Guwahati, April 3: This week Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma has made headlines after he pushed for changing the definition of minority district-wise. In yet another news that came as a respite for the people of the Northeast is the lifting of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from "major areas" of Assam, Nagaland and Manipur. Meanwhile, the NDA government has swept the Rajya Sabha elections from Assam, with this the saffron party's tally now stands at 101 in the upper house.
Assam CM bats for changing definition of minority district-wise
Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on March 30 said that the state government is in favour of defining minority status to religious groups district-wise, instead of the existing norm of a nationwide declaration of minorities.
While speaking at the Assam Legislative Assembly Sarma asserted that the State will be a party to the ongoing case at the Supreme Court filed by advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay seeking directions for framing of guidelines to identify minorities at the state level.
The CM also said that in certain districts Hindus can also be a minority and the central government is also in favour of defining the minorities district and block-wise, considering their economic, educational, gender and other social parameters.
On defining the term 'minority' from the linguistic perspective, the CM said that he is not interested in defining linguistic minorities as it is a "very sensitive" issue.
"Assam is progressing in recent times. I don't want to open a faultline," he said on the issue of defining linguistic minorities.
Citing reference from the State, he said that Bengalis are not minorities in Barak valley and Dhubri district, but they are minorities in Dibrugarh and Upper Assam areas.
Sarma who considers it as an evolving and dynamic situation is awaiting clarity on the subject from the apex court.
AFSPA lifted from parts of Assam, Nagaland and Manipur
The Union Home Ministry has considerably reduced the "disturbed areas" under the Armed Forces (Special) Powers Act (AFSPA) in Assam, Manipur and Nagaland from April 1, after decades.
A committee was set up by the Centre following the killing of 13 civilians at Oting in Nagaland's Mon district by security force personnel. Based on the recommendations of the committee, the Centre has constituted the withdrawal of AFSPA in a phased manner.
The disturbed area notification which has been in force in Assam since 1990, has been completely removed from 23 districts of the State and partially from one district.
According to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), AFSPA has been removed from 15 police station areas in seven districts of Nagaland and 15 police station areas in six districts of Manipur will be excluded from the disturbed area notification with effect from April 1.
The disturbed areas notification is currently applicable in only 3 districts and in 2 police station areas in 1 other district of Arunachal Pradesh.
In Assam, AFSPA will remain in the districts of Karbi Anglong, West Karbi Anglong, Dima Hasao, Dibrugarh, Tinsukia, Charaideo, Sivasagar, Golaghat, Jorhat and the Lakhipur subdivision of Cachar.
Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said 31,724.94 sq km of the 78,438 sq km geographical area of the state is under the "Disturbed Area" status. He said the Act will remain in force across the Upper Assam and hill districts.
NDA sweeps Rajya Sabha polls from Assam
The BJP and its ally UPPL have won the two Rajya Sabha seats from Assam.
In the first seat, BJP candidate Pabitra Margherita won unopposed. The contest was for the second seat which was between UPPLs Rwngwra Narzary and Congress candidate Ripun Bora. Narzary was supported by BJP while the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) was supporting Bora.
While BJP and UPPL won with a comfortable majority, Bora could not make it to the Upper House.
The two Rajya Sabha seats were earlier held by Congress members Ripun Bora and Ranee Narah.
Meanwhile, there have been allegations that several opposition MLAs have cross-voted for the ruling party's candidate or got their votes invalidated.
The vote count for the Congress-led opposition's candidate went down with the grand old party suspending MLA Siddique Ahmed for allegedly wasting his vote by writing "One" instead of "1" on the ballot paper.