Some of the North Eastern states–Meghalaya, Manipur and Assam- have been reeling under the stir of the students’ organisations on various issues. The state governments have been going out of the way to appease some of them with huge financial assistance in developmental projects and promise to concede to their demands partially. However the stir has been burgeoning as the students have spurned the stick and carrot appeasement policy.
In an unprecedented show of generosity a Rs 800 crore compensation package to develop the infrastructure in the villages of Meghalaya which will be affected by uranium mining in West Khasi Hills district was announced. The Khasi Students’ Union (KSU) has been objecting to the plan for uranium mining by the Uranium Corportation of India Limited (UCIL). The KSU president Samuel Jyrwa says that the compensation package was nothing but a “bribe”. He added that there is objection as the people will be exposed to health hazards once the mining starts. The Langrin Youth Welfare Association formed by representatives of 15 out of 50 villages to be affected by the uranium minings said that it will never allow the mining in the state in view of the health hazards. After the 1992 exploratory works many children were taken ill and fishes had died in the Kyanshi and the Rilang rivers. Once the mining is conducted in full swing the people and other living beings will be exposed to radiation, the representatives said. During the June 12,2007 public hearing on the uranium mining, it is pointed out, 85 per cent of the people rejected the proposal of the UCIL.
The KSU had also successfully stalled the conduct of the admission test for MBBS course held at Shillong on August 3. The newly constructed central medical college, North East Indira Gandhi Regional Institute of Health and Medical Sciences (NEIGRIHMS), Shillong, has 50 MBBS seats. Megahalay was allotted nine seats out of which two will be reserved for the children of staff and faculties. Contending that it is not enough the KSU has been demanding reservation of 15 seats out of 50 for the students of the state. The KSU activists disrupted the admission test. The Union Health Minister Abumani Ramadoss and other representatives agreed to increase five seats for the Meghalaya students immediately. Five seats will be added to Regional Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS) and the two others adjusted elsewhere in the country. Out of 100 medical seats available in RIMS Meghalaya gets 19 seats .A source in RIMS said that it will be no easy thing to increase the seats for Meghalaya alone since other NE states will clamour for more seats for their students.Ramadoss has already agreed to increase the seats in RIMS to 150.It will be another story if Meghalaya is given the five seats out of the 50 seats earmarked for RIMS.However on the basis of the assurances given by Ramadoss and others the KSU has agreed to call off their agitation with the result that the NEIGRIHMS will be shortly conducting the admission test.
The Democratic Students’ Alliance of Manipur (DESAM) has been giving sleepless nights to some Ministers,high officials and construction contractors in the state. The activists have been inspecting newly constructed school and college buildings.Since these constructions were found to be sub-standard the DESAM members have been demolishing the same. The contractors say that since they have to pay illegal tax to a number of outlawed underground organisations only a small percentage of the sanctioned amount is left for the actual construction works. However the DESAM is not listening to it and says that new quality constructions should be done immediately. Some students had also been hurt when portions of the newly constructed buildings had collapsed during office hours.In view of the frequent blockades,general strikes and other forms of agitations students get hardly 150 days of class and this is one of the major factors for mass failures in all examinations. At the behest of the DESAM now all educational institutes are free from all forms of agitations.Even during general strikes the students are attending classes.
The All Koch-Rajbonshi Students’ Union has been a force to reckon with in Assam. It has imposed a 1000-hour blockade from July 21 demanding a separate state and scheduled tribe status. There was acute shortage of essential commodities during the blockade. On July 27 Bireswor Roy, one of the leaders was run over by a speeding car while escaping from the students. Traders and several organisations appealed to the students to call off the blockade since the people were hit below the belt.Announcing the temporary suspension of the blockade, Biswajit Roy, president of the students’ organisation said that if the government does not fulfil the demands within one month the blockade would be resumed from September end.
The All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) and other students’ organisations in the NE states now reeling under untrammeled influx of foreigners from across the border have given final touches to revive the anti-foreigners’ movement which was started in early 1980s. The students were propelled by the remark of a high court judge who said that the Bangladeshi national will soon become king makers in Assam. The students’ organisations have been rounding up foreigners for handing over to police. This includes a Bangladeshi national who had contested elections several times in Assam. The Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi however has been playing down the gravity of the remark by the judge.
The Assam government says that during the period 2001-2008 as many as 3,00,000 suspected foreign nationals had been chargesheeted in comparison to around 50,000 during the Asom Gana Parishad government in 1996-2001. The term chargesheet means that a notice is given to the suspected foreigner by polcie and it can be contested in the Foreigners’ Tribunal. However facts speak otherwise. During the peirod from 1985 to 2005 altogether 12,846 persons were chargesheeted. Out of them 1,547 foreigners were deported and 11,299 others were “missing”. From July 2005 to March 2008 police chargesheeted 14,789 suspected foreigners. Just one of them was deported while others were reported “missing”. Whenever the police and the AASU intensify the anti-foreigners’ campaign these foreigners simply slip to other NE states to lie low till the dust settles down. In Assam there is a political dimension of the campaign as each political party is trying to make a political capital out of it. The Congress is attacking the BJP saying that it is targetting the Bangladeshi Muslims only while the Hindus are not harassed at all. But the HIndus are also foreigners , it was pointed out.
The Naga Students’ Federation is not happy that the population of the foreigners in Nagaland is staggering notwithstanding the enforcement of the Inner Line Permit in the state and the Constitutional guarantee that the non-Nagas cannot own immovable properties in Nagaland. An outsider must obtain the permission for entering the state and must leave within the stipulated time.But many outsiders are running business in the names of some local residents.Sometimes the outsiders are round up and sent out of the state..But then the problem is far from solved.
In Manipur at least two members of the All Manipur Students’ Union (AMSU) were shot dead during the anti-foreigners’ movement. An official report said that out of 22,93,896 population (2001 census) in the state the non-tribals constitute 7,51,422 while tribals have a population of 6,70,782. As many as 7,04,488 are outsiders many of whom are suspected to be foreigners. They have outnumbered the tribals and it is projected that by 2020 the Manipuris will be swamped by outsiders as had happened in Tripura, another NE state. It is no accident that some armed persons have been killing every now and then the “economic migrants”.
The students’ organisations have geared up the anti-foreigners’ campaign and the NE goverments may not find it easy to check it.