Conrad and Assam

Thursday, 21 March 2019

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Conrad and Assam

Swapnil Bharali | March 10, 2019 11:11 hrs


The new regional leader today with some great credence is undoubtedly Conrad Sangma. He championed the lapse of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016 in the Rajya Sabha with a maturity not usually seen among most of our emotion-driven regional leaders – especially the ones from the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP). He rightly feels that it is time his National People’s Party (NPP) expanded its wings further to become the most credible regional party of northeast India. He is amply justified in thinking so because the NPP has tasted power in Meghalaya, and is in power-sharing mode in Manipur, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh with the current governments.


And so, opening the Assam unit and an office right in the heart of Guwahati is also justified. Weaning away potential representatives of the people from other regional parties is the way forward. To augment this is Sangma’s strong belief that it is only the strength in numbers from the northeast that will make Delhi sit up and take notice as they did with the CAB issue. And this calls for unity in the entire northeast.


This is where Sangma is likely to face his toughest challenge. For a region so diversified where an Assamese is hardly aware of say, the Mizo lifestyle or voting thought process, unifying the region has several other pitfalls and many of these relate to governance. The hill states, which essentially mean all the other states of the northeast besides Assam, have their own provisions designed to protect their culture, language and land. Visiting some of these states require Inner Line Permits even for Indian citizens leave alone foreigners. Moreover, citizens of these states are exempted from paying income tax – all in the name of their protection and development. 


Unfortunately, none of these apply to Assam which is treated as a regular large state of the country and despite its extremely poor position in the ease-of-doing-business index due to its plethora of problems – social, demographic, infrastructural etc - no concessions are given to Assam. This is what makes it different from the rest of the northeast. 
Unity needs to be forged on a level playing field. Unfortunately, the hill states have a lop-sided advantage and their problems and future requirements just might not match those of Assam which has its own unique set of problems.

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