'Cong to oppose Naga pact if Manipur geography altered'

Senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh. (PTI photo)

Senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh has slammed the Centre for alleged lack of transparency in the ongoing Naga peace talks and said the party will oppose any agreement that changes the geography of Manipur and any other northeastern state.

During the tenure of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, the Centre had signed Assam, Mizoram and Tripura accords without changing the geography of any state, he said on Sunday during a visit by a six-member Congress delegation to Imphal.

The visit aimed to take stock of the situation in Manipur arising out of the Naga peace talks and gather the opinions of people and party leaders on the National Register of Citizens (NRC).

"There is no transparency regarding Naga peace talks on the part of the central government. The progress in the ongoing Naga peace talks has not been disclosed," Ramesh told reporters at the Congress Bhawan here.

Any accord which would change the geography of any state of the northeast region, including Manipur, will be opposed by the Congress, he said.

Former Manipur chief minister O Ibobi Singh said that the Centre, according to media reports, has rejected the NSCN-IM demand for separate flag and Constitution during the Naga peace talks. "People in Manipur are confused whether the demand for greater Nagaland has been accepted or not. If it is accepted by the present government, the party will oppose it tooth and nail," the Manipur Congress Legislature Party leader said.

Last week, the union home ministry had said that a lot of rumours and misinformation was being spread that the final Naga settlement had been arrived at and would be announced soon.

"This is creating anxiety and concern in some parts of the country. It is clarified that before any settlement is arrived at with Naga groups, all stakeholders including states of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh will be duly consulted and their concerns will be taken into consideration. No credence needs to be given to such rumours and incorrect information," the MHA statement had said.

In Shillong on Monday Ramesh attacked the BJP government for planning to pass the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) in the winter session of Parliament.

The Congress, he said, has taking a "principled" stand against the CAB and not just a political stand against it.

The Congress is taking a principled stand on the CAB because it is destroying the very basis of the Constitution. It is making religion the basis of citizenship, he said adding that B R Ambedkar, Jawaharlal Nehru, Vallabhbhai Patel and Mahatma Gandhi had warned against it.

Ramesh also criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is scheduled to speak on November 26 to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the adoption of the draft of the Constitution, for being the "same person who is pushing a Bill which is destroying the Constitution.

The Congress leader said his party is reaching out to other political parties on the CAB. Some political parties will support us, some will not. Now it all depends how active the ED, Income Tax and CBI is as these are instruments of governance for Amit Shah and Modi," he said.

The ED, CBI and Income Tax departments are trishuls as far as Modi is concerned. We may not have numbers in Lok Sabha or in Rajya Sabha, but will continue to fight, he said.

Referring to the citizens' register, Ramesh said the NRC is a "political tool" of the BJP. The political purpose of the BJP is to divide Indian society, to create a diversion from economic issues.

The country should learn from the NRC experience in Assam before embarking on another such exercise that has caused sufferings to genuine Indian citizens.

What are these detention centres we are building? As an Indian I find it shameful that we are building these detention centres. These are concentration camps that Gandhis India is building. Let us understand what the end result of this NRC is going to be, the senior Congress leader said.

The Congrees, he said, is not opposed to the principle of distinguishing bonafide Indian citizens from those who come to India illegally.

"We are a responsible political party. What we oppose is the methodology and the way the NRC has been executed (in Assam) and the problem inherent in the implementation.

The Centre can devise a system if it is genuinely concerned about identifying illegal migrants. If they (Centre) are genuinely concern about identifying illegal migrants let us sit together, let us device a system, let us implement it in a manner which does not create problems for the poor section of the society. A large majority of our citizens do not have papers, Ramesh said.

Referring to the assembly poll results in Haryana and Maharashtra, he said the worries and the concerns of the people are different in different states.

The BJP went to the polls on Article 370, Citizenship Amendment Bill, NRC and you saw what the results are. I dont know whether they (BJP) will learn their lessons from this mandate, he added. 

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