ITANAGAR: Union Minister Kiren Rijiju on Thursday called for maintaining status quo by the northeastern states on the interstate boundary issue and asked them to handle the matter at the local levels.
The boundary dispute between several northeastern states are pending with the Supreme Court and it is the responsibility of every state to maintain status quo and avoid any form of violence over the issue, the union law and justice minister told a press conference here.
Rijiju, who arrived here on a three-day visit to Arunachal Pradesh as part of ‘Jan Ashirwad Yatra’ mooted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the recently sworn-in union ministers, said that the Centre would make efforts to find a solution to the decades-old boundary disputes between the NE states. “Till then status quo should be maintained by each state and such issues should be resolved at local levels,” he said.
“There should be no violence of any form. Every state has the responsibility to maintain status quo. We are not enemies – We are all citizens of the country. The seven sisters (NE states) should not treat each other as enemies,” the union minister said.
“When there are no restrictions in the movement of people among the northeastern states, there should be no tension. The NE states should live in harmony as per the laid down mechanism,” Rijiju added. Referring to the reported killing of nearly 600 people in border clashes in NE till date, he said that such violence would shatter the prevailing peace in the region.
Rijiju termed the recent violence between Assam and Mizoram “unfortunate” and said that every state should act in a balanced way and not make any provocative statements. Six Assam Police personnel were among seven persons killed in a clash on the Assam-Mizoram which also left over 50 people injured.
“We are all united. United northeast is for united India. There should be bonhomie among the states of the region. If such issues (boundary disputes) continue, peace will be disrupted and the dream of a united India will fail,” he added.
Responding to a question on bringing Arunachal pradesh, a frontier state, under the purview of the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution to protect the rights of its indigenous people and amending Article 371(H), Rijiju said that there are provisions in the Constitution and laws to ensure protection of inherited rights of the state’s tribal people.
The Sixth Schedule consists of provisions for the administration of tribal areas in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram. “Besides the constitutional provisions, the Citizenship Amendment Act has benefited Arunachal. According to the provisions of the Act, except for the indigenous tribal people no foreigners can get ST status in the state,” he said and referred to the Gauhati High Court order of 1996 and Supreme Court order of 2015 for granting citizenship to Chakma and Hajong refugees in the northeastern state.
“The protection provided by the CAA is far more beneficial for the people of the state. It will protect the identity, culture and rights of the tribal population and nobody can disrupt it. If any more protection is required, it will be looked into. I am there as a representative of the state and I will never the state to face any problem,” he said.
The state assembly had last year resolved to persuade the Centre to include the frontier state in the Sixth Schedule of Constitution to protect the rights of its indigenous population.
The assembly had also resolved that the special provision with respect to the state be further strengthened by amending Article 371(H) by inserting provisions for protection of religious or social practices of the tribes of the state, customary law and procedure of its tribes, administration of civil and criminal justice involving decisions according to customary law of the tribes and ownership and transfer of land and its resources.
Arunachal Pradesh, which has borders with Bhutan, China and Myanmar, comes under the Fifth Schedule, which deals with provisions related to the administration and control of scheduled areas and scheduled tribes.
Article 371(H) has special provisions in respect of the governor and the total seats in its assembly. During his three-day visit to Arunachal Pradesh, Rijiju will meet the family members of former BJP state presidents and interact with various community-based organizations and NGOs.
BJP sources said that he is scheduled to inaugurate an oxygen plant funded under PM cares at Likabali in Lower Siang district.