The Central government will not interfere with Article 371 of the Indian Constitution – that ensures certain special provisions for Northeastern states — Home Minister Amit Shah said on Sunday in Guwahati.
He added that the government would not let any illegal foreigner reside in the country.
Article 371A of the Constitution lays out special provisions with respect to Nagaland, while 371G does that for Mizoram. Article 371B deals with special provisions with respect to Assam, Article 371H lists two special provisions for Arunachal Pradesh and Article 371C does it for Manipur. Congress leaders and civil society groups in Northeastern states had said after the special status of Jammu and Kashmir – under Article 370 – was scrapped that Northeastern states could also face the same fate.
Addressing the 68th plenary session of the North East Council (NEC), Shah said misinformation was spread when the Centre abrogated Article 370 for J&K. He said, “It is a democracy, and opposition parties have the right to oppose. But an issue was raised that ‘today 370, tomorrow 371’. They tried to spread a message to Northeastern states that the BJP government will now abrogate Article 371.”
Remarking that he has clarified this earlier also, Shah said Article 370 was a “temporary provision” while Article 371 is a “special provision”.
“I want to clarify that the Narendra Modi-led BJP government completely respects Article 371 and 371 A to J, and there is no question of any ched-khani [tampering] with it,” Shah said, adding that it was important to clarify because people “who do not want peace in the Northeast, those who do not want the Northeast to come into the mainstream and become an engine for India’s growth” were spreading misinformation.
Shah expressed his satisfaction over the timely completion of the exercise and said that several questions were raised on it but no illegal migrant would be allowed to live in the country. “Different people are raising different questions about it. The process has completed within the time frame. But let me specify that one even one ghuspetiya (illegal migrant) will not be allowed to live here. That is our sankalp (resolution),” he said.
During his visit, a state BJP delegation met Shah and submitted to him a memorandum highlighting the state unit’s take on NRC. Since its publication, state BJP leaders have repeated their dissatisfaction with and said “genuine Indian citizens” were among the 19 lakh people excluded from the final list.
Speaking to The Indian Express, state BJP president Ranjit Dass said, “We have submitted a memorandum to the Home Minister regarding NRC. We have highlighted that genuine Indian citizens have been left out and several illegal foreigners have made it to the list. We have also highlighted the plight of people whose ancestors’ refugee documents were not accepted and the Gorkhas who have been left out. He has assured all the support from the Centre to resolve these issues.”
In his speech, Shah also stressed on how the Modi-led BJP government has prioritised development of Northeastern states and said they were determined to connect all eight states via rail and air by 2022.
He added that there had been an increase of one-and-a-half times in NEC’s budget from the 13th Finance Commission (Rs 3,376 crore), under the Congress government, to the 14th Finance Commission (Rs 5,053 crore).
He also said that in the push for development, the focus on protecting the culture of the Northeast should not be lost. He said the identity of India was never “geo-political”, rather, it was “geo-cultural” and added that if this principle is accepted by everyone, the Northeast would be never be treated differently.
Governors and Chief Ministers of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura also spoke at the plenary session.
In his speech, Sonowal urged the NEC to “play an important role in the implementation of the Act East policy with a special focus on issues relating to trade, investment, tourism, connectivity and building relations with Southeast Asian countries in close coordination with various ministries of the Government of India”.
A press statement from the office of Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal noted on Shah’s speech, “The Union Home Minister further reiterated that not a single infiltrator would be allowed to stay in the region as the Government’s zero tolerance policy against illegal migration and insurgency would continue unabated.”