Aziz Qureshi will be appointed as governor of Mizoram on January 9, reinforcing a disquieting impression — the Northeast is used as a dumping ground for those that the government wishes to relegate or punish. Qureshi, the sixth functionary to be appointed to the post in as many months, was the Uttarakhand governor who had taken the Narendra Modi government to court for allegedly trying to ease him out of office. In its reply to the court, the government accused Qureshi of not acting in a manner “behoving of the status of governor”, and of bringing “disrespect” to a constitutional office. So why would the government deem an individual considered unworthy of holding the office in one state as being fit to discharge the same responsibilities in the Northeast?
Qureshi’s is not the first Northeast appointment in recent months to be perceived as a “punishment posting” — by the government as well as the individual on the receiving end. Soon after coming to power, the NDA government transferred to Mizoram Kamla Beniwal — the former governor of Gujarat who had locked horns with the Modi-led government in the state over the appointment of a lokayukta. Next, former Maharashtra governor K. Sankaranarayan, another UPA appointee, was transferred to Mizoram — he resigned. Former Congress CM and Kerala governor Shiela Dikshit also seemed poised for similar relegation before her resignation. The signal is depressingly clear: the Northeast is to be treated as the boondocks, ideal for political exile.
This suggests a disrespect to the region that is at odds with the resetting of focus that Modi had seemed to promise in his campaign ahead of the Lok Sabha elections. At that time, hopes had been raised of a Centre more attentive to Northeast aspirations and concerns. Then, he had twinned tribal alienation and the lack of infrastructure to make a successful campaign pitch. The Northeast also received attention in the interim Union budget, with special funds allotted to it, new road and railway projects announced. Yet, as the continued spate of transfers of governors to the Northeast shows, nothing has changed. To the Indian mainland, the Northeast remains an opaque space, known mainly by its conflicts and insurgencies. It only extracts some empathy from the mainstream when reports of discrimination and violence against its people make it to the headlines. For the rest, the Centre continues to regard the Northeast with an unseeing gaze.
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