Northeast India

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  • Violence in Bodo Areas: The Risks of Conceding ‘Exclusive’ Ethnic Homelands

    The recent violence in the Bodo areas indicates the risks associated with the formation of exclusive ethnic homelands based on the demands of the majority population (belonging to an ethnic group) inhabiting a particular geographical area. Formation of such exclusive ethnic homelands may prove to be both an assault on the pluralistic ethos of our country and a nightmare for minority groups living in that terrain.

    September 12, 2012

    Violence in the Bodo Areas: Deciphering the Causes

    The need of the hour is to activate a clean and transparent record keeping of land by the state so that violence based on the fear of outsiders forcibly taking away the most precious commodity, land, can be effectively averted.

    August 09, 2012

    Multiple Rebel ‘Naga Armies’ in Nagaland

    Without rooting out the parallel structures of an illegitimate economy and violence existing in Nagaland, efforts undertaken by Naga civil society to bring about peaceful reconciliation would only deliver sub-optimal results.

    July 06, 2012

    Bharat asked: Will there be any impact of the Rohingya conflict on north-east India?

    Namrata Goswami replies: The Rohingya conflict is one of the longest conflicts between the majority Buddhist Burmese and the minority Muslims in Myanmar. It has led to the displacement of large number of people across the Myanmar-Bangladesh border, especially from the Rakhine state. The tragic aspect of this issue is that about 800,000 Rohingyas in Myanmar are stateless people. They are not recognised as an ethnic indigenous minority or citizens of Myanmar. Bangladesh, which has a 271 km long border with Myanmar, houses nearly 300,000 Rohingya refugees, especially in Cox Bazar. Many of these refugees are without jobs and could fall prey to radical ideologies. They may join the Harkat-ul-Jihadi Islam (HuJI) which has been accused of carrying out bomb blasts in Assam. Another aspect could be the fear of a major spill over of the conflict into India’s north-east in terms of refugee flow from across the porous Bangladesh-India border. The north-east is a region plagued by armed ethnic conflicts based on issues of land and identity. Further inroads by a refugee population could exacerbate the situation in the north-east.

    ULFA Talks: Focusing the Dialogue on Resolvables

    It is important that the ULFA talks do not get enmeshed on issues that create divisions, counter-claims and result in lack of consensus leading to a locked positional dialogue with no resolution in sight.

    July 03, 2012

    The Conscription of Children as Ultras in Manipur

    The Government of India may perform a catalytic role to activate community-cum-family based endeavours with particular emphasis on sports-related and youth activities—areas in which the Manipuris naturally tend to excel.

    May 04, 2012

    Rajat Dubey asked: Do you think India has succeeded in bringing peace to the northeast in the last few years? What should be India’s future strategy?

    Pushpita Das replies: Yes, there is no doubt that today the Northeast is more peaceful than before. The violence levels in the last few years have come down considerably. In fact, the number of violent incidents has steadily come down since 2008. Till November 2011, the region as a whole witnessed 537 violent incidents as compared to 1561 incidents in 2008, 1297 in 2009, and 773 in 2010. Correspondingly, the number of security forces and civilians killed has also reduced drastically from 466 in 2008 to 61 in 2011 (till October).

    The prevalence of relative peace in the region is mainly because most insurgent groups, such as the ULFA, National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB- anti-talk faction), Dima Halam Daogah- Joel (DHD-J), United National Liberation Front (UNLF), and the National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT), have been rendered ineffective with the arrest of their top leaders. These arrests also eventually forced these rebel groups to announce ceasefires and initiate talks with the government. In few instances, these talks have resulted in the signing of memorandum of settlements between the government and the insurgent groups.

    In the future, the government should continue to engage the insurgent groups in dialogue as well as encourage other groups to shun violence and come to the negotiating table. Simultaneously, it should take steps to address genuine grievances of various ethnic groups residing in the region so as to prevent potential ethnic clashes. In recent months, reports abound that the Maoist have been making inroads in the region by forging ties with insurgent groups. The government should be mindful of this emerging trend and enhance the capacity of the police force to effectively deal with the left wing extremism in the region. Most importantly, the government should improve governance and expedite developmental activities in the Northeast.

    Emergent Micro-National Communities: The Logic of Kuki-Chin Armed Struggle in Manipur

    The granting of scheduled tribe status to the Kuki-Chin people eroded their allegiance to clan and linguistic/dialectal identities. While they do not have any problem with a pan-ethnic identity, their primary loyalty is to their own clans and communities. Invocation of kinship ties by different groups does not necessarily translate into a common political agenda. There are at least 15 armed groups among them that have combined into two larger groups—the United People's Front (UPF) and the Kuki National Organisation (KNO)—and signed a peace agreement with the state and central governments.

    March 2012

    Political Integration of Northeast India: A Historical Analysis

    Most nation-states in Asia and Africa that gained independence from colonial rulers during the middle of the 20th century are diverse in their ethnic composition. The national governments make efforts to politically integrate their constituent units in the face of the continuing resistance of several ethnic groups. India adopted various means to integrate the more than 600 princely states and other loosely administered areas.

    March 2012

    Sandeep Madkar asked: How projects like Trans-Asian highway and railway networks would help in ending the isolation of North-East India?

    Pushpita Das replies: During the colonial period, the Northeast region was connected to the Indian mainland and rest of the world through undivided Bengal. All transportation lines at that point of time were routed through that province. Thus, the Assam, Garo, Khasi and Lushai Hills; and Tripura and Cachar, were connected with Bengal. The far eastern side of the Northeast was connected to Myanmar by a road running from Assam and through Imphal to Tamu. Partition of the Indian Subcontinent, however, disrupted the colonial pattern of transportation. It not only cut the region off from the rest of India, but also led to increased transportation costs and dislocation of traditional markets. The entire Northeast, thereafter, became landlocked.

    Faced with the twin challenges of integrating the Northeast and assuring its economic growth, India accorded priority to the construction of roads both within the region as well as across the borders. Projects like the Asian Highway and Trilateral Highways when completed will connect the Northeast with South Asian countries like Bangladesh, as well as with the Southeast Asian countries. Improved connectivity would then open up the Northeast for greater trade and investment, provide access to ports in Bangladesh and Myanmar, markets for its products, as well as enhanced people-to-people contact. This would ensure better socio-economic integration of this region with India and rest of the world; thus, bringing prosperity to the Northeast. Moreover, trans-border connectivity would also facilitate India in realizing its goal of economically linking up with East and Southeast Asia through its Look East Policy.

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