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Northeast MPs want panel report made public

Akha Salouni

New Delhi, July 23: Members of Parliament from the Northeast today urged Union minister of state for home Kiren Rijiju to make the Bezbaruah committee report public.

CPM MP from Tripura, Jitendra Chaudhury, said the MPs also discussed the demand for an anti-racism law and agreed that it would require consultations with a cross-section of people.

The North East MPs’ Forum, a group of Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha MPs from the eight northeastern states, had met in Parliament today to discuss its own “restructuring” and a plan of action in the wake of the death of another young man from the region this week.

Akha Salouni, 29, a Naga from Manipur who worked with a BPO here, was beaten to death by six youths in south Delhi’s Kotla Mubarakpur area around 2.15am on Monday. In January, Nido Tania, 19, a student from Arunachal Pradesh, had died after being thrashed by shopkeepers in Lajpat Nagar following a fracas triggered allegedly by their racial taunts.

The MPs, however, treaded cautiously while speaking about Salouni’s death. While some felt that raising the issue of racism in what could be a case of road rage might backfire, no one wants to take a chance politically.

In fact, minister for minority affairs in the UPA government Ninong Ering, who had borne the brunt of activists’ ire for saying Tania’s killing was not a racist attack, was among the first to take up Salouni’s case in the Lok Sabha.

The outrage following Tania’s death had forced the UPA government to form a committee, led by North Eastern Council member M.P. Bezbaruah, to recommend comprehensive anti-discrimination measures.

The committee submitted its report to Rijiju on July 11. It has wide-ranging recommendations that include “debating” proposal of an anti-racism law.

The demand for the legislation, raised after Tania’s death, has gained fresh momentum following Salouni’s death.

However, in the short term, the committee says, the government should consider an amendment to the Indian Penal Code. Sources said the government is considering change in Section 153A of the IPC, relating to the crime of promoting enmity between groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence or language.

Rijiju is understood to have told the MPs’ forum, which was coordinated by Sikkim MP P.D. Rai, that a joint secretary ranked officer would study the committee’s recommendations after which the government will come out with “action points” to implement the recommendations.

Bezbaruah said the government should quickly go through the report and decide on how it can implement it. “It is not a very lengthy report. It is simple and straightforward, so it can be done,” he told The Telegraph.

He said the committee, which comprises former bureaucrats from the eight northeastern states as well as young people from the region, consulted a cross-section of society. Its members met as many as 800 people and tried their best to prepare a comprehensive report, he added.

There is also mounting pressure on the government from civil society groups to make the committee’s report public.


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