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State of NE States

The fact that it took five days before the crashed helicopter which had the body of the chief minister of Arunachal Pradesh, Dorjee Khandu, and his entourage could be found and retrieved from a place close to the Chinese border is a telling evidence how backward and uncharted much of the Northeast states, in particular Arunachal Pradesh, is. As if to provide a fitting contrast, while this was happening, the USA, conducted a raid inside Pakistan from across the border in Afghanistan and successfully completed an audacious mission of killing America’s enemy number one, Osama Bin Laden. The entire operation lasted just 40 minutes. While much has been written of the high profile American raid, and how it stunned the whole world though leaving the Pakistan government red-faced, the death of the chief minister and the hunt thereafter for the wreckage, received much less media attention than warranted. But leaving this lack of media attention aside, the story of the Northeast as illustrated is quite a repeat of what has been chanted thousands of times by politicians and so called concerned citizens of all hues of the country – the Northeast is scant in the Indian national psyche, and this is where the mindset of alienation germinates, leading to other more serious consequences, including the festering insurgency in the region. Yet, nothing very much continues to be done. What the establishment has come used to is not to think of resolving the causes of this alienation but of fighting and eliminating the consequences through tough measures, among which are draconian and democratically unacceptable laws such as the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, AFSPA-1958.The tragedy is, things are likely not to change yet, partly because the interest of the nation, as demonstrated by the airtime the helicopter crash was given, has not altered. Except perhaps for a little show of bewilderment at the death of a less than high profile chief minister, nobody seemed worried enough to focus attention on the state of neglect of the Northeast. So Arunachal Pradesh will continue to be a vast territory whose districts are not interconnected within the state and have to be accessed by first entering Assam and then re-entering the state at different points, depending on which district was to be reached. Its importance will continue to be only on account of China’s claim to a large chunk of its territory and the vast forest and hydro electric potential it possesses. The human story from the state, which tells above all of isolation, backwardness and difficulties faced by ordinary folks, will continue to be unheard. It will also evoke inadequate interest of the Indian people by and large to move national policies towards a genuine uplift of the state and the Northeast region in general.Other states of the Northeast are better off, but not by too much. This is partly because apart from Assam, none of them can compare in geographical size with Arunachal Pradesh, hence much easier to keep vigil and manage. The other states are also comparatively much more thickly populated. Again, the other states not being as strategic militarily, they are more open to normal civilian vision of development and life. The development paradigm of Arunachal Pradesh continues to be much more deeply trapped in the military and so called national security outlook to development. This would have understandably skewed and mutated its normal development process. But then, as mentioned earlier in this editorial, the other states can hardly be said to be doing too much better. The military and national security outlooks to development are also very much pervasive in them although by comparison less than in Arunachal Pradesh. What again ends up neglected atrociously is what has now come to be referred to as human security, as opposed to national security. The recent news items in the local dailies in Manipur of how the state’s other important link to the rest of India, the National Highway-53, or the Imphal-Jiri road as it is more popularly known as in Manipur, remains unrepaired although the task had been given to a Central government agency, is evidence. The importance of this highway needs not be spelled out again, considering its services is desperately missed whenever the other important national highway NH-39 becomes unusable either because of natural calamities such as landslides or else the street politics of bandhs and blockades, which are today a regular feature of the state’s calendar years.



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