CHALLENGES IN NORTH EAST INDIA
The region of North East India comprising of eight states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur , Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura and Sikkim. The region is covering an area of 262185 sq. km, which is nearly 8 per cent of the total geographical area of the country. The region connected to mainland India through a very narrow strip of land with a width of about 22 km called “chicken neck”. North-East India shares international borders with China and Bhutan on its North, Myanmar on its East and Bangladesh on its south and western side. The Northeast region with 99 per cent of its boundary being the international border, the problems and peculiarities are even more accentuated. The density of population varies from 13 per sq km in Arunachal Pradesh to 340 per sq km in Assam. The region is host to an overwhelming proportion of the tribal population. It has over 160 scheduled tribes.
Northeast has been the land of thousand Insurgencies. The roots of insurgency in the North-Eastern region are embedded in its geography, history and a host of socio-economic factors. These insurgencies are due to various reasons social, cultural, ethnic and linguistic diversity, terrain, socio-economic development, politico-economic conditions, historical evolution and changes in the environment of the area.
Reasons for Isolation of North East India (Giving rise to Insurgencies):
- Partition: After the creation of East Pakistan, North East was geographically isolated and become virtually disconnected. The Natural sea route through the port of Chittagong was also lost
- Ethnic and Cultural specificities were ignored during the process of delineation of state boundaries giving rise to discontent and assertion of one’s identity.
- Poverty, Unemployment, inadequate health care, the feeling of neglect have also contributed to insurgencies.
- Governance Deficit, widespread corruption, lack of accountability
- Even the agricultural growth did not take place due to hilly terrain causing food Insecurity.
- Dependency on the Central Government aid.
- Deep rise of alienation due to human rights violation by the Security forces.
- Hostile neighbour likes China extending moral and material support to the insurgent groups.
- Migration of people from plain areas posing threat to their cultural and indigenous identity.
- Besides the problems of development, different border segments have different social problems such as incursion, infiltration, migration, smuggling, drug trafficking, AIDS etc.
The emergence of the different insurgent groups and their separatist movement in the region:
ASSAM: It is the First State of North East after Independence. Undivided Assam had the longest history of insurgency. Naga and Mizo insurgencies were the earliest to flare up. The affected areas formed two districts of the State. Even in the present truncated Assam, there are a number of extremist outfits led by the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA). ULFA was formed in 1979, pledged to liberate Assam from India and establish an independent Assam comprising of Assamese speaking people. ULFA got help from NSCN of Nagaland, KIA of Myanmar, ISI of Pakistan. Later ULFA got split into ULFA –Anti Talks Faction (ULFA-ATF) and ULFA Independent (ULFA -I).
Assam Movement against Illegal Migrants- This movement was launched by All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) and All Assam Gana Sangam Parishad (AAGSP) during1979-85 demanding the National Register for Citizens (NRC) which led to the agreement of ASSAM ACCORD 1985 which was a Memorandum of Settlement between GOI and leaders of the Assam Movement.
Bodo Movement of Assam: All Bodo Student union (ABSU) was formed in 1967. They agitated and got Bodo recognized as an official language of Assam. But they stepped further and demanded a separate of Bodoland on the North Bank of Brahmaputra.
Other Statehood demands going in Assam:
- KarbiAnglong 2.Dimaraji 3.Kamtapur
MANIPUR: In the present day, it is the ‘most insurgency ridden’ State with about fifteen violent outfits representing different tribes/communities active in the State and has become a self-financing extortion activity particularly in the Valley. One-fourth of Manipur (which is the valley), is home to more than seventy per cent of its population which predominantly consists of the culturally distinct Meitei community. There was also resentment in a section of the Meitei society about the merger of the State with the Indian Union – a resentment which led to the Meitei insurgency from the 1960s. After that militancy started in protest of the forceful merger which led to the formation of the separatist group called United Liberation Front in 1964.
After 1970s number of groups formed such as the People's Liberation Army (PLA), founded on S 1978, People's Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PREPAK) set up on 1977 and the Kangleipak Communist Party (KCP) that came into being in April, 1980 have emerged in the valley areas consisting of four districts of the State. All these groups have been demanding a separate independent Manipur.
Recently the cease-fire between the Union Government and the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) has reduced violence in Naga areas but has given rise to fresh tensions as the NSCN insists on a greater ‘Nagalim’ which would include four Districts of Manipur.
A series of protest was seen in 2015 demanding implementation of Inner Line Permit (ILP)
NAGALAND: It was part of Assam before independence. National Naga Council (NNC) was formed in 1946 with the aim to carry out social and political upliftment of the Naga people and ensure local autonomy to them within the Assam Province. But soon under the leadership of radical leader Angami Zapu Rhizo started demanding full independence and secession from India and soon armed insurgency erupted by Naga people from 1950s. Due to continuing violent activities of NNC, GOI declared it as “ unlawful association “ under UAPA 1967 in 1972. Some moderate section of NNC signed SHILLONG ACCORD with GOI in 1975. They agreed to abjure violence and work towards the welfare of NAGA people within the framework of the Indian constitution. A.Z.Rhizo strongly opposed the Shillong Accord and thus formed a new organization called National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) in 1980 and thus the role of NNC disappeared. In 1988, NSCN split into two major factions include NSCN (K) led by S.S.Khaplang and NSCN(I-M) led by Isak Chishi Swu and Thuingaleng. Under NSCN (I-M) had a view of carrying out “Greater Nagaland” or “Nagalim” comprising of Nagaland and the Naga inhabited areas of Manipur and Myanmar.
Nagaland peace accord is the accord signed in August 2015 by the Government of India and the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN I-M) to end the insurgency whereas NSCN (K) rejected it and continuing to engage in violence. It is included in UAPA 1967 and currently based in Myanmar.
TRIPURA: The State’s demographic profile was altered since 1947 when mass migrations from the newly emerged East Pakistan converted it from a largely tribal area to one with a majority of Bengali speaking plainsmen. Tribal were deprived of their agricultural lands at throw-away prices and driven to the forests. Tripura National Volunteers (TNV) emerged as one of the most violent extremist outfits in the North East. In 1989, the National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT) and its armed wing National Holy Army and All Tripura Tiger Force (ATTF) carried out violence in the area. Since talks between GOI and the main outfit National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT) is in progress violence comes to very low.
MEGHALAYA: The state of Meghalaya comprises of three Hills i.e, Garo, Khasi and Jaintia. The Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC) is one of oldest militant outfit operating in Meghalaya exclusively for the Khasi Tribe and free it from the domination of Garo Tribe and also to fight against outsiders. Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA) is fighting for “Sovereign Garoland” in the Garo Hills since they are extremely violent peace talks are going on between GOI and GNLA.
ARUNACHAL PRADESH: One of the peaceful State of North East as it has no insurgent group of its own. But it remains somewhat in violence due to the spillover effect of the neighbouring states outfit as they use Arunachal Pradesh for transition corridor to reach hideouts in Myanmar. After the cease-fire with NSCN which was active in Tirap District, the State remained peaceful.
MIZORAM: An ‘accord’ between the Union Government and the Mizo National Front (MNF) in 1986 and conferment of statehood the next year, complete peace and harmony prevails in Mizoram. The state with its violent history of insurgency and the subsequent return to peace is an example and inspiration to the government for its continued endeavour in other states.
: It remained peaceful from the start due to its balance between the various ethnic groups (mainly the Lepchas, Bhutiyas and Nepalis). The State has done extremely well in development through its decentralised planning.
Various Government Measure carried out to streamline the area are :
Political and Institutional Measures
- Creation of North East Council in which CMs and Governors of all NE states are member.
- Creation of DoNER (Department of Development of North Eastern Region) in 2004.
- NE division of Ministry of Home Affairs to deal with the security situation and special category status.
- Constituted ‘NITI Forum for North East
- Negotiations and talks with various insurgent groups and increasing coordination between the neighbouring countries such as Bangladesh and Myanmar
- UAPA 1961,
- AFSPA 1958,
- Deployment of Central forces,
- Security Related Expenditure (SRE) Scheme,
- Surrender-cum Rehabilitation of militants in NE Scheme
- Civic Action Program –to boost the image of armed forces.
- North East Road sector development scheme to better connectivity.
- Special Accelerated Road Development Program for North East (SARDP-NE) under Bharatmala Pariyojana.
- Creation of Pakyong Airport in Sikkim.
- India’s First National Sports University to be open in Manipur.
Economic and Social development Measures:
- NE BPO Promotion Scheme,
- Tourism development under Swadesh Darshan Scheme, To further boost the tourism in North-East, the festival ‘Experiencing North East’ depicting the uniqueness of North Eastern culture was held in New Delhi in 2018.
- PM Kaushal Vikas Yojana,
- National Bamboo Mission,
- “Make in Northeast” initiative, as a follow-up to the “Make in India”
- Digital North East Vision 2022- emphasizes digital technologies to transform the lives of people of the northeast and enhance the ease of living
- North East Industrial Development Scheme.
India’s “Act East” policy, since through the land borders it connects India via the North Eastern States with the South East Asian countries.
Recent Developments in NE Region:
- Recently there is a deadlock between GOL and NAGA Group NSCN-IM for the demand for a separate Naga constitution and use of the Naga flag, for decades a symbol of Naga nationalism.
- Final NRC for Assam has been released and the government is preparing for the next NRC in Tripura
- Union Cabinet has approved a Constitutional amendment to increase the financial and executive powers of the 10 autonomous councils in the Sixth Schedule areas of the northeast.
- Meghalaya State cabinet approved the amended Meghalaya Residents, Safety and Security Act, 2016 under this any person who is not a resident of Meghalaya and intend to stay more than 24 hours in the State will have to furnish documentation to the government.