Inter-State frictions are back in the Northeast

Assam police commandos at the Republic Day parade, 2019 in Guwahati.APAnupam Nath  

Inter-State frictions have resurfaced in the northeast after a show of unity by the region’s constituent States over the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016.

On Thursday, less than 24 hours after the Centre’s failure in getting the Bill passed in Rajya Sabha triggered celebrations across the north-eastern States, several people, including women, were injured during a clash between the Assam police and people of Umwali village in Meghalaya.

The village is near Langpih, a disputed place on the Assam-Meghalaya border, about 40 km west of Guwahati. While Assam says the village is in the State’s Kamrup district, Meghalaya claims it falls in its West Khasi Hills district.

Official speak

“The villagers pelted stones at us when we objected to the clearing of a patch of forest for electrification work. Some of our men sustained injuries,” an official in the Assam police outpost at Langpih said, adding that they arrested two people.

But P. Syiemiong, the headman of Umwali, claimed the assault by the Assam police was unprovoked. The Khasi Students’ Union, which had joined hands with its Assam counterpart to fight the Citizenship Bill, condemned the action of the police and demanded compensation for the Meghalaya villagers assaulted.

On the eastern edge of Assam, almost horizontally across the point where Langpih is situated, economic blockades by Assam-based ethnic bodies less than a fortnight ago began haunting the tribes of Arunachal Pradesh again.

For ST status

Organisations of six communities — Adivasi, Deori, Gorkha, Moran, Mising, and Sonowal Kachari — mostly inhabiting eastern Assam, have been demanding Scheduled Tribe status for their brethren living in pockets of Arunachal Pradesh. The demand gathered steam after Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu and Deputy Chief Minister Chowna Mein made an assurance last year.

While these organisations have threatened to relaunch their agitation after a brief lull, the indigenous communities in Arunachal Pradesh want the State government to “forget the plan”. Tribe and district-specific constituents of All Arunachal Pradesh Students’ Union (AAPSU) have also gone against their parent organisation for “keeping quiet” on the issue.