Thursday, June 20, 2024

What ‘Ails’ North East India . . .


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By Ananya S Guha


I was reading an article in the “Shillong Times” on: ”The North East Political Conundrum”. The article highlighted problems such as the trickle down effect, bad governance, poor infrastructure, militarism as opposed to the public voice, etc. The author also stated that though there is no dearth of funds, the same has only a trickle down effect, and are sipohoned by the state governments. We often hear of this, that the availability of funds is enough, but the money is not being spent for developmental purposes. So what exactly is happening here? Who are the corrupt? Is it only politicians? If so how does the money meant for public interest go somewhere else? The ‘political prong’ the author claims has not kept apace with the ”military prong”.

The whole issue is that the military intervenes to flush out militants, but does that really happen? When the army is used it becomes a war with the opposition who know the terrain better than the Army or at least the para military forces. However, the political will is important for solutions through the process of talks and dialogue. But the whole question is: who does the government talk to? The history of insurgency in North East India has proven the fact that insurgency groups are split into factions except perhaps in the case of Mizoram, where the Mizo National Federation remained stolidly and solidly united till the peace accord was signed with the government. And mind you over night things changed and Mizoram welcomed the dawn of peace. It was amazing how the MNF came to peace, once the accord was signed the entire community observed it in letter and spirit. This shows that the recalcitrant elements were commited to an ideology they espoused and once they initiated the peace dialogue they did not turn their backs on it. This is commitment and honour at its best. Once the Mizo community realised that violence was not the solution to problems they not only pledged peace but actually practiced it. Since then generally speaking there has been peace in Mizoram but other groups such as the Brus, the Hmars and the Chakmas have been demanding separate states and identities. This brings us to the problem of diversity in North East India which politicians, journalists and commentators do not seem to critique. Identities are so fractious, there are so many tribes and communities that the smaller units also have aspirations and want recognition of status in the form of language or an autonomous state.

Secondly, reverting to the point made earlier, splinter groups within a militant organization retard dialogue or talks because normally the government is willing to talk to only one faction, which it considers the main group. This becomes debatable as the other groups want equal recognition or status. This happened in Tripura, it is happening for over a decade in Nagaland, although there seems to be some light at the end of the tunnel after the NSCN (I-M) apparently agreed to the Khaplang group being accommodated for peace talks.

Similarly, it is the case with Assam where one faction still has not given up the demands of secessionism. As I mentioned earlier it was only Mizoram which did not suffer from this syndrome of divisiveness among rebel groups. Manipur in fact has over twenty factions all waging a war at the same time against the govenment of India. The government then is in a dilema, being confronted with the vexed problem of which group to talk to. So, even if an agreement is reached with one faction, the others are normally not in a position of agreement. Hence, the solution is, bringing in the Army to combat insurgency which really isn’t the solution because the Army of a country should not be used to fight its own people. If political and military strategies go hand in hand then there could be a feasibility of a more workable solution of tackling matters.

Hence, it is against this backdrop that the current scenario of North East India should be critically viewed, taking into consideration the plains and hills peoples’ interests, the tribals and the non tribals’ interests etc. Only adhoc measures like formation of territorial councils or, for that matter the formation of even states may not be a solution. In other words there can be no straight forward political solution, but rather there should be attitudinal change in matters related to culture, literature, recognition of languages, good governance, industrial processess, agricultural development, solutions to the problems of floods etc. These should precede any dialogue or talks, or any action political, military or otherwise.


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