands for integration of India. Also, the BJP-led NDA government has an absolute majority in the Lok Sabha.”

A report in Nagaland Page quoted “NSCN sources” as saying: “The Centre and NSCN (I-M) have agreed for political and cultural integration for the time being. PM Modi has also said that this time’s solution can’t be 100% but that doesn’t mean there will not be further discussion.”

Among issues discussed between the NSCN and the central government also include creation of separate battalions to rehabilitate the I-M militants who “would then jointly provide security with Indian forces to Nagaland and its international border”.

Meanwhile, NSCN (I-M) has been trying to engage with as many stakeholders as possible in the Naga society to agree to the peace deal it is working out with the Centre. Muivah has also been meeting Naga students and others in small groups in New Delhi to ensure strong support to the proposed peace deal with the Centre.

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