Since the ruling BJP-led government’s official stance was that it would absorb and give citizenship to all Hindus originating from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, one may assume that Hindu Bengalis excluded from the Assam NRC will eventually be absorbed as citizens; but then what would happen to the non-Hindus? The ramifications of this widening groundswell of public apprehension (that the NRC drive is mainly ethnic and more exactly against minority communities in Assam) were taken seriously enough by the government. Sheikh Hasina raised the matter personally with Mr Modi in New York, reportedly for the first time. Despite soothing noises by Mr Modi, the sense of disquiet remains.
Dr. S.C Jamir, a veteran politician, famously known as the architect of modern Nagaland, served five times as Chief Minister of Nagaland, was a Member of Parliament during which he served as Union Deputy Minister of Railways, Labour & Rehabilitation, and later as the Union Deputy Minister of Community Development & Cooperation, Food and Agriculture. In later years of his political career, Jamir served as Governor of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Goa and Odisha. During the tenure of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, Jamir was appointed as Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and represented India as a member of UN delegations.
East Wind publisher Nona Arhe sat down with him in his home in Dimapur, Nagaland to hear his views on his state, Nagaland, his political party, the Indian National Congress, and the country’s Act East policy, which has special relevance to Northeast India.
Animal rights activists alleged that the Assam Forest Department violated the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 by according out-of-turn “captive” status to the two sub-adult elephants, which they say were caught from the wild. What, they ask, was the Assam Forest Department’s “compulsion” to accord out-of-turn “captive” status to the two sub-adult elephants caught from the wild?
What is most likely to follow is a painful process of going through the legal grind for the excluded who are not saved by the Citizenship Amendment Bill – assuming the Bill will save anyone at all. That too remains a matter of doubt as there are legal and procedural issues.
At the end of it all, thousands of poor people will be further pauperised by the costs of legal fees. Some may die in detention camps or commit suicide. India’s close ties with Bangladesh will be severely tested. The Assamese jatiyobadis may earn an international reputation for xenophobia.
There seems to be a huge gap between the hype created over the Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project and the ground reality. The multi-crore project is also being depicted as a crucial component of the Act East Policy and a scheme that will provide an outlet for the landlocked Northeast to the Bay of Bengal through Myanmar.
It is also important to note that the fundamental legal bases of the two Registers, viz the NRC of 1951 and the NRC of 2018 are distinct and separate. While the NRC, 1951 was completed under the Census Act of 1948 which makes the register a contemporaneous document prepared by field staff engaged in course of census operation and was legally “not open to inspection nor admissible in evidence” (ALR 1970 (A&N) 206 para 15), admittedly the current NRC is being prepared under the Citizenship Act 1955 read with the Citizenship Rules, 2003. To the best of our knowledge, the Courts and the various orders and judgement have not as yet constructed any legal framework to reconcile the two Acts which have distinct origin and purposes. Neither has any legal framework been evolved to legitimize the use of the NRC,1951 as evidence in matters governed by the Citizenship Act by any amendment or an enabling clause.
The matter is more complicated now as we know that the district offices have not maintained the NRC-1951 data for all the districts as was mandated in the Census of 1951 and the matter is today admitted by the government of Assam as well. While the government was forced to rely on other documents produced by the people, from those districts where the NRC 1951 was absent or fragmentary, to enlist their names in the NRC, 2018, it therefore raises serious questions on the legality or legitimacy of ‘updating’ NRC,1951 in the province of Assam as a whole.
There is a tribal versus non tribal divide, but there are divides between and within tribes as well. There are many linguistic divides, several religious divides, class divides, and political divides. So, for instance, the Chakmas are a tribal group, as are the Tea Tribes, but their status in Northeast India is very different from other tribal groups. Similarly, the Meiteis of Manipur are a nontribal group, but their situation too is quite unique. The Bengalis are united by language and divided by religion. The Assamese and Bengali are, in many cases, united by religion and divided by language. The Nagas are divided by tribe but united by a sense of Naga identity. And so on.
The most loathsome thing is – this is happening here in Assam, just before our eyes and we are witness to its spread.
For the last five decades, the most dominant narrative in Assam has been the identity politics.
There is a genuine existential fear among the community of Assamese people because of the longstanding influx problem.
What has happened is only politics is being played on this and nothing worthwhile has been done to safeguard the existential fear of the community.
But the afternoon’s incident had shaken him badly. He felt the need to talk about it to some- one, although he would have to be careful not to reveal everything. ‘Baba,’ he resumed hesitantly, ‘something happened today on the way back from school.’
‘Yes?’ said Mr Dutta.
‘Some boys were calling me dkhar,’ Debu replied. ‘What does it mean?’
Mr Dutta did not reply. He puffed on his cigarette and silently watched the smoke curl upwards. After a while he said, ‘These boys…they know who you are? Where you stay?’
‘Don’t think so. Never saw them until today.’ ‘I see. Make sure you stay away from them.’
‘Yes, that I will. But you’re not telling me, what does dkhar mean?’
His father stubbed out his cigarette in the ashtray and said, ‘It’s the Khasi word for foreigner.’
Now in its 18th year, the festival has grown steadily over the years, in size and scope. In 2013, with the success and the demand, the Government decided to extend the celebration for a few more days – from a weeklong celebrations, it now runs as a ten day long celebrations. Considered as the longest and the most successful cultural festival in the Northeast state of India drawing in people from different parts of the country as well as from the rest of the world.
The festival is made up of several themed zones. The main attractions are cultural exhibitions of folk song and dances, indigenous games, and craft demonstrations. Food plays a crucial part in Naga culture, so much so that, it is considered an expression of cultural identity. All the 18 major tribes of Nagaland have their own traditionally designed Morungs (huts) where one can sample their exotic food and drink the local rice beer.