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Fresh fillip to statehood demands in Northeast

Feb. 18: The passing of the Telangana legislation in the Lok Sabha will not only give a fresh impetus to similar demands in the Northeast but could also put the region on the boil again.

Reactions of those agitating for separate states and those opposed to them suggest as much because of the hope and despair today’s development has triggered.

Assam, for example, witnessed unrest in Karbi Anglong and the BTAD, soon after the Centre decided to divide Andhra Pradesh last year. In Assam, the All Koch-Rajbongshi Students’ Union (AKRSU) president Biswajit Ray welcomed the development but hoped the Centre would address their demand for a separate Kamtapur just like the Telangana demand. President of another faction of the All Koch-Rajbongshi Students’ Union, Hiteswar Barman, also welcomed the move as it would pave way for Kamtapur.

Bongaigaon district Koch-Rajbonshi National Forum president Bimal Barman said, “If Kamtapur issue does not get priority now it would mean the UPA government gave nod to Telangana only for vote-bank politics.”

“We congratulate the people of Telangana and wish it will be a peaceful state but we warn the Centre that if it does not come up with a concrete idea on February 21, there will be a 100-hour rail roko,” said All Bodo Students’ Union (Absu) president Pramod Boro. Boro said if the third round of tripartite talks on Friday does not throw up a concrete result, there will be widespread protests in mid-March.

Absu is waiting for the Class X and XII examinations to conclude in second week of March.

If the 100-hour railway disruption does not help, the protesters will then follow it up with programmes that will extend to 500 hours and then 1,000 hours, Boro warned.

Similar discordant note was also struck by the Hills State Democratic Party, asserting that the failure to consider the legitimate statehood demands of the indigenous population of the Northeast was threatening the integrity of the nation and delay could only compound the scene.

HSDP general secretary Kanjang Teron said Telangana was a big victory for those struggling for separate identity for long. “Unfortunately statehood demands of other parts of India get good response but the entire government system is mysteriously silent when it came to the Northeast. If this continues for long, it would not take much time to cut off the Chicken’s Neck,” Terang said.

Northeast is linked to the rest of the country through the narrow Siliguri corridor, also referred to as the Chicken’s Neck.

Meghalaya is also facing demands for two separate states – Khasi-Jaintia and Garoland. Goldenstar Nonglong, spokesperson for the Hill State People’s Democratic Party (HSPDP), termed today’s development as an inspiration. “We have been fighting for a separate Khasi-Jaintia state, and we will continue to do so, based on linguistic lines. Yes, it is true that Telangana is an inspiration, but we leave it to the wisdom of the Telangana people to decide on their future,” he said.

In Nagaland, the Eastern Nagaland People’s Organisation said it would vigorously pursue its demand for a “Frontier Nagaland” state till it was granted.

However, there was mixed response to the development in Manipur.

George Guite, publicity secretary of Kuki State Demand Committee, said, “We are not happy because the UPA government took up only the creation of Telangana, leaving the demands of others. We have decided to resume our struggle for a separate Kuki state within Manipur’s territory.”

Moirangthem Nara Singh, CPI state secretary, said, “We welcome the passing of the bill as our party has been fully supporting the demand for a separate state.” M. Aswinikumar, state BJP general secretary, however, was unhappy: “The passing of the bill has denied the rights of the MLAs of the state as there is no consensus on bifurcating the state. There is a hidden agenda of the Congress to divide the state. Passing of the bill is undemocratic.”

The ruling Tripura CPM has strongly reacted to the “shady and dubious manner” in which the Telangana Bill was tabled and passed in the Lok Sabha. Describing the issue as “unprecedented”, CPM spokesman and senior leader Gautam Das said the passing of the bill would set off a chain reaction and that might be harmful for the Northeast as well as other parts of the country. There is a demand for a separate tribal state in Tripura.


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