Repeal AFSPA from North East call rings out in LS

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Protest-against-AFSPA-KanglaonlineNew Delhi, Apr 27 : A demand was made in the Lok Sabha today for repeal of the “draconian” Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in the North East, with a few members saying it was the biggest deterrent in integrating the youth of the region with India.
Participating in a discussion on the Demands for Grants of the Ministry of North East Development, members in the House made a case for bringing in change of strategy and political will for progress of North Eastern region.
“For 50 years we have clamped AFSPA on the region. Armed forces have killed 50,000 plus civilians in North East. AFSPA has been the biggest deterrent of integrating NE youth with India… Remove AFSPA without any conditionality,” said BJD member Tathagata Satpathy.
Thokchom Meinya (Cong) demanded immediate repeal of AFSPA from Manipur, saying the Act has been “draconian and a black law”.
He said many agencies have said AFSPA should be repealed and the Centre should immediately repeal it.
Satpathy said the Government at the Centre will have to change its strategy to integrate the North Eastern people with the Indian culture. “It is a change in political will that is needed. It is not the BSF, armed forces who are at fault, it is politicians who are at fault,” he said.
Flaying the attitude of successive Central Governments towards North East, Satpathy said till 2008, Governors of the States in the region were retired armed forces personnel.
He demanded Padma award for Irom Sharmila, who is fighting for repeal of the AFSPA in Manipur.
“Iron Sharmila deserves to be given Padma award for her perseverence. I admire her personally. The kind of awardees we saw this year, she deserves to be given Padma award,” Satpathy said.
He said the attitude of successive Governments towards North East has been “convoluted or perverted”.
“If Britishers had not come to India, then perhaps North East would have been put off to China,” he added.
K Rammohan Naidu (TDP) said that North Eastern States are a victim of bad governance, lack of political will and extremism and appreciated Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s efforts towards bringing in progress in the region.
During the discussion, Prahlad Patel (BJP) remarked that National Anthem is not sung in schools in North East.
To this, Satpathy said there has been a recent instance of swearing-in of a “lady Chief Minister” where there were two flags — State flag and Indian flag — waving in the background. He was apparently referring to Jammu and Kashmir which has a separate flag of the State.
“Odisha, Bihar or any other State within India does not have a separate flag,” Satpathy said.
Taking a dig at BJP in a veiled manner, Satpathy said, “We have come to that stage that any comment or opinion you cite, you will be off your head”.
Thokchom Meinya (Cong) said the funds allocated to the North Eastern region is less.
He also asked the Centre to take steps to settle the vexed Naga issue within the Constitution.
Bijoya Chakravarty (BJP) said the Centre is coming out with a new industrial policy for North East and is also encouraging organic farming in Sikkim and in the entire region.
Chakravarty accused the UPA regime of not doing enough for the development of North Eastern region.
Satpathy (BJD) said the Government has allocated only Rs 33,097 crore under 56 account heads in 2016-17 Budget, just Rs 4,000 crore higher than the Rs 29,087 crore in 2015-16.
K Rammohan Naidu (TDP) said the per capital income in North East is low at Rs 6,600 crore, from the National average of Rs 10,000 crore. Also there are 35 per cent BPL families, less than 26 per cent Nationally.
Naidu appreciated BJP-led Government’s efforts for trying to develop the North Eastern States by signing the Naga peace accord and encouraging organic farming.
Emphasising the importance of monitoring of the funds given to North Eastern States, Arvind Sawant (Shiv Sena) said projects in the region should be completed in time-bound manner.
“Unless we do it in time-bound manner, development cannot be ensured,” Sawant said.
He raised concern over porous border in the region leading to infiltration, movement of counterfeit notes and illegal arms.
“It poses a great threat to our internal security. Therefore, there is need for completing the fencing of the border and increasing border security…China, Bangladesh border ceiling should be given the top priority,” he added. —PTI

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