Lest the Northeast falls asleep

[ Tuisem A Shishak ]

The Election Commission (EC) announces the 2019 Lok Sabha poll dates, beginning 11 April. BJP president Amit Shah declares: “The BJP will make the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB), 2016, part of the party manifesto for the next elections and pass it on return to power this year.” (Nagaland Post).
The CAB seeks to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955, to provide citizenship to illegal migrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan who are of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian extraction; Muslims are completely excluded. Could there be any ulterior or deceptive motive? I fear even the inclusion of Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian is just a cover-up; the Modi government’s primary interest is the Hindus from Bangladesh.
Having been defeated in the Rajya Sabha, why is the current BJP government determined to bring back the CAB and pass it into law? Because that’s the only way they can control the Northeast in general and the church (Christians) in the hills in particular. How? By allowing millions of Hindus from Bangladesh to settle down anywhere in the Northeast as Indian citizens, thereby inhabiting the length and breadth of the eight northeastern states.
Once the CAB becomes law, no government can stop the flow of alien Hindus to any state in the Northeast. The indigenous Assamese have been very alarmed about the growing non-Assamese population. Tripura already has her indigenous population reduced to perhaps less than 40%. Which state will be the next victim? How the Northeast votes in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections will either bury the CAB once and for all or bring it back to life to haunt us and even destroy the majestic land and the unique peoples of the northeastern valleys and hills.
To be sure, most of those Bangladesh Hindu refugees will enter Nagaland from Assam, as has been the case with the Miyas who have been filling up the foothills all these years. It is absolute nonsense to say that Nagaland is already protected by Article 370A of the Indian constitution as well as the Chin Hills and Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulations Act 1873. According to Hayithung Tungoe, formerly of the Nagaland BJP, “Presently, Northeast is infiltrated with 2-3 lakh illegal immigrants, but as and when the CAB is implemented, it would be swarmed by them.”
The battle for the CAB has just begun; the battle for the Northeast must be won for all to save their indigenous land for posterity. In the valley, the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) must once more lead, as it did in the 1980 Assam Movement, and not forgetting the courageous Meitei women (Meira Paibi, Nupilan) in the Imphal valley. In the hills the church and the student unions must lead.
Thanks to Mizoram, Meghalaya and Sikkim for facing the BJP government head on. Sadly, Nagaland has fallen short of the expectation. Are the 12 Naga BJP members part of the problem? This time the citizens of the Northeast must in one voice let New Delhi know that we are masters of our god-given land, and we will never allow the current RSS-controlled BJP government or any government in Delhi to decide our fate. How long will the citizens of the Northeast continue to live under the deception and suppression of the New Delhi government?
To begin with, since when did the government of India consider the Northeast genuinely an integral part of India? All we know is that since India’s independence from Britain in August 1947, New Delhi has always considered the Northeast in general and the hilly regions in particular buffer zones – strategically important from the defence standpoint but not an integral part of the country of India. That’s how they have treated the Northeast all these years. In Delhi’s mind, the real India did not cross West Bengal.
The classic example occurred in 1962 when the Chinese attacked the North-East Frontier Agency (NEFA), now Arunachal Pradesh, and took Tawang. The then Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, and the Indian Army fled, leaving the helpless citizens of the NEFA to fend for themselves. But who cared as long as mainland India was intact? Then the Chinese Army suddenly withdrew from the NEFA. In the words of Nari Rustomji, “There can be little doubt that, had the Chinese wished it, they could have continued their advance on November 22nd and, within a matter of days, threatened the entire Assam valley by a series of thrusts through the four northern divisions of the NEFA. Their unilateral declaration of ceasefire with effect from midnight of November 21st was as surprising in its suddenness as their lightning putsch on November 19th and will remain one of the unsolved riddles of history.” (Enchanted Frontiers, p 292).
What if indeed the Chinese had come and occupied the Assam valley? Where would India be today? It was divine intervention, not New Delhi, that saved the Northeast. Sure enough, Nehru’s government officials and the army came back. Maybe they said sorry for having deserted the tribals of the NEFA in a time of crisis; I hope so. But this time they assured them they would do everything to defend the NEFA and its citizens. Of course, that was only after the Chinese Army had unilaterally declared ceasefire and withdrawn.
Since India’s independence in 1947, the government of India’s treatment of the Northeast has been worse than step-motherly. As for the Nagas, the experience can be labelled as brutal, even hellish, because tens of thousands of Nagas, young and old, have been killed by the Indian Army in the past 70 years of the Naga political struggle to free themselves from India’s forcible occupation of Naga territory in the 1950s.
The Congress party, which ruled India for over half a century, failed to solve the Naga problem, leaving only empty promises. Coming to power in 2014, the current RSS-controlled BJP government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi continued with more empty promises, such as that the Naga political issue would be solved within 18 months. Maybe if Atal Bihari Vajpayee were the prime minister today the Naga political problem might have been solved. One should not be confused about the two BJP governments – the one under Vajpayee and the other under Modi. The BJP government under Vajpayee was a secular government for the most part. If there were RSS politicians and other radical Hindus supporting the BJP, Vajpayee kept them under control. Many of us thought persons like Arun Shourie and LK Advani were among the real radicals among Vajpayee’s cabinet members, but certainly no longer.
No sooner had Modi taken charge of the BJP government in 2014 than the ugly heads of RSS cadres began popping up everywhere. Either Modi is a genuine RSS member – and there is enough evidence that he is – or he is unable to control the RSS’ destructive Hindutva activities all over India, though much more in BJP-ruled states like UP where Modi and his right-hand man, party president Amit Shah, have placed Yogi Adityanath as the chief minister. No one can be more of an RSS member than Adityanath.
What about Modi’s 2014 campaign promise of 15 lakh rupees to be deposited in the banks for every Indian? This is 2019 and Modi says nothing about it anymore. Will Rahul Gandhi’s election campaign promise of Rs 72,000 minimum income to 25 crore Indian poor be more genuine? In March 2018, following the Nagaland state assembly elections, Governor PB Acharya said the Naga political issue would be solved within six months. Now the BJP-RSS hierarchy is saying that after the Lok Sabha elections, the Naga political issue will be solved. What’s next?
Nagas are smarter than that, I hope, thanks to the American Baptist missionaries who brought us education and the gospel of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. Could one reason for not solving the Naga problem be that the RSS-controlled BJP has not quite succeeded in placing their Hindu trishul by the altar of the church in Nagaland? As secretary of the BJP’s NE States Coordination Council, Governor Acharya wrote to the then prime minister Vajpayee: “We have achieved our vowed object of piercing trishul in the chest of so-called ‘Lord Christ’.” (Mid Day).
Once more I would urge the Naga national workers and fellow Nagas not to ever believe the central government in Delhi until the final agreement is signed and witnessed by either a UK or US government representative, if not a UN representative. How long will the framework agreement signed on 3 August, 2015, between the NSCN (IM) and the Modi government remain, as it were, a skeleton agreement just because the Naga national leaders will not compromise with what they consider absolutely essential for the very survival and security of the Naga nation?
For example, the Nagas inhabiting the contiguous region of Indo-Myanmar, now forcibly divided and placed in four Indian states and in Myanmar by Britain, India and Myanmar, want to live under one political umbrella. To the Nagas, ‘integration’ means geographical/physical integration. The interlocutor to the Naga peace talks, RN Ravi’s talk about pan-Naga sounds like Naga integration by remote control because that’s exactly what the so-called emotional and cultural integration is all about. My fear is that, like the Congress government, Modi’s BJP government may also fail miserably.
Let us talk about development.
‘Development’ is Modi’s favourite word, and rightly so because that’s what every Indian citizen yearns for. Not only does Modi talk about development all the time, he seems to be inaugurating either new projects with sanctions of crores of rupees or the completion of projects begun by his predecessors, again involving thousands of crores of rupees. Many are wondering how many of the new projects he has inaugurated so far have actually been executed. Modi inaugurated in recent months the completion of the longest bridge over a river between Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, that had begun years ago. We know money doesn’t grow on trees, and I do question where Modi is getting the money to fund all the projects he has announced and even inaugurated.
I do want to remind the current BJP government, as well as the old Congress party, that since India’s independence in 1947, New Delhi’s investment in the Northeast, until very recently, has been what I would call mere tokenism. I must add that even this token investment or development in the Northeast has only been achieved following strikes, road blockages, and violence resulting in the loss of human lives and properties.
In the past decade or two, the government of India suddenly realized the tremendous potential in economic development by linking up with Myanmar and the rest of South-East Asia via the Northeast region. Hence the ‘Look East’ slogan under the previous government, and now ‘Act East’ under Modi’s government. The current BJP government in Delhi says their top priority is the development of the Northeast by impressing upon 45 million and more people in the so-called eight Northeast sister states that all the good things (highways and byways, waterways, railways, institutions, hydro projects, hotels and motels, other modern amenities, etc) are already coming. But wait! All these so-called ‘good things’ are all appendices to the ‘Act East’ policy, which in fact is the four-lane international highway being constructed to link mainland India and Myanmar and the rest of South-East Asia through the Northeast, which is linked to mainland India with only a small strip of land (often called the ‘Chicken’s Neck’) between Bangladesh in the south and Bhutan in the north.
I caution the northeasterners not to get unduly excited over the four-lane Asian highway as well as the talked-about railway lines connecting the capitals of the eight northeastern states. Do you know who and what the railways will bring to our hill capitals? Have you thought of all kinds of undesirable elements coming to our villages? What about the hundreds and thousands who will be travelling back and forth between mainland India and South-East Asia via the Northeast?
Now consider carefully some well-known Indian leaders’ assessment of Modi and his RSS-controlled BJP government.
1. Kuldip Nayar (now deceased): “JP (Jayaprakash Narain, a Gandhian socialist) was conscious that the Jana Sangh was a political arm of the RSS. But he had been given an understanding that the two would part company… How could they have done so when the Jana Sangh itself was an RSS creation, with the avowed aim of creating a Hindu rashtra (kingdom)? Initially, the Jana Sangh members tried to explain to JP that the RSS wasn’t what it was made out to be. When it came to the crunch, they refused point-blank to break ties with the RSS. JP felt cheated. But by then he was too sick to go back to the people to expose the Jana Sangh (the political BJP and the totalitarian RSS). The constitution is still a sacred document. But, I am afraid, in the 2019 election the BJP may try to get a two-thirds majority and if it does, the party would amend the constitution itself. Article 370, which gives special status to Jammu and Kashmir and the spirit of pluralism which protects minorities could be the target. The party which is the political wing of the RSS may attempt to dilute if not abolish the concept of secularism.”
Referring to the immense suffering of the people during the Emergency (25 June, 1975 to 1977) under Indira Gandhi, Nayar said, “But the ruling Bharatia Janata Party (BJP), which suffered from the emergency most, does not seem to have learnt the lesson which it should have. Mrs Gandhi was overtaken by the mania of one-person rule. Today Prime Minister Narendra Modi is also riding the same horse at the command of the Rashtriya Swayemsewak Sangh (RSS) and trying to change a pluralistic society, which gives purpose to the nation, into a Hindu Rashtra of sorts.”
Kuldip Nayar: Secularism is the ideology which we have chosen in contrast to Pakistan’s Islamic order. (Nagaland Post).
And hours before his death he wrote: “The ruling BJP must always remember that the Northeast is a plural society devoid of much communal violence unlike the Hindu heartland. Hence it is paramount that the Centre should concentrate more on development and good governance rather than trying to impose its Hindutva philosophies.” (Nagaland Post)
“He (Kuldip Nayar) was concerned about conformist, indifferent or pro-establishment press and felt that the present conditions in the country require the judiciary, the press and students to speak out.” (Morung Express)
2. Veteran BJP leader LK Advani had remarked… “the recurrence of emergency cannot be ruled out.” He further clarified that the arrogance of leaders leads to authoritarianism, taking a dig at Modi’s style of governance… Advani spent 18 months in jail for opposing the emergency. To snub Advani for his forthright comment, BJP did not invite him to an event where it honoured those who went to jail during the emergency.” (Nagaland Post)
3. AB Vajpaiyee was the moderate face of Hindu nationalism, admired even by prominent political leaders… Vajpaiyee was one of the leaders of the BJP to express anguish when hundreds of Muslims were killed in rioting in 2002 in Gujarat, which Modi governed. Vajpaiyee called the 1992 destruction of a 16th-century mosque on a disputed site by Hindu fanatics India’s darkest hour. (Morung Express).
Vajpayee spent months in prison when Indira Gandhi imposed emergency rule in June 1975 and put her political opponents in jail. (Morung Express)
Speech of late PM AB Vajpayee in Kohima, 28 October, 2003 (reprinted in the Nagaland Post): “… This is the time for reconciliation and peacemaking. This is also the path that Mahatma Gandhi and… Jayaprakash Narayan wanted us to follow. Both were true friends of the Naga people. It is true that, of all the states in India, Nagaland has a unique history. We are sensitive to this historical fact… We do not wish to impose any external customs on you. India has a long tradition of tolerating diverse customs and ways of life. You have nothing to fear… I wish to assure you on another score. India is a secular nation, both because of our constitution and, more importantly, because of our civilisational ethos. As you know, India is home to all the faiths in the world. India has respected and protected all faiths. Indeed, Christianity came to India – to the southern state of Kerala – before it spread to most parts of Europe. And it was a Hindu king who donated land for a church to be built… I thank you for this warm reception… My best wishes to the peace process. I assure you that you will find a trustworthy partner in my government in reaching the cherished goal of peace in Nagaland with dignity and honour for its people.”
4. Arun Shourie (former BJP minister under Vajpayee) on mainstream media quoted a Zulu proverb: “A dog with a bone in its mouth can’t bark.” (Morung Express).
“There is no doubt that there is also an attempt to intimidate the media. ABP News sacked some of its journalists… NDTV is also facing pressures. The strategy is to kill the chickens to frighten the monkeys. You don’t have to do it to everybody… My advice to readers is that you should support The Wire. There are only a few publications like Scroll, Altnews, The Wire and one newspaper, The Indian Express, which are telling the truth… Mahatma Gandhi used to say that the hands of copyists are our printing machines. Today you have the internet. If some story is blocked by a court order, let us all circulate it and it will reach all across India.”
5. Biswadeep Moitra: ‘India’s silent majority and the Battle for 2019’ (Morung Express). “A threat similar to 1977 stares back at us. Will the present generation of Indians, far more educated in numbers, reasonably more resourceful than before, rise up again eight months from now to reclaim liberty?… The 2019 elections bear similarities to the elections of 1977. The people of India in 2019, like in 1977, will have to valiantly fight back to reclaim what was lost once before: liberty. ‘Hindu Rashtra’ is no longer a hidden agenda. The mask of a moderate BJP slipped a long time ago; the cremation rituals of the symbol have been performed as well… The fight to save India from becoming a country for Hindi, Hindu and Hindustan is a fight similar to the one our mothers and fathers had fought against the emergency. Can the million raging mutinies of today be harnessed into one JP-like movement before 2019? Or will we reject an India based on the ideals Nehru and Ambedkar stood for and embrace fascism?” (Morung Express)
6. “… the saffron brotherhood has nurtured an anti-minority outlook for decades, regarding Muslims as ‘internal enemy No 1’ and Christians as ‘internal enemy No 2’ according to Golwalkar.” (Nagaland Post)
7. Sitaram Yechury, CPI (M) leader: “After weakening the Election Commission, CBI, CVC and other constitutional bodies, PM is now interfering with court proceedings, which is extremely dangerous… Modi government had truncated parliament proceedings and was brazenly undermining the judiciary, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), the RBI and other constitutional and autonomous bodies.”
8. Yashwant Sinha, the former union finance minister under Atal Vajpayee. He “urged the people of the Northeast to be united to ensure that the saffron party does not get a single seat in the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls in the region… “The people of the northeastern states are objecting and protesting as they are facing an existential threat due to the bill (CAB),” he said, extending his support to the agitation against the Bill… Sinha said “the current BJP government at the Centre has been challenging all the constitutional conventions and destroying all democratic institutions of the country… Referring to the status of the current cabinet, Sinha said that in the current dispensation everything is decided from the prime minister’s office…” (Nagaland Post)
9. Rajat Ghai: “Dalit activists, leaders decry prime minister’s ‘Christ-like’ act.” (Courtesy Down to Earth in Nagaland Today).
Prakash Ambedkar, grandson of Babasaheb Ambedkar: “‘This tradition, of washing the feet of the lowest of the low exists in Christianity, not in the ideology that the prime minister believes in. Has he become Christian?” he asked Down To Earth magazine.
10. Kapil Sibal: “Democracy endangered by government and media: Misinformation is now treated as reliable information, a reflection of the turn our democratic institutions have taken.”
“If the government and the fourth estate are on the same page, democracy is truly in danger. It is, therefore, important for the people of our country, especially those who have the capacity to articulate, to stand up and speak their mind. For if they don’t, untruths will go unchallenged and truth will be buried deep.
“Institutions, given a special responsibility under our constitutional framework, are accountable to the country and not to the government. They too must speak their mind and not become fiefdoms of the government.
“Investigating agencies, both at the Centre and the states, must pursue the wrongdoers, no matter who they are. What we see is selective persecution and prosecution of those opposed to the government and the protection of those who are either part of the government or its affiliates. The judiciary must also realize that unless it protects those targeted unjustly, it may also be perceived to be partisan.” (The Telegraph)
11. Yashwant Sinha, former BJP leader, minister of finance (1998-2002), minister of external affairs (2002-2004): “The Modi-Shah combine is practicing a brand of politics which is suicidal for the future of India. Their politics is exclusive and selfish. They have no use for the institutions of democracy, its conventions and practices, its norms and standards. The alliances they are building are purely for winning the elections and wielding power once again. They will go back to their old ways as soon as the elections are over… The Modi-Shah duo must be defeated decisively in 2019 in order to save the country. Nothing less will do.” (Courtesy NDTV in Nagaland Today)
12. John Feffer: “The political party of Narendra Modi subscribes to a virulent version of Hindu nationalism. He largely soft-peddled this nationalism four years ago when the BJP won a commanding parliamentary majority. Once in power, however, he has fallen back on what worked for him as the chief minister of Gujarat: inflaming the passions of more militant followers.”
13. Max Frost in The National Interest: “Indian politicians have normalized hardline Hindu nationalism through draconian cow protection laws, the renaming of cities with Muslim names, and the appointment of extremist Hindu nationalists to powerful positions. These shifting priorities explain Modi’s 2017 appointment of a firebrand Hindu monk, Yogi Adityanath, as chief minister of India’s most populous state. Adityanath has claimed that Hindus are ‘preparing for religious war’ and has called Muslims ‘a crop of two-legged animals that has to be stopped’.” (Morung Express)
Today nobody questions that the RSS is a Hindu religious, cultural and nationalist organization. Its primary goal is to make India one Hindu nation, with one Hindu religion, and one Hindi language. Also, nobody questions that the BJP is the political wing of the RSS to carry out the latter’s Hindutva agenda.
The current government’s Hindu theocratic cultural ideology will disintegrate the great country of India sooner than later; only a secular democratic government at the Centre can keep India together. What’s happening all around us should be the concern of even the Hindus, let alone Muslims, Christians, Dalits, and other minorities.
Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins. – The Bible
(The contributor is a former principal of Patkai Christian College, Patkai.)