Insurgency in North East India
By: Sarah Pearce
For decades, Northeastern India has faced relentless violence from rebel groups seeking autonomy from the Indian government. Militant groups started with India’s independence in 1947, when they felt like their voices weren’t heard by the government, “Militants in India’s northeast once enjoyed vast popular support since they, in their formative years, voiced genuine grievances of the people such as poor governance, alienation, lack of development and an apathetic attitude from the central government in New Delhi.” Now that they don’t have sway with the government, they make themselves heard through militant acts including bombings and shootings.
The unstable region is made up of eight states: Meghalaya, Manipur, Assam, Mizoram, Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, and Sikkam. It is likely volatile because this Northeast region touches Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, China, and Nepal. These eight Indian states are not strongly connected to the rest of India, as they sit on the outer edge of India with a variety of cultures mixing together creating new identities and nationalities.
Other factors that contributed to the escalation of conflict in the region include neighboring countries supplying weapons to the insurgent groups. It is known that Bangladesh supplied weapons and training to the Naga army. China is also a known contributor of support and weapons to these groups. Another reason conflict developed is thanks to the region and economy being underdeveloped. The land is rich in resources, and has therefore, been exploited by outside groups. The area is isolated and lacks support from the central government. Along with this isolation, the region is home to 213 tribal groups. They feel a need to fight to protect their tribes and culture. These groups are demanding independence from the Indian government.
These militant groups have been a significant threat to Indian security for over 50 years. For many, their ideologies have transformed from their original intent and according analysts of the region, “most of the militant outfits in the region have been quick to transform themselves into purely terrorist entities.” In contrast to the acts of terror that have plagued the region for years, India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, is making strides in pushing peace accords with all tribes-people willing to put down their guns. The violence, which has plagued the region for decades, is quieting down thanks to these agreements. Insurgency incidents have declined by 63% in recent years.
The Indian government is now working to make deals with as many insurgency groups as it can. The government is listening to these peoples’ demands and complaints and seeking to make changes. Modi is enabling these people to turn a new leaf and leave the violence behind them. The government will provide “technical skills to those who surrendered to take up jobs in the near future.” This forgiveness from the Indian government to the Northeast of India, will foster new cooperation only if the militant groups feel like they have been heard and seen. This means they want to see the government recognize what they demand and give them the ability to fix problems that arise within their own states.
India must have a greater presence in the region, without exploiting the region’s resources or ignoring the demands being made. The greater fear is that the region will balkanize, touching borders with Tibet, Myanmar, Bangladesh, and Bhutan. This region is vulnerable to other political entities gaining control of the region, posing danger to India’s national security. The picture above shows China trying to get involved and push its own agenda by supporting the insurgent groups. The people want greater autonomy so that they can feel heard and have the ability to make changes to their region. If the central government lacks incentive to have a presence up there, then it should allow for the region to be more autonomous if the region can show cooperativeness and sign the peace accords offered. The government should be concerned for and aware of the region, because it will break out in more frequent violence if the people feel once again neglected. In order for India to be able to step into the world as a global power, it needs to find a solution to appease these groups. It won’t be capable of becoming a progressing geopolitical strength in its region without resolving its major insurgency problems in its northeast region.
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