Bridging the northeast
[dropcap]M[/dropcap]odi’s man from the Northeast’ was the topic of a television programme on a private English channel recently. If the aim of the programme was to get the Minister in this case, the MOS for Home Kiren Rijiju to air his vision for the region, sadly the Minister came across ‘lackluster’ and on occasions out of depth with the region he hails from.
Rijjiju from Arunachal Pradesh holds one of the most important portfolios in the Union government and not surprisingly aspirations amongst people in the region are upbeat that he will address the issues that plague the region with sensitivity, fairness and authoratively.The audience comprised a mixed crowd of ‘mainland’ students and residents of the capital from the northeast. Joining the array of young people popular faces such as footballer Bhaichung Bhutia from Sikkim and musician Papon from Assam also made an appearance.Bhaichung raised the issue of poor ‘air connectivity’ and Papon the issue of the perennial scourge of floods in Assam and the unmonitored volumes of money disbursed towards tackling the problem …without much really changing on the ground. The other younger participants raised issues of security and feeling safe in the capital with Binalakshmi Nepram founder of the Manipur Women Gun Survivors Network,raising the pertinent issue of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act.
By the end of the 25 odd minute talk-show one was left with a sense that the questions more than the Minister’s response stood out.
Rijiju came across toeing the middle ground in his replies even on the issue of governors appointed for postings in the northeast choosing to resign rather than take up their posting. His response was sentimental saying ‘who refused to go must apologise to the nation and to the people of the northeast’. But the truth is, such attitude on the part of those who turned down their postings is an ‘insult’ to the people of the region. It only reaffirms the sense of alienation that people in this region feel and now rightly so. How one wished Rijiju had expressed himself so.
On the 13 year long fast of iron lady Irom Sharmila to repeal the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, the young leader failed to feel the pulse and of the people and also that of Irom Sharmila.
Popularly referred to as a ‘draconian act’ the darkness of AFSPA as law comes to light as it allows the armed forces to shoot civilians simply on grounds of suspicion and ask questions later. A seemingly exasperated Binalakshmi Nepram when quizzing the Minister whose only response was that the ‘militancy’ was regressive for the region finally said ‘AFSPA should not be reduced to political jargons’.
The Minister concluded that the crux of the ‘gap in knowledge about the northeast’ is awareness and publicity. This is not new nor news for people here. What are the steps that the centre will take, even with Rijiju and other BJP leaders from the region to bridge this gap. How much will the region be allowed to interpret itself to the rest of the country ‘where the lotus blooms’ is a question to ponder upon.