Regionalism Issues - North East - Civil Services Preparation Online! UPSC & IAS Study Material

Regionalism Issues – North East

by Devender

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The partition was bitter for most of the Indians but the North-Eastern region suffered more because the partition turned it into a land-locked region and also affected the region economically.

Regionalism Issues - North East

After the partition, the North-East region got isolated from mainstream India and that became the reason for the backwardness (in terms of developmental parameters) of this region.

There were varied demands of people from this region, due to the isolation, the complex social character of this region due to different ethnic tribes & their cultures and lack of development along with weak communication between this region and rest of India which angered people of this region.

  • The relation between the N-E region had been very delicate
  • The people of this region aspired for their autonomy, secessionist movements & strictly opposed outsiders to enter their region
  • North-Eastern Council, a regional body was set up in 1972 with an aim to provide a forum for inter-state coordination regional planning & integrated development of the region to avoid intra-regional disparities
  • However, it also couldn't control their feelings for autonomy and violent secessionist movements for that cause

  • Demands for autonomy in North East:
  • After Independence, the entire N-E region consisted of three states Manipur, Tripura, and Assam. Except for these two states, the entire N-E region comprised the state of Assam.

  • There were different cultures and tribes present in Assam at that time but all the non-Assamese felt outsiders
  • Moreover, instead of working for them, the Assam government imposed the Assam language on them to which these people protested violently
  • The leaders of these tribes started demands for separation from Assam
  • These demands were later fulfilled and several states were formed out of Assam
  • The fulfillment of demands for separate states was not enough for some tribal communities like Bodos, Karbi, and Dimasas
  • They wanted a separate state only for their tribes
  • They succeeded in getting the center's attention with popular movements and insurgency
  • However, still, it was not possible to form smaller and smaller states for such demands
  • Hence, the center came up with an alternative to take care of these demands
  • Centre granted Autonomous District for such tribes

  • Secessionist Movements

    The demands of autonomy can be fulfilled with constitutional remedies but it gets very complicated if someone demands a separate country from a sovereign country.

  • Mizoram:
  • The people of Mizoram never considered themselves under British Empire, so even after Independence, they didn't consider themselves as Indians. Later during the famine in Assam in 1959, the government didn't take the right measures for the Mizo people which angered them and they formed Mizo National Front.

  • MNF started an armed rebellion against the Indian Army using Guerrilla war
  • They had aid from Pakistan but the Union government didn’t budge to such a guerrilla war
  • They used the Indian army and airforces with great effects and defeated MNF completely
  • But after the war, both sides emerged losers due to the loss of human lives and economic resources
  • Pakistan was the real winner in this war
  • After realizing the futility of the war, MNF started negotiations with the Union government
  • Finally, in 1968, Rajiv Gandhi and MNF reached an agreement which gave Mizoram a full fledges statehood with special powers whereas MNF gave up its secessionist movement
  • Since then, the state of Mizoram has done a great job in the implementation of development programs and making agriculture remunerative
  • Nagaland:
  • The story of Nagaland was not much different from Mizoram, they also demanded a separate country from 1951. The Naga National Council (NNC) declared its armed struggle for a separate country of Nagas.

  • The Indian government tried to end these types of movements but only got limited success
  • The government brought many Naga areas within an autonomous framework (1957), formation the state of Nagaland (1963)
  • The main aim of NNC is still to establish a sovereign state of Nagalim by unifying all the areas inhabited by the Naga people in Northeast India and Burma
  • For a long time, NNC carried out armed rebellion against the Indian Government but later a ceasefire agreement was signed between the government and NNC
  • It is known as the Shillong Accord but some leaders of NNC considered it a total betrayal
  • It led to the formation of the Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) in the late 1970s
  • This council started a Naga Federal government having both Civil and Military wings. The ceasefire agreement has reduced violence in the region but still, the problems in Nagaland are not yet considered solved.

    Movements against outsiders in Assam

    The people's migration from other parts of the N-E region to Assam for its rich resources created a lot of tensions and problems between locals and outsiders. The locals used to believe that the migrant people are encroachers who would steal away their scarce resources like land, employment opportunities & political power while increasing the population too.

  • A movement started in Assam from 1975 to 1985 to drive away from the outsiders from Assam with the main target of Bengali Muslim settlers from Bangladesh
  • The movement mainly focused on areas such as illegal migration, domination of Bengali & outsiders, against faulty voter’s register of lakhs of immigrants
  • After 6 years of violence, Rajiv Gandhi signed an accord with leaders of the All Assam student’s union (AASU) in 1985
  • According to it, the foreigners who migrated to Assam during and after the Bangladesh war were to be identified and deported

After this accord, AASU & Assam Gana Sangram Parishad came together, & formed their political party, and won the Assembly elections in 1985 with the promise of resolving the foreign national problem and make Assam a "Golden Assam".

However, the problem of immigrants hasn't been solved yet but the accord at least brought peace to some extent.

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