New Delhi, July 1 (IANS): The charters of institutions that speak for the Northeast should be re-looked to remove their weaknesses while the people there should transform themselves to get to know each other better, a noted author said at a seminar here on restoring peace in the region.
"There are weaknesses in the institutions that speak for the Northeast. Their charters need to be re-looked," Sudeep Chakravarti said at a seminar here on 'Seeking Our Collective Peace: The Northeast India Diaspora Looks Into Solutions for Peace and Development in the Region'.
The reference was to the Ministry of Development of North East Region, which is headed by a Minister of State at the Centre, and the North East Council (NEC) comprising the Governors and Chief Ministers of the eight States of the region.
Pointing to the "disconnect" in the NEC, he said a golf club had been sanctioned for Jorhat town in Assam while other development projects were on hold. "In the 12th (Five Year) Plan, Rs 80,000 crore has been sanctioned for the northeast but only Rs 10,000 crore will go down (on development projects)," Chakravarti lamented.
Minister of State for Rural Development Agatha Sangma was meant to inaugurate the conference but backed off at the very last minute, apparently to avoid media scrutiny on her father, PA Sangma, contesting the presidential election as a candidate of the BJP and some other Opposition parties.
"She had confirmed and reconfirmed her attendance. Then she told me she couldn't come because of a religious ceremony in Tura (in Meghalaya). I told her she should issue a statement. She has done so, so I won't circulate that here," said Binalakshmi Nepram, founder of the Manipur Women Gun Survivors Network, one of the organisers of the conference.
Nepram also pointed out that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who represents Assam in the Rajya Sabha, and other MPs from the Northeast had been informed about the conference but had not responded.
Urging greater interaction between the people of the region, Chakravarti said they "should transform themselves from those who talk to those who are listened to".
In this, Chakravarti was echoing the lead speaker, veteran journalist BG Verghese. "We need to write an integrated history of the Northeast. Many in Tripura don't know about Arunachal Pradesh, for instance," he said.
Patricia Mukhim, editor The Shillong Times, took this one step further. "Do we have a singular purpose. Are we agreeable to come under one umbrella? It is a tall order but tall orders can be brought down," she said. "If we agree to connect, we can learn about each other rather than come to Delhi to learn about each other," Mukhim added.
Chakravarti also took a swipe at the controversial Armed Forces Special Act, whose repeal has been widely demanded from the region. "It helps (Manipur Chief Minister) Ibobi (Singh) than it does the DG of the Assam Rifles," he said and left it hanging.
It was left to Pradyot Deb Burman, editor of The Northeast Today magazine, to flesh this out. "AFSPA has more to do with ethnic domination than with security," Burman contended.