By Dipayan Datta
Tucked in the farthest corner off the country, lies a region endowed with natural beauty and resources like no other part of the country. Still India’s North East is suffering from a paradox of sorts. Although rich in minerals such as oil, coal and uranium, the region has been plagued by chronic poverty and violence. All this has given a rise to a sense of alienation to the people of the region. Faced with constant neglect from Delhi, a lot of the youth were driven to arms. This resulted in a cycle of violence which the region is still struggling to cope with. Most of the youth born in my generation have lived under a cloud of violence, one that saw the rules of conflicts being blatantly violated by both sides. The region has borne witness to some of the longest and the bloodiest conflicts in post independent India. Instead of looking for ways to solve the problems plaguing the region, the central government resorted to violence to contain the insurgencies, slapping the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) on to most part of the region.
As India steps into its 67th year as a democratic secular republic, for most of us born and raised in NE, Independence Day has always been reminiscent with violence, curfew and an heighten sense of insecurity. Most of the insurgent outfits view Independence Day as a symbol of Delhi’s oppression of the region. I use the term Delhi and not India, because most of the problems plaguing the region is a result of constant apathy, neglect and short-sightedness of our policy makers in Delhi and not that of the idea of India. Successive governments’ have tried to combat violence with more violence and this has resulted into a zero sum game for the local populace. At the same time the local politicians and the public are not above blame. Local state governments in the NE figure among the most corrupt and inefficient in the country.
Although the region has witnessed a period of calm and peace during the latter part of the last decade, the peace is fragile at the most. Although states like Assam and Nagaland might never see a return to the violent days of the 80’s and 90’s, Manipur is still a hotbed of insurgency with nearly 80 militant and guerrilla outfits operating out of the state.
Today as the entire SEA becomes a hub of international business and economic integration, NE is uniquely positioned to benefit from the opportunities arising out of the region. NE, given its proximity to SEA could act as a gate way to other developing countries in the region. The policy makers of today might understand that but they have to ensure that the policies enacted are properly implemented and that there is no dilution of focus. In today’s competitive environment, the government should look to better utilize and leverage the strategic advantages that this region has to offers. It will also give NE an opportunity to integrate into the financial mainstream of the nation.