Rotting that is going unnoticed in Northeast!


Understanding the problem is half the problem solved. A crucial role in region development is played by Women and Children of that region. Northeastern states have not developed to the potential. A reason which is not paid that much heed is women and children issue. Women do not have much say in political sphere and children are malnourished.


Though a lot of women-centric social evil practices which are commonly practiced in large parts of the country are not prevalent in the Northeast. Evil practices such as dowry, sati, female feticide, honor killing, child marriages are non-existent among the natives of the region. The women there are educated and their presence can be seen in almost every professional sphere.

But still however, unfortunately, inspite of their social and economic equality with the men, they have been politically marginalized and are kept away from the decision making bodies. The scenario in this aspect has not changed much over time. There is a dearth of political awareness among the women folk of the region. The women’s participation in the region’s existing institutional politics has been tactfully excluded. The reservation for woman in local elected bodies has achieved mixed bag of success in terms of bringing woman at par with man in the political sphere. The rotation of reserved posts for woman in these elections does the disservice to whole idea by failing to give the women to establish a stronghold in politics..

Estimates suggest that in the north-east region child under-nutrition (U-5) is quite high (56%), and much worse in states like Meghalaya, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Tripura. However, household and state levels show the interplay of different factors despite the fact that education and wealth stand out among them. Malnutrition in the north-east region rises with the age of the child, a finding endorsed by other studies as well. Also, size at birth and birth order show significant relationship with the children who are malnourished. We see that children of a higher birth order and small size at birth are more prone to being malnourished.


Empowering women politically will make them participant in the prosperity of the region. A well empowered woman can also take care of nutritional demand of pregnant women and their children. . There are many example in the world like European nations which are prosperous because women are politically powerful there. The region where women are well educated but are not in political sphere is an opportunity loss for wellbeing of the region.

S K Awasthi


North East Institute of Advanced Studies , Assam


Words also matter with good intention


How many times have we heard people justifying “wrong words were used but intention was right”. This is permissible to some extent in private life situation but not in Public life. This is in context of solution provided by centre for resolving ethnic conflict in north east by giving autonomy to various leaders of ethnic communities based on locational and cultural aspect. Though horses for courses approach is going well at present but it is a temporary measure we all know this. The concern here is that we are using the wrong words in writing the solution by dividing the powers according to ethnic identities.

So what can be the solution? Though distributing powers among various leaders is the only solution in eyesight but using Dual citizenship can be the solution which will provide the same solution and also have the legitimacy of words used in the solution instead of ethnic decorum.

India is a union of states which means India as a union is not a result of consensus among states to join India like USA. So India has single citizenship unlike dual citizenship of USA. So in this case providing dual citizenship will require constitutional amendment which will require strong political Will.

Bright areas of providing dual citizenship

It will provide legitimacy to the various autonomous councils in the north east. It will make the solution formal and authentic in nature yet it will stay flexible like before in creating more autonomous regions. The administrative arrangements and boundaries will become clear and cross border blockade and strikes may come down. People will no more identify themselves with their language, religion and culture but will identify themselves with their citizenship which will also provide legitimate identification decorum.

Grey areas 

India’s north J & K may also ask for dual citizenship. This will create favourable situation for separatists. This is not good for India as contextually J & K and northeastern states’ problems are different. But demanding sanity and rationality in political sphere is not workable all times. Second problem may arise that North eastern states may embrace dual citizenship concept to such an extent that they may start demanding secession from India.



Going for dual citizenship in northeastern states’ context is an ideal solution specifically for temporary  measures being taken. But it seems that even centre government is aware that providing dual citizenship by constitutional amendment will require huge effort. So if effort is huge it should be long term. But still seeing the disturbing times, whole India should unite to mobilise political will and give best legitimate solutions to northeastern states no matter how huge the effort it takes.

Sunil Kumar

Faculty, North East Institute of Advanced Studies



What Threatens Peace in India’s Northeast? (A complete diary of insurgency, extremist movements, Ethno-political scenario on Strategic alliance and cross border links)


Neighbouring Countries and Changing Dynamics

North-East India has been facing insurgency since 1956 due to feelings of ethnic separatism among its inhabitants. Ninety-eight per cent of the North-East is contiguous with the international border, which allows terror outfits to get sanctuaries in Bhutan, Myanmar, Bangladesh and even China and Nepal. In these countries, they get facilities for training and can also procure arms and ammunition. Involvement of intelligence agencies and the regular flow of funds from the smugglers of narcotics from the Golden Triangle are a cause of concern.


China’s motivation to support the Naga insurgency converged with Pakistan. Both had antagonistic relations with India. The mid-1960s was the period when ideological war between the Communists and the Western democracies was at its peak. China viewed India as its rival in Asia and was giving full support to Naxalites in India. The tribes of the North-East were ideal targets for fanning insurgencies and keeping Indian troops tied down. The Chinese support to Naga rebels started towards the end of 1966. Large numbers of Naga, Mizo and Meitei rebels, including their leaders, visited China and established training camps between 1966 and 1975. China apparently curtailed support for Indian insurgents in the late 1980s, following Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s 1988 visit to China.

Recent reports, however, also indicate that insurgents from the North-East are, once again, trying to take the help of China as the political environment in Bangladesh has become unfavourable to them with the return of Sheikh Hasina to power since October 2009. ULFA’s commander-in-chief, Paresh Baruah, is believed to be somewhere close to the Myanmar–China border, scouting for help to relocate its bases. There are reports that Paresh Baruah met Chinese officials in December 2013 and had sought permission to establish ULFA (Independent) camps in China and Myanmar. The outfit has reportedly set up a base at Laiza, a stronghold of Kachin Independence Army (KIA) inside Myanmar at Sino-Myanmar border.


Bangladesh has been a safe haven for insurgents in the North-East since East Pakistan days. Indian insurgents have received support under all regimes in Bangladesh. As a result, almost all North-Eastern groups engaged in insurgency in the North-East have established their camps in Bangladesh. Bangladesh has also been supporting insurgency in the North-East by freely allowing smuggling of arms to take place from its territory. The removal of the term ‘secularism’ from its Constitution (1977) and the adoption of Islam as the state religion (1988) has provided a stimulus to religious extremism; strengthened Pakistan–Bangladesh ties; and increased cooperation between the two countries, in particular the ISI and the Directorate General of Foreign Intelligence (DGFI) in Bangladesh. According to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), the 854 km fence built in Phase-I has already been damaged along most of the stretches and, consequently, has ceased to be effective in controlling illegal cross-border activities. A crucial length of around 300 km along the eastern border in West Bengal still remains to be fenced. The river border, mostly in Dhubri district in Assam and southern West Bengal, presents peculiar problems, as it is difficult to locate permanent border outposts in the area due to swelling of the Brahmaputra and other rivers that go deeper by about 30 feet. As a result, protecting and constructing border fencing in such places becomes difficult, and if the fencing is even constructed, its existence remains unsure.


It was almost a strategic compulsion for Pakistan to tie down maximum Indian troops in the North-East. When the Nagas rebelled against India, Pakistan found an ideal opportunity to take advantage of the situation. Naga rebels were the first to receive moral and material support from Pakistan, which had opened an office of assistant high commissioner in Shillong soon after independence. The groundwork for receiving moral and material support from East Pakistan was done during visits of Naga underground leaders. Pakistan had created a special

liaison cell for contact and coordination with Naga and Mizo rebels. Besides assisting terrorists in the procurement of arms, ammunition and explosives, the ISI has been arranging meetings of terrorists of different hues to coordinate their activities. The ISI is alleged to have supported a network in Bangladesh, which included the hard-line Jamaat-e-Islami (JEI), the BNP and the North-East rebel groups, during the BNP’s rule.


Myanmar has been another favourite base for Indian insurgents. The insurgents used this country as a safe base after East Pakistan (Bangladesh) became unavailable to them immediately after the liberation of Bangladesh. Myanmar is also used as a crucial link zone through which rebels can go to China for training and weapons. It also provides a safe training and regrouping zone where new recruits can be taught guerrilla warfare and active guerrilla units can be shifted to when under pressure in India. Myanmar’s stand towards the insurgents in the North-East is ambiguous. Their army has been selective in targeting Indian rebels. As a result, despite occasional crackdowns on NSCN-K, ULFA and People’s Liberation Army (PLA), rebels have been functioning from there without any difficulties. The reluctance of the Myanmar government to act against IIGs can be explained in the light of the country’s own severe internal security problems and the tenuous control the government exercises over the remote regions that border India.


The Bhutan–India border is 699 km long and adjoins the Indian states of Assam (267 km), Arunachal Pradesh (217 km), West Bengal (183 km) and Sikkim (32 km). The presence of Indian insurgents and terrorists in Bhutanese territory forced Bhutan to take military action against IIGs under the code name ‘Operation All Clear’, on 15 December 2003, to oust them from its territory. Whatever may be the reason behind the Bhutanese military action, ‘Operation All Clear’ was a landmark event and set an example of cooperation in counter-terrorism in South Asia. However, inaccessible forested areas along the Assam– Bhutan border continue to serve as temporary bases and safe havens for the insurgent groups, mainly NDFB (Songbijit), who seek refuge there to avoid contact with the security forces.


The seeds for an ‘open’ border between India and Nepal can be found in the Treaty of Peace and Friendship which the two countries signed in 1950. The extent of misuse of the open border by terrorists and criminals has led to a clamour in some quarters to rethink the rationale for keeping the border with Nepal open. While it is true that the open border has facilitated terrorist and criminal activities which are adversely impacting national security, it is equally important to recognize that an open border has also helped India and Nepal to develop and deepen socio-cultural and economic relations. The emergence of Nepal as a new safe haven for the insurgents further complicates the matter in terms of India’s security concerns.

Way Forward: Regional, Bilateral and Multilateral

Some solutions that are common need to be explored with specifics derived from them for specific regions and groups and even for neighbouring countries.

  1. Meeting the political aspirations of groups by giving them autonomy. Implementing ‘sixth schedule’ provisions of the Indian constitution in these areas will help them to preserve their identity and culture while giving them greater autonomy.
  2. Economic development of the area in a calibrated manner. Any development should be sustainable and should have the participation and acceptance by the locals.
  3. Improving Governance and delivery mechanisms of the government and administration.
  4. Dialogue should be ongoing process to reach concrete solutions by involving all the stakeholders and not a single group.
  5. Draconian laws like AFSPA should be repealed as it is one of the causes for inflating insurgency in north east.
  6. Centre and states should coordinate in decision making. In the recent agreement of the Centre with NSCN (IM), it did not take concerned state governments and other groups on board. It should be avoided.
  7. State police and central forces should cooperate on intelligence sharing, investigation and operations against militants. It has been alleged by the army that the June ambush of the army became possible because state police did not share the intelligence about the attack with it. It is unfortunate and counter-productive.
  8. Effective border management with smart border solutions should be implemented
  9. Strengthening of Regional Forums and diplomatic initiatives (Bilateral and Multilateral) can be done.
  10. Joint military exercises and operations should be carried out.
  11. Uniform Simple Laws against Insurgents will help to tackle more efficiently.



Although varying in their demands and methods, there is a common thread running through the insurgency infested north-east, that is of identity and development. Despite the overwhelming international consensus evolving against international terrorism, the forces inimical to India are yet to curb their covert and overt support to insurgent and terrorist groups operating against India in the North-East made by the GoI, incorporating the central agencies, state agencies, nongovernmental organizations, local administration and civil population, to fight an all-out battle against the insurgency and terrorisms of every form.

Sankar Ray

Some references

  1. Ministry of external affairs – north east division
  2. Ministry of Home affairs – north east division
  3. Global politics by Andrew Heywood
  4. Globalisation of world politics and an introduction to International relations by Baylis and Smith
  5. Indian council for world affairs(ICWA)
  6. South East Asian politics magazine
  7. Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses – Journal of Defence studies

What Threatens Peace in India’s Northeast? (A complete diary of insurgency, extremist movements, Ethno-political scenario on Strategic alliance and cross border links)

………Continued from Part I


The Nagas were the inhabitants of the Naga hills along the Northeast frontier on the Assam-Burma border. They numbered nearly 500,000 in 1961, constituted less than 0.1% per cent of India’s population, and consisted of many tribes speaking different languages.

How old is the Naga political issue?

The British annexed Assam in 1826, and in 1881, the Naga Hills too became part of British India. The first sign of Naga resistance was seen in the formation of the Naga Club in 1918, which told the Simon Commission in 1929 “to leave us alone to determine for ourselves as in ancient times”. In 1946 came the Naga National Council (NNC), which, under the leadership of Angami Zapu Phizo, declared Nagaland an independent state on August 14, 1947. The NNC resolved to establish a “sovereign Naga state” and conducted a “referendum” in 1951, in which “99 per cent” supported an “independent” Nagaland.


When did the armed movement begin?

On March 22, 1952, Phizo formed the underground Naga Federal Government (NFG) and the Naga Federal Army (NFA). The Government of India sent in the Army to crush the insurgency and, in 1958, enacted the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act.

When did the peace efforts start?

Almost simultaneously with the resistance. On June 29, 1947, Assam Governor Sir Akbar Hyderi signed a 9-point agreement with moderates T Sakhrie and Aliba Imti, which was almost immediately rejected by Phizo. The Naga Hills, a district of Assam, was upgraded to a state in 1963, by also adding the Tuensang Tract that was then part of NEFA. In April the next year, Jai Prakash Narain, Assam Chief Minister Bimala Prasad Chaliha and Rev. Michael Scott formed a Peace Mission and got the government and NNC to sign an agreement to suspend operations that September. But the NNC/NFG/NFA continued to indulge in violence, and after six rounds of talks, the Peace Mission was abandoned in 1967 and a massive counter-insurgency operation launched.

When did the NSCN come into being?

On November 11, 1975, the government got a section of NNC leaders to sign the Shillong Accord, under which this section of NNC and NFG agreed to give up arms. A group of about 140 members led by Thuingaleng Muivah, who were at that time in China, refused to accept the Shillong Accord, and formed the National Socialist Council of Nagaland in 1980. In 1988, the NSCN split into NSCN (IM) and NSCN (K) after a violent clash. While the NNC began to fade away, and Phizo died in London in 1991, the NSCN (IM) came to be seen as the “mother of all insurgencies” in the region.

What did the NSCN (IM) want?

A “Greater Nagalim” comprising “all contiguous Naga-inhabited areas”, along with Nagaland. That included several districts of Assam, Arunachal and Manipur, as also a large tract of Myanmar. The map of “Greater Nagalim” has about 1,20,000 sq km, while the state of Nagaland consists of 16,527 sq km. The claims have always kept Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh wary of a peace settlement that might affect their territories. The Nagaland Assembly has endorsed the ‘Greater Nagalim’ demand — “Integration of all Naga-inhabited contiguous areas under one administrative umbrella” — as many as five times: in December 1964, August 1970, September 1994, December 2003 and as recently as on July 27, 2015.

When did NSCN (IM) join peace talks?

The Government of India signed a ceasefire agreement with NSCN (IM) on July 25, 1997, which came into effect on August 1, 1997. Over 80 rounds of talks between the two sides were held subsequently.

Naga Peace accord 2015:

Nagaland peace accord is the accord signed in August 2015 by the Government of India and the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) to end the insurgency. The framework agreement is based on the “unique” history of Nagas and recognising the universal principle that in a democracy sovereignty lies with the people. National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) has given up its demand for ‘Greater Nagaland’ and vowed allegiance to the constitution of India. The details of the accord are yet to come in public domain. Government of India has also made clear that existing boundaries of states will not be altered.  It will restore peace and pave the way for prosperity in the North East. It will advance a life of dignity, opportunity and equity for the Naga people, based on their genius and consistent with the uniqueness of the Naga people and their culture and traditions. The Government of India recognized the unique history, culture and position of the Nagas and their sentiments and aspirations. The NSCN understood and appreciated the Indian political system and governance.


Insurgency in Tripura finds its root in the influx of refugees from the newly emerged East Pakistan after partition, post-independence and post 1971 war liberation in Bangladesh. Migration fuelled discontent and demographic inversion in Tripura. The ratio of population of tribals and non-tribals which was 70:30 at the time of independence in 1947 changed to         70: 30 in favour of non tribals. This injustice has led to insurgency. The evolution of insurgency in Tripura can be traced to the formation of the Tripura Upajati Juba Samiti (TUJS) in 1971, followed by the Tripura National Volunteers (TNV) in 1981. The National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT) was formed on March 2, 1989 and its armed wing, the National Holy Army and All Tripura Tiger Force (ATTF), in July 1990, queering the pitch. The two outfits came up with a secessionist agenda, disputed the merger of the kingdom of Tripura with the Indian Union, and demanded sovereignty for Tripura, deportation of “illegal migrants,” the implementation of the Tripura merger agreement and the restoration of land to the tribal people under the Tripura Land Reform Act, 1960. Between 1990 and 1995, the insurgency remained low-key. But it grew in extent and magnitude between 1996 and 2004 — and then started melting.


The Meghalaya state was carved out of the Assam state, with an aim to address the unique needs of the major tribes in the region: the Garos, the Jaintias and the Khasis. However, discontent grew among the tribal due to the alleged high-handedness of the security forces, inter-tribal conflicts, the youth unemployment and the inability to compete with non-tribal businesses, illegal migration from Bangladesh. This led to the rise of several insurgent groups in the state. The few insurgents group active in the state are Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA ) and Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC).


Arunachal Pradesh, spread over 83,743 square kilometres in north-eastern India , was hailed until recently as the abode of peace. However, the State is gradually being afflicted by insurgency. Neither the State government nor the Centre have taken stock of the situation, nor drawn up an action plan to arrest the downslide. The only case of indigenous insurgency movement in Arunachal Pradesh was the rise of the Arunachal Dragon Force (ADF), which was rechristened as East India Liberation Front (EALF) in 2001. The outfit remained active in the Lohit district, before being neutralised by the state police forces. Indigenous insurgency movements have only been a fraction of the problem that Arunachal Pradesh has come to encounter in the past years. A variety of factors including its geographical contiguity with Myanmar and ethnic similarities among the residents in some of Arunachal Pradesh’s districts with the locals in Nagaland has been the reasons why insurgent outfits from Assam and Nagaland have exploited the State for their activities. Traditionally, the south-western districts of Tirap and Changlang, in the proximity of Nagaland, have been a happy hunting ground for both the factions of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN). While the Khaplang faction (NSCN-K) made its first inroads into the virgin territory in the early 1990s, the NSCN-IM faction soon made its move and carved out separate areas of influence in the district. Arunachal Pradesh has also been used as a transit route by the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA). While the movement of the ULFA cadres between the easternmost districts of Assam and the outfit’s facilities in the Sagaing division in Myanmar through Arunachal Pradesh can be traced back to the late 1980s, the State’s strategic importance for the ULFA has grown manifold after the outfit’s December 2003 ouster from Bhutan, following a military crackdown. The outfit’s dependence on its 28th battalion headquartered in Myanmar, for its hit and run activities in Assam, has become almost irreversible. ULFA cadres traversing the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh and Myanmar route had set up transit camps and safe houses in the Manabhum Reserve Forest, spread over 1500 square kilometres in the Lohit district. There were also a few incidents which revealed a nexus between the militants and the politicians, like the arrest of a NSCN (IM) militant from the residence of a former Minister of Arunachal Pradesh in Itanagar. Instances of forceful recruitments of tribal youths by the militant organizations, especially NSCN-K were also found. In a Conference of Chief Ministers on internal security, held at New Delhi on August 17, 2009 and attended by the Prime Minister and the Home Minister, the Arunachal Pradesh government asked the Centre to seal the entire stretch of the 440-km-long India-Myanmar border along the state in order to check the movement of insurgent outfits.

Impact of insurgency

The impact of insurgency on the State has been serious. According to intelligence sources, every government employee and businessman in Tirap is forced to pay nearly twenty-five per cent of his gross income as a tax for the Republic of Nagalim . In the districts of Tirap and Changalang, branches of the State Bank of India have been shut down after they were served with extortion notes by the NSCN-K. In 2001, the operations of the Oil India Limited in Changlang district were brought to a halt after the NSCN-IM demanded an amount of Rs. 60 lakhs (US$ 125,000). The oil major had to pull out 130 of its technical staff from the area.


A situation similar to Nagaland developed a few years later in autonomous Mizo district of the Northeast. Secessionist demand backed by some British officials had grown there in 1947 but had failed to get much support from the youthful population. However, unhappiness with the Assam government’s relief measure during famine of 1959 and the passage of the Act in 1961, making Assamese the official language of the state, led to the formation of Mizo National Front (MNF), with Laldenga as president. While participating in the elections MNF created a military wing which received arms and ammunition and military support from East Pakistan and China. In March 1966 MNF declared independence from India, proclaimed a military uprising. The GOI responded with immediate massive counter insurgency measures by the army. Within a few weeks insurgency was crushed and government control was restored.

In 1973, after the less extremist Mizo leaders has scaled down their demand to that of a separate state of Mizoram within the Indian Union, Mizo district of Assam was separated from Assam and, as Mizoram was given the status of a Union Territory. Mizo insurgency gained some renewed strength in the late 1970’s but was again effectively dealt with the Indian armed forces. A settlement was finally reached in 1986. An ‘accord’ was signed between the Union Government and the Mizo National Front in 1986, according to which insurgents group agreed to surrender before the Union and re-enter the constitutional political stream. A year later, statehood was conferred. Since the MNF has a formidable political force in the state.

Hmar insurgency

Not satisfied with the Mizo Accord of 1986 that ended two decades of insurgency led by the Mizo National Front (the peace deal did not grant the Hmar tribe administrative autonomy), some Hmar leaders formed the Hmar People’s Convention (HPC), and began a struggle for autonomy. The insurgency raged until 1994, when the Mizoram government set up the Sinlung Hills Development Council for Hmar-inhabited areas. The HPC joined the political mainstream, but Mizoram police and politicians say their best weapons were never surrendered, and an offshoot — the Hmar People’s Convention Democrats (HPCD) — emerged almost immediately and pressed on with the old demands.

Maoist Consolidation in North East

The Maoists have been able to extend the red corridor to the Northeast. The arrests of various top Maoist leaders in this region during 2013 revealed the extent of Maoist infiltration in Northeast India. Though at present they are restricted to certain pockets of this region, like along the Assam‐Arunachal Pradesh border areas, there is every possibility that they can extend their influence further in 2017. The Maoist rebellion in Northeast India is at present in its latent phase. The ‘latent phase’ involves mobilization of the masses, political awakening, visiting villages, engaging in small struggles on local issues, picking up students’ issues, fighting corruption, short–listing shelter and arms dumps and identification of local militant elements. This exactly is what the Maoists in Northeast India are doing at present. But this phase may soon pass away. With the arrested Maoist leaders already revealing that they were in touch with youths from Meghalaya and they being able to create a support base in the districts of Goalpara, Bongaigaon, Silchar, Karimganj and Kamrup in Assam. It is a possibility that the Maoists may be able to consolidate their presence further in the region during 2017 and we may see the Maoists begin to engage in violent activities against the state machinery.

Spread of Islamist Militancy

Northeast India, shares an 1880 km long porous border with Bangladesh, a country that is a hotbed of Islamist militancy. Though radical Islam has not yet seeped into the Muslim population in the region, the arrests of twelve persons in Assam during November‐December 2014 with links with the Islamist terror outfit Jamaat‐ul‐Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) shows that radicalization of a section of Muslim population has begun in the region. The arrested persons have confessed that JMB was eyeing pockets inhabited by people of Bangladesh origin as well as districts like Sivasagar in eastern Assam, where it is said to have motivated some people. Though Islamist militancy is yet to find a root in Northeast, we may see efforts from Islamists to spread radical Islam among the Muslim population in the region in 2017.

Sankar Ray

Faculty, North East Institute of Advanced Studies

Neighbouring Countries and Changing Dynamics

………To be continued in Part III


Part I and II : Some references

  1. North East division – Ministry of Home Affairs
  2. Administrative Reforms Commission:
  3. Centre for development and peace studies:
  6. Instability Parameters in Northeastern India – IDSA research
  7. INSURGENCIES IN NORTH-EAST ASIA: Moving Towards Resolution by Gautam Das
  8. Internal Security Problems in Northeast India: Insurgency and Counter Insurgency by Onkar Pawar
  9. IPCS (Institute of peace and conflict studies)
  10. C-NES (Centre for North East studies and policy research)



What Threatens Peace in India’s Northeast?



(A complete diary of insurgency, extremist movements, Ethno-political scenario on Strategic alliance and cross-border links)

State and non-state elements in India’s neighbourhood have been supporting insurgency in the North-East to weaken the Indian state. In the 1960s and 1970s, insurgents from the region, particularly the Naga rebels, had received moral and material support from China. Moreover, elements in Pakistan and Bangladesh too have been aiding North-East Indian insurgents from time to time. The sanctuaries in Bhutan and Myanmar have emerged out of the inability of their governments to adequately administer the border areas or deal effectively with the hostile activities of the Indian insurgents inside their respective territories.

An introduction – North East India

Northeast India is the eastern-most region of India. It is connected to East India via a narrow corridor (Siliguri corridor) squeezed between independent nations of Bhutan and Bangladesh.  North East India comprises of seven states commonly known as the “Seven Sisters”. They are Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura.


Comparative status of North East




(as per Census 2011)


(Sq Km)

Percentage All India Person

(per Sq Km)

  Population Area  
Arunachal Pradesh 1382611 83743 0.11% 2.54% 16.51
Assam 3,11,69,272 78438 2.57% 2.38% 397.37
Manipur 2721756 22327 0.22% 0.67% 122.17
Meghalaya 2964007 22429 0.24% 0.68% 132.15
Mizoram 1091014 21081 0.09% 0.64% 51.75
Nagaland 1980602 16579 0.16% 0.50% 119.46
Sikkim 6,07,688 7096 0.05% 0.21% 85.63
Tripura 36,17,032 10486 0.29% 0.31% 344.93
Total NE 4,55,33,982 262179 3.07% 7.97% 173.67
All India 121,00,00,000 32,87,263   374.17

Strategic Importance

Northeast India has an extraordinarily important international strategic dimension and is a vital part of the nation’s defence architecture. These states share their borders with other countries like Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar and China.

  1. International border

It makes up close to 40% of India’s land borders with its neighbours.

  1. Bridge to South East Asia

The region is at the crossroads of India and Southeast Asia. It is a bridgehead between India and the vibrant economies of Southeast Asia, including southern China.


  1. Economic Significance

North East is endowed with huge natural resource (oil, gas, coal, hydro, fertile land etc.) which can be harnessed for nation development.

The conflict in North East India – overview

In the brief “overviews” of conflicts in the different northeastern States, the aim seems to be to present a quick take on the northeast, without entering into the cardinal factors that have sustained the militant movements over several decades. But the fact is that the region has had, for centuries, a wonderful mix of peoples and civilisations.  A cursory look at the demographic mosaic of northeastern India would show that this region is home to a curious amalgam of cross-cutting societies. What compounds the problem of this plurality is the fact that the tendency for ethno-political assertion is high among almost all the groups. This is primarily because the political boundaries in most cases do not coincide with the existing social boundaries. The northeastern units of the Indian federation, in spite of several political permutations and combinations have not been able to cater to the demands of all the ethnic categories clamouring for recognition of their distinctive identity.

National conflicts: It involves concept of a distinct ‘homeland’ as a separate nation and pursuit of the realization of that goal by use of various methods both violent as well as non-violent. Ex: ULFA demand for sovereign Asom, NSCN for Greater Nagaland.

Ethnic conflicts: It involves assertion of numerically smaller and less dominant tribal groups against the political and cultural hold of the dominant tribal group. In Assam, this also takes the form of tension between local and migrant communities.

Sub-regional conflicts: It involves movements which ask for recognition of sub-regional aspirations and often come in direct conflict with the State Governments or even the autonomous Councils. Ex: UPDS in Assam.

Major insurgent groups in North East India


1. United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA)
2. National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB)
3. Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO)***
1. Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC)
2. Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA)***
1. All Tripura Tiger Force (ATTF)
2. National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT)
1. People’s Liberation Army (PLA)
2. United National Liberation Front (UNLF)
3. People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PREPAK)
4. Kangleipak Communist Party (KCP)
5. KangleiYaolKannaLup (KYKL)
6. Manipur People’s Liberation Front (MPLF)
7. Revolutionary People’s Front (RPF)
8. Coordination committee Cor-Com

Conglomerate of Six valley base UG outfit

1. The National Socialist Council ofNagaland (IsakMauivah) [NSCN(I/M)]
2. The National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Khaplang) [NSCN(K)]**
3. The National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Khole-Kitovi) [NSCN(KK)]
4. The National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Reformation) [NSCN(R)]
*All militant outfits mentioned above except NSCM(I/M), NSCN(KK) and NSCN(R) have been declared ‘Unlawful Associations’ under Unlawful Activities(Prevention) Act, 1967. In addition, the outfits named above in respect of Assam, Manipur and Tripura have also been listed as ‘terrorists organisation’ in the schedule to mentioned Act.

**NSCN(K) declared as ‘Unlawful association’ and terrorist organisation

***KLO and GNLA declared only as terrorist organisations.

Reasons for conflict – State wise


Assam is the first state of NE India post 1947. Radical turn in Assamese nationalism can be traced back to the influx of illegal migrants from East Pakistan after Partition in 1947 and later since 1971 onwards after the formation of Bangladesh. Massive migrant flow created immense anxiety amongst the Assamese middle classes and the rural masses and led to Violent protests. Revenues from Assam’s other famous product—tea—were also going to the head offices located in West Bengal. Most proximate cause of the Assam Agitation (1979-1985) was however malpractices in the electoral procedure in 1978. All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) led an agitation demanding the 1951 National Register for Citizens be utilized to determine the citizenship of all those living in Assam. There was creation of one of the most persistent of violent ethnic movements in Assam—the United Liberation front of Assam(ULFA). On 07 April 1979, ULFA was formed on at Ranghar, in Sivasagar, a sight of historical significance since the time of the Ahom rule. ULFA wants Assam’s status to the Ahom ruled Assam, pre-1826 treaty of Yandaboo between the British and the Burmese, which brought in British rule in Assam. Recruits of the ULFA were drawn from the Asom Jatiyabadi Parishad (AJYCP)-SwadhinAsom (Independent Assam). On 03 September 2011, peace talk held and Tripartite agreement for Suspension of Operations (SoO) against ULFA was Signed between Indian Government, Assam government and ULFA. On July 2012, violence broke out with riots between indigenous Bodos and Bengali-speaking Muslims (who were suspected to be illegal Bangladeshi muslims. There are various Statehood demands in Assam like, Bodoland, KarbiAnglong, Dimaraji, Kamtapur. General reasons behind their demand of separate statehood are based upon preserving and promoting their ethnic identity, for rapid economic development in backward areas and to ensure control over natural resources like land.


Kingdom of Manipur was merged with the Indian Union on 15 October 1949. However, only after a protracted agitation interspersed with violence, it was declared a separate state in 1972. The emergence of insurgency in Manipur is formally traced to the emergence of the United National Liberation Front (UNLF) on 24 November 1964. The alleged ‘forced’ merger of Manipur and the delay in the conferring of full-fledged statehood to it was greatly resented by the people of Manipur. Since then several other outfits, like the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), founded on September 25, 1978, People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PREPAK) set up on October 9, 1977 and the Kangleipak Communist Party (KCP) that came into being in April, 1980 have emerged in the valley areas consisting of four districts of the State. All these insurgent groups have been demanding a separate independent Manipur.

From Nagaland, violence by the Naga groups has also spilled over into Manipur, a substantial part of which is claimed by the Isak-Muivah faction of National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM) as part of Nagalim, the proposed unified territory of the Nagas as claimed by the Naga rebels. Several clashes between the NSCN-IM and the Khaplang faction of National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-K) have been reported from the hill districts of the State. Kuki tribals in the early 1990s initiated their own brand of insurgency against the alleged oppression by the NSCN-IM. Following ethnic clashes between the Nagas and Kukis in the early 1990s, a number of Kuki outfits were formed. Several other tribes, such as the Paite, Vaiphei and Hmars have also established their own armed groups. Similarly, Islamist outfits like the People’s United Liberation Front (PULF) have also been founded to protect the interests of the ‘Pangals’ (Manipuri Muslims). Today, Manipur is one of the worst affected states in the Northeast where at least 12 insurgent outfits are active at present. A report of the State Home department in May 2005 indicated that ‘as many as 12,650 cadres of different insurgent outfits with 8830 weapons are actively operating in the State’.

According to government sources, the strength of those concentrated in the valley districts, is assessed at around 1500 cadres for the Revolutionary People’s Front (RPF) and its army wing, the PLA, 2500 cadres for the UNLF and its army wing Manipur People’s Army (MPA), 500 cadres for the PREPAK and its army wing Red Army, while Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lup (KYKL) and its Yawol Lanmi army is assessed as having a strength of 600 cadres. The Kangleipak Communist Party (KCP)’s strength is assessed at 100 cadres.

The UNLF, PLA, KYKL, PREPAK and the KCP have been involved in some of the serious attacks on security forces. The insurgents have an avowed policy of not targeting the state police personnel, unless circumstances demand it. The practice of directing their attack on the Army and the central para-military personnel is an attempt to create a divide between Manipur and India and to secure vital popular support.  Manipur had been declared a ‘disturbed area’ in its entirety in 1980 and the Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA), 1958 was imposed in the State on 8 September, 1980, which continues to be in place till now. The implementation of this Act resulted in the State witnessing an unprecedented civic uprising, including the infamous “mothers’ nude protest” and Irom Sharmila protest against the Act . The AFSPA is still embroiled in controversy and the people of Manipur are continuing their protest against the Act.

Sankar Ray

Faculty, North East Institute of Advanced Studies [NE-IAS]






Act Northeast instead Act east Policy


Since 1992 liberalization, India is trying to reduce trade barriers and is expanding. With SAARC not coming to a fruitful position of lately, India’s Act east policy (Look east policy) has taken pivotal role. Developing northeast as the gateway to countries located in east of India has been the talking point.

Trilateral highway(India, Myanmar, Thailand), BCIM( Bangladesh, China, India, Myanmar) and Kaladan Project(India, Myanmar) are the road and river connectivity Corridors which will link northeastern states to neighboring countries like Myanmar, China, Bangladesh, Thailand, China etc.

Bright areas

It will boost the infrastructure in Northeastern states of India. Once the infrastructure is placed, economic activities will get boost from neighboring countries. Which is good for specific development of northeastern states to its potential and India at large. Social and cultural exchanges which include health and education will also go to next level because of means of communication available. Economic prosperity will also bring some respite to conflicts like insurgency, ethnic conflict. This step will also develop neighboring countries like Myanmar and Bangladesh and hence the need of migration to northeastern states from these countries will not be as before.

Grey areas

 Connectivity may not filter to grassroots level as intra connectivity within northeastern states is also important. It may happen that this connectivity may only enrich already rich strata of society. The insurgency and ethnic conflict may play spoil sport in proper functioning of these highways.


 Act northeast instead act east may be the solution of the problem. Developing northeast from grassroots level by enriching road and train connectivity within the northeastern states. Bringing the different leaders of all ethnic variety to one table and making arrangements that all the differences are solved on table instead of insurgency and armed rebellion. Leaders in Delhi of central government have to be sensitive to the dynamism of northeastern ethnic and cultural richness and should find the optimum consensus. Concern of northeastern leadership that centre takes away precious minerals and oil from northeast but doesn’t reciprocate equitably to northeast development should be handled with sensitivity and concrete results. Then act east will also become reality as its core that is northeastern India is safe and prosperous which is long overdue.

Sunil k Awasthi

Faculty, North East Institute of Advanced Studies [NE-IAS]


North-East: Focusing on Periphery but not Core!


Then there was a debate and it all started from who are the indigenous people of North-East. Why is this question asked ? It was never asked who are the indigenous people of Maharashtra, Punjab, Haryana and so for other states of India. The question is asked because it is understood by political and academic elite to some extent that it is the non-indigenous population of North-East  which is the reason that North- Eastern states are not developed to their potential.


It all started from the understanding that indigenous people are in distress because of Colonisation that happened in 200-300 years ago. Colonisation swept the prosperity away from Indigenous Population in Americas, Oceana and Africa. The natural resources were taken in authority by Colonisers through Political and Military powers and indigenous population was deprived of their own resources. The same wave of understanding came to Asia and also affected North-Eastern part of India.

According to World Bank, indigenous people are those who are :  (1) close attachment to ancestral territories and the natural resources in those areas; (2) self-identi- fication and identification by others as members of a distinct cultural group; (3) an indigenous language, often different from the national language; (4) the pres- ence of customary social and political institutions; and (5) primarily subsistence- oriented production.

Let’s think

Now let’s see, is it the migrated population from other parts of India and neighbouring countries like Nepal & Bangladesh who are to be considered as a primary reason for less development of North-Eastern States. If it is the truth then comparing with World Bank definition, indigenous people would have lost their cultural heritage considerably, their traditional language should have suffered a blow and production should have been intensive instead of subsistence. Which is actually not the case.

Politically powers of North eastern states is in the hands of indigenous tribal leaders. That is a different thing that elite section of indigenous people have imbibed other culture values too because of contemporary development in education, business and job opportunities which has made whole world as one global village.

So here comes the profound reason to think that unlike Americas, Africa, Oceana, where colonisers were enjoying political powers, migrated population of north eastern population don’t possess Political powers to exploit indigenous population. In fact, sometimes they look up to indigenous leaders for their welfare.

Then what is the reason that even after 67 years of independence, north eastern states have not developed to their potential. There can be many reasons and even migration can also be one of them to some extent but not the primary reason for sure. The unstable topography of Himalayan region which makes it uncertain project for infrastructure development. Over attachment with traditional culture and less inclination of indigenous population towards inclusive mingling of culture with other parts of India may be another reason which affects the Political will to a large extent. Insurgency affected areas like Nagaland, Manipur, some parts of Assam creating situation of panic is another reason. Armed Forces Acts are also not conducive for developments. Inner line permits and visa to visit another state are good for managing temporary affairs in short run but are not permanent solutions for long term goal of overall development of North Eastern states. At least an Indian should not require any document to visit other parts of his own country, especially when education, business opportunities are making north eastern population to migrate to other parts of India. Resistance of northern, western and southern population is also one of the reasons because it takes two to make a clap.

It will be a win-win situation if we all can be inclusive, embrace each other culture, yet maintain our traditional cultures and walk together to make our country Great which it deserves.

Sunil K Awasthi

Faculty, North East Institute of Advanced Studies