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North-East Insurgency

Context: An Assam-based insurgent group Dimasa National Liberation Army (DNLA) has signed a peace agreement with the State government and the Union Government.

Decoding the News

  • Under the peace agreement, the DNLA representatives have agreed to give up violence, surrender including the surrender of arms and ammunition.
  • Dimasa Welfare Council will be set up by the Assam government to protect, preserve and promote a social, cultural, and linguistic identity to meet political, economic and educational aspirations of the Dimasa people.
  • The MoU also provides for the appointment of a Commission under the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution of India to examine the demand for the inclusion of additional villages contiguous to the North Cachar Hills Autonomous Council (NCHAC) with the Council.
  • A Special Development package of Rs 500 crore each will also be provided by the Government of India and Government of Assam over a period of five years, for all-round development of NCHAC and Dimasa people residing in other parts of the State.
North-East Insurgency
North-East Insurgency

Causes of Insurgency in North East

  • Colonial Policies: There was a historical absence of pre-British and British colonial polices to integrate the areas of North East to the rest of British India.
    • The Government of India Act 1935 made most of the hill areas in the region “excluded areas”, outside the jurisdiction of provincial legislature.
  • Constitutional Arrangement: Autonomous districts and autonomous regions within the districts through the constitutional mechanism fuelled the demand for similar homelands by many of the tribes.
  • Geographical Alienation: The broad racial differences between India and its Northeast and the tenuous geographical link contributed to a sense of alienation.
  • Multiple Ethnicity: Northeast India is home to more than 50 ethnic rebel groups – a few demanding complete secession from India, others fighting for ethnic identities and homelands.
  • Lack of Opportunities: The continuous lack of economic opportunities and underdevelopment creates incentives for unemployed youths to join armed movements where they earn a salary.
  • Immigration: Immigration from the neighboring countries has caused fear of minoritization in many of the region’s indigenous ethnic groups.
  • External Support: China and Pakistan have assisted the armed outfits in North East region with training facilities and weapons. In addition, there were sanctuaries in the neighboring countries of Bhutan, Bangladesh and Myanmar and easy availability of weapons.
  • Territorial Conflicts: There are inter-state and international territorial conflicts within the Northeast that are often based on historical border disputes and differing ethnic, tribal or cultural affinities. Example: Assam-Mizoram Border Dispute.

Major Agreements Signed to Bring Peace and Prosperity to the Northeast

  • Bodo Accord: During the 1960s, the Bodos and other tribes of Assam called for separate state of Udayachal. There were widespread incidents of violence over the years. To resolve the five-decade old Bodo issue in Assam, the Bodo Accord was signed on January 27, 2020 resulting in the surrender of cadres with a huge cache of arms and ammunition.
  • Karbi Anglong Agreement: The Karbis are a major ethnic group of Assam, whose history has been marked by killings, ethnic violence, abductions and taxation since the late 1980s. To resolve the long-running dispute, the Karbi-Anglong Agreement was signed on September 04, 2021, in which armed cadres renounced violence and joined the mainstream of society.
  • Bru-Reang Agreement: Due to ethnic violence in the western part of Mizoram in October 1997, a large number of minorities Bru (Reang) families migrated to North Tripura in 1997-1998. A landmark agreement was signed on January 16, 2020, to resolve the Bru-Reang refugee crisis by which more than 37,000 internally displaced people are being settled in Tripura

Arrangements to Control Insurgency and Foster Integration of Northeast

  • Administrative Arrangements
    • Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region: It is responsible for the matters relating to the planning, execution and monitoring of development schemes and projects in the North Eastern Region.
    • Inner Line Permit: It is a document that allows an Indian citizen to visit or stay in a state that is protected under the ILP system. The system is in force today in three North-eastern states — Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram.
    • Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), 1958: AFSPA Act was deployed in many North Eastern States to control insurgency.
    • AFSPA Act has been reduced from a large part of the North East, fulfilling the long-standing and sentimental demand of the North Eastern states.
  • Constitutional Arrangements:
    • Article 244 & Sixth Schedule: The Sixth Schedule under Article 244 provides for the formation of Autonomous District Councils (ADCs) that have some legislative, judicial, and administrative autonomy within a state.
    • The major rationale behind this provision is that the tribes in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram have not assimilated much in the mainstream.  Therefore, they are treated differently by the Constitution.
  • Government Policies and Schemes:
    • Act East Policy: The Objective of ”Act East Policy” is to promote economic cooperation, cultural ties and develop strategic relationships with countries in the Asia-Pacific region.
      • The Act East policy is playing an instrumental role in bringing a paradigm shift and marking a significant change in the potential role of the North-East region.
    • Prime Minister’s Development Initiative for the North Eastern Region – PM-Devine: This is Central Sector Scheme aims to fund infrastructure, support social development projects and enable livelihood activities for youth and women in the north east region.
    •  Inter-Ministerial Task Force for Agriculture: As agriculture sector is primary employer in the NE Region, this Task Force was constituted by the Central Govt for planned development of the North East Region.
    • Advancing North East Portal: It is a digital web-based platform that provides needed knowledge and guidance – in education, employment and entrepreneurship – to the youth of North East Region.
    • North East Special Infrastructure Development Scheme (NESID):  It is a central sector scheme, aimed to support filling up gaps of infrastructure in the Region in identified sectors like water supply, power, connectivity, tourism and social infrastructure in the areas of primary and secondary sectors of education and health.

Way Forward

  • The best way to integrate the North-east is to firstly restore law and order so that businesses are encouraged to invest.
  • There is a need to totally overhaul the administration so that people who care for the region are involved in the planning and execution of the development projects.
  • There is a need to encourage and create manufacturing hubs so that it makes economic sense to truly use the Northeast for trade with the ASEAN economies.
  • Creation of world-class road, rail, and other infrastructure is required. The local raw material must be processed locally so that logistics cost is reduced and the local economy is given a boost.
  • Tourism in this region has immense potential which must be fully exploited.
  • There is immense potential within the region to conduct several traditional festivals that can culminate in a collective display of cultures, dresses, and dances of each state at the regional level.
  •  Well-organised sports meets can help create strong bonds leading to a more cohesive Northeast.

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