The Telegraph
Friday , March 21 , 2014
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Poll winds hit Nido panel

- Members’ poll foray renders committee futile

New Delhi, March 20: Poll winds have snuffed out the glimmer of hope that was offered by a committee set up by the Centre after the killing of Arunachal Pradesh student Nido Tania here in January.

The six-member committee, comprising former bureaucrats, reached the end of the road with at least two of its members joining active politics ahead of the polls, one of them to contest the election. The committee, formed on February 5, was expected to submit its report within two months but this will not happen any more, official sources conceded.

Former Arunachal Pradesh IAS officer Tape Bagra, who joined the BJP this month, will contest the Lekang Assembly constituency in eastern Arunachal Pradesh on April 9.

Former IPS officer H.T. Sangliana is actively working for a party in Bangalore while another member is rumoured to have been offered a Lok Sabha ticket.

“The JD (S) ticket was given to someone else although there is hope for me. Let us see,” said Sangliana, who is also being wooed by some other political parties for a ticket in Karnataka.

Incidentally, home ministry sources said, Tania’s relatives had recommended that Sangliana be included in the committee. Tania, a college student from Arunachal Pradesh, was lynched by a mob at Lajpat Nagar market on January 29 after a tiff with a shopkeeper.

With all the brouhaha over a new anti-racism law and a slew of measures to protect young people from the Northeast, government officials now say the committee’s future will be decided after the polls.

“When members join political parties, the election commission’s code of conduct will apply,” a source said.

That leaves the committee’s chairperson and North Eastern Council member, M.P. Bezbaruah, with little scope for deliberations. The committee cancelled a media interaction this week, citing possible objections from the Election Commission.

Since its inception over a month ago, the committee has held deliberations with academics, journalists and activists here but has not been able to frame the terms of reference in detail, a member said.

The committee was also expected to make fact-finding visits to Mumbai and other metros and find out incidents of discrimination or assaults against people from the Northeast. But in Mumbai, the Maharashtra government is said to have refused to extend cooperation to the committee. In Chennai also, lack of coordination resulted in a failed visit, sources said.

Nido’s death has whipped up a massive protest, forcing political parties and top leaders to take notice. After Rahul Gandhi visited the protest site, Jantar Mantar, the government hurriedly set up the committee.

The move was, however, rejected by the activists, who argued that a committee of “retired bureaucrats” could not yield results.

The committee had discussed several ideas, including amending existing laws, roping in film stars to spread awareness about the Northeast, and activating helplines and setting up help centres for people from the Northeast. It had also deliberated upon the activists’ demand for framing anti-racial discrimination legislation.

However, with elections round the corner, the legislation aside, the committee itself is virtually dysfunctional.

The first jolt was felt by Nagaland in December when R.S. Pandey, the interlocutor for talks with NSCN (Isak-Muivah), resigned to joined the BJP. The interlocutor’s position remains vacant. Officials say the decision has been deferred to the new government at the Centre.