NEW DELHI: Citing the "historic" decision of the Centre to lift the Armed Forces Special Powers Act from "major parts" of Assam, Nagaland and Manipur, the BJP on Saturday asserted that peace has returned to the Northeast region which has now become a part of the "mainstream".
Union Minister Kiren Rijiju, who is a Lok Sabha MP from Arunachal Pradesh, said Prime Minister Narendra Modi's two-pronged approach of development and dialogue with insurgent groups in dealing with various challenges in the region has paid dividends.
A "colourful, beautiful and peaceful" Northeast awaits people from across the country, he said at a press conference while appealing for travel and investment in the region.
The Congress had left the region "devastated", he alleged and added that Prime Minister Modi had the big heart the region needed.
People of the region wanted the government to reach out to them, which has happened under him, the minister said.
Modi's vision of lifting the AFSPA completely from the region will also be realised, Rijiju said.
The AFSPA gives security forces sweeping powers in dealing with insurgents and has been criticised by civil rights groups over alleged excesses.
"We used to hear that the Northeast has to be brought into the country's mainstream. I can say today that it is already in the country's mainstream," Rijiju said, stressing that the region is developing at a fast pace and will become an important economic hub of the country.
The region has been given due attention since Modi became prime minister in 2014, he said, adding that no one could have thought that he will visit the region over 50 times in his tenure so far.
Besides the prime minister, other ministers have been regularly visiting the region to help in its development, and the earlier sense of "alienation and step-motherly treatment" is now gone from the minds of people there, Rijiju said.
Modi turned the "look east" policy into the "act east" policy with development works and peace initiatives going hand in hand, he said, adding that the region is now in a "transformational mode".
The region has been allocated over Rs 76,000 crore in the recent budget, a hike of Rs 7500 crore, he said noting that the central government's flagship schemes have boosted road and mobile phone connectivity there.
A "four-cornered attack of development" has ensured that no one loses out, he said.
A safe, secure and developed Northeast "is a very good news" for India, he said while pointing out the security challenges the region has traditionally posed.
He noted that the AFSPA was lifted from Tripura in 2015 and from most of Arunachal Pradesh as well, with the Centre signing peace accords with various insurgent groups to defuse the decades-old crisis.
The government has also been working to settle all border disputes among different states in the region, he said and credited Home Minister Amit Shah for executing Modi's vision on the ground by constantly holding dialogues with chief ministers.
BJP spokesperson Gaurav Bhatia also lauded the Modi government for its work to restore peace and boost development in the Northeast and asserted that it has resolved major issues facing the region and the country.
The AFSPA, under which a geographical location is declared as disturbed area to facilitate operations of the armed forces, will now be applicable fully in 31 districts and partially in 12 districts of four states in the Northeast - Assam, Nagaland, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh.
These four states together comprise 90 districts.
The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, was completely withdrawn in Meghalaya in 2018, Tripura in 2015 and Mizoram in the 1980s.