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.
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