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Mainstream, VOL LVII No 11 New Delhi March 2, 2019

BJP Misreads Arunachali Sentiments

Sunday 3 March 2019, by Barun Das Gupta

Widespread violence has broken out in the quiet North-Eastern State of Arunachal Pradesh bordering China in the last few days. The objection of the Arunachalis is the Centre’s step to grant Permanent Resident Certificates (PRC) to six communities in Arunachal which are recognised as Scheduled Tribes in neighbouring Assam. These tribes are Deoris, Sonowal Kacharis, Morans, Adivasis, Mishing and Gorkhas.. Already, two persons have died in police firing. The Deputy Chief Minister’s residence has been set fire to. The Centre’s decision to grant PRCs to these communities was a sequel to its accepting the recommendations of a high-power committee to that effect. Though the Union Minister of State for Home, Kiren Rijiju, who hails from Arunachal, has announced that the Arunachal Pradesh Government has not accepted the recommendations of the high-power committee, the Arunachalis, on the face of it, have not trusted the assurance of their government. Having committed a faux pas, the BJP is now accusing the Congress of “instigating” the Arunachalis as if the Arunachalis do not understand what is happening and need to be “instigated” by anyone.

This shows the total ignorance of the BJP’s central leadership of the sentiments of the people of this highly sensitive and strategically located State. The difference between the way of decision-making by the Congress and the BJP is that the Congress, thoroughly experienced in the affairs of North-East India, would consult the party’s State leadership before taking any important decision. The BJP, which is a new entrant into the politics of the North-East, acts differently. It does not take its local leadership into confidence before taking vital decisions in regard to the region. It arbitrarily takes decisions and then imposes them on the States.

The same ignorance of the ground situation and the sensitivities of the people of the North-East led the Centre to introduce the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in Parliament. The Bill sought to grant citizenship to all non-Muslims coming from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan who came to India till March 24, 1974. This went against the Assam Accord of 1985 which set the cut-off date for granting citizenship as March 24, 1971. The people of the North-Eastern States feared—and not without reason—that once the Bill was passed, Bengali Hindus from Bangladesh will get citizenship in large numbers and this will change the demography of the region. By seeking to give citizenship on the basis of religion, the Bill went against the secular character of our Constitution. The people of the North-East also raised the very pertinent question whether an agreement signed by a Central Government led by one political party can subsequently be whimsically annulled by the Central Government led by another political party.

The author was a correspondent of The Hindu in Assam. He also worked in Patriot, Compass (Bengali), Mainstream. A veteran journalist, he comes from a Gandhian family and was intimately associated with the RCPI leader, Pannalal Das Gupta.

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