Union Home Minister Shri Rajnath Singh presided over in the meeting of Chief Ministers of North-Eastern Region on the issues of Security and Development, in Guwahati today. The Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Sports & Youth Affairs Shri Sarbananda Sonowal, Minister of State (I/C) for Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER), Dr. Jitendra Singh, Minister of State for Home Affairs, Shri Kiren Rijiju and Union Home Secretary, Shri L.C. Goyal also participated in the meeting.
Following is the text of the speech delivered by Shri Rajnath Singh on the occasion:
“North-Eastern Region is very important for us. This region is incomparably rich in natural resources, rivers, mountains, scenic beauty and cultural diversity. But, in spite of all these resources and diversities, our North-Eastern Region somehow lagged behind in development. For overall development of this region, the earlier NDA government created the Department of Development of North-Eastern Region (DONER) and continued mandatory 10% of funds for of this region out of the total development budget of Government of India. Many new projects were started. Fortunately, the successor UPA governments also continued all these efforts and upgraded the Department to Ministry. As a result, this region also started developing fast along with the rest of the country. But, still a lot more is to be done. It is the dream as well as resolve of our Government that the North-Eastern Region should be hub of peace, progress and development.
All of us know that development and security go hand-in-hand. They are complimentary to each other. Without development, security scenario suffers badly and without security, development cannot take place at the desired pace. We have organized this meeting with you all with the purpose of ensuring peace and security in the region and get its dividend in the form of accelerated development. I feel that in order to proceed further ahead in this direction, strong and close coordination between the Central and State governments is needed. One of the purposes of this meeting is that we mutually understand each other’s expectations better and deal with the situation in more effective way.
In this meeting, first of all, we shall discuss about the Security issues and then taking advantage of the presence of Hon’ble Minister DONER and his officers, we would devote ourselves on development issues.
I am happy to say that over the last few years, there has been significant improvement in the security scenario in the North-East. Overall level of insurgency is at all-time low. Mizoram, Tripura, large parts of Assam and Meghalaya, and Arunachal Pradesh except its three eastern districts, are almost free of insurgency. There is a strong popular desire for peace in Nagaland and Manipur too. All this has been possible because of sustained efforts of all of you and I congratulate you all for this achievement.
Besides, I very much appreciate the hard work done, particularly by the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs), Assam Police and the Army, after the heinous killings of Adivasis in last December in the districts of Kokhrajhar and Sonitpur in Assam. Special and concerted efforts by Hon’ble Chief Minister, Assam Sri Tarun Gogoi deserves special mention for action against NDFB. I congratulate him for his admirable action.
Now the peace initiatives of the Government of India with insurgent organisations are on the right track. We hope to bring them to logical conclusions soon. However, these days much of the residual insurgency in the region is by some small violent insurgent groups operating from their safe havens across the border. Incidents of kidnapping for ransom, particularly in Assam and Meghalaya, have increased to almost double. In the Garo Hill districts of Meghalaya, some new splinter groups are there whose objective is kidnapping for ransom or looting the businessmen at gunpoint. I would like to make it absolutely clear that the Central government would not talk to such criminal elements. Such criminal activities must be dealt with firmly.
One of the purposes of this meeting is to emphasize that now the time has come when apart from Insurgency centric security, we must think, plan and deliver on People-centric security.
For improving the security ecosystem in the region, I would like to request all the Hon’ble Chief Ministers to further concentrate on the following important points so that we can create a better environment of peace and security leading to faster development of the area.
We must take care of the development along with the security of people living along the International Borders where hundreds of villages exist. You would be glad to know that, under Border Area Development Program (BADP), for development of border areas in this region, we have enhanced the share of the region from 30% to 40%.
Of late, India-Myanmar border has become more active as there are reports of insurgents, weapons and drugs crossing this border. I have constituted a committee headed by Chairman, JIC, Shri R. N. Ravi to review how to effectively manage the Indo-Myanmar border. The committee has done the review and is expected to submit its report in the next few days. The Home Ministry will soon take action on that. We also need to tighten our vigil along the Indo-Bangladesh border.
When we talk of the borders, we should not ignore the border population. There are some 240 villages with over two lakh population within 10 km of the India-Myanmar border. This large population is without any worthwhile security cover. They are at the mercy of the insurgents. Similar situation prevails along the India-Bhutan border.
While the Home Ministry is taking measures for effective management of the border, I would urge upon the Chief Ministers to pay attention to this crucial area of security. You may consider opening and strengthening of Police stations in the border areas to reinforce a sense of security among our population. It will also be crucial for successful implementation of our Act-East policy.
The people of the region have suffered the trauma of insurgency for long. Now they must reap the dividend of peace. Insurgency has adversely impacted the Criminal Justice System. There has been marked increase in low-visibility yet high-impact violent crimes like kidnapping for ransom and extortions in Assam and Meghalaya. It has severely undermined common man’s access to justice. In some States, ratio of prosecution of criminals in cases of serious crimes is disturbingly low, as low as 5 per cent as against All India figure of over 85 per cent. In cases of kidnapping for ransom, this data is negligible in NER. You would appreciate that when the aggrieved people do not get justice from the States, not only their confidence in the system gets eroded but they also become prone to alternative course for justice which further vitiates the environment. The State police must pay greater attention to registration and investigation of crimes and pursue the cases diligently in the Courts for punishing the criminals who commit heinous crimes in these states. The larger Criminal justice system must deliver.
There is need to have Special Investigation Cells to tackle the cases of Extortion and Kidnapping for ransom. It is crucial to restore the popular confidence in the Rule of law. I would urge upon the Hon’ble Chief Ministers to pay attention to it in their respective States.
We know that the North-East Region is replete with illegal firearms. Weapons are smuggled from across the border and sold in the region and even beyond. We are aware of places like Dimapur, being the centres for marketing of such smuggled weapons. Existence of illegal weapons will continue encouraging crimes and vitiating the security eco-system of the region. I would urge upon the Chief Ministers to launch sustained drives against illegal weapons and make their respective States free of such arms.
We also know that the youths in the insurgency today are mostly those who have been misled by vested interests. Many of them realize their mistakes and are seeking safe ways to lead normal happy life. They are welcome to the mainstream. However, those who have committed heinous crimes and acts of terror will have to face the law and meet the justice. I would like to reiterate and emphasize that we have zero-tolerance policy on insurgency.
There are boundary disputes between some States like the ones between Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Nagaland, Assam and Meghalaya, Assam and Mizoram, and between Tripura and Mizoram. Recently, disputes started between Angamis of Nagaland and Mao tribals of Manipur regarding Dzukou valley. Many of the disputes are legacies of the past. Unfortunately such disputes, at times, tend to grow into serious tensions that occasionally erupt into violence and displacement of people. I would urge upon the Chief Ministers to resolve them mutually by using their good offices and ensuring that under no circumstances the disputes develop into active tensions. The Home Ministry will be happy to assist, should the Chief Ministers so decide. However, till the dispute is resolved amicably, the status quo must be maintained by both the concerned states.
In the wake of improvement in security scenario, there is a need to review deployment of security Forces in the region. At present the deployment is more than it was when the insurgency was at its peak. In the past few years there has been substantial strengthening of State police also. Without compromising with the security, we must plan to reduce deployment so as to make the environment easy to encourage positive thinking of outsiders about this region on this aspect. I would urge all the Hon’ble Chief Ministers to have a realistic audit of deployment of Central Armed Police Forces in their States. However, I assure you of our endeavour to help you in the deployment of Central Forces when actually needed.
Border guarding is one of prime concerns. I would like to urge all the Chief Ministers concerned to provide land for border fencing and expedite land acquisition on urgent basis wherever it is pending.
The North-Eastern part of India is a high intensity seismic zone. The region is also prone to periodic devastating floods. These disasters cause untold miseries to the people and immense loss of life, property and livelihood. I am happy that the States, with active assistance of the National Disaster Management Authority, Ministry of Home, have built certain capabilities to meet and manage natural disasters. The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) has one Battalion stationed at Guwahati for the region. We have sanctioned one more Battalion of NDRF for the North-East. I would urge upon the Hon’ble Chief Ministers to maintain and always keep in readiness their State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) and upgrade their Disaster Management capabilities. The Home Ministry will be happy to encourage and help strengthen their disaster response capabilities.
Before I conclude, I assure the people of North Eastern Region that government would take all steps to ensure that they are not discriminated against. Now, I request all the Hon’ble Chief Ministers to enlighten us with their invaluable views on how to further root out insurgency and develop the region, strongly integrating it to the national mainstream.”
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