Event ReportsPublished on Nov 18, 2004
Observer Research Foundation organized a day-long interaction between some of India?s well-known experts and commentators on the north-east on November 18, 2004. The primary objective of the Interaction was to collectively introspect on some of the issues which have troubling the region for more than half-a-century.
North East: Problems and Perspectives

Why this Interaction?

< class="bodytext"> B.Raman.
Distinguished Fellow and Convenor, Observer Research Foundation (ORF), ORF Chennai Chapter.

The North-East has been beset with insurgencies since the 1950s. Some sections of the people of Nagaland were the first to take to arms against the Government of India. Others emulated their example in subsequent years.

The administrative and military vacuum in large parts of North Myanmar, particularly in the Kachin State, the presence on the Myanmarese side of the Indo-Myanmarese border of tribes, which are ethnically close to the tribes on our side, and the alacrity with which Pakistan and then China took advantage of the insurgencies to serve their strategic interest of keeping India weak and destabilised added to our difficulties in dealing with the insurgencies.

The hopes nursed in 1971 and in the years immediately thereafter that the birth of Bangladesh would facilitate our efforts to put an end to the insurgencies have since been belied. Bangladesh has emerged as the hub and welcoming sanctuary of terrorists and insurgents of various kinds operating against India. 

The failure of successive Governments in New Delhi to recognise the gravity of the new threat to national security posed by the illegal migration of Muslims from Bangladesh into the North-east, particularly Assam, and the lack of a national will to stop and reverse this are creating growing pockets of future instability. The increasing smuggling of arms and ammunition and narcotics into the region is another new threat, which has remained inadequately addressed,

Behind all insurgencies and terrorist movements, there is an element of alienation and anger---at least of a section of the community, if not the entire community. The anger and alienation may be due to various reasons --- perceptions of political irrelevance, economic and social injustice, violation of human rights etc. 

In the North-East, assertions of what they perceive as the distinct ethnic identity of different communities have contributed to a mental divide between "us" and "them". In Nagaland and Manipur, historical grievances relating to the perceived non-respect of their pre-1947 identities have also had a role to play in adding to the complexities of the situation.

Absence of good governance and the lack of interest of the political and intellectual class in New Delhi to the persisting and growing discontent among the different communities of the North-East are other contributing factors.

While recognising the problems and difficulties, one should resist the temptation to project the region as totally enveloped in darkness. There are glimmers of hope here and there---the Shillong Accord in Nagaland, the Peace Accord in Mizoram, the successful cease-fire and the continuing talks with the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isaac Swu-Muivah) are some of them, but they have been inadequate to pave the way for bridging the mental divide in the region.

What are the causes of the mental divide, how to bridge it, why we have failed to do so for all these years, what is to be done now, what are the options before the policy-makers---these are some of the questions which need to be addressed.

The purpose of this Interaction is not only to discuss, but also to collectively introspect in the hope of finding answers to these questions. We propose to convey the actionable points of the Interaction to the policy-makers and to publish the proceedings for the information of the general public.
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