Guwahati, Feb 4
With Lok Sabha elections months away, Prime Minister Narendra Modi Sunday told a large gathering in Guwahati that his “guarantee waali gaadi” (guarantee wagon) would bring economic development in Assam and the North East, strengthen connectivity in the region as well as with neighbouring South Asian countries.
“I want to tell every youth in Assam and North East, your dreams are my vision. To fulfill your dreams, Modi will not spare any effort…This is Modi’s guarantee,” said the Prime Minister at the Khanapara field in Guwahati.
However, in his nearly 32 minutes-long speech, there was no mention of the turmoil and bloodshed in conflict-ridden Manipur — an important inland gateway to Southeast Asia that is crucial to India’s ‘Act East Policy’ which aims to enhance trans regional, cross-border connectivity and trade with Myanmar and neighbouring countries.
Since 3 May, Manipur has been embroiled in deadly clashes between the Kuki community and the Meiteis. At least 200 people have died, and tens of thousands displaced. Many fear they will never be able to return home.
The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) Government at the Centre has been stressing on economic reforms as it woos voters across the country, a glimpse of what was witnessed in Assam Sunday as the PM announced development projects worth Rs 11,600 crore.
Reacting to Modi’s speech, former Manipur Minister and veteran CPI leader Dr M Nara said, “This is beyond our belief that a PM didn’t say anything on the Manipur issue. His attitude is not a transparent one, he and his Government are now busy campaigning for the upcoming Lok Sabha election.
“We never came across such a Prime Minister. He thinks that Manipur is not one of India’s States. We are feeling very sad about his attitude towards Manipur,” he added.
Another former Manipur Minister, Okram Joy Singh, termed it “a sad moment” for the State. “A Prime Minister of this country reaching Assam is just like reaching Manipur. Even though his visit and his speech might be related with the Lok Sabha election campaign, mentioning nothing on the Manipur issue while being the PM is a very sad moment for the State.”
Veewon Thokchom, research scholar from Manipur, told ThePrint: “As the PM of this country, it hurts us that he has not addressed the pain and suffering we have been going through for more than 9 months now. To many, the silence only solidifies the belief that the Central Government is deliberately prolonging this violence for reasons it knows best. The historical fact of the alienation of our land and people from National politics and psyche has reached a new height today.”
‘Earlier govts made a trend of being ashamed of their own culture’
Modi arrived in Guwahati Saturday evening, and stayed the night at Koinadhara, the state guest house.
Greeting the crowd Sunday, the PM identified himself as “aapka saathi” (your friend), and said that the “Northeast believes in Modi’s guarantee” (of development). Chants of “Modi, Modi” and “Jai Sri Ram” could be heard as the Prime Minister continued his speech, emphasising the tourism potential that religious sites like Kamakhya Temple hold.
“Today, connectivity to Southeast Asia is enhanced through the Northeast, under the South Asia Subregional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) programme, many road upgradation projects have started. When these connectivity projects are completed, the region would be part of the bigger economic growth,” said Modi.
Taking a dig at the Congress, Modi said that previous governments failed to understand the significance of places associated with faith which “symbolise an indelible mark of our civilization over thousands of years”.
“Unfortunately, even those who ran governments in the country for a long time after independence could not understand the importance of these holy places of faith. They had made a trend of being ashamed of their own culture, their own past for political gains. No country can ever develop by erasing its past, forgetting it like this, cutting its roots. In 10 years, India’s situation has changed,” said the prime minister.
Speaking about the BJP’s policy of “Vikaas and Virasat” (progress and heritage), the PM spoke about the BJP government’s contribution in Assam and the Northeast in the past 10 years — in the fields of connectivity, healthcare, tourism and sports.
Modi said that he had been a party worker in Assam for many years. “I have travelled to every area of the state. And I remember the obstacles along the way around that time — roadblocks, protests…I even witnessed bomb blasts in Guwahati. Today, all of it is in the past. People are living in peace.”
“The Northeast believes in Modi’s guarantee. Look at Assam, places that were once disturbed areas are now peaceful. Border disputes between northeastern states are getting resolved. After the BJP government was formed, more than 10 big peace agreements (with insurgent outfits) have been signed. In the past few years, thousands of youth in the Northeast gave up arms and chose the road to progress,” said the prime minister.
He further said that more than 7,000 youth from Assam have surrendered weapons and the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) has been removed from several districts. The Print