Perspectives of North East India


The tension in Assam continues especially in the Chirang district. Arup Kumar Dutta a veteran writer of Assam writing in The Telegraph on the problems besetting Assam and the North East in general has analyzed the problem sympotmatic of clash  of cultures. He has done an analysis of the historical traditions of Assam and North East India going back to the historical formations of society with incursions of the Mongoloid races, the Indo Tibetan and the Austric dating back to the pre christian era.  He has also shown how the Bodos and the Shan clan of the Tais came to Assam as part of this migratory wave, resuting in the establishment of small kingdoms upto North Bengal, some of which he avers were not in quiet with the rest.

So the historical base has to be seen in perspectives of society, clan, community and culture. Assam’s problem he says is singularly complex, because in addition to the caste Assamese there have been tribes and communities living there for centuries. This makes Assam culturally diverse, but complex from socio political perspectives. It is also a mosaic of cultures in the larger Indian diversity. This heterogeneity he says is also exemplified by the other states of India such as Nagaland, Manipur, Tripura, and Arunachal Pradesh making the socio cultural processes of North East India rich with a cultural heritage, but complex for rationalization, and explaining perhaps the unrest there.

Then of course the matter becomes more complicated with the inroads of of the people from the then East Pakistan and now Bangladesh. The immigration continues giving it alarmist proportions and that led to the historic Assam ‘agitation’ which indeed was a People’s movement, and which had the empathy of the entire country.

A historical rationale and exegesis is needed to understand the ramifications in Assam, as it is for the entire North East where, with perhaps the exception of Arunachal Pradesh all the states faced crises in the form of militancy. There is an uneasy quiet in Nagaland now, Manipur still festers, one is not sure of Tripura, although at present the ostensible situation is reassuring. Mizoram perhaps is the only classic exapmle of peace which when declared by the MNF was not retracted upon. That is the solemn promise the people of Mizoram gave to the country, and they have maintained it after the signing of the peace accord.

Meghalaya after showing signs of  separatist movements in the Khasi Hills, also continues to fester now in the Garo Hills, there again being a discord there between two separatist forces: the ANVC and the GNLA. Mind you they are asking not for a separate country, but a separate state under the purview of the Indian govt. The same is true of the demands of the Bodos, similar to that of the Gorkhas in West Bengal’s Darjeeling distric.

The historical rationale, base and analysis must be present and taken into crtical account,  for the govt, to make any strtegic intervention and frame policies of economic stability and autonomy. Of course undeniably the illegal immigration is the major problem right now, but within the matrix of history, every small unit has been asking for separate identities based on their history and culture.

Once the larger geographical and historical boundary gets fragmented on the question of separate identities then issues become more complex. Many of the states in the North East were earlier under the control and jurisdiction of Assam such as Meghalaya, Mizoram and  Arunachal Pradesh, earlier known as NEFA, and the smaller states were carved out of political expediency to satisfy the demand for autonomous units. The Mizoram saga is of course well known, but when peace was declared in Mizoram, in letter and spirit it has been peace all the way nothwithstanding the protests against Chakma and Hmar infiltrators from Bangladesh and Myanmar. In the case of the Bodo areas, the same identity aspirations were present and autonomy was granted in the shape of the BTAD. But the whole question is; autonomy to what extent?

I have been repeatedly saying that the North East question is not one of anarchy but of understanding and empathy, alenation of the peoples torn between militarism of the state and miltiancy. Unless we take a deeper insight into these problems, beset with acuity, and have imaginative solutions, take up the matter of illegal immigration with the Bangladesh and say the Myanmar Govts, such unrest will continue and the entire North East will continue to suffer from the feeling of neglect.

Instead we give our land to Bangladesh, and take away some of it’s land in a major accord completely nullifying the present antagonisms and fears of the people. Yes historically trade has existed, say in the case of Meghalaya, but while legitimizing it, we cannot afford to still keep the borders porus. Fears, undoubtedly build their chimeras, but they have  a genuine basis in the contexts of immigration in North East India, which the law makers must look into empathetically and sensitively.


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