Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s vision document for Delhi assembly polls sparked a row by describing people from north eastern states in the national capital as “immigrants”, drawing a sharp attack from Congress, after which the ruling party claimed it as a “printing mistake” which will be rectified.
The 24-page document that entails the party’s roadmap in taking Delhi forward by making it a world-class city and steps in public welfare includes a section on “North Eastern Immigrants to be Protected”.
The section talks of special cells in all police stations and 24-hour helpline numbers to be set up “for protection of north-eastern migrants”.
Later, in a damage-control act, the party later and Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju said “it is a clerical and printing mistake. We will correct the mistake.”
He said that people from north east are not immigrants and cited his own example of representing the region.
Minister of State for Commerce Nirmala Sitharaman said “it is a printing mistake, we will correct it. One must go behind BJP’s intentions of focusing on north eastern region and help the people from the region.”
The party’s vision document says “Special cells in all police stations and special 24-hour helpline numbers to be set up for the protection of the NorthEastern migrants. To safeguard the students of NE origin, special guardianship will be arranged with local families for them.”
Congress was quick to react, with its leader Ajay Maken saying “is BJP trying to say the people from North East are not Indian citizens?”
“BJP’s vision document has a pointer called ‘north-eastern immigrants to be protected’. The word immigrant is used when people move from one country to another, so does BJP consider people from the North-Eastern states as residents of some other country or the north-eastern states according to them are not part of India?
“We demand that they remove that line from the manifesto and apologise to public,” Maken said.
The word “immigrant” kicked up a controversy over social media too with people criticising the reference.
Rijiju also addressed people from north east, especially youth, and assured them of the steps planned for development of the region and uplifting lives of people from the region.
Maken said the document with such reference to people from north east comes at a time when External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj is on a visit to China.
“If the ruling party is saying such things in its manifesto then on what basis Swaraj is talking to China about how its force enters the state of Arunachal Pradesh and other areas, we need to understand that,” he said.
BJP’s vision document was formulated by a committee headed Union Minister Harshvardhan and had many top Delhi leaders as its members. BJP chief Amit Shah had formed the Committee.
The national capital has witnessed a spate of racial attacks and discrimination against people from north east in the recent past and a NE student Nido Taniam, son of of an Arunachal MLA, died after being badly beaten by shopkeepers at a Lajpat Nagar market here.
The Centre had formed a special committee headed by North Eastern Council member M P Bezbaruah to recommend steps to address the concerns of people from NE region living across the country.