The Northeast which is known for its natural beauty, scenic landscape and peaceful environment is connected to the rest of India by a narrow strip of land which is known as the Siliguri Corridor in West Bengal. The region’s population which constitutes only about 3.8 percent of the total population of the country (2001 census) has over 160 scheduled tribes and over 400 other sub-tribal communities and groups. The region has the distinction of being a good example of unity in diversity wherein all different cultures of the mosaic society lives peacefully with mutual respect. On the other side, our northeast has also the unique characteristic of being the thorniest states since Indian independence.
Various movements such as; national liberation movement, communal/ethnic movement, human rights movement, and so on exists. There are also movements to promote indigenous people’s history, language, script, and their cultural elements and identity markers. But the first and the most important movement is the liberation movement and till today, it has become a headache to the Indian policymakers and law enforcement agencies.
Northeast India had been the hotbed of militancy for a number of years. Continuing armed actions and violent demonstrations over the last many years have turned it into a battleground. Several armed organizations who operate in the region have accused New Delhi of ignoring the issues concerned with the welfare of the people. So one can easily sum up that the main reason for prolong various movements in the region is the continuous cycle of capitalist subjugation, oppression and exploitation under the Indian rule. Our educated people still perceive that they are racially discriminated and dominated by the mainland Indians. Many Indians look upon the northeast people as backward, hub of drug trafficking and addiction, flesh trade, killers of labourers from mainland India and mainly the people who are opposed to unity. A feeling of second class citizenship meted out to them by mainland Indians has led the peoples of these states to seek greater participation in self governance.
Everyday there is some forms of resistance and demands by its people to defend democratic and human rights. The responses of the Indian state on the other hand had been brutal and oppressive. For many years suppressive legislations such as Armed Forces Special Power’s Act (1958), Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, National Security Act (1980) and Prevention of Seditious Meetings Act (1991) etc. have been using to repress the democratic voices of its people. This is the reason when Supreme Court recently asked “are we in a state of war” in Manipur. It looks like the Indian state has been adopting a militant policy towards the people of northeast on the nationality question.
Now insurgency is deep rooted in our society. Many have been struggling to defend the basic and fundamental rights. Many still remembers the systematic killings in the region in the name of security and peace. Many have been inquiring to trace out those who have been murdered, tortured, imprisoned or falsely accused. Many continue to be haunted by the memory of the crimes committed by the Indian Security Forces against humanity. Many perceive the region as a battleground where battles had to be fought to recover human dignity and for justice, truth and right. Many felt that they are unfairly denied what is due to them as true citizen of India and still believes that there is no lackluster attitude of the Indian government while dealing with the people of the northeast. But India keeps on exploring all possible means to find a logical solution to the longstanding insurgency problem in our region. Since the counter insurgency operations in the north east have failed in its mission, centre has revised its policy by introducing a novel scheme called ‘Military Civic Action Programme’, to win back the trust and confidence of the people. However, the public are still in disbelief regarding the sincerity and honesty of the central government in handling the fluid social atmosphere in the region.
So, one thing which centre should not forget is that people may not oppose to such developmental schemes or projects but will never share with their heart until and unless New Delhi changes its policy towards the northeast and its people. It is a true fact that installation of Indian State’s machineries, militarization and terror tactics, divisive policy, reformist propaganda, cosmetic economic packages, and etc., to some extent divert away attention from democratic struggle but can never eliminate it completely. As time keeps changing, the elimination programme to deal with the northeast insurgents to defend the interest of the country have becoming more perverted, created war hysteria and more casualty on the civilians. Therefore, it seems that the revolutionary movements in the northeast seem to be gaining momentum day by day since the capitalist path adopted by New Delhi towards the people remains the same. To overcome all these, India needs to uphold democratic principles and respect human rights by bringing an end to militant tactics of suppression and positively respond to the democratic questions raised by the oppressed peoples of the northeast. Because, peace and democratic order may be prevail in a society when peoples are emancipated from suppression, oppression and exploitation. As human beings, the people of the northeast need humane treatment.
India’s policy of bringing peace in the region through suppressive measures of counter-insurgency operations is fault step. Whatever may be the solution, within or without the Indian Constitution, the centre’s northeast policy lacks in many fronts. That is why the peace initiative of the Indian government in the northeast suffers from ambiguity and makes the relationship between the insurgents and government of India murkier every passing day.
The outfits, which are on peace talk or SoO, keep on accusing New Delhi for imposing her diktat on their rebels and imposing her own way of cease fire rules, which crops serious loggerheads between them. Furthermore, Muivah recently said that there will be no solution without the unification of Naga inhabited areas meaning Nagalim; which one is sure of, that New Delhi will never easily agree to it. However, Isak Chisi Swu, Chairman of NSCN (IM) seems to become a little more self realize now, when he said that “we have now entered sixteenth years of negotiation with the Indian government, but we see no concrete result so far”, while delivering a speech on the outfit’s 34th Republic Day recently. But his more faith in God than his own doings was also seen by the people when he kept on adding that “we must reconcile with God” which in my apprehension is less associated with the revolutionary principles. Khaplang, the other side of the same coin of NSCN, on the other hand, have a firm believe that no lasting peace is possible in the region until and unless all the insurgent organizations are involved in the peace talk. NNC also keeps on rejecting a Naga solution within the Indian Constitution. So it is becoming more clear day by day that, after 15 years of peace talk with the Indian government the NSCN (IM) have been trapped in a situation where they could neither go forward nor retract to a reasonable safe place.
In Assam, though ULFA had signed the Suspension of Operation pact led by Arabinda Rajkhowa, on September 3, 2011, its elusive Commander-in-Chief Paresh Baruah is still opposed to any dialogue with the government. On Manipur’s side, Zomi Revolutionary Organization, which is on a SoO pact with Manipur government, recently accused the government for slow process in the ongoing peace process. In addition, the cadres of three armed groups who recently surrendered to the government of Manipur cautioned that they would not hesitate in returning to the jungles for resuming the military offensive in case the government is non-committal to take forward the peace process. Even in Tripura, where few years back a potent insurgency was driven to a state of serious weakness, the remnants refuse to give up and still continue to the armed actions. Therefore, India except in the case of Mizo National Front’s secessionist movement, which came to an end in 1976 after signing the Mizo Accord with Indian government, continues to fall short on her own policy of peace process. And now, finally New Delhi seems to have given up the hope of peace process by deciding not to sign any agreements with Insurgents in the near future as it says gains nothing.
The Indian state also accused the insurgents of procuring weapons and ammunition from domestic sources or even from abroad, and continues with their training activities during the peace process. These all hot blow arguments came up when there is a process of uniting together all the ten plus revolutionary groups in the northeast, which have the potentialities to create havoc in the region.
Well, it really gives a clear impression that the peace talk policy is slipping out of India’s hand. Is India really losing the Northeast?
Ayekpam Basanta Mangang is a writer from Manipur.