The Telegraph
Sunday , July 13 , 2014
CIMA Gallary

NE must sell its story well: Rijiju

- Minister admits alienation a reality

New Delhi, July 12: Alienation of people from the Northeast in parts of India is a reality, but the Northeast, too, has been unable to tell its story properly, Union minister of state for home affairs Kiren Rijiju said today.

He was speaking at the release of a new magazine First Word focusing on the Northeast. Rijiju said although it is true that people from the region feel isolated and alienated, he feels the other side of the story also needs to be examined.

“India has a democratic form of governance at every level down from Delhi to the villages and issues could be raised at all levels. You (people from the Northeast) have not been able to tell your story properly. Not wise to say always that you have been neglected,” said Rijiju.

His statement comes a day after the M.P. Bezbaruah committee submitted a report on safety of people from the Northeast, particularly in metros like Delhi. The committee was constituted by the home ministry in February after the lynching of Nido Tania, a student from Arunachal Pradesh, in the Lajpat Nagar market in Delhi on January 29.

People from the Northeast have been targets of several attacks in the city, termed “racial attacks” by activists. Rijiju said he had conceded that there is indeed discomfort, but wondered at the same time how a person could feel isolated in one’s own country.

Rijiju said he fought for the rights of the northeastern people in Delhi while back home he told his friends that rather than blame Delhi for everything, it would be better to understand “our own responsibility”.

The minister’s statement could be seen as an indication that the Narendra Modi government may not be taking any radical legislative measures. Joint secretary (Northeast) in the home ministry, Shambhu Singh, virtually ruled out a separate anti-racism law.

Media could play a big part in spreading awareness but it is yet to see the light of day in the Northeast, Rijiju said.

He added that India does not begin and end in Delhi; it begins at its international borders. “India begins from the Northeast, which is part of Southeast Asia,” he said, adding that one could see India as starting from the Northeast.

Speaking of his interactions with several militant groups, Rijiju sent a firm message with a rider. He said he had met many groups who are in the forest areas “fighting the system” and all have different demands.

Although the tenor was sympathetic, Rijiju added that if insurgents think weapons are the only way to fight, they are wrong. He said insurgent groups should realise that the democratic way is the right method to deal with problems.

“I told the insurgent groups that I am here to listen to you, but if you think that weapons are the means, you are wrong,” said Rijiju.

“The region is so diverse and fragmented that it is not possible to deal with all of these at once…the only way is to be united, be together and there won’t be any issues,”

Rijiju also signalled the government’s impatience with long-winding negotiations like the one with Naga outfits, going on for 17 years now. He said talks cannot go on forever. “I hope the region will understand its responsibility and rise above differences,” said the Arunachal (West) MP.