Problems associated with North Eastern states: A more meaningful commitment to the Indian republic

News: India celebrated its Republic day where several exercises were held to demonstrate the state’s power and patriotism. Along with these exercises, there is a need to adopt constitutional ideals and values in ways that embed the state and the nation in the harmony, especially in the North East.

What are the problems associated with North Eastern states?

The founding fathers recognized that to politically integrate different tribal groups it is necessary to reconcile equal citizenship rights and group differentiated rights. Eg: the popular mobilization for self-rule like the 1951 Naga plebiscite was believed to be supported by 99.9% of the Naga population. So, the formulation of differential rights in the sixth schedule would lead to the constitutional recognition of differentiated identities.

But this system is problematic as it is based on an unequal two-tiered right regime. It distinguishes tribal citizens from non-tribals by excluding them from ownership and acquisition of property in tribal areas. There is a need to accommodate the distinctive needs of non-tribal outsiders.

Read here: problems associated with sixth schedule

The sons of soil movement in Assam and Tripura since the 1970s are driven by a sense of insecurity about identity and land ownership. The state’s inability to control illegal immigration makes the problem more complex. These have led to the targeting of Bengali Muslims as illegal. The sense of insecurity created by national register of citizens and citizenship amendment act 2019 are reminders of this reality.

What steps should government initiate to resolve the insecurity of N.E states?

The above problems call for renewing the state’s commitment to democracy and constitutionalism. This should not only promote democratic justice but should also check abuse of state power.

Also, the government should commit itself to promote substantive democracy by protecting the rule of law. Institutions should be encouraged to give various groups, including women, effective voice and participatory rights not only in democratic deliberations but also in policymaking and implementation.

Government should further stop measures like labelling human rights activists as anti-nationals, use of UAPA on grounds like criticising the government, use of AFSPA etc.

Read here: Needed: repeal of AFSPA, not regret

Source: This post is based on the article ”A more meaningful commitment to the Indian republic” published in the Indian Express on 28th February 2022.

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