As protests intensify, panel set up to address northeast concerns (Intro Roundup)

New Delhi, Feb 6: As protests continued to rage over attacks on people from the northeast, the central government Thursday announced the formation of a committee that will examine the reasons behind such attacks and suggest remedial measures.

The announcement to form the six-member committee came soon after Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi held consultations with Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde and parliamentarians from the northeast to discuss steps to end discrimination against people from the region.

In the wake of an attack on Arunachal Pradesh student Nido Tania that has outraged the nation, Gandhi discussed the issue of security and safety of people from the northeast living in different parts of India.

“He (Gandhi) also reiterated that the hostile discrimination and violence against people from the northeast, especially women, is unacceptable and the government must take stringent measures to ensure that police and administration take quick action against those who are responsible,” party sources said.

Several parliamentarians, cutting across party lines, also met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and urged him to take steps to stop discrimination against people from the region.

Manmohan Singh said the leaders should give their views to the committee, which will look into various kinds of concerns of people from the northeast.

“I share your concerns. Indians have the right to live with dignity anywhere in India,” the prime minister told the members of the Northeast Forum of Parliament.

“It is deplorable and condemnable. The home minister has set up a committee to go into these causes in a systematic manner and prevent them,” Manmohan Singh, who is also a member of the forum, said. The prime minister is a Rajya Sabha member from Assam.

The government announcement to form the panel, which will submit its findings by March 31, came even as scores of demonstrators, mostly activists and students, continued their agitation demanding justice for Tania.

Tania was allegedly thrashed by shopkeepers at a south Delhi market over his appearance and dress. The 19-year-old died Jan 30.

The protesters, who have been demonstrating at Jantar Mantar since Sunday, later tried to march towards Parliament House, barely half a km away. But the 300-plus crowd was stopped midway by policemen as parliament is in session.

When the activists and students tried to break through the barricades, they were detained for a few hours.

Hearing about their detention, seven MPs and some other leaders from the region came out to extend their support.

The parliamentarians later led the demonstrators, demanding enactment of the anti-racial law in India, back to Jantar Mantar.

Once at the protest site, the MPs addressed the crowd, who were holding placards and banners demanding justice for Tania. The leaders promised the crowd that their grievances will be heard.

“Parliamentarians cutting across party lines met the prime minister and urged him to end discrimination against people from the northeast,” Sikkim MP P.D. Rai told IANS.

In Arunachal Pradesh, Tania’s father Nido Pavitra said his son was a “victim of racism”.

“Being parents, we demand justice for him and want the accused to be punished,” said Pavitra, who is a legislator in the state. Delhi Police has arrested three accused in the case.

The committee, which will be headed by retired bureaucrat M.P. Bezbaruah, will examine various kinds of concerns, including those regarding security of people from the northeastern states.

“The committee has been established to ensure that the rights of the people from the northeast are ensured and such incidents do not happen in future,” Manipur MP Thangso Baite told the media after he along with other leaders met Rahul Gandhi.

But activists and students were not happy.

“We have been given enough assurances, but hardly any strong action has been taken,” activist Binalakshmi Nepram told IANS.

“We want action and not just another committee,” demanded law student Vinika. “We don’t want that the next generation faces the same discrimination that we have faced.”

IANS