A round-up of what’s happening in India’s Northeast.
Aizawl: Gauhati HC withdraws judges from district court in Mizoram after mob attack
In a rare attack on the judiciary, a mob resorted to violence in a district court in Mizoram, leading the Gauhati high court to withdraw three judges.
According to local media reports, people belonging to Zohnuai area of the state’s Lunglei district gathered in front of the district court on September 21 and demanded to see Stephen Lalchawiliana, who was to be produced before the court that day for allegedly killing a man named C. Lalsawmliana of the locality.
The crowd hurled stones at the court premises and ransacked the official residence of the civil judge after learning that the accused was already remanded to judicial custody for a further period in a camp court inside the district jail.
According to the local police, 27 people had been arrested for unlawful assembly and remanded to judicial custody just before the judges were withdrawn by the high court.
Three days after the incident, state home minister R. Lalzirliana told reporters that a panel comprising a group of ministers would be instituted to inquire into the incident and stern action would be taken against those who were found guilty.
Meanwhile, the Gauhati high court Chief Justice Ajit Singh has written a letter to the state chief minister expressing shock at the untoward incident and sought immediate and stern action to ensure that such cases are not repeated in the future. The three judges withdrawn from the Lunge court have been attached to the district and sessions judge in Aizawl.
Besides Assam, the states of Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland fall under the jurisdiction of the Gauhati HC.
Gangtok: Students protest non-recognition of courses studied under state-run programme
News of good governance is what usually comes from the northeastern state of Sikkim. However, over the last few months, a large number of students from the state and its government have been at loggerheads.
Several of these students were detained by the local police on September 21, after a meeting with the state social welfare minister Tulsi Devi Rai in Gangtok failed to offer a solution to their grievances.
These students had completed two graduate courses at the Institute of Technology and Future Management Trends (ITFT) in Chandigarh – Bachelor of Airlines, Tourism and Hospitality Management (BATHM) and Bachelor in Health, Spa and Resort Management – in accordance with a scheme offered by the state social welfare department. The academic institution was chosen by the department for the programme.
However, in February of this year, students who graduated in 2012 from ITFT with the two degrees alleged that the Indira Gandhi National Open University cancelled their admission from its masters course in tourism management after six months. The reason the university cited for doing so was that the courses that they had completed were not recognised by the UGC.
Besides those who have completed the course, there are many students from Sikkim who are presently enrolled in these courses, which are funded by the state government. This has led to widespread fear and dilemma among the students about whether or not to continue the courses.
When the students approached the social welfare department and the state’s human resource department, they were assured that the government would pursue the matter with the institute, but no solution has surfaced so far.
On September 21, the students protested in front of the chief secretary A. K. Srivastava’s office and the social welfare department. Rai later met the students, but their meeting did not lead to any immediate solution.
The students thereafter raised slogans against her and even blocked her way, leading the police to arrest some of the protesters.
Media reports quoted Sujendra Rai, a final year student of BATHM from Sikkim and the president of the Sikkim Students Welfare Association of Chandigarh, “If the department is sending the students to pursue the course, the onus also lies on them to verify the same before putting the future of hundreds of students at stake.”
The students also alleged that the monthly stipend provided by the state’s Welfare Department was less than the promised amount of Rs 1,200.
Speaking to media, the minister said that the department “is in constant touch with the concerned authorities seeking timely redressal of the issue.” She, however, alleged that “the students have been politically instigated.”
Guwahati: Former chief minister Mahanta demands changes in Citizenship Bill
Taking note of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 – which was introduced by the Narendra Modi government – the former Assam chief minister and Asom Gana Parishad leader, Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, has urged the Centre to provide special constitutional safeguards to the indigenous people of Assam in accordance with the Inner Line Permit.
At a press meet in Guwahati on September 25, Mahanta, whose party is an ally of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party government in the state, termed the Bill “an insult to the Assam Accord.”
“Anyone who entered the state after March 25, 1971 is an illegal citizen irrespective of religion, caste and creed [according to the accord signed by the Centre, the state government and the All Assam Students Union (AASU)]. So we appeal to all concerned to oppose the Bill in writing before October 30,” he told reporters. As the AASU president, Mahanta is a signatory to the accord.
The Bill, tabled in the parliament on August 11, seeks to provide citizenship rights to religious minorities persecuted in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan. It is presently being examined by a joint select committee of parliament after opposition parties sought more examination of its clauses.
Mahanta recently led a delegation under the banner of Asom Andolan Sangrami Mancha to New Delhi and submitted a memorandum to the committee members.
“We have explained our points in the memorandum. Assam bore the burden of foreigners till 1971. Just the way outsiders cannot buy property in states like Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram, Assam, too, needs similar safeguards,” Mahanta said at the press meet.
The ILP system in Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram restricts the entry and stay of “outsiders” in these states. Yet, another northeastern state of Manipur has been witnessing violent street protests for months in demand for the ILP system.