Sunday, April 11, 2021

… playing with fire

The total bandh across the Northeast, except Tripura as per some media reports, called by the North East Students’ Organization (NESO) and supported by all Northeastern student organizations, besides numerous political parties ~ which are not necessarily anti-BJP ~ and other non-governmental organizations, intellectuals and academicians, on January 8, 2019, is an unambiguous message to the BJP- led NDA Government at the Centre. The question now is whether it got the message and appreciates the nuances ~ seeing that we are just a few months away from the Lok Sabha elections that would decide the fate of political parties with aspirations to sit at the seat of power at Delhi for the next five years. While the reason for the bandh called on January 8 needs no elaboration because the Citizenship Amendment Bill has been discussed in detail since last year, especially in Assam, and its implications equally perilous and frightening for all Northeastern states, the Central Government ~ and the BJP and its allies in the Northeast ~ must also be aware and beware that the issue of this Bill is much larger than the impending parliamentary elections. The passage of this Bill has the potentials to drastically change this region’s demography, which in turn would result in irresoluble socio-economic, political and cultural strife and conflicts ~ which would not only compound the already existing ones but also add new and virulent dimensions to them. With the passage of this Bill, there are great potentials for civil war in the Northeast. The citizenship clauses of the India Constitution aren’t about religion but since this Bill focuses on granting citizenship on the basis of religion, clearly the BJP-led NDA Government at the Centre has turned itself into a child playing with fire. And, don’t forget the Northeast’s accumulated agony, frustrations, disappointments, anger, desperations, rage and the deep sense of abandonment since Independence ~ none of which can be addressed and redressed with promises of development, or sweet-sounding oratory. Never has it been more critical to call a spade a spade than now ~ and this treacherous Bill is nothing but a total sell-out of the Northeast. Perhaps there wasn’t a bandh in Tripura but that is because of the political environment created by the present political elite in that state ~ not because the people of Tripura support the Bill. Despite the Nagaland Government’s wishy-washy ways vis-à-vis the Bill due to the political considerations and compulsions of the ruling NDPP here ~ led by the Naga Students Federation (NSF), a constituent of the NESO, the support of the people is unambiguous because even the simplest mind can fully understand the Bill’s insidious implications and threats thereof to indigenous communities here. For the Nagaland Government to cite Article 371 (A) and the Inner Line Permit as sufficient safeguards for the people of Nagaland is laughable to say the least because then it must now explain the increasing influx of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants into Nagaland, especially since the 1980s. Not only the NDPP and their allies here but also other political parties across the Northeast that doesn’t seem to see any harm in this Bill must keep in mind that that this issue exposes their tall claims of “working for the people” and their greed for power come hell or high water. But once this Bill is passed and comes into effect, the entire political profile of this region is likely to change and if so, under the new circumstances, a number of political parties are likely to be peripheralized ~ perhaps even made irrelevant and redundant. The All Assam Students Union (AASU) has already decided not to send a member to be part of the panel notified by the Centre to work towards implementation of Clause 6 of the 1985 Assam Accord, as per media reports. Recall that the committee notified by the MHA on Sunday is headed by retired IAS officer MP Bezbarauah and also includes an MHA Joint Secretary and an AASU representative. Meanwhile, activist and advisor to Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti Akhil Gogoi reportedly said: “We have tried all sorts of peaceful protests, yet no one heard us. The only thing left for us to do is to carve out a sovereign Assam. We have to fight for that.” Such desolation in the air creates ominous shadows ~ the consequences of which no political party or personality in the Northeast today has the perspicacity to foretell and forestall.