A round-up of what’s happening in India’s Northeast.
Assam: Centre removes NSG security for two former state chief ministers
Barely a week after the centre withdrew the National Security Group (NSG) commandoes guarding former Assam chief minister, Tarun Gogoi, yet another former state chief minister, Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, was stripped of the same privilege.
The ministry of home affairs had decided to withdraw the special force – primarily trained for counter terrorism activities – from VIP security. Some reports said the centre would like to shift the largest part of VIP security duty to the paramilitary forces.
On getting to know of the centre’s decision, Gogoi wrote a letter to home minister Rajnath Singh alleging that “the decision had not been taken on merit but due to political reasons, which is discriminatory.”
Currently, there are 13 other VIPs – including Singh himself, BJP stalwart and former home minister L.K. Advani and Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav – who have NSG security. Those protected by NSG commandos are entitled to Z plus category, the highest level of security. Around 40 such commandos are deployed for each of these people.
In the letter, Gogoi also mentioned about Mahanta being given NSG cover even 15 years after he left the chair of the state chief minister.
“No other political leaders of my stature in the country, who have been provided Central Armed Police Forces (read NSG) cover, were suddenly relieved of it just seven months after demitting office. Even in my state, former chief minister, Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, is still having CAPF cover though he demitted office 15 years back,” he wrote.
Interestingly, a week later, Mahanta was stripped off it.
Even though his party, Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) is a part of the BJP government in the state, Mahanta has lately been vociferously opposing the centre’s decision to give citizenship to undocumented Hindu Bangladeshis residing in the state, among other parts of the country, by amending the existing Citizenship Act. In September, he signed a joint memorandum with Asom Andolan Sangrami Aikya Mancha – a large group of civil society and political organisations of the state opposed to the amendment of the Act– and submitted it to the joint parliamentary committee set up by the centre to seek suggestions on the issue.
On being asked by reporters in Guwahtai about its possible link to the centre’s recent decision to withdraw NSG cover over him, Mahanta didn’t deny it, stating, “I have no issues if my NSG security cover is removed. The people of Assam will protect my life. And I will continue to oppose the amendment to the Act.”
A report in the Hindu quoted a senior home ministry official who said the centre had decided to chop the list of people who get NSG security in a recent meeting of the committee which looks into it. The meeting was chaired by union home secretary Rajiv Mehrishi.
While Gogoi put out photos taken with the NSG commandoes on twitter before they left duty on December 15, Mahanta told local reporters on December 27 that he was yet to receive any intimation from the centre on the decision. Gogoi also tweeted saying, “It is unfortunate that the state intelligence is not aware of the centre’s development to withdraw (my) NSG cover.”
Some of the former chief ministers who are currently protected by NSG commandoes include Samajawadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and Bahaujan Samaj Party head Mayawati. The current Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal doesn’t have NSG cover. As per a local news report, the state police had sought it for him from the centre. The report also quoted state police sources saying Gogoi would continue to get security from Assam police.
Assam: A local court summons Delhi CM and AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal
A court in Assam has admitted a criminal defamation case against Delhi chief minister and the chief of AAP in connection with a tweet he reportedly posted on December 15 on prime minister Narendra Modi’s educational qualifications.
In response to the case lodged by Surjya Rongfar – a BJP member and an executive member of the Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council – the Diphu chief judicial magistrate’s court in the state’s Karbi Anglong district issued a summon on December 27 to Kejriwal to appear in the court on January 30. It was done after Rongfar recorded his statement before the court. He took objection to the tweet where Kejriwal claimed that Modi was only 12th pass and that the rest of his degrees were fake.
The case had been filed under sections 499, 500 and 501 of the Indian Penal Code and if convicted, Kejriwal could be sentenced to a maximum two years in jail.
Though AAP had not reacted to the news yet and neither has Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal, state BJP leader and finance minister Himanta Biswa Sarma tweeted the news published by New Live, a Guwahati-based news organisation run by his wife.
Arunachal Pradesh: A huge fire razed down almost an entire village along Indo-Myanmar border; one charred to death
A huge fire gutted as many as 57 houses in one of the last villages along Indo-Myanmar border on December 22, rendering about hundred families homeless in the biting cold, according to local news reports. The accident happened in the predominantly Christian village in the state’s Longding district three days before the festive occasion of Christmas.
Though the reason for the fire is not yet known, it is said to be the second big fire in Wakka village – situated atop a mountain that separates India from Myanmar – in the last one year. As many as 32 houses were burnt then. Most village houses are typically made of bamboo and thatch and are closely placed against each other.
Reports coming from Itanagar said the fire occurred around 11 am and burnt about 57 houses, including a church building, in a matter of minutes. A 70-year-old woman named Bangman Gangsa was charred to death inside her house. Media reports quoting villagers said no one got a chance to save anything. It included their livestock and food grain.
As per a villager, all male members were engaged in clearing a road nearby as ordered by the 16th Assam Rifles placed in Wakka when the accident occurred. He said, “We have a local custom of assigning some male members to keep watch against such accidents. We could have saved many houses were we not asked to clear the road.”
In response to plea to the people of the state for aid to the villagers by many civil society organisations, considerable help has arrived till now. At a donation camp organised by Arunachal Pradesh Women’s Welfare Society at Naharlagun near Itanagar, a large number of people gave goods of daily use including winter wear for the villagers.