The BJP's faux pas--labelling people from the northeast residing in Delhi as immigrants in its vision document for elections in the national capital--has come as a shot in the arm for secessionist groups in the region.
Various rebel groups in the region have been seeking self-rule or sovereignty, asserting their homelands were historically, culturally and ethnically a part of India. This began with the Naga National Council revolting against the Indian union in 1947.
Subsequent popular movements often echoed the underground ideology. Slogans such as 'Indians go back' crept into the anti-foreigners Assam agitation from 1979-85 while a drive against non-tribals in Meghalaya was powered by the 'Khasi by birth, Indians by accident' credo.
"The BJP's vision document for the Delhi assembly elections is not surprising. It has reflected a historical truth - that Assam was never a part of India. We consider Indians as foreigners, and by regarding people from the northeast as immigrants, BJP has revealed Indians consider us foreigners too. This justifies our stand," Paresh Barua, chief of the United Liberation Front of Assam (Independence), told media houses from an undisclosed location.
The National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah), on ceasefire mode since July 1997, did not react. But officials involved in the peace process said the BJP gaffe has somewhat legitimised the outfit's demand for creation of Greater Nagaland encompassing all Naga-inhabited areas of the northeast and Myanmar.
This demand, opposed by Nagaland's neighbours, has been a stumbling block in the peace process.
Academics feel the BJP vision document has undone years of painstaking research by litterateurs such as Mamoni Raisom Goswami to establish through ancient texts and epics that the northeast had always been an integral part of India.
"Inadvertently or otherwise, BJP has expressed the mindset of mainstream political parties and their attitude towards people on the fringes of the country," Hiren Gohain, a retired professor, said.
On Monday, the BJP's Delhi unit had to issue a clarification after a section of its vision document said "North Eastern Immigrants to be Protected". The party said it should be read as "migrants".