Centre not to touch Art 371, no illegal immigrant to be allowed: Shah

NEC plenary session

GUWAHATI, Sep 8: The Centre will “not touch” Article 371 of the constitution that is applicable to the Northeast and not a single illegal immigrant would be allowed in the region, union Home Minister Amit Shah said on Sunday.
After Article 370 was abrogated in Jammu & Kashmir, there were attempts to “misinform and misguide” the people of the Northeast that Article 371 would be scrapped by the Centre, the home minister said in his inaugural address at the 68th plenary session of the North Eastern Council (NEC) here in Assam.
“I have clarified in Parliament that this is not going to happen, and I am saying it again today in the presence of eight chief ministers of the Northeast that both the articles are different and the Centre will not touch Article 371,” Shah said.
The constituent assembly had framed Article 370 as a temporary provision but Article 371 is about special provisions in the Northeast and there is a vast difference between the two, Shah said.
“I think it is important to clarify the difference between the two. Let me make it clear that the prime minister and the BJP government respects Article 371 and 371 (A),” he said.
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.
“There was an attempt to give a wrong message that the BJP-led government would scrap Article 371, and this was done by people who did not want peace in the Northeast or the region to become an engine of development,” Shah said.
On the National Register of Citizens (NRC), the home minister said, “Questions are being raised about the NRC by different sections, but today I just want to say that the BJP-led government is committed to ensure that not a single illegal immigrant enters the region.”
The NRC has also been completed within the stipulated timeframe, he added.??Shah’s visit comes just days after the publication of the final NRC in the state on 31 August.
Pointing out that under Prime Minister Narendra Modi there has been a “drastic decline” in terrorism and militant activities, Shah said, “I do not want to quote statistics but the entire country and the world knows that we have been able to control it.”
There are still misguided people who indulge in armed activities but “our minds are open and hands stretched for those who want to lay down arms. For those who want to continue, the governments at the Centre and the states will follow a zero-tolerance policy,” he said.
The misguided people who take up arms are “our own but are tools in the hands of vested foreign forces,” he said.
He further pointed out that the boundary disputes between the different states of the Northeast are a major issue which must end.
“If the Indo-Bangla border dispute can be resolved, why not disputes among our states in the region? Rise above boundary disputes and support each other, so that the region can develop together,” Shah added.
“Modiji has given top priority to the development of the Northeast, and he was the first prime minister in 40 years to attend a NEC meeting in Shillong,” he said.
“No Congress prime minister had attended an NEC meeting, and though I do not want to make a political statement, among all the eight chief ministers present at the meeting today, none are from the Congress but all are North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) constituents,” Shah said.
Earlier, the Northeast was known for terrorism, drug trafficking, illegal immigration and social tensions, but now it is known for development, infrastructure, sports, connectivity and the Look East Policy, the home minister pointed out. (PTI)