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2018 was a landmark year for BJP, women in Northeast

BJP supporters celebrate the party's win in Tripura elections. The BJP ended 25 years of Left rule in the State.

BJP supporters celebrate the party's win in Tripura elections. The BJP ended 25 years of Left rule in the State.  

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National Register of Citizens in Assam, illegal mining in Meghalaya made headlines

The Bharatiya Janata Party expanded its footprint across the Northeast in 2018 by forming coalition governments in Manipur, Nagaland and Tripura. But a regional party, Mizo National Front, struck the final blow in Mizoram to make the region “Congress-free”.

The year was also the best and the worst for women in the Northeast. Assam’s sprinter Hima Das made history for Indian athletics by striking gold in the 400m at the World U-20 Athletics championship in Finland and Manipur pugilist M.C. Mary Kom created a world record at 35 by winning her sixth gold at the World Women Boxing championship. Assam’s Rima Das became a household name when her low-budget film Village Rockstars got the best national film award and was nominated as India’s entry for the Oscars in the best foreign films category.

On the flip side, Meghalaya-based activists Agnes Kharshiing and Amita Sangma battled for life after members of alleged coal mafia assaulted them for following and documenting illegally stacked coal and coal-laden trucks. The assault on them and a mishap in an illegal mine at Ksan in the State’s East Jaintia Hills district a month later put the spotlight on an unholy nexus that encourages coal mine owners – many of them lawmakers – flout an April 2014 ban by NGT on ‘rat-hole’ mining with impunity.

At least 13 miners – survivors of the mishap caused by flooding of the 350ft deep mine claimed there are 17 – trapped are feared dead. A renewed effort to rescue them or recover their bodies resumed on Sunday after initial attempts failed.

NRC, Citizenship Bill

The issue that hogged the headlines was that of exercise to update the National Register of Citizens in Assam and the Narendra Modi government’s bid to pass the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, that seeks to legitimise the stay of non-Muslims who migrated from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan till December 2014 due to alleged religious persecution.

The defining moment of the NRC exercise began past the midnight of December 31, 2017, with the publication of the first draft that accommodated 1.39 crore out of the 3.29 crore applicants. The complete draft was released on July 31 with the names of 40.07 lakh people left out of the list. The claims and objections round for the excluded to be back on the list by producing relevant proof of citizenship ends on December 31. This round had begun on September 25.

The crowning glory for Assam was the appointment of Ranjan Gogoi, the man at the helm of the Supreme Court-monitored NRC, as the first Chief Justice of the apex court from the Northeast.

The BJP, which began its ‘saffron surge’ in the region by winning the Assam elections in 2016, formed the government in Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh in 2017. In March, it swept the Left Front out of Tripura, ended Congress rule in Meghalaya with the help of regional allies, and chose a new regional partner to continue the NDA reign in Nagaland.

But the BJP’s gamble on ethnic minorities did not quite come off in Mizoram. The MNF – a member of the BJP-helmed North East Democratic Alliance – ended the 10-year rule of the Congress to return to power.

The BJP in Assam saved the blues for the party in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan to win 41% seats in the panchayat polls. This indicated that the anger in Assam against the Citizenship Bill did not have much impact on the rural electorate.

But the Bill was seen as one of the reasons of the perceived resurgence of extremist groups such as the United Liberation Front of Asom-Independent. Security forces blamed the outfit for killing five Hindu Bengalis, seen as beneficiaries of the Bill, in eastern Assam’s Tinsukia district.

Connectivity and wildlife

Connectivity in the Northeast came a long way with a slew of highway and railway projects having been sanctioned, undertaken or completed. The highlight was the inauguration of the 4.94 km Bogibeel Bridge, India’s longest rail and road span, across the Brahmaputra river and the construction of the piers of the world’s tallest railway bridge on the Jiribam-Imphal railway line under way.

The year also saw hurdles such as land acquisition being removed for Hollongi, the first major civilian airport project in Arunachal Pradesh whose foundation stone is expected to be laid by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in January 2019.

Inland water connectivity too received a boost with two barges carrying 1,233 tonnes of bagged fly ash from Bihar reaching Guwahati’s Pandu port in less than a month to rekindle hope for a transport system that had virtually ended with Partition in 1947. The Centre also signed a protocol with Bangladesh, which will allow Indian ships to access Mongla and Chittagong ports in the neighbouring country.

But the expansion of railway and road network has been at a cost – shrinking of space for wildlife leading to train-hits and forcing elephants to seek non-traditional corridors. The resultant man-elephant conflicts have claimed the lives of 67 elephants and 75 humans.

The year ended for Assam recording more human deaths due to conflict with animals than natural disasters. Data with the Assam State Disaster Management Authority said floods and landslides killed 53 people in 2018.

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Printable version | Jan 29, 2020 11:44:09 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/2018-was-a-landmark-year-for-bjp-women-in-northeast/article25875880.ece

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