Is the North-East for sale ?

Tuisem A. Shishak *

When the Chinese attacked NEFA (North-East Frontier Agency, now Arunachal Pradesh) in 1962, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and the Indian Army fled, leaving the helpless citizens of NEFA to fend for themselves. But who cared as long as mainland India was intact?

China could even have swept easily through Assam and chopped off the "chicken-neck" corridor connecting the whole North-Eastern Region from the Indian sub-continent. Nehru's government officials and the Army quickly came back only after the Chinese Army had unilaterally withdrawn. It was divine intervention, not New Delhi, that saved Arunachal and the North-East. Have we in the North-East Region forgotten that so soon?

Even after the British left India in 1947, the Indian Government has never treated the North-East as an integral part of the mainland; only in words. Any help coming from Delhi has been mere tokenism and politically motivated. Today, New Delhi sees limitless trade potential with South-East Asia via the North-East. The Central Government's infrastructure efforts to link the North-East to Myanmar and other ASEAN countries is primarily for the mainland's commercial interests, not because it loves North-Easterners and is concerned about their wellbeing.

So take with a grain of salt when Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Amit Shah, and their colleagues claim that BJP government's top priority is development of the North-East. BJP government's main hidden agenda is to bring the whole of the eight North-Eastern States under its complete control through political manipulation and through Hindu population growth, even if not by force.

The current BJP government in Delhi is the political wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the most radical religious-social-cultural-nationalist Hindu group in India. The RSS was founded in 1925 but was outlawed by the British and was even occasionally banned by the Indian government after independence.

Naturam Godse, who assassinated Mahatma Gandhi in 1948, was a member of the RSS. Senior RSS members had direct links to both Benito Mussolini in Italy and Adolf Hitler in Germany. M. S. Golwalker advocated for an India dominated by Hindus. From its genesis, the RSS openly espoused militant Hindu activism and the suppression of minorities.

The RSS's ultimate objective is to make India a homogenous Hindu nation, one bound together exclusively by the Hindu religion and culture and the Hindi language. Current RSS chief Mohan Bhagwati is a major voice in the BJP's policy-making and policy implementation. Bhagwati often says: "Everyone born in India is a Hindu." Hence it is almost impossible to believe that the RSS-controlled BJP can truly love (in deeds) Muslims, Dalits, Adivasis, Christians, and other minorities in India.

Since the current government assumed power at the center in 2016, intolerance and violence have increased greatly, particularly in BJP-ruled states. They are more tolerant and merciful to cows than to human beings, especially Muslims and Dalits. Since 2016 the BJP government's interference in private and public institutions has also increased greatly.

They have tried to control educational institutions, law enforcement departments such as the Central Bureau of Investigation, and the judiciary. Dozens and dozens of academicians, scientists, professionals, artists, and others have written to Prime Minister Modi concerning the government's suppression of and interference with the press and freedom of speech.

Mind you, Modi is unlike his precursor as BJP Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee. Vajpayee didn't permit the RSS to interfere in the affairs of the Government; he had the ability and determination to contain the RSS element within BJP. On the contrary, Mr. Modi's BJP government is essentially in thrall to the RSS led by Mohan Bhagwati. Modi's inability or unwillingness to control the Home Minister (and former BJP President) Amit Shah and other RSS Hindutvas is dragging the country down into fascism.

If the BJP government wants to promote and nourish democratic values, it must part with the RSS and its ilk for good. Or else India faces a bleak future, even to the point of disintegration. That is why even so many reasonable and learned Hindus led by former cabinet ministers under Atal Vajpayee's BJP government are up in arms against RSS's false projection of genuine Hinduism and its culture.

Here in the North-East we already see that in Tripura State, immigrants have become the absolute majority and control the government. The indigenous tribals (Tripuris and others) make up only about 31% of the total population; they are now aliens in their own native habitat. It is too late there. Meanwhile, the indigenous people of Assam known as Axamiya, a cultural identity, who accept Assam as their homeland, are now terrified that they would also be reduced to a minority if the immigration of 'non-Indians' is not checked today.

The All Assam Students' Union (AASU) launched in 1979 a six-year agitation culminating with the signing of the Assam Accord in 1985, clause 5 of which states: "Foreigners who came to Assam on or after March 25, 1971 shall continue to be detected, deleted and expelled in accordance with law. Immediate and practical steps shall be taken to expel such foreigners." To this day the Central Government has failed to implement most of the Accord, clause 5 being at its heart.

In the meantime there comes the latest monster, the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), proposed by the BJP and enacted by Parliament in 2019. This law deceitfully promises to provide eligibility of Indian citizenship to religious minorities, namely Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from India's two immediate neighbors of Bangladesh and Pakistan as well as Afghanistan.

Under the CAA, migrants of these minority communities from the three countries who had already entered India by December 31, 2014, are eligible to apply for Indian citizenship. In addition, the residence requirement for acquiring citizenship has been reduced from 11 years previously to only 5. Since the CAA was enacted in 2019, anyone who is against it is called unpatriotic, anti-national, terrorist, and even threatened with fatal violence or, in the case of women, rape.

Today's protesters in Assam correctly point out that the CAA is destroying the Assam Accord, clearly violating both Clause 5 and Clause 6 of the Accord: "Constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards, as may be appropriate, shall be provided to protect, preserve and promote the cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people." Assam will surely follow Tripura as the second North-Eastern State where indigenous citizens will be reduced to a minority unless they fight hard to resist now. All her North-Eastern neighbors should also fight alongside Assam.

Since becoming law, the CAA has triggered countrywide protests. The whole nation of India is in uproar saying CAA is anti-democracy and anti-Constitution. Citizens in all the North-Eastern states as well as Mainland India have publicly demonstrated their opposition to CAA. Already Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan, West Bengal and Puducherry Assemblies have passed resolutions against CAA; more are likely to follow suit.

Why aren't the Christian majority States like Nagaland, Mizoram and Meghalaya leading other NE States in passing similar resolutions against CAA, when the Act's main target is the North-East. Even the European Parliament and the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights have stated that CAA is 'discriminatory in nature and dangerously divisive'.

'While the CAA's stated goal of protecting persecuted groups is welcome, an effective national asylum and refugee policy should be just and holistic in nature and apply to all those in need.' Of course, there can be no blanket welcome to illegal immigrants, irrespective of religious background. Hindus or non-Hindus, immigrants and refugees should be accepted through an impartial legal process and based on the merits of their individual cases.

It isn't just the non-Hindus; even the overwhelming Hindu population is against CAA because the Act destroys the secular nature of the Indian Constitution — the mutually agreed-upon 'contract' that binds the modern Indian nation together, and the undoing of which would threaten to nullify that contract.

CAA openly declares the Modi government's hatred toward Muslims in India and in neighboring countries by intentionally excluding Muslims from the CAA. But can the Hindu majority in India really treat the more than 200 million Muslims who are citizens of India as aliens?

As a Christian, I am not even excited that Christians were included in CAA because it's just a cover-up. As in Nazi Germany, first they come for your neighbor, then they come for you. Who would really believe that the RSS-controlled BJP government is genuinely concerned about the wellbeing of Christians anywhere in India, let alone Christians in the North-East.

Since when did the RSS and their associates begin loving and treating Dalits, Adivasis, and other minorities (scheduled tribes—STs, scheduled castes—SCs and other backward classes—OBCs) equally, let alone Indian Muslims?

It's time all the eight North-Eastern States treat CAA as an existential crisis and face it together head on without any compromise; it's a battle for our survival. For Christians in the North-East I dare say that CAA is an extra-existential crisis. Why? The RSS and its affiliates are fully aware that there is one institution they must weaken, if not destroy, is the Church if the Hindus ever hope to control the North-East.

As Secretary of the BJP NE States Coordination Council, PB Acharya (former Governor of Nagaland and an active RSS member) wrote to former BJP Prime Minister Atal Vajpaiyee: "We have achieved our vowed object of piercing Trishul (weapon of Lord Shiva but it is also used as a Hindu symbol) in the chest of so-called 'Lord Christ'" (Mid Day).

What if the more than 17 million Hindus in Bangladesh decide to leave Muslim Bangladesh? Where would they try to settle, if not the NE States? Don't tell me the RSS-controlled BJP government in Delhi might not welcome these 17 million Bangladeshi Hindus to settle in the North-East Region?

How do the Naga politicians think existing laws can prevent an influx of illegal immigrants through Assam's jungles? The Modi government is convinced that through the means of overpopulating the whole of North-Eastern Region with Hindus from Bangladesh, they can make the North-East a Hindu heartland.

Once these Bangladesh Hindus are covered by the provisions under CAA, it will not take long before Hindus become the majority and nothing will stop them from taking control, for instance, of the Nagaland State Assembly and placing a Trishul in front of every church pulpit. Is this what we are waiting to see actually happen?

The leadership of the church should be fully aware of this. Shockingly, of all people, five tribal Christian Members of Parliament from the North-East voted in favor of CAA — on the assurance by Modi's BJP government, perhaps, that there are already enough protective measures in place, such as the Inner Line Permit (ILP) and the provision in 371A of the Indian Constitution.

Knowing the RSS-controlled BJP Government in Delhi, it is naïve and shortsighted especially on the part of the Nagas to think we are fully protected and that the passing of CAA cannot impact the Nagas in any way. Believe me, if Assam falls the rest will fall too.

It's time for our young people, especially college and university students, to see how miserably my generation has failed to protect the North-East, and to wake us up from our deadly slumber. Today's politicians and bureaucrats are selling the North-East to Delhi for money, for jobs, for power.

A new breed of visionary young men and women must rise up to provide leadership to save these fast shrinking North-Eastern States. The Church of Jesus Christ especially must not shirk her responsibility in rooting out evils anywhere. Christians in Nagaland, Mizoram and Meghalaya, in the tribal districts of Manipur and elsewhere, must see to it that truly God-fearing educated young men and women get actively involved and provide Christian leadership in the Church and for society at large.

* Tuisem A. Shishak wrote this for Imphal Times
The writer is at Patkai Christian College, Nagaland
This article was webcasted on February 28, 2020

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