Naga peace talks : Pandey the new born politician
[dropcap]N[/dropcap]either the Central Government nor the NSCN (I-M) will perhaps fret over the fact that the talks between the two have been put into cold storage because of the resignation of Raghaw Sharan Pandey, the interlocutor for the talks.
The perception in Government circles is that Pandey’s decision to join politics will stall any meaningful peace talks at least till a new Government is installed after the Lok Sabha elections in May next year.
But, what has upset babus in North Block, where the Ministry of Home Affairs is housed, is that they learnt of Pandey’s desire to change his vocation and turn a neta through the media. The first indication came a month or two back. A local newspaper in Bihar, Pandey’s home State, reported that the interlocutor’s supporters were urging voters at a public rally to come out in his support. The newspaper report was brought to the notice of senior Government officials.The confirmation of Pandey’s intentions, if any was required, came when some other officials saw Pandey being garlanded at a public meeting in the presence of BJP president Rajnath Singh on a National news channel.
While all this was happening and Pandey was making his intentions clear of trading his formals for the white flannels, his employers in the Ministry of Home Affairs were in the dark. Even when they came to know of it, they could do little by way of looking for a replacement as the man himself hadn’t uttered a word officially. Pandey eventually resigned as the interlocutor on December 16 and joined the Bharatiya Janata Party.
Pandey himself has no regrets over his decision to join the political bandwagon. After serving as an administrator for decades, he said his heart was always in serving the people, and the best way to do that was joining politics. “I have done a lot of social work like organising eye camps, helping the poor and so on,” he asserted.
The demands of social work and that of being the interlocutor for the Naga peace talks became too much for him to handle. “Speaking to all the stakeholders, that is Manipur, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh, was taking all my time,” Pandey said. The choice was between politics and remaining an administrator. He chose the former.
“I sent my resignation letter on Monday to the Government. After processing it, the matter will be put before the Prime Minister,” he said.
Pandey has been harbouring a desire to contest the Lok Sabha elections from Bihar’s Valmiki Nagar Parliamentary Constituency, where his hometown is. “I have worked only in Valmiki Nagar, I cannot go anywhere else,” Pandey said, indicating that he has been nurturing this seat for some time now.
So from babu to neta, it’s been a long journey. An Indian Administrative Service officer of the 1972 batch, his association with the Northeast is not new as he was a Nagaland cadre IAS officer. Pandey retired as the Union Petroleum Secretary in January 2010. The very next month, the Government appointed him as the interlocutor for the Naga talks, succeeding K Padmanabhaiah.
The feeling in Government circles is that finding a replacement for Pandey will not be difficult as there are only a handful of bureaucrats who are well-versed with the Northeast. However with 2014 Lok Sabha elections just round the corner, it won’t be surprising if the Manmohan Singh Government drags its feet and waits for the new Government to take a call. Until then a stopgap arrangement is a possibility. But will the NSCN (I-M) leaders be willing to hold talks with him ? Unlikely !
With Pandey joining the BJP, the pro-NSCN lobby has predictably concluded that he was a “plant” of the party.
Inner Line Permit
Of the eight North Eastern States of India, the Inner Line Permit (ILP) under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873 is applicable in three States, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland. States like Manipur and Meghalaya had also demanded this provision but their demands have been categorically declined. The Centre feels that such a move will be a retrograde step in every aspect, especially for economic development.
In the case of Manipur’s demand for its introduction, the Central Government declined it long back, so has been the case with Meghalaya recently. Although in the case of Meghalaya unlike its other neighbouring States, the Chief Minister has been more far sighted by rejecting the demand for an “ineffective” and “colonial” law. If the demand for ILP is to prevent “outsiders” from settling in these States, the question is: Should we continue with such an archaic legislation which ceases to show results on the ground or is it better to withdraw it from all areas wherever it is in effect except perhaps the protected areas where security is an issue especially in the border areas ?
If we see the ground reality, such laws have not produced the desired results to prevent illegal migration. On the contrary, people have misused the law.
Instead of pressing for such a demand and make it a prestige or ego issue, we need to introspect. Firstly, if we take the Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunal) Act, 1983, it remained on paper only as it could not stop Bangladeshis from migrating to Assam and settling there permanently, which actually led to demographic changes in the State.
Let us face it, in reality it only encouraged vote-bank politics. The Supreme Court ultimately struck it down on a PIL filed by the Asom Gana Parishad in 2005.
Secondly, the fact remains that once Article 19 of the Constitution is in force, ILP cannot be introduced in any new area. It can continue where it exists. It can also be withdrawn from where it exists. But it cannot be introduced in any new area. In other words, with Article 19 of the Constitution in force, ILP becomes ultra vires of the Constitution.
Thirdly, provisions of such laws are being misused and violated today. Take for instance Nagaland where ILP is in effect in the entire State. Bangladeshis have infiltrated and set up businesses in Dimapur, Kohima and other towns either in the name of locals or by marrying locals. So ILP has not stopped the influx of illegal migrants.
As a result, these Bangladeshis do not pay taxes like other Nagas, who are exempted for being part of a tribal State. Had the State Government allowed these Bangladeshis to set up businesses legally in their own name, the State could have earned some revenue through tax collection.
But, by not doing so who has benefitted ? Similar is the case with Mizoram. Even in Arunachal Pradesh, except certain border areas along the India-China border where security is a big concern, ILP makes no sense.
Fourthly, it is ironic that while foreign tourists have free access to the North Eastern states as the Protected Area Permit (PAP) under the Foreigners (Protected Areas) Order 1958 has been excluded three years back, it is other Indians who have to take special permission to explore these places. Shouldn’t the State and the Centre think about this ? Fifth, Myanmarese Kukis are routinely getting embedded in Manipur’s society. On the one hand civil society organisations put pressure on the politicians to demand for ILP, on the other hand they remain silent on Myanmarese Kukis spreading their tentacles. Why ? Is the no-noise or no road block protest because insurgents get shelter on the other side when things become too hot for them in their own land ? It is high time the Centre faces this issue, discusses it with the States and comes up with concrete steps.
Courtesy: The Sangai Express