Identity, contestation and development in Northeast India by Komol Singha and M. Amarjeet Singh

Dr Pushpita Das is Research Fellow at the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi. Click here for detailed profile
  • Share
  • Tweet
  • Email
  • Whatsapp
  • Linkedin
  • Print
  • September 2016
    Book Review

    Inhabited by numerous tribes and sub-tribes with fierce clan loyalties, the north-east of India has been plagued by identity-inspired insurgencies since independence. The first of these insurgencies was that of the Naga National Council (NNC) in the mid-1950s. Subsequent decades saw the outbreak of other, similar, insurgencies among the Meiteis, Mizos, Assamese and Boroks. In an effort to accommodate the aspirations of these ethnic groups for recognition of their distinct status and their quest for self-governance, the Indian Government has established local self-rule institutions ranging from autonomous district councils to full-fledged states. But local self-rule appears to have only empowered the major tribes and even helped them entrench their hegemony through the imposition of their own language and appropriation of the major share of resources, both local and those devolved by the centre. The hegemonic control established by the major tribes generated unease and insecurity among the minor tribes, which, in turn, began to assert their own distinct and separate identities. This culminated in demands for autonomy and even degenerated into inter-tribe conflicts and militant movements. Thus, over a period of time, the nature of the conflict in the north-east became transformed from rebellion against the centre by demographically preponderant tribes to intense inter-tribe strife and insurgencies by small tribes.