The Telegraph
Thursday , April 10 , 2014
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NE issues in manifesto

Guwahati, April 9: Attack on the northeasterners in the cities, revoking the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act and setting up of a peace-building commission features prominently among the 17-point charter of demands of the National People’s Manifesto.

The manifesto, prepared by over 4,000 civil society groups in the country under the Wada Na Todo Abhiyan, was submitted to political parties recently.

The manifesto demanded the abolition of all “anti-people” laws such as the army act, political engagement for conflict resolution in the region like the Northeast and Jammu and Kashmir and police and judicial reforms in order to uphold peace and human rights.

“Police and judicial reforms to be undertaken with focus on responsiveness to marginalised groups and speedy redress of appeals. Measures should also be taken to prevent unlawful arrest and torture. Recognise and protect the right to self-determination of people from areas of armed conflicts and insurgency such as the Northeast, Jammu and Kashmir and the Maoist-dominated districts,” it said.

Keeping in mind the country-wide protests against Nido Tania’s death and racial attacks on youths from the region living in cities, the manifesto demanded steps to prevent racial attack, provide protection as outlined by the International Convention on Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which was ratified by India in 1968.

Issues in more than 250 Lok Sabha constituencies in 24 states, based on their political importance (Amethi and Rae Bareili in UP) and poor performance of development indicators (Kalahandi in Odisha) were discussed through consultations, signature campaigns and engagement of social media in order to prepare the manifesto.

A regional consultation was held here last month to discuss the issues of the Northeast.

Calling to prioritise national integration and communal harmony, the manifesto suggested that a peace-building commission should be set up to implement and oversee an inclusive, transparent and sustainable peace process in the conflict-ridden areas like the Northeast.

The groups prepared constituency-wise manifesto and submitted to the MPs and the candidates contesting the elections.

Some of the major demands of the Peoples’ Manifesto include enactment of the National Health Bill, 2009, with a time bound public financing commitment, increasing the tax spending on health to meet 5 per cent of GDP in the next five years, repealing the Section 377 of the IPC that criminalises homosexuality, create policies and legal safeguards to protect the LGBT community from cruelty, safeguarding land rights to the Adivasis and prevent forceful evictions, giving opportunity to youths into politics by providing 35 per cent reservations in legislative Assemblies and equivalent bodies, increasing investment for child protection, education, health and nutrition.

The manifesto has also called for fast track courts to settle the land rights dispute and maintain a database of land deeds.

Land rights to the landless have been one of the important demands in Assam and other states of the Northeast too.