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

"Mesmerizing landscapes, Mighty Hills, Diverse Flora and Fauna, Enchanting Weather and Extraordinarily rich cultural heritage of people"

Ironically this much knowledge of North eastern part of India is just the tip of an iceberg because in real sense North east is not just about that.

Thrown across the farthest reaches of India this region that comprises of 8 states shares less than 2% of their borders with other Indian states while 98% of their border with neighboring nations like Bhutan, Myanmar, Bangladesh and China. The above 2% is a mere 20 km wide Siliguri corridor also called chicken’s neck that poorly connects this part to the Indian mainland. Perhaps this clearly shows what kind of geographically vulnerable zone it is.

In the recent decades phrases like “Lonely planet”, “Neglected ethnicity” and “Alienated land of India” have been used for North east, Thanks to the Poor Infrastructure, Bad Roads, Armed Conflicts, Rebellion Ethnic Groups and Oppressive Social Structures that adds to the vulnerability of this region. It’s high time to realize that what amount of special attention it calls for to administer this sensitive area which unfortunately till now has been done a bit half heartedly in view of strategies and policy making.

Actually this careless attitude is not confined to any particular govt. or political party but dates back to the process of delineation of state boundaries in 1950s, when North east was territorially organized in such a manner that ethnic and cultural specifications were ignored as a result of which large parts of north east never came in touch with the central administration and this loose frontier area lost a major chunk of physical connection with Indian mainland.

It was lately in 1991 that this part found a special focus in the Look East Policy and since then north east continues to remain an integral part of foreign policy. Still it needs something really “out of the box” solutions for our political leaders, policy makers and administrators to have that “special” feature in the approach towards functioning and working for North eastern states of India.

Now let’s see why this region needs a kind of attention different from other states of country:-

  1. An ongoing separatist struggle has gripped the region since 1940s including various ethnic groups and states, some of whom demand a total Independence from India while others call for restructuring of states.
  2. The Naga insurgency of 1950 known as “mother of all insurgencies" is one of the oldest unresolved conflicts of the world that has witnessed numerous Curfews, Mass Killings and Inter Ethnic Conflicts.
  3. Key ingredients of mass unrest have been impositions such as inner line permits and AFSPA that are being used for human right violations which is strongly being condemned as a tool of abuse, oppression and discrimination.
  4. A no. of heinous crimes are being committed against women namely Rapes, Kidnapping, Abduction and Trafficking which go unreported due to social stigma and fear of backlash.
  5. As the region shares long boundaries with neighboring nations so Cross Border Terrorism, Illegal Penetration, Smuggling of Arms and Explosives, Narcotics and Counterfeit Currency are Persistent problems that are stumbling blocks in the development.

Similarly the list of several unattended issues is quite long and problems of the past are being accumulated, multi layered and multifarious. Above all the pressure of emerging challenges to rapidly transform the ecosystem to support infrastructure and development is quite alarming. The clock is ticking fast and the situation is so delicate that it can explode any moment if not tackled carefully.

No “Rocket Science” needs to be applied here but yes a special attention is the only tool since the region undoubtedly has a heap of issues to be resolved and challenges to be faced than any other states of the country. Of which three main are Insurgency, Infrastructure and Governance while others are derivatives of these which would hopefully dry up once these three are addressed.

- Shailendra Chauhan