Are all India’s 8 north-eastern states disturbed areas?
I wonder if you read this piece of news – quoting from Rediff.com:
Jammu and Kashmir is no longer the hot bed of militancy and separatist violence in the country as the conflict-ridden northeastern states have surpassed it in respect of insurgency-related violence and civilian casualties. The northeastern states recorded 1,489 incidents of insurgency-related violence in 2007 while Jammu and Kashmir recorded about 900 incidents, according to the latest report titled, Status Paper on Naxal Activities, prepared by the ministry of home affairs.
Did you find something odd in the above news which appeared in all major newspapers? Well, I did. I wondered why one state was compared to seven…or rather eight?? Sure, Jammu and Kashmir does consist of three different areas (Jammu, the Kashmir valley and Ladakh) but even then why compare it to all the north-eastern states?? (Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, and Tripura plus Sikkim). The area of the North Eastern states is certainly larger than J&K and even the political situation is different…the cause of the terrorism is not as homogenous as it seems. The same news item does in fact acknowledge that amongst the northeastern states, it is Assam which is worst affected. In fact 40 percent of the violence mentioned has taken place in Assam, with 12 insurgent groups operating from there.
I wanted a more comprehensive picture of the situation but not even the The Assam Tribune had the details. Finally I found an older article by Wasbir Hussain (in Manipur Online) which gives a good picture of the problem in the north-east. The main points he makes are:
- The North-East consists of 40 million people spread over 8 states that cover 2,63,000 square kilometers and none of them would agree to fight for the liberation of the ‘Northeast’ in general
- The trouble is caused not just by armed separatist groups fighting for independence or autonomy, but also the “battles for territorial supremacy amongst the different ethnic groups themselves.”
- These movements are often triggered by fears of losing their distinct identity
- Besides the 30 armed insurgent organizations, there are ethnic groups who want their distinct identity. The region is an “ethnic minefield” as it comprises of around 160 Scheduled Tribes, besides an estimated 400 other tribal or sub-tribal communities and groups
- Strategic alliances between rebel groups in the region “transcend inter-state and international borders.”
There are two other important points that Hussain makes. One is that the central government for the past few years has been pumping funds into developmental projects in these regions, hoping that development will diffuse the violent activities. This isn’t working as well as it should because:
- Leakage of funds at various levels of the government machinery. Development funds are making their way into the coffers of the insurgent groups
- Lack of capacity by the states in the region to absorb the huge quantity of funds in the absence of training and expertise to successfully come up with implementable location-specific projects and the infrastructure to get some of these projects off the drawing board stage
Hussain also talks about how the North-East is in the news for the wrong reasons. No one writes about the successfully developed projects. I agree with him when he says that if the insurgency in the various states has to improve, the rest of India needs to know the good things that are happening in that region. News like the north-east as a whole is big trouble is not just the worst thing to hear, it’s plain wrong.
Some states are peaceful. The official website of the Mizoram government has tried to put this across. It says that large parts of Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland are peaceful. So is Mizoram and Sikkim. It goes on to say:
It is very unfair to bracket all these North Eastern states as disturbed areas. This only proves lack of understanding of complex problems of the North Eastern region. It must be understood that no two states of North East are similar. In fact, each state has its own set of problems. They have been grouped as North Eastern region on geographical convenience only.
(Picture is from aol.com)
Related Reading: More articles on the North-East