Elections in Arunachal Pradesh are distinct from those in other states. Here elections are fought not only on the lines of development but kinship and matrimony as well. The ambience of the elections has once again put so much of life in every individual. The first-time voters as well as the old ones have been revitalized.
The capital, which was recently torn apart, is decorated with colourful flags and banners, accompanied by political rhetoric, claims, counter-claims, brawls, and new promises (while the old ones are yet to be fulfilled).
The unique feature of this election is that we are witnessing the emergence of a new class – the ‘young intellectual voters’ – who are giving a hard time to all the contesting candidates.
However, I feel that there should be debates and discussions on two pertinent issues on which the whole elections should have been fought. Firstly, the contentious citizenship amendment bill (CAB), which plans to provide Indian citizenship to non-Muslims of neighbouring counties, which is a serious threat to the northeastern states, mainly those sharing boundaries with the SAARC countries. The fear of the people of the Northeast is that if the bill became and act the region would become a dumping ground and outsiders would soon outnumber the indigenous populations. This fear is validated by the present scenario of Tripura, where the indigenous population has been reduced to a minority since 1971.
In the context of Arunachal Pradesh, we are protected under the BEFR 1873 (inner line system), and there might be no immediate ramifications of the CAB; but the contentious bill has the potential to provoke illegal immigrants to knock legal doors, challenging the precedence of the CAB over the BEFR. And let’s not be blind to the recent Supreme Court order which has fallen in favour of granting citizenship to Chakmas and Hajongs.
We should also be aware that the BEFR is a colonial legislation and Arunachal, enlisted under Article 371 (H), doesn’t categorically have any constitutional protection, unlike Article 371 (A) of Nagaland which guarantees the Nagas their way of life, without interference from any parliamentary enactment, unless the legislative assembly by a resolution so decides.
Further, the government of the day has been pushing for implementation of Article 44 (uniform civil code), which was included in their poll manifesto of 2014. If implemented, it will have serious ramifications on tribal rights. A uniform civil code (UCC) will abridge the fundamental rights granted under Article 29, which gives the minorities the right to save their cultures. The tribal customary laws, in particular, will have sharp disagreements with the UCC.
This letter must not be read as an attempt to create an anti-government hysteria by bringing forth the contentious issues during election time. The act of asking questions is the very essence of democracy. Behind every question there is a questioner, and behind every questioner there is the urge to know the truth.
As we go to the polls, let’s treasure our votes and not sell them for freebies. Our founding fathers fought for ‘one vote equal to one value’, so that we may exercise our universal franchise with utmost sincerity and right judgment.