Northeast - Integrating the Seven Sisters
The ravishingly beautiful and picturesque landmass of our country, which adorns the mantle of the northeastern states, may distance wise be even less than Chennai or Trivandrum is from New Delhi, yet it remains emotionally detached from the rest of India. The reasons are more than intriguing. The perceived distance has more to do with the mindset of the average Indian rather than the actual physical distance.
Today, one finds people from the Northeast in appreciable numbers in all parts of the country, in every walk of life to include trade, government organisations, IT, media and defence. The numbers are increasing every day
For a plethora of reasons, perceived or otherwise, peace and normalcy remain elusive. Terrorism and insurgency have yet to recede fully although life continues as if normal. Not that it is normal by any standards but whatever the ground realities, life does go on. Probably in concert with the worldwide phenomenon of rising aspirations of human beings, Human Rights and civilised societal ways have taken a front seat and their denial or absence creates upheaval and discord.
Northeastern India continues to be in the grip of terrorism and insurgency for the last 50 years. The intensity, type, and level are different in different states. The time has now come for an absolute integration of this region with the rest of India. The Government has made concerted efforts to address the problems at different levels and the efforts have already started showing results. Due to these efforts, the ties and links with the rest of India are growing every day. It would be unwise to assume that the Northeast is being neglected in any way. This has been made possible through a multi-prong approach. The problem has been tackled militarily up to the extent that it was required and also, politically, economically and socially. The resultant effect is amply manifest in an attitudinal shift, which is a positive deviation from the response hitherto.
The great people of this region have understood that their future rightly rests with India. For this paradigm shift in the outlook of the people, one of the main reasons is India’s growing prowess – economically, militarily and socially. The people have realised the futility of continuing with a struggle, which has lost direction and has misplaced aims and objectives. Electronic and print media have made them realise that despite their vast potential they are depriving themselves of opportunities, which can bring about a sea change in their economy and lifestyles. Wisdom has dawned that these seven sisters were always an integral part of India and will remain so for eternity.
The lifeline of the Northeast states was now extended to over 1,600 km. Earlier, the distance between Calcutta and Agartala (Tripura) was a little over 400 km ““ this is one single factor that has very seriously affected the economy.
Today, one finds people from the Northeast in appreciable numbers in all parts of the country, in every walk of life to include trade, government organisations, IT, media and defence. The numbers are increasing every day. As a matter of fact, integration is almost complete notwithstanding traces of discontent and discord. It is a known phenomenon that insurgency may be completely eradicated but can never touch the x-axis. In other words, it can never be brought to zero.
How did we achieve this stupendous task? There is a need for every Indian to know and to be proud of the fact that our sovereignty over this region stands vindicated notwithstanding a slow and steady pace with spikes of violence in between periods of peace, stability and prosperity.
Before we try to understand the genesis of the insurgency in the northeastern states known as the Seven Sisters, it would be prudent to identify the reason and causes which engulfed the proud people of this region in a human conflict resulting in self denials. Some call it exploitation of the have nots and a tampering with ethnicity. These are not the only reasons. These are certain irreversible causes, which have historical and geographical perspectives. In addition, political, economic, social, ethnic, and cultural reasons give a fillip to existing inadequacies, encouraging a movement to start and grow.
It would be seen that relative geographical location is one of the main causes of this unrest and instability.
Partition further accentuated the problem. A psychological and a physical barrier was created. The creation of East Pakistan deprived the region of geographical contiguity with the rest of India. North East India had a land link only through the Siliguri corridor, 200 km long and 21 to 65 km wide. All our communication lines pass through this corridor. The only port of Chittagong which hitherto serviced the entire Northeast also fell prey to the misdeeds of partition. The entire region had become virtually landlocked. The lifeline of the Northeast states was now extended to over 1,600 km. Earlier, the distance between Calcutta and Agartala (Tripura) was a little over 400 km – this is one single factor that has very seriously affected the economy.
Typical of the British policy of divide and rule, this was yet another master stroke by them. This time a divide was created by placing a physical landmass, East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), between the people of India and the people of the Northeast. Compounding the problem further, British inner line policy created a rift between the people from the hills and the plains. The mistrust so created, fuelled discontent and human conflict. This coupled with mountainous jungle terrain and an unprotected International Border (IB) gave an ideal ground for insurgents to carry out their nefarious activities with impunity.
China is adopting a typical Mao Tse Tung style Indirect Approach. They have used the indirect approach remarkably well to keep us engaged on more than one front.
Thus, it would be seen that relative geographical location is one of the main causes of this unrest and instability. This region is surrounded on three sides by foreign countries – Bangladesh from the south and west, China (Tibet) and Bhutan from the north and Myanmar from the east.
The 4,960 km long IB constitutes 99 per cent of the periphery of these states. One of the main reasons for any insurgency to be successful is to have ‘External Support’, and this is an ideally situated region for the purpose. This aspect was fully exploited by China in the ‘50s through the ‘60s. Even now, China is adopting a typical Mao Tse Tung style ‘Indirect Approach’. They have used the indirect approach remarkably well to keep us engaged on more than one front. As a matter of fact they have already achieved partial encirclement. We are fully engaged with Pakistan on our west. In the north the Maoist movement has created enough instability. The relevance of Nepal to the Northeastern states has increased over the recent years due to the recent upsurge in Maoist activities, the emergence of the Kamtapur movement in the Siliguri Corridor and the increased activities of the ISI in Nepal. The 1,800 km Indo-Nepal porous border is being extensively used by the ISI intelligence operations – this border needs to be sanitised.
Bangladesh is believed to have 145 training camps of terrorist groups belonging to some of the Seven Sisters States on its soil, which is an ominous development.
The Maoist movement has not only threatened our states of Uttranchal, UP and Bihar with instability but has presented an opportunity for a ‘Red Corridor’, cutting through the states of UP, Chattisgarh / MP, Telangana (AP) to Kerala. Due to political instability, caste wars, and feudalism, Bihar – north of the Ganges – is an ideal ground for insurgency /naxalism to grow.
To the southwest of the Northeastern states, Bangladesh has been propped up as yet another ‘Terrorism Support and Export Centre’ patterned after Pakistan. Bangladesh is believed to have 145 training camps of terrorist groups belonging to some of the Seven Sisters States on its soil, which is an ominous development. Their intentions are suspect and very evident from the fact that they have a serious objection to our fencing of the IB. Meghalaya, Cachar (South Assam) and Tripura have an IB with Bangladesh with the terrain and people being most inhospitable and hostile. The cruelty and barbarism practiced by Bangladesh has few parallels. This, however, should not deter us from countering this menace.