Highlighting the Centre's development push for the Northeast, Union Home Minister Amit Shah said Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the region 51 times during the last eight years and has put an end to the feeling of alienation that had grown in the Northeast.
Shah was on a visit to Tripura to hold election rallies ahead of the assembly polls in the state.
In an exclusive interview with ANI, the Union Home Minister said, "After PM Modi came to power, we have done a lot of things to change the entire Northeast. The first thing is that there is peace in the Northeast today. There were numerous militant organisations. We have finalised agreements with many such organisations."
The Home Minister said nearly 40,000 families of the Bru and Reang communities had been living in Tripura for over 25 years in inhuman conditions and had been allowed to settle only after the BJP government came into power.
"Agreements were signed with the National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT) here also. Nearly over 8,000 armed cadres have surrendered their arms and opted to join the mainstream. The northeast was earlier known for blockades, bandhs, bomb explosions and insurgency. Today roads are being built there, a railway network is about to reach all the states and airports have been built in all the states of the region," he said.
Shah said the BJP government is now building a second airport in Tripura, a state that till now had only one airport.
He lauded Prime Minister Narendra Modi for undertaking various developmental projects for the development of the Northeast.
Shah said, "Prime Minister himself has visited the Northeast 51 times during the last eight years. Since Independence, no prime minister has come here so frequently. It has been made compulsory for at least one union minister to visit the region every 15 days. Besides this, the distribution of free rice has been done since the COVID times. If any region has benefitted the most in terms of percentage of the population, it is the Northeast. PM Modi has provided houses to the poor of the Northeast."
Asked about BJP's poll prospects in the northeastern states where identity politics is prevalent, Shah said a false narrative against BJP was being spread that the region will lose its identity and cultural heritage if the party came to power.
"They have known us in these nine years. The media used to spread rumours that if the BJP comes to power, the identity and languages of the northeast would be finished. However, it has been seen that since PM Modi came to power local languages have been strengthened," Shah said.
The union minister pointed out that primary education had started in local languages as well as education in local dialects, including those of Tripura and others is also being promoted. "In Bodoland also, preliminary education is done in their language," he said.
Shah said the BJP government has strengthened the regional identity of the Northeast.
Stressing on the Centre's efforts to promote the cultural heritage of the Northeast, Shah said there is not a single national festival in which the artists of the Northeast have not performed in Delhi.
"Their acceptance has increased across the country. The biggest thing that the Prime Minister has done is 'Mann ki doori ko samapt kar diya' (put an end to the feeling of alienation between the people of the Northeast and the rest of India). People of the Northeast today truly feel that they are respected in the rest of India and the people of India should be respected," emphasized the Union Home Minister.
With reference to neighbouring Nagaland, which is also slated to go to polls this month, Shah said, "... Some people had incited and announced a boycott of elections in Eastern Nagaland. Now the NPO (Naga Public Organisation) has been withdrawn. They have said that they trust PM Modi. This shows that such intimidation will not work."
On the Naga Peace Accord which is yet to be resolved, the Home Minister said, "What is an accord for? Accord is for putting an end to violence and violence has ended. There is a ceasefire. A discussion on it is in the process."
Shah further highlighted the BJP government's commitment towards the welfare of the tribal community.
"The tribal community was facing numerous problems. They wanted true acceptance. For the first time, a person from the tribal community has become President of the country. Janjatiya Gaurav Diwas is celebrated on the birth anniversary of Bhagwan Birsa Munda. So many years after Independence, 10 big museums were constructed at the expense of Rs 200 crore to showcase the contribution of tribal freedom fighters and their struggle even prior to 1857. Eklavya Schools will be increased by about 300 per cent. This is a big achievement. The people feel that the government is considering them," he added.
Shah stressed that the benefits of government welfare schemes now reach the tribal community without any discrimination.
"I can say clearly that this did not happen during the Congress rule. Generations got destroyed. Today development has been possible because of peace. Today, children of the tribals receive an education. Since the most number of the poor were from the tribal communities, they benefit the most from it. Water is reaching houses. They have also got gas cylinders. They are getting health insurance cards up to Rs 5 lakh. They are getting free rice. Tribals have also now started to experience development," the Home Minister said.
He added that a double-decker bridge which will be considered an engineering magnum opus in the entire country is being built in the Northeast. All the capitals of the northeastern states will be connected to rail and air facilities before 2024, Shah said.
Elections for the 60-seat in Tripura Assembly will be held on February 16 while voting in assembly elections for Meghalaya and Nagaland is set to be held on February 27. The counting of votes will be held on March 2.
(With Inputs from ANI)