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Context: A tripartite accord for the final settlement of demands in Bodoland was signed on Monday afternoon in New Delhi. Bodoland will now be named as Bodoland Territorial Region (BTR), and will have more administrative power.
Mains: GS III-
- Challenges to internal security through communication networks, role of media and social networking sites in internal security challenges, basics of cybersecurity; money-laundering and its prevention.
- The Northeast region of India comprising of eight states – Assam, Nagaland, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Tripura and Sikkim. North East India is a region poorly connected to the Indian mainland by a small corridor – Silghuri Corridor (also known as Chicken Neck – with a narrow width of only 23 kilometers).
- North-Eastern India has been facing problems of insurgency for near 5 decades, but things are now settling down and peace started to prevail.
- North-East India shares international borders with China and Bhutan on its North, Myanmar on its East and Bangladesh on its south and western side.
- The Northeast region with 99 percent of its boundary being the international border, the problems and peculiarities are even more accentuated.
- The density of population varies from 13 per sq km in Arunachal Pradesh to 340 per sq km in Assam. The region is host to an overwhelming proportion of the tribal population. It has over 160 scheduled tribes.
|North-Eastern India: A Historical Explanation
- Assam during the Mughal-British era, divided into three regions: Sylhet, Manipur, and Assam.
- The three regions interacted separately with various foreign regimes namely the Mughal, Burmese and British.
- Sylhet passed into the hands of British in 1765, together with the rest of Bengal.
- After the Battle of Plassey in 1757, when the East India Company established its administration in Bengal and when Assam came under the Company’s protection after the treaty of Yandabo in 1826, Muslims from the two provinces interacted frequently with each other.
- By 1838, the entire region including Upper Assam, Khasi Hills, Jaintia Kingdom, Cachar, Garo Hills, and Kashmir was annexed.
- At the time of Independence ‘Northeast’ basically meant Assam and the princely states of Manipur and Tripura. With the advent of independence, 25 Khasi states had formed themselves into a federation of Khasis in 1946.
- Being one of the flamboyant areas of India, the ‘Northeastern States’ signed the instrument of accession without the slightest trouble or second thought.
- Tripura signed the instrument of accession 13 August 1947 and three days later, Governor-General Lord Mountbatten accepted the accession on 16 August 1947.
- On 21 September 1949, Maharaja Budhachandra signed a Treaty of accession merging the kingdom into India.
- North East relies on agriculture as the major sustenance occupation. However, low agricultural productivity and problems due to traditional framing practices like Jhum cultivation have created livelihood problems for the region.
- North Eastern Region Community Resource Management Project for Upland Areas (NERCOMP) and NARMGs (Natural Resource Management Groups) etc, have acted as a vehicle for bringing about gender empowerment.
- Such renewed efforts to bring about the development of all sections of society and make North East a part of the national development process have ensured that the people of the North East are never going to be considered as different either developmentally or culturally from the rest of the country.
|Reasons for Isolation of North East India (Giving rise to Insurgencies):
|Historical reasons – loosely administered under British India:
- Partition of the country:
- When the major road, rail and river routes connecting North East to the rest of the country suddenly got snapped.
- After the creation of East Pakistan, North East was geographically isolated and become virtually disconnected. The Natural sea route through the port of Chittagong was also lost.
- The Chinese aggression of 1962 :
- When the Chinese army entered Arunachal Pradesh (the then NEFA) and returned of their own.
- The Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971:
- When crores of people from Bangladesh entered some states of the North East as refugees. Insurgency affected the present-day Nagaland and Mizoram in the fifties and sixties of the last century.
- Ethnic and Cultural specificities were ignored during the process of delineation of state boundaries giving rise to discontent and assertion of one’s identity.
- The partition of India turned the North-East region into a landlocked region and affected it economically. Due to this isolation from mainstream India, the region remained backward in terms of developmental parameters.
- The isolation of the region, its complex social character due to different ethnic tribes & their culture, lack of development, weak communications between the north-east region & rest of India fuelled the anger and soured the relationship between center and this region, which led to varied demands of people inhabiting in this region.
- Due to this delicate relationship, people aspired for their autonomy, secessionist movements & strict opposition to outsiders from entering into their region.
- 1972, a regional body, North-Eastern Council was set up to provide a forum for inter-state coordination regional planning & integrated development of the region to avoid intra-regional disparities. However, NEC couldn’t control their feelings for autonomy and violent secessionist movements for that cause.
|Tensions between these states and the central government:
- Tensions between tribal people, who are natives of these states, and migrant peoples from other parts of India.
- The perceived threat to the political identity of the Assamese people from the illegal migrants from Bangladesh lies at the core of the Assam problem.
- The indigenous people of Assam feel that in future the illegal migrants will become the majority population and they will lose political power.
- Governance Deficit, widespread corruption, lack of accountability
|Geographical reasons – not well connected with present Indian mainland:
- The hills account for about 70% area of the NER and accommodate about 30% of the population and the plains constituting the remaining 30% of the area hold about 70% of its population.
- The region’s accessibility has always remained weak due to geographical reasons and underdeveloped transport links with the rest of India.
- Also, as the region witnesses floods and landslides in the Brahmaputra and Barak valleys, of Assam, a considerable strain is exerted on the economy of not only Assam but for other NER states too.
- Poorly developed due to a lack of funds from the Center/States.
- One of the reasons for the economic backwardness of the NER is the poor state of basic infrastructural facilities like roadways, waterways, energy and so on as well as social infrastructure like educational institutions, health facilities etc.
|Constraints on Industrial Growth:
- Post-Independence, due to the partition of India, Assam received a serious setback as its trade routes were cut off from the rest of India.
- Besides the dearth of local capital, marketing and transport bottlenecks hinder the industrial development in the region.
- Despite agriculture being the major subsistence occupation of the tribal population here, the pattern of agricultural growth has been uneven across the states and between crops.
- The Green Revolution was largely limited to the North-Western parts of the country and has not been of benefit in the NER.
- One of the most common agricultural practices in the NER is the shifting/Jhum cultivation. Approximately 1.7 million hectares of land is under it which leads to large scale deforestation resulting in soil erosion and loss of soil fertility.
- Even the agricultural growth did not take place due to hilly terrain causing food Insecurity.
- The resources are being indiscriminately exploited and mismanaged, thereby leading to the depletion of the very assets that are usually highlighted as triggering the greatest potential for growth and development of the NER.
- Also, the biodiversity of the region is under severe threat.
- Another greatest challenge of the NER today is globalization.
- With India’s Act East policy which heralded the tectonic shift of India’s West oriented stance towards east-oriented posture, it is extremely difficult for NER to successfully compete with the MNCs and foreign entrepreneurs in business and trade.
- Substance addiction is one social evil prevalent in the region. It is generally accepted that more than 30 percent of its youth are narcotic drug abusers.
- Migration of people from plain areas posing threat to their cultural and indigenous identity.
- Besides the problems of development, different border segments have different social problems such as incursion, infiltration, migration, smuggling, drug trafficking, AIDS etc.
- AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Power Act):
- The Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA), which has defined North East India for the last six decades since 1958 within a frame of ‘exception’ is gradually losing its relevance with the changing perceptions of the region.
- It posed a serious challenge to the Indian administration for many decades.
- Over time, most of these movements which sprang from an independent identity concern based on the territoriality and ethnicity of people in the region have petered out and lost their appeal.
- Deep rise of alienation due to human rights violations by the Security forces.
- Hostile neighbors like China extending moral and material support to the insurgent groups.
|Maoism ideology in India which aims to overthrow the government of India through people's war.
- In recent years there discrimination against people from North-East India has been reported.
- Many North-Eastern Indians face discrimination; are refused living accommodations when they travel to urban areas to study, and are subjected to racial slurs in reference to the appearance of their eyes.
Demands for autonomy in North East:
- After independence, except Manipur and Tripura, the entire north-east region comprised the state of Assam.
- Due to the presence of different cultures and tribes, Non-assamese felt alienated with the Assamese & Bengali residents of the plain.
- In addition to this, Assam Government imposed Assam language on them.
- Non-Assamese people protested against this move violently; tribal leaders started demanding separation from Assam.
- Their demands were fulfilled later and several states were carved out of one Assam.
- This fulfillment of demands couldn’t stop some tribes from aspiring a separate state only for their tribal communities like Bodos, Karbi, and Dimasas.
- They drew centre’s attention towards their demand for autonomy & mobilised public opinion through popular movements and insurgency.
- It was not possible for the centre to fulfill all the regional aspirations, and create smaller and smaller states.
- Hence, centre devised an alternative to fix this demand, such as the grant of Autonomous District for such tribes.
The demands of autonomy can be fulfilled with the constitutional provisions, but when someone demands a separate country from a sovereign country then the issue gets complicated.
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