NEW DELHI :
Article 371 of the Constitution, under which states of the North-East have been granted special provisions with the aim of preserving their culture, will not be touched, Union home minister Amit Shah said on Thursday.
This is the second time in six months that Shah has said that the “interests of all North-easterners" would not be harmed and would be respected by the Centre, laying to rest apprehensions on this score.
The statement comes just months after the Centre in August last year abrogated most clauses of Article 370, which had granted special provisions to the then state of Jammu and Kashmir.
“When Article 370 was abrogated, rumours were spread all through the North-East that Article 371 would be scrapped. I want to tell all of the North-East that no one can touch Article 371 and it will not be touched. Those who wish to divide India, I want to tell them that their efforts will never bear fruit," Shah said on the 34th Statehood Day of Arunachal Pradesh, in state capital Itanagar.
An incorrect message was being sent out that the Centre, close on the heels of its move in Kashmir , would scrap Article 371, Shah said in Itanagar. This is being done by people who “neither want peace in the North-East region nor ever worked for development here," he said.
In September, last year, at a meeting with governors and chief ministers of the eight North-eastern states as part of the North Eastern Council in Guwahati, Shah said the region was pivotal to India’s growth story and that the Centre would not tamper with Article 371.
“Article 371 of the Indian Constitution is a special provision. The Bharatiya Janata Party government respects Article 371 and will not alter it in any way," the home minister said in Guwahati, dispelling fears that the North-eastern states would lose their special status following the abrogation of Article 370 in Kashmir.
“I have clarified in Parliament that this (the scrapping of Article 371) is not going to happen. Both Articles 370 and 371 are different and the Centre will not touch Article 371," he had said then.
The North-East had been coping with problems of security and terrorism for many years, but “today the North-East is known for connectivity, development and investment and job opportunities", the home minister said. “Before 2014, the North-East was geographically a part of the country, but after Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi took over, it is an integral part of India and he has taken the initiative of rapidly developing the region. Development has started at a rapid pace in Arunachal. This state is very important to India. By 2024, Arunachal will contribute definitely to India becoming a $5 trillion economy," he said.
Shah also said that in the last five years, central ministers had undertaken 200 trips to the region while Modi had undertaken 30 visits to the region to monitor infrastructure development and administrative growth.
China had raised objections to the home minister’s visit to Arunchal Pradesh, claiming that it was “firmly opposed" to his trip as it violated Beijing’s “territorial sovereignty and sabotaged political mutual trust."
India on Thursday strongly rejected China’s stance on Arunchal Pradesh. “Our position on Arunachal Pradesh is clear and consistent. Arunachal Pradesh is an integral and inalienable part of India," Indian foreign ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar told reporters. “Indian leaders routinely travel to the state of Arunachal Pradesh as they do to any other states of India," he said.
“Objecting to the visit of Indian leaders to a state of India does not stand to reason and understanding of the Indian people," he added.