Union Home Minister Amit Shah has iterated that the Centre will not disturb Article 371 of the Constitution of India. This is the second time that he has clarified on the same matter; the last time was on the floor of the Parliament after the abrogation of Article 370 had brought about a sense of insecurity in the minds of the Northeast people. Article 371 deals with special provisions that mainly pertain to the north-eastern states.
There are only a few in the region who really understand the difference between the states in the Northeast, especially the history of their respective statehoods, and the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir. The rest are prone to panic at the slightest of action in New Delhi. It is but the turbulent history of the region that the people are still not sure if they are really accepted by the mainlanders. Moreover, call it the hangover of the last century¬— the politics of fear has reached newer heights globally. Northeast India is no exception and the minds of the people are still best stirred with fear. So, though technology has reached the remotest of corners even in the Northeast, it has instead become the best tool to spread fear through speculations, partial truths or half-truths and wild allusions.
The leaders in the Centre understand that such fear and insecurity can be easily capitalised for political gains by their opponents. The benefit of doubt goes to the home minister when he stated that they were attempts to misinform and misguide post abrogation of Article 370. What the home minister and the other Union leaders also need to realise is that the people of the region at large are still susceptible to such falsehood that could lead to mass panic. The widespread protests, whether stage-managed or real, against the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) just before the Lok Sabha election is a classic example. The result of the General Elections was completely opposite with BJP and its allies securing most of the seats even in the Northeast. Nonetheless, the fact remains that there is always a fear and suspicion of the outsider in the region, even though there is a decrease in militancy; the chasm between the Northeast and the rest of the country is still wide.
It is quite coincidental that the statement on Article 371 by the home minister was made in the region and during the plenary session of the North East Council (NEC) at Guwahati. Unless agency like the NEC that is instituted to bridge the gap with other regions in terms of economic and infrastructural development is microscopically monitored and scrutinised, the people will not be able to really experience it at the grassroots. It will take more years than envisaged to wipe out the alienation that the people feel. No doubt the home minister’s reassurance is timely and it is accepted that it will hold good but if the various proposed schemes do not reach the people, how many will remain to accept it as true?