A round-up of what’s happening in India’s Northeast.
Arunachal Pradesh: Student union meets Kiren Rijiju on the Chakma-Hajong citizenship issue
On September 29, leaders of All Arunachal Pradesh Students’ Union (AAPSU) met home minister Kiren Rijiju to reiterate the union’s opposition to granting Indian citizenship to the Chakma-Hajong refugees that are residing in Arunachal Pradesh.
The student body leaders Kamta Lapung and Gumum Haider – who is also the chairman of AAPSU’s core committee on the Chakma Hajong issue – urged the ministry to “take the interests of the Arunachalees into consideration first”.
They also sought a meeting of all the MPs of the state along with the representatives of the Centre and the student body to resolve the vexed issue.
In September 2015, the Supreme Court, in response to a petition by the Committee for Citizenship Rights of the Chakmas of Arunachal Pradesh, directed the Centre and the state government to, within three months, complete the process of granting citizenship to about 7,000 Chakmas and Hajongs.
These refugees, who are from present-day Bangladesh, were settled in Arunachal between 1964 and 1969 by the then Assam governor Vishnu Sahay in accordance with the directions of the Centre.
The SC order is a follow-up to its 1996 judgment that granted citizenship to these refugees who settled in what was then known as NEFA or the North-East Frontier Agency, either because they faced post-partition religious discrimination (Chakmas are Buddhists and Hajongs are Hindus) or because they were displaced due to the construction of the Kaptai Dam in the Chittagong Hill Tracts.
AAPSU, however, has been opposing this move. The student body has wide support from most people of Arunachal on the issue. It had filed a special leave petition (SLP) against the apex court’s directive. In a recent meeting, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) expressed willingness to be a part of the SLP filed by the student body.
According to a press note released by AAPSU, besides Rijiju, the joint secretary of North East Satyendra Garg and joint secretary of foreign affairs Mukesh Mittal were also present at the recent meeting that was held at the MHA office in New Delhi.
The note also stated that a team from the ministry would soon visit Arunachal to hold a joint meeting with AAPSU and the state government on the issue.
Manipur: Rally against perennial bandhs held on Oct 2
An unusual rally was held on October 2 in Imphal. Organised under the banner of Progressive Manipur, the rally was against the perennial bandhs and blockade called by various organisations in the state as a mark of protest.
According to local press reports, the rally stressed on finding alternate means of protest than resorting to bandhs and blockades.
While addressing a meeting that was held before the rally began from the city’s THAU Ground, the Khwairamband Nupi Keithel Shinpham Amadi Saktam Kanba Lup secretary Shanti said that he felt such a rally was long overdue in the state.
Some other leaders from civil society organisations lamented that the number of bandhs and blockades had been rising each year, even after the protesters were well aware of the negative impact of the bandhs on common people – particularly on the daily wage earners. They felt that more and more people needed to raise their voice against the bandhs that were not reasonable.
Speaking at the meeting, Babloo Loitongbam of Human Rights Alert said that just as Delhi had Jantar Mantar for staging protests, the state also needed a similar venue. He pointed out that Mapal Kangjeibung used to be one such place in Imphal where people could gather to voice their grievances, but the ground had lately been fenced by the government.
Nagaland: How a village in the state has been celebrating the birth of Gandhi since 1955
Many in the Northeast were outraged at the Narendra Modi government for its instruction to the private national news channels to spread awareness among the people of the region about Independence Day.
Perhaps a small village in Nagaland can be an example of how there is more to the people of Northeast in terms of patriotism than what the central dispensation presumes.
Since 1955, every year on October 2 the Chuchuyimlang village near Dimapur has been celebrating Gandhi Jayanti with great pomp and gaiety. The village has a Gandhi ashram, which was established that same year by Natwar Thakkar, a veteran Gandhian who has been accorded a Padmashri.
In 2006, Gandhi Jayanti was celebrated on a large scale in the village after the United Nations declared the day as the International Day of Non-Violence.
In 2014, the Christian education department of the Chuchuyimlang Baptist Church organised a mega event to mark Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday. That year, the village council declared October 2 as an official annual event of the village and now, each year, the council selects a theme based on the teachings of the Mahatma.
This past October 2 as well the villagers gather to commemorate the 147th Gandhi Jayanti. The line-up of events began on October 1 and focused on themes of peace, universal brotherhood and sanitation.
Children from nine schools of the village and from the nearby Chuchu town participated in a community sanitation drive on October 1.
A day-long function was held at the village amphitheatre on October 2 that included a competition on Gandhi’s favourite Bible verses and on hymn singing.
Tripura: Centre sanctions Rs 171 crore for development of NH 44
The central government has sanctioned Rs 170 crore for development of National Highway 44. The highway made the news recently for its pathetic condition due to which there has been a scarcity of essential commodities in the state.
Hundreds of trucks carrying goods to the state could not ply on the highway and were stranded for months near the Assam-Tripura border.
NH44 is considered the lifeline of Tripura as it connects the state to the rest of India via Assam.
The funds sanctioned by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) is part of Rs 1,660 crore that has cumulatively been approved for various surface transport projects in Meghalaya, Nagaland and Assam, besides Tripura.
Recently, the Tripura government submitted a proposal of Rs 723.05 crore for the development of the 104 km stretch of the national highway. According to local media reports that have quoted national highway chief engineer Deepak Das, the ministry granted Rs 43.96 crore in the first phase for developing a road length of 25 kms.
Although it remains unclear whether the Centre has agreed to the amount sought by the state government for the repair of the highway, the recent funds sanctioned by the ministry are in response to that proposal.