Removal Of AFPSA
Well begun is half done! Chief Ministers of North East, particularly Assam, Nagaland and Manipur are upbeat as the Centre’s announcement of removing the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from several districts in the three States is not just being viewed as ‘historic’ but ‘a big step’ for peace in the region. The demand has been long-pending and more recently following the tragic killing of 12 citizens in Mon district, Nagaland last year. Besides, it comes two days after the good news of Assam and Meghalaya signing an MoU resolving a part of their 50-year boundary dispute. On Thursday last, Home Minister Amit Shah chose to make the big announcement on AFSPA via a tweet: it’s a result of improved security situation and fast-tracked development due to consistent efforts and several agreements to end insurgency and bring lasting peace in the Northeast under leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.” The region, neglected for decades is “now witnessing a new era of peace, prosperity and unprecedented development…” he had added.
The ‘Disturbed Area’ tag has been removed from 23 districts and partially from one district since Friday— 15 police station areas each of six districts in Manipur and seven in Nagaland, and 23 districts entirely and one district partially in Assam. The big question is when will be the ‘right time’ to do away with it completely. Chief Ministers say they would keep the pressure on for the districts left out. Be that as it may, one rights’ activist, who would definitely keep a tab is the Iron lady of Manipur, Irom Sharmila, the face of the State’s protest against the Act. Recall 2004 when the issue hit both national and international headlines with a nude protest by Manipuri women, who held placards reading “Indian army rape us” and recall Sharmila undertook a 16-year-long hunger strike seeking repeal of the Act. She’s happy, like the rest with this ‘good beginning’. How soon will ‘stability and prosperity’ help the Act be completely thrown out and ensure ‘lasting peace’, time will tell.
The writing on the wall is there for the AAP government in Punjab. New Delhi will not be friendly, rather Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann will like his counterpart in West Bengal have to remind it of honouring ‘federalism’. The first signs are there. In the one-day special session of the Assembly on Friday last, he moved a resolution demanding immediate transfer of Chandigarh to the State. Punjab, it read, “was reorganised through Punjab Reorganisation Act, 1966…Since then a balance was maintained in administration of common assets like Bhakra Beas Management Board, by way of giving management positions in some proportion to the nominees of state of Punjab and Haryana. Through many of its recent actions the Central government has been trying to upset this balance.” The pow-wow is a result of Home Minister Shah’s announcement on Sunday last that Central service rules will apply to Chandigarh employees along with an advertisement for posts of BBMB members to officers of all States/Central government. These posts “were traditionally filled by Punjab & Haryana officers and similarly, Chandigarh administration was ‘managed by these officers in ratio of 60:40.” Besides, Chandigarh city was “created as Punjab’s capital” and therefore, it has been laying claim for its complete transfer. In Rajya Sabha, SAD member Harsimrat Kaur too demanded that Rajiv-Longowal accord ratified by Parliament be honoured and Chandigarh be rightly transferred to Punjab. The question whether centre will heed need not be asked!
BJP Unease In Delhi
Delhi saw a new low in political vendetta. BJP members allegedly indulged in vandalism outside Chief Minister Kejriwal’s residence on Wednesday, promoting him to launch a verbal attack the next day: “If the country’s largest party and ruling party do such hooliganism in the capital, what message will be sent to the youth?”. The incident reached the doorsteps of Delhi High Court on Friday last with an AAP MLA petitioning: “several BJP goons, in garb of a protest, launched an attack on Delhi CM’s residence….while the Delhi police personnel simply looked on, doing little to stop the protestors.” The court has sought a status report from the police observing “Some took the law into their hands. There is element of fear sought to be created. That is evident. The police force was inadequate…they did try to stop them but they were outnumbered” The police said 8 persons have been arrested and probe is underway, but the MLA is demanding setting up of a SIT. How far this incident will be played out is to be seen. Importantly, AAP has upped the ante against the BJP since its historic victory in Punjab. Signs of unease in the BJP are emerging. More is bound to follow.
Kudos To Allahabad HC
Well said! Both Centre and State governments need to pay special heed to Allahabad High Court’s observation on the draconian sedition law, which is becoming a rule rather than an exception. On Wednesday last, the single judge bench granted bail to three Kashmiri students, who were arrested five months ago on sedition charges after they reportedly raised ‘pro-Pakistan slogans’ following a cricket match in Agra last December and were accused of putting objectionable posts on social media. “The unity of India is not made of bamboo reeds which will bend to the passing winds of empty slogans”, the judge observed, adding “ The foundations of our nation are more enduring. Eternal ideals bind India’s indestructible unity. Constitutional values create an indissoluble union of India.” There’s another piece of advice: “Students travelling freely to different parts of country in quest for knowledge is true celebration of India’s diversity and a vivid manifestation of India’s unity. It’s the duty of people of hosting state to create enabling conditions for visiting scholars to learn and to live the constitutional values of our nation.” Seeking bail, the 3 students claimed they were ‘falsely implicated’, they ‘truly represent Kashmiriyat’, defined by a composite culture, have a bright future, but trial is moving at a snail’s pace; the inordinate delay will lead to indefinite detention! This too must be taken note of. The system needs a change.
Karnataka’s Big Fight
The nagging religious divide in Karnataka has got its first disapproving voice from the corporate. But the BJP-ruled State chooses to slam it too! On Wednesday last, Biocon head Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw had tweeted: “Karnataka has always forged inclusive economic development and we must not allow such communal exclusion- If ITBT became communal it would destroy our global leadership. @BSBommai please resolve this growing religious divide.” This after cases being reported of temples denying permission to non-Hindu traders and vendors to carry on business around their premises during annual temple fairs and religious events in some parts of the State. Pat came a response from Chief Minister Bommai 24 hours later saying Karnataka is “known for peace and progress”, everyone should see to it that it is not affected. It can be discussed and resolved, “so before going public, everyone should observe restraint.” He would have done well to give the restraint advice to the BJP’s IT cell, which targeted her with tweets such as “Good to see Kiran Shaw wake up to the religious divide in Karnataka. Did she speak up when a belligerent minority sought to prioritise Hijab over education or Congress framed rules excluding non-Hindus from Hindu institutions. She helped Congress draft their manifesto. Explains?” And trashed her views saying it’s unfortunate to see people like Kiran Shaw “impose their personal, politically coloured opinion, and conflate it with India’s leadership in the ITBT sector…” In poor taste, to say the least.