Much Ado about Bezbaruah Committee

Much Ado about Bezbaruah Committee
By Ninglun Hanghal, Columnist


The much-hyped Union home ministry affairs-constituted Bezbaruah Committee to look into the security concerns of citizens from the North-east living in Delhi and other metropolitan cities and recommend measures to tackle these has not yielded results.

Set up in February last year in the aftermath of the death of Arunachal Pradesh student Nido Tania and numerous cases of assault against people from the region in metro cities, the report was submitted in July.The ministry reportedly accepted the committee’s recommendations. At a meeting in February chaired by Union minister of state for home Kiren Rijiju and attended by representatives of various ministries concerned, the Delhi Police and NE state Bhawans, it was stated that the judicial division of the ministry had informed the legislative department of law and justice to incorporate an amendment in IPC Sections 153C and 509A in the draft of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill 2015 and introduce it in the recentlyconcluded Parliament session.This, though, did not take place.

With regard to the recommendation for legal assistance, the Delhi legal services authority was directed to constitute a panel of seven lawyers, including five women, exclusively to assist people from the North-east states.While this is yet to materialise, many cases are pending. The long drawn out legal process has forced many to give up. Last year alone there had been numerous cases of assault, including the rape of a 14-year-old Manipuri girl and the murder of a Naga youth.

Special police initiatives,exclusively for Northeastern people, were also recommended and there had been suggestions for a special recruitment drive. But till date there has been no report of such recruitment. The only initiative taken up was the formation of a list of state-wise “representatives” to assist the police.Their main job is to receive calls and be a “contact point” for any issue arising and report cases to the police/ police stations. These “representatives” are not employed staff. Nor was it recommended by the Bezbaruah Committee or the Union home ministry; it was done purely on a philanthropic basis under the “special cell” of the Delhi Police. They are not officially recognised though they carry identity cards as “representatives”.

Instead of catering to an emergency, the police helpline, 1093, has drawn bizarre responses. According to an IANS report in March this year, the helpline received unrelated and ridiculous calls. The report says that since its operation from October till March, the helpline got 27 telephone calls,mostly unrelated to North-east issues or problems.

The only action taken so far is on festivals and events. Upon recommendation of the Bezbaruah Committee, the home ministry has asked several ministries and institutions, such as the Union Information and Broadcasting, Culture and Sports ministries, the University Grants Commission, the National Council for Educational Research and Training, etc, to take up publicity and programmes to showcase the North-east and hold interactive sessions. As far as publicity, cultural and festival extravaganzas are concerned,many events have been organised.

Educational institutions are holding conferences/ lectures on the North-east. Scholarships for students of the region in graduate and postgraduate courses have been announced. The UGC and NCERT have plans to introduce chapters and revise their subjects to include in the text-books pertaining to the history, geography and socio-culture of North-east India. The Sangeet Natak Academy and Lalit Kala Academy are preparing an action plan to conduct cultural activities.

The Bezbarua Committee is said to have suggested amendment of rent laws. But the Centre proposed construction of a hostel and effective use of the existing one, such as the working womens’ hostel, constructed in 2012 at Jasola. On the payment of salaries, the ministry has suggested North-east youths to approach the Labour Department.

In a rather impractical move, as per recommendation of the Bezbaruah Committee, the Union home ministry has asked the resident commissioners of each of the North-east states in Delhi to provide detail data of students, professionals, businessmen, workers/labourers from the North-east to the Delhi Police joint commissioner. While there are more than 200,000 North-easterns in Delhi alone (as per the estimate by the Centre for North-east Study and Policy Research, JMI 2013), such data would be practically impossible to compile. Moreover, there has never been a “data compilation” of people who move from their region/state to another within the country. This is rather ridiculous. The North-east population comprises internal migrants, unlike people moving from one country to another.

While migration is a universal phenomenon, is the movement of the North-east people within their own country something that is unique or extraordinary? The issue/problem of the North-east population in metro cities is about crime and violence and should be tackled as such, and not be treated as something extraordinary or complex lest it unwittingly and unfortunately facilitate an exclusion rather than an inclusion.