There is a difference between ‘them’ and ‘us’. The difference is they know how to cheat Delhi and we cow down to be cheated by Delhi. Here ‘them’ means rest of the Northeast and ‘us’ means Assam.
The context of this binary was the Northeast Democratic Alliance (NEDA) conclave which concluded recently in Guwahati and which was attended by all too powerful Amit Shah, the Union home minister.
It would be very wrong to say that the other states of the Northeast have not undergone any change in recent times. They have of course gone many changes. The change in health and education is really remarkable. People living in all the hill states are aspiring for quality life. In most of the hill states the spread of Christianity has played a pivotal role in the life of people.
However, like the Mughal invasion of India, the spread of Christianity has by and large not touched the cultural mores of the people of the Northeast. They have just replaced their traditional religious belief with the Christianity only.
The proponents of Christianity have also taken certain initiatives for the preservation and development of culture of the hills people. However, in the political arena some of the political outfits in the Northeast have joined the BJP en mass and some other have come to an understanding of alliance with them.
Their regional allegiance to the BJP is opportunistic in a collective sense. They are all tiny states. If they don’t enjoy good rapport with the Central government they may not get necessary financial support from the Central government which may affect the developmental activities of the respective states.
So whenever a new government is formed at the Centre by a political party, immediately the political leadership in the hill states in the Northeast lend their allegiance to the new government. But while doing so they never compromise with theirs regional interests. Rather they join the new dispensation at the Centre for the interests of their state as mentioned earlier.
This is the guiding principle of their alliance with the BJP too. In this regard we may just take the examples of three states. After the BJP had come to power at the Centre, the entire Congress legislature party of Arunachal Pradesh, except one MLA joined the BJP.
But before this alliance with the BJP they were at loggerheads with the then governor on certain issues. So they wanted the replacement of the earlier governor and the Central government had no other option but to accept their demand.
Again, while BJP was all for cow worship, Kiren Rijiju who was the junior home minister from Arunachal Pradesh in the first Narendra Modi government boasted of eating beef and defended his rights to do so. Arunachal Pradesh government also took an uncompromising stand against the foreigners irrespective of Hindus and Muslims. They were not ready to compromise on anything with the BJP or the Central Government when it came to the interests of the state.
Now let us come to Nagaland. Yes, they are also with the BJP, but absolutely on their own terms. While the Central government has repealed article 370 from Indian Constitution for Jammu and Kashmir, the Nagas are negotiating with the BJP government at the Centre almost for a sovereignty like autonomy.
Equally concerned are the governments of Manipur and Meghalaya about the respective interests of their states. Tripura’s case is altogether different because of the demographic composition of the state. In this context, it is most unfortunate that while all other states of the Northeast have jealously guarded and protected their own interests, the ruling party leadership in Assam has completely surrendered everything to the Central government.
The Sonowal government has allowed unabated flow of things north Indian to Assam to hamper the distinctive Assamese culture. Alas, once more than half of his ministers and MLAs came to political prominence espousing regional sentiments and Assamese nationalism.
The chief minister himself was the votary of Assamese nationalism bordering on chauvinism. But for the sake of power they have forsaken everything now. Let us presently comeback to the context of NEDA conclave which concluded here recently.
I think three chief ministers of the northeastern states equivocally opposed the bringing back of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill by the BJP government at the centre for granting citizenship to the Hindu foreigners in the presence of the all powerful home minister, Amit Shah at the NEDA conclave.
And what did our leaders in the conclave do? They didn’t utter a single word on it. But there was a time when all of them vociferously agitated against the foreigners, nay not only foreigners, but also outsiders who came in hordes from outside Assam to take advantage of the opportunities available in Assam.
Now why is this difference between ‘them’ and ‘us’? Is it that the leaders from rest of the Northeast are all virtuous and scrupulous? No, they are not. They are as wicked and greedy as our breed. But their sense of belonging to their respective states and community perhaps comes first when they come to forge an alliance with any government at the Centre.
They are always motivated by their community interests whereas our leaders are motivated by their personal interests. That is why the chameleon breed of politicians who comprise the present government of Assam can go to any extent of compromise and self-seeking.