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Northeast needs special attention from rest of India, if so why?


“India will be successful when Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Assam and other parts of Northeast India are strengthened. India cannot develop till the eastern part of the country develops.”

----Shri Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India.


The Northeast region of India comprising eight states – Assam, Nagaland, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Tripura and Sikkim, is a region that is tremendously underdeveloped and disturbed due to recurring insurgences. In fact classifying these states collectively as Northeast India is a method of undermining their individuality. People throughout the country must realize that these states have tremendous potential which needs to be figured out to reap the benefits. Hence, it is true that Northeast India needs special attention from the rest of India, not because it is weak, but because it has been neglected and has suffered meaningless injustices.

Interestingly, 99% of Northeast India’s boundary is international while a mere 1% is national. The small strip of land that connects Northeast India and the Indian mainland is called ‘chicken’s neck’. It is needless to say that physical connection of Northeast India with the rest of India is extremely poor. In fact, the formation of Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan) as a separate nation has yielded a death blow to the unfortunate eight states. It has more or less cut off Northeast India from the country.

Nature has bestowed Northeast India with breathtaking beauties. The Brahmaputra River, the splendid Nohkalikai falls, the lush green hills are a few examples of the natural marvels of the area. These places really have a great potential for tourism. The eight states are inhabited by vibrant groups of culturally rich people who have excelled in different walks of life. Musicians like Bhupen Hazarika have enthralled millions of people with their magical voice. Sports stars like MC Mary Kom, Bhaichung Bhutia and Jitu Rai have made India proud on a number of occasions. A Manipuri form of dance is said to have impressed the legendary Rabindranath Tagore so much, that he decided to introduce it in Shantiniketan, his abode of culture. This paragraph presents a rosy image of Northeast India but the true plight of the area is yet to be discussed.

Northeast India has not been able to attract investors or produce entrepreneurial resources. This is why industrial development has lagged behind significantly. IT sectors, financial hubs have also not been developed which downgrades the economy further. Apart from a few places, education has not been up to the mark. For better education and job opportunities, Northeast Indians have to migrate to mainland India where they have to face an even more serious problem---RACISM.

Tribal groups dominate the population of Northeast India. They have originated from the ethnic groups of Tibeto-Burmese, proto Australoids and some groups of Indo Mongoloids. The trend can be seen in their looks, food habits and traditions. Hence, they do not fit into our ‘conventional’ Indian looks, but that DOES NOT SNATCH AWAY THEIR INDIAN NATIONALITY. The above few words are highlighted to instill the idea in the minds of those people who think Northeast Indians are not Indians.

Throughout India, innumerable cases of intolerance against Northeast Indians have been reported. On 29th January 2014, Nido Tania a 20 year old student from Arunachal Pradesh was murdered in the Lajpat Nagar area of Delhi, triggering widespread protests. Similar dreadful events have sent ripples across India. According to a survey, 54% of Northeast Indians believe that there is racial discrimination against them. Is not this a shame for our country? Definitely, it is.

I have tried to highlight the current scenario in Northeast India and it is time we seriously thought about development in the eight states. Railway and flight connections of Northeast India with major cities should be improved in order to facilitate development. The Central Government should provide greater funds to the Northeastern states and lure investors, bankers and industrialists to Northeast India. Development of schools, colleges and soft skill institutes are also mandatory. Measures should also be taken to curb the menace of floods in the states of Assam and Tripura. The Look East policy of the Government of India has some plans that will benefit Northeast India. Most importantly, it is the duty of us to be tolerant with Northeast Indians and respect them as Indians, and above all as human beings. Hence, paying ‘special attention’ to Northeast India is not at all difficult. It is merely keeping them on equal terms with the rest of the country and not depriving them.

“You should respect each other and refrain from disputes; you should not, like water and oil repel each other, but should like milk and water, mingle together.”

----Gautama Buddha


- DEBADRI SOM