DON'T TINKER WITH SPECIAL STATUS PROVISIONS IN NORTHEAST: PARTIES, GROUPS; CENTRAL GOVT SAYS NO INTENTION 371 series safe, Home Minister assures

August 7, 2019

Gangtok/New Delhi, Aug 6 (PTI): Several parties and organisations in the Northeast have asked the Centre not to tinker with special status provisions in place in their states even as Union Home Minister Amit Shah Tuesday asserted the government has no intention to remove any of the Art 371 series which gives such rights.

While Opposition parties in Sikkim sought an assurance from the Centre that the state's special status enshrined under Article 371F will not be disturbed, there were apprehensions in Nagaland and Mizoram in the wake of how Article 370 has been hollowed out that the NDA government may remove the special rights enjoyed by people there.

However, Shah while replying to a debate on resolution for abrogating some provisions of Article 370 and the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill 2019, said that the Narendra Modi government has no intention to remove Art 371 which gives certain special rights to some Northeast states.

Most of the states that have been accorded special provisions under Article 371 are in the northeast and the special status aims to preserve their tribal culture.

Article 371A deals with Nagaland, Article 371B with Assam, and Articles 371C, 371G and 371H deal with Manipur, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh and Article 371F with Sikkim.

The main objective of inserting Article 371B was to facilitate the creation of the sub-state 'Meghalaya'.

Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) and Hamro Sikkim Party (HSP) were of the view that the Art 371F should not be tinkered with as the situation in the Northeastern state is different from Jammu and Kashmir.

SDF leader KT Gyaltsen said Sikkim has been a peaceful state ever since it became a part of the Indian union in 1975 contrary to the situation in Jammu and Kashmir since 1947.

Gyaltsen, who was the speaker of Sikkim Assembly from 2009 to 2014, said Article 371F is there to "stay forever as the integration of Sikkim with the Union of India is final and irrevocable".

There has been a sense of unease among the people of Sikkim ever since the news of abrogation of special status to Jammu and Kashmir came, HSP spokesperson Biraj Adhikari told PTI.

"The special status accorded to us are very different from that in Jammu & Kashmir," he said.

In Nagaland, political parties and tribal organisations said that a similar move in the state would jeopardise the ongoing peace process and hurt the sentiment of the Nagas.

Negotiations are currently on between the Centre and the insurgents groups to resolve the decades-old Naga political problem.

"As an Opposition party, we are confident that the central government will not dare to take the Jammu and Kashmir path in Nagaland, lest the sentiments of Naga people are hurt and the consequences would be severe," said Achumbemo Kikon, spokesperson of the opposition Naga People's Front (NPF).

Mutsikhoyo Yhobu, a Naga leader associated with various tribal bodies and civil societies, said the NDA government is more focused on creation of Uniform Civil Code and maintained that it was high time for the Naga people and the state government to react strongly before it is too late.

Naga Mothers Association adviser Rosemary Dzuvichu said repeal of Article 370 was a violation of the democratic rights of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, describing it as the "darkest hour of the democracy".

Nagaland Governor RN Ravi also assured that the state would not face the Jammu & Kashmir situation and people need not worry.

"Article 371A is a solemn commitment to the people of Nagaland. It is a sacred commitment. We are earnestly working to happily conclude the ongoing political process which is at a very advanced stage," he affirmed.

In Mizoram, Article 371G came into effect in 1986 following the signing of the Mizo Accord between the Centre and the erstwhile underground Mizo National Front (MNF). Mizoram, then a Union territory, was granted the status of full-fledged statehood on February 20, 1987.

Newly-floated party People's Representation for Identity and Status of Mizoram said the "Northeastern states were no longer safe in the hands of the NDA government".

The Centre's decision to revoke provisions of Article 370 and bifurcate Jammu and Kashmir, however, rekindled hope among major parties, which want Darjeeling to be a separate Union territory with a legislature.

The ruling Trinamool Congress, however, said it would oppose any move to bifurcate West Bengal.

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