Ethno Nationalism in North Eastern India

Author: Brigadier R S Grewal, VSM (Retd)

Period: April 2003 - June 2003

Ethno Nationalism in North Eastern India

Brigadier R S Grewal, VSM (Retd)



Mention India, and it conjures up images of a country of continental dimensions, the largest democracy in the world, which is home to people of diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds. At the time of independence there was British India plus 562 princely states under British Paramountcy. The founding fathers of the Indian Constitution had aimed to mould these into a secular and democratic state. They had sought to shape an overarching Indian identity in the face of staggering diversity and reality of pluralism. This was hoped to be achieved by guaranteeing fundamental rights, in some cases through specific provisions for the protection of minorities. Similarly, special legislative and administrative safeguards were provided in the Constitution to protect the cultural and social heritage of the people of the North East. But the creation of states on linguistic basis gave a fillip to regionalism and encouraged fissiparous tendencies in the national polity. Simultaneously, numerous socio political and economic factors also combined together to spawn ethno nationalist movements in the North Eastern India. Thus, today India faces a challenging task of democratic management of numerous ethnic conflicts, some of these with secessionist overtones in the North East.

Politico-Cultural Divide 

Historians maintain that the boundaries of ancient India roughly coincide with those of the present day South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). There are some who believe that except for the period under the British rule, India has never been a nation state. Other historians disagree and maintain that India has always been a cultural and economic entity and the North East has always been an integral part of India. There is also a school of thought which maintains that the population of North Eastern India has greater affinity with the people of South East Asia than with those from the rest of India. The political and cultural isolation of the Seven Sisters has spawned these observations. Perhaps, it is because of such divergent views and the prevailing situation that it is not very uncommon to hear the Indian leaders emphasising the importance of early integration of the people of the North East into the national mainstream. 

It is believed that the Mongoloid people entered North Eastern India at about the time when the Aryans arrived in the North West. The former settled down in the Himalayan belt and the foothills. Till the end of the first millennium, there was regular interaction between them and the indigenous population of India. The region had close affiliations with other parts of the country as well. The areas forming the present day Assam, Tripura and North Bengal formed a political and cultural entity under the sovereignty of indigenous rulers of Barman, Salastambha and Pala dynasties. Parasuram Kund, a famous temple along the banks of River Lohit establishes the links of the region with the rest of India and finds mention in the Puranas. Ancient ruins at Bhishmak Nagar related to the Mahabharta era, in the Roing District of Arunachal Pradesh, discovery of Malinithan ruins related to Parvati, Lord Krishna and Rukmini, embodiment of ‘Ras Leela’ in classical and folk song and dance forms in Manipur and the presence of a large number of Shiva temples in Upper Assam bear testimony to the close interaction between the people of North Eastern region and the rest of India. Some historians believe that the Vaishnavite culture spread from Upper Assam to other regions. A dance form, known as the Naga-Bihu dance, performed by the tribes of Tirap District of Arunachal Pradesh reinforces this belief. There is also evidence to prove that the cult of Goddess Shakti took roots during the first millennium in the Dibang Valley and Lohit Districts of present day Arunachal Pradesh. There is mention of a place of worship, known as the Tamreshwari Temple, located near the confluence of Rivers Lohit and Kundil, which was a famous centre for Tantric rites. The Guwahati State Museum is a repository of artifacts that prove beyond doubt the linkages of the region with the rest of India. The epigraphical evidence is in the form of plate inscriptions, dating back to 6th century AD, which are in Brahmi script and Sanskrit language. It is believed that the Assamese language has evolved subsequently from the Brahmi script and Sanskrit language. A sculpture of tribal Durga displayed in the Museum also reinforces the cultural linkages of the region with the rest of the country. 

The situation changed in the early half of the second millennium with the arrival of Muslim invaders in the North West and Ahoms in the North East. Though the Mughals were able to extend their influence upto Central Assam, the Ahoms continued to rule over the Upper Assam and the territories East and immediately South of it. Consolidation of the Ahom kingdom in the North East prevented the spread of Mughal influence in the region. Thus began an era of isolation of the North East from the rest of India. It continued till the late nineteenth century when the British defeated the Ahoms and wrested control of Assam from the Burmese. But, due to administrative constraints, the British enacted various laws like the Inner Line Regulation Act 1873, which inhibited the full integration of the region with India, though it remained part of the British India. The above, however, does not imply that the arrival of Ahoms brought about a complete halt to the interaction between the people of the two empires. Cultural and linguistic affiliations continued, though, at a much lower level. Plate inscriptions dating back to the Ahom period displayed in the Guwahati State Museum stand testimony to this fact. These inscriptions are in Assamese while the language is in Sanskrit. It is just that the two regions were being ruled by sovereigns belonging to two distinct cultures. The rulers of the North East showed greater affinity with the region East of the Patkai ranges. The era saw the beginning of North Eastern India becoming a bridge between the Indo-Gangetic and South East Asian cultures.

The British developed the communication network in the region with the sole aim of exploiting the local resources. Military operations in Burma during World War II forced the British to change their policy. A large number of airfields, the famous Ledo road and the road linking Dimapur to Kohima and further to Burma via Moreh and Tamu came up. Rail network of the country was extended further to the North East and the old Dibrugarh-Dhola railway was linked to it at Tinsukia. After partition of the country in 1947 only land route available to link North Eastern India with the rest of the country has been the narrow Siliguri corridor. The fragile and circuitous route has shattered the economy of the region. The region also lost its most natural port of entry at Chittagong that provided an access to the outside world for the states of Tripura and Manipur and to an extent to Mizoram and lower Assam. The inland water transport network from Dhaka to Guwahati also got disrupted. The final blow came with the earthquake in 1950, which caused extensive damage to the river ports at Sadiya and Dibrugarh. These developments compounded the effects of political and cultural isolation from the country that the region had suffered during the major part of second millennium. Thus, the historical chasm was further dilated by geopolitical factors brought about by the artificial boundaries between India and Pakistan. 

In addition to the poor state of infrastructure, which inhibited the economic growth of the region, the political and cultural isolation further perpetrated by our colonial masters widened the chasm between the North East and the rest of the country. It is ironical that even today, after 56 years of independence, there is no school level textbook, which deals with the history over the ages of the complete Indian sub continent. By no stretch of imagination can the blame for this be laid at the door of our erstwhile colonial masters. This politicisation of the education curricula has contributed to the ignorance about the region amongst not only the average ‘educated’ Indian but also the elite. A survey carried out in a prestigious institute like the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai highlighted that almost 90 per cent of its post graduate students were ignorant about the socio economic environment and the cultural heritage of North Eastern India. The people of the North East do not accept the culture and traditions of Indo-Gangetic ‘heartland’ as those of the national mainstream. They are proud of their past, especially of their ability of having been able to withstand the onslaught of the Mughal empire. The isolation of the region over the past so many centuries and lack of realisation on the part of the elite of the peculiar historical, social, and cultural factors in different sub regions of the North East have resulted in disillusionment and a feeling of neglect in them.

Crisis of Identity

North East is home to almost 75 major population groups and sub groups who speak almost 400 languages and dialects. Based on factors like race, language and religion, various sub regions in this part of the country display distinct socio-cultural and political leanings and attributes. This was one of the main contributory factor for the creation of four states out of the erstwhile state of Assam. The rationale of size of population and economic viability was sacrificed in favour of political pressure, which invariably was accompanied by violent means. However, the elite of different dominant groups, having started the chain reaction, now find themselves incapable of controlling it. There are demands for further sub division of some of these states. For example, the Bodos are demanding a separate state; people of Changlang and Tirap districts of Arunachal Pradesh are demanding to be given the status of Union Territory. On the other hand, the Nagas are demanding Nagalim, which means amalgamation of Naga inhabited areas of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Manipur with Nagaland. The root cause of this ethno nationalistic phenomenon lies in a feeling of economic deprivation and the failure of the state machinery to meet the local aspirations. Invariably, this failure on socio-economic front gets attributed to ethnic bias in distribution of resources, which are already scarce.

Creation of autonomous district councils or for that matter the village councils has not helped much in bringing about an economic transformation of the region. The concept of autonomous councils granted in the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution was evolved to achieve development by accelerating the process of socio-economic upliftment, and thereby ensuring progress and prosperity. However, that has not happened and the people have got disillusioned. The states in the region are heavily dependent on grants from the Centre. Their own revenue collection is very meagre. Rampant corruption has resulted in regular siphoning off, of a big chunk of the resources by vested interests. Thus, the states have failed to deliver the basic requirements of their societies. This failure to meet the aspirations of the people has generated demands from various elite-groups for creation of new states. Invariably, in a society riven with gargantuan tribal loyalties, the criteria of ethnic identity in such demands gets projected more predominantly against that of economic viability. The people who make these demands forget that whether it is a regional council, a state or a union territory, these are all vehicles and mechanisms of governance. Their ultimate objective is the welfare of the people. Even a village panchayat could produce good results if it is efficiently managed. The need is for good governance. Vested interests have ensured that the public attention is diverted from the fact that it is not the concept of district and village councils in the North East that has failed, but the managers, both at bureaucratic and political levels have been found wanting. So far these councils have been looked upon as sources of power status and easy money by various interest groups, who have squeezed these for personal gains. That has been the crux of the problem. 

A major grouse of the people of the North East is against the system of representation in the Parliament. The common feeling is that due to their insignificant strength their views do not carry weight at the national level. To an extent it is true. Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram have just one Member Parliament (MP) each to represent them. In a system dominated by vote politics these MPs are unable to project the problems of their respective states forcefully. The tribal based intra sub-regional rivalries have inhibited the growth of political parties of significance. Consequently, the points of view of the states generally do not get projected at the national level, thereby, bequeathing a sense of despondency. Even within the national level parties, the states of the region do not have adequate representation in various decision-making fora. In addition, corruption at all levels results in the benefits, whatever may be their scale, getting siphoned off either for unproductive ventures or for personal use by various interest groups.

A major factor that adds to alienation of a sizeable segment of population is the rapid transformation taking place in the tribal societies. Traditionally, the tribals in the region have been dependent on community based societies. Though, by no stretch of imagination can these societies be termed as primitive, yet they have not had the benefit of modern science and technology for their development. The people generally believe in super natural powers and tribal customary laws govern the life in communities. The infrastructural growth in the region, though not at a desirable pace and scale, has exposed these communities to the market economy and the consequential developments in the socio-political fields have created a conflict situation between the past value systems and the forces of modernisation. Thus, the tribal communities are now in a state of flux. The concept of nuclear families is fast replacing the community-based way of living. The hold of village elders over the society is weakening by the day. Trust and credibility, a significant facet of tribal societies, is fast making way for a materialistic way of living. Earlier, the village communities had their own models of democracy which functioned very efficiently. Their concept of democracy has now been replaced by a set up which has been subverted by corruption. 

Introduction of irrelevant educational curricula has weaned away the youth from their traditional occupations but has failed to provide them with any worthwhile vocations. Insurgent movements and trade in narcotics have taken their toll amongst the youth. Resultant changes in the societies have been very fast and have resulted in a feeling of invasion of an alien culture. Thus, an apprehension of a crisis of identity has been generated by the fear of cultural submergence.

Underdevelopment and Social Insecurity

North Eastern India has been facing increasing challenges as it copes with pressures emanating from its ethnic diversity. The rising challenges of ethno-nationalism and erosion of the state authority pose an increasing threat to the national security. Progressive collapse of political and public institutions, increasing social unrest and growing corruption in public life have greatly undermined the confidence of the common man in the ruling elite.

The present socio political scene in the North East thus underlines disturbing trends. According to an estimate, there are more than 40 insurgent groups operating in the region. Absence of credible conflict management mechanisms is evident from the situation which is deteriorating by the day. Widespread poverty and unemployment, increasing economic disparities as compared with the rest of the country and those within the region and growing corruption in public life are further adding fuel to the fire. Increasing mobilisation for economic and political space by more and more socio-economic groups is causing turbulence in an environment of limited resources and constrained capabilities of redistribution of wealth. Thus, the fear of identity is further compounded by a social security factor, which essentially boils down to protecting the land from outsiders and in some cases within the region from other ethnic groups. The origins of Inner Line Regulation Act, 1873 could be attributed to that. The fears of the tribals of all the North Eastern states are heightened by the fate that has befallen Assam. Since the state did not come under the ambit of the Inner Line Regulation Act, the influx of people from outside has created a situation where the Assamese are in the danger of being reduced to a minority in their own state. Therefore, different interest groups in Meghalaya are demanding that the Inner Line Regulation Act be made applicable to their state also. The concept of ‘lebensraum’ being propagated by Bangladesh, albeit without actually declaring so, confirms that the fears of the people of the region are not totally unfounded. They perceive their need for survival as tribals paramount and give secondary importance to development. Some state governments do not even levy sales tax, the most productive of state taxes, to avoid issuing registration certificates which could later be produced as proof of residence.

The Present Situation

Assam. In the first half of the 20th century, Assam could afford some migration from other parts of the country. There was a tremendous demand for cheap labour to work in the tea estates. But it started a trend which continued unabated. Creation of East Pakistan in 1947 compounded the problem further. There was an increase in the total population of Assam by 82 per cent during the period 1951 to 1971. After 1971 the demographic pattern in 10 out of the 23 districts of Assam has completely changed. This has created divisions in the society on ethnic and religious grounds. Rampant unemployment has further aggravated the situation. In such an environment the disillusioned and unemployed youth have provided a fertile base to the anti national elements to foment trouble. The anti-outsider Assam Movement which started in 1979 resulted in the Assam Accord, 1985. The Illegal Migrant (Determination by Tribunals) Act, or IM (DT) Act that came into being as a result of the Assam Accord has not been effective. The fears of the Assamese are not without a material bias. The caste-Hindu Assamese have become a minority in their own land. The Bengali Muslims who had settled down in the Brahmaputra Valley registered themselves in the 1951 census as Assamese speaking. Thus, they became a dominant vote bank with a majority in some districts. Moreover, following identity assertions in the North East, many small and marginalised communities who had earlier identified themselves as Assamese in the censuses, started stressing on their own identities. Most vociferous amongst these were the Bodos and Morans who were the inhabitants of the land before the arrival of the Ahoms. The Assamese Hindus are apprehensive that with the rapid rise in the number of Bangladeshi Muslims, the latter will become a politically dominant majority. Different political parties have exploited the situation to further their own partisan ends and the problems of identity and ‘culture-in-crisis’ has taken a grave turn. In trying to assert their identity the Assamese have alienated both the Bengali Hindu as well as the Bengali Muslim settlers. The Assam Accord has failed because there is no agreement on the definition of ‘Indigenous Assamese’. Similarly, the IM (DT) Act has not made much headway because it is virtually impossible to detect a foreign national based on the criteria laid down by it. Instead of succeeding in deporting any sizeable number of foreign nationals, the dispute today, after 16 years of enacting the law, is whether we should have two different laws in the country to deal with foreign nationals; the IM (DT) Act applicable to Assam and Foreign Nationals Act, 1946 for the rest of the country. Similarly, the Bodo Autonomous Council (BAC) has failed because it has not been possible to lay down its territorial jurisdiction. With the result there have been no elections to the BAC since its inception. Thus, the situation today is really explosive with the cadres of various militant groups operating in the state to guard the interests of their respective communities. The United Liberation Front of Assam(ULFA), surrendered ULFA (SULFA), Bodo Security Force (BSF), National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), Bodoland Liberation Tigers Force (BLTF), Bengal Tiger Force (BTF), All Assam Adivasi Suraksha Samiti (AASS), Muslim Security Force (MSF), Muslim United Liberation Front of Assam (MULFA), Muslim Liberation Tigers of Assam (MULTA) and United People’s Democratic Society (UPDS) in Karbi Anglong are some of the outfits operating in the area offering an ideal opportunity to foreign powers to exploit the situation.

Nagaland. The Nagas have been the most obstreperous agitators to establish their separate identity. They had raised the issue with the British in 1929 and had again made a representation before the Simon Commission in 1935 in support of their demand. The Hydari-Naga accord signed at the time of Indian independence in 1947 placated them to some extent. But there were some disgruntled and vocal elements who again revived the demand for an independent Nagaland. Inept handling of the situation worsened the matters further. The Naga insurgency started in 1956. Though, a ceasefire has been in force since 1997 in Nagaland, the vexed problem is defying a solution. National Socialist Council of Nagaland, (Isak-Muivah) or NSCN (IM) and NSCN, Khaplong (K) are the two major insurgent groups. When Nagaland became the 16th state of India, it constituted just one district of Assam. However, the Nagas are not confined to Nagaland alone but are spread across contiguous areas in Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh in India and in Myanmar across the border. The Nagas claim the Tirap District in Arunachal Pradesh, areas in Sivasagar, Karbi Anglong, Golaghat and North Cachar districts of Assam and Ukhrul, Senapati, Chandel and Tamenglong districts of Manipur. In fact, the state assembly of Nagaland has on three occasions passed resolutions demanding a merger of these areas with their state. This concept of greater Nagaland is known as Nagalim. The situation today is so grave that various anti national elements have resorted to mass scale and systematised extortions. The so-called Government of Peoples Republic of Nagalim (GPRN) has admitted through a statement issued on 29 July 2001 that they have been collecting taxes from the population annually. The concept of Nagalim is likely to give an ideological boost to the insurgent movement that had started loosing steam due to lack of ideology. The people were getting fed up with the insurgency related environment and the new recruits in the underground movement were turning out to be ignorant brigands living on money extorted from their own people. The concept of Nagalim, an ethnicity based state, can never be accepted by the Government of India.

Manipur. Manipur was a princely state, which acceded to the Indian Union. The hill areas South of Assam were not under the British Crown. Manipur, Tripura and Khasi hills all merged into India as part of Assam after independence. For many years, politics, not economics, was the dominant issue. Initially a mentality persisted that they were not part of the Republic but were pressurised into joining it. After they became part of India, their struggle for identity started. It was only after creation of the new states that the people started thinking about the economic issues. But mismanagement of development related problems brought the ethnic issues to the forefront. Nearly 80 per cent of the territory of Manipur is hilly terrain. Two thirds of the 2.3 million population of the state is Vaishvanite Meitei Hindus who live in the plains. The rest, including various Naga tribes, live in the hills. Concessions given to the tribals have antagonised the Meiteis resulting in revivalism of old Meitei religion and fanning anti-outsider (anti-Mayang) feelings. Manipur is the second-most literate state in India with 85 per cent literacy. Thus, the level of political awareness of the people is very high. Poor economic conditions of the state provide the basis for militancy and ethnic conflicts. The ethnic divide in Manipur is the most pronounced in North East. Naga-Metei, Naga-Kuki and Kuki-Paite ethnic conflicts abetted by vested political interests have throttled all economic and political activities. The blockade of National Highway (NH) 39 by the Nagas in July-August 2001 to starve Manipur of all essential supplies is a classic example of the depths to which the malaise has penetrated.

 Tripura is surrounded on three sides by Bangladesh and has suffered immensely due to illegal migration from that country. Its tribal population has been reduced to a minority of 28.5 per cent from 93 per cent in 1947. The neglect of the effects of illegal influx into the state, poor governance and mismanagement of the economy have given rise to insurgency. Different militant outfits like the Tripura National Volunteers (TNV), All Tripura Tiger Force (ATTF) and National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT) have sprung up in support of the ethnic cause of the tribals. Some of these have even forged links with the Mizo National Front (MNF), NSCN (IM) and the ULFA. The sectarian feelings of tribals versus non-tribals keep fuelling the secessionist demands. 

Mizoram. Neglect of genuine grievances of the people is another reason for the unrest which invariably gets attributed to ethnic bias. For example, the insurgency in Mizoram erupted mainly because of the famine in the 1960s and the neglect of the people by the powers that be, despite early warnings. The volunteer force raised by the Mizos themselves helped in famine-relief operations. Having realised the apathy of the government towards their plight, the same group later resorted to use of arms in support of their demand for an independent Mizoram. Fortunately, the insurgency related problem has been resolved and Mizoram has been by and large peaceful. But, lately the Bru nationalists have raised their demand for independence. Bru National Liberation Front (BNLF), a Reang outfit, has been operating on the borders of Mizoram demanding independence. Once again it is an insurgent movement based on perceived ethnic bias emanating from poor governance and inequitable distribution of scarce resources. 

Arunachal Pradesh. In majority of the cases the problems related to ethno-nationalism have been either raised by the politicians or have been exploited by them. In Arunachal Pradesh, which had been till recently free from any problems related with insurgency, the Chakma settlers from Chittagong Hill Tracts and Hajong oustees of Kaptai dam have been denied basic citizenship rights despite persistent efforts by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and clear cut rulings by the Supreme Court. Similarly the 86th Amendment Bill of 1999 that has been introduced in the Rajya Sabha at the insistence of Arunachal Pradesh has been criticised by the Lok Sabha’s Standing Committee on Urban and Rural Development. The Bill states that the population in Arunachal comprises only of indigineous tribals but the Committee has pointed out that 36.34 percent of the population is non-tribal. This clearly highlights the ethnic under-currents that operate in the environment.

The Way Ahead

Given the economic environment, the present socio-political scene in North Eastern India is a cause for concern. Assertion of ethno-sectarian identities and the threat of religious fundamentalism, at least in some areas, is unleashing new pressures across the region. The steady influx of illegal immigrants has added to the complexities of the multi-dimensional problems related to ethno-nationalism. It has distorted the social, economic and political profile of the region. The urgent need for long-term constructive policies to reconcile divisive and separatist forces for preserving national cohesiveness in the multi-plural societies in the North East cannot be over emphasised. The requirement of enduring political stability and good governance responsive to the needs and aspirations of the people remains imperative. There is a need for building bridges of trust through dialogue and exchanges in order to bring about a change in mindsets and political perceptions which have been condemned by inadequate understanding of the complexities of the problems.

North Eastern India continues to remain mired in acute problems of under-development and staggering levels of poverty. Illiteracy is keeping large segments of the society in shackles of want and deprivation. There is large scale unemployment, which provides a fertile breeding ground for insurgency. One way to put North Eastern region on its feet is to use development to usher in peace. It will build confidence and stop nurturing insurgency. The tendency amongst the youth to join insurgent groups has to be curbed by providing employment. This need not necessarily be through government jobs. The thrust of the economic policies should be towards generating self-employment. Fisheries, poultry farming, horticulture, flori-culture, agro-based industries, tourism and services are some of the segments with large potential for generating employment opportunities. Development of infrastructure is a must for the economic activities to prosper. That in long term will need investment. The youth need to be made aware that investment flows in only where peace prevails. There is a need to encourage free, frank and open debate on issues affecting the North East. The population must understand the issues in their correct perspectives and in totality.

Identity and security, which are such emotional issues in the North East can be assured through various means like ensuring social upliftment. Land alone need not be the only means of security. Eliminating poverty, illiteracy and ushering in economic reforms can ensure social security and preservation of identity. This can only come about by good governance. Strengthening of grass root level democracy can help in this direction. It must be remembered that the tribal societies were basically democratic in nature. They had lost their moorings due to the influx of alien values ushered in by the so-called development. To restore the situation, sincere efforts are required to strengthen the functioning of tertiary level institutions like panchayats and autonomous councils at village and district levels. There have been half hearted attempts in this direction before. Numerous, hefty packages for the North East have been announced on various occasions, but the benefits have not percolated down to the people at ground level. Unless accompanied by strict accountability, pumping in of money alone will not help. Power brokers who have in the past exploited the communities need to be eliminated. Panchayats and district level councils need to be more effective. At the higher level the mindset of the leaders has to change. The states have been totally dependent on the Centre. This will have to change. The economies of the states in the North East have to be made self sustaining in a time bound manner. All that will require political will and committed bureaucracy. Democratic conflict management requires a substantive distribution of power between the various levels of the state structure. 

Problems of ethnic conflict can be resolved by political and group leaders through accommodation, bargaining and political process, particularly by seeking accommodation with minority groups. But the rider here is on genuine leadership. Leaders must be sincere and sensitive to the needs of the people and such leadership can only come about when the mechanism for governance lays emphasis on accountability. A political and administrative structure which is accountable to people at grass root levels will always tend to strike a balance between individual and group rights.

There is also a need to organise and reproduce a culture, which is more receptive to tolerance and non-violence. The problems created over the decades cannot be solved overnight. There is a need to develop a sense of trustworthiness rather than spouting rhetoric. This is of paramount importance in view of the fact that both political and civil societies in the region have become thoroughly polarised and violent. One vital area where action is needed to overcome the malaise is education. Education in India nurtures an Indo-Gangetic bias. Consequently, it creates a system devoid of democratic norms particularly in the North East. The people here do not get a feeling, right from their childhood, of being part of a set up at national level. What we need is not only an education that champions democracy but also a democratic education. 

Allegations of an unabated influx continue to be made in Assam. Serious efforts are needed from all quarters to solve this vexed problem which would need involvement of Bangladesh. India and Bangladesh have to jointly formulate a strategy for developing Eastern flank of South Asia. Apart from addressing the problem related to illegal influx of migrants from Bangladesh in isolation, a transit treaty could prove to be beneficial to both. It could lead to joint exploitation of the mineral wealth of the region. Once the people of the two countries realise the benefits of mutuality of interests, some of the irritants in their relationships may tend to disappear.

Peace in North Eastern India is possible only through negotiations and by taking into account holistic views of all ethnic groups. The Seven Sisters need positive peace which is people friendly and not the negative one imposed forcibly with deployment of security forces. There is tremendous ignorance amongst the people of the country about the situation in the North East. Restructuring of the curricula at school and college levels could provide a long term solution. Help of the print and the electronic media could be taken in the short term to educate the people. So far the media has not handled the situation sensitively. On their part the ethnic groups need to talk to one another to clear up any misunderstanding and help peace prevail in the area. Indian bureaucracy and political leadership will have to rise to the occasion to help save the Seven Sisters.


Major General Nilendra Kumar is the Judge Advocate General at the Army Headquarters, New Delhi.


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Lt Gen PJS Pannu and Maroof Raza in conversation with Shri JP Dutta (producer, director, filmmaker) and Nomination of Bollywood film Border on 1971 War. Original video can be accessed from: https://w…

Diplomacy and Statecraft Perceptions Information and Media Operations Valley of Words 2021

Lt Gen PJS Pannu in conversation with Sir Mark Tully, Subroto Chattopadhyay and Vishnu Shankar (Editor, TV9 Network) Original video can be accessed from :…

USI- FO Live: Evolving Geopolitics of the Indo-Pacific Region

The United Service Institution of India (USI) and Fair Observer present a panel discussion on the evolving geopolitics of the Indo-Pacific region. Lately, the AUKUS Deal has added another twist to th…

𝐒𝐓𝐑𝐈𝐕𝐄 𝐖𝐞𝐛𝐢𝐧𝐚𝐫 on Buyout Sino Pak Collusivity Implications For India Maj

STRIVE a Lucknow based National and Defence Security Studies Centre organised a Webinar in collaboration with Military Literature Festival, Lucknow on a highly sensitive and contemporary issue the “B…

Can India and Pakistan Take Steps Towards Rapprochement

In this episode Major General BK Sharma (Director - United Service Institution of India) and Lt. General Asad Durrani (Former Director General ISI, Pakistan talks with Analyst Arvind Saharan on Indi…

𝗨𝗡 𝗣𝗲𝗮𝗰𝗲𝗸𝗲𝗲𝗽𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗢𝗽𝗲𝗿𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻𝘀: 𝗣𝗿𝗼𝘁𝗲𝗰𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻 𝗼𝗳 𝗖𝗶𝘃𝗶𝗹𝗶𝗮𝗻𝘀

Over the past few decades, inter-state conflicts waned but there has been an increase in Intra-state conflicts. In any conflict, the innocent civilians are the ones who suffer the most. But the suffer…

Valedictory Address by CDS General Bipin Rawat PVSM UYSM AVSM YSM SM VSM ADC

Valedictory Address by CDS General Bipin Rawat PVSM UYSM AVSM YSM SM VSM ADC The original video of the event can be accessed on the VoW youtube channel:…

Managing Future Conflicts Deterrence and Conflict Prevention: Valley of Words 2021

Major General Dhruv C Katoch, SM, VSM (Retd) in conversation Lieutenant General JS Lidder, UYSM, AVSM (Retd), Ambassador Asoke Mukerji, Shri Arvind Gupta and Lt Gen Prakash Menon PVSM, AVSM, VSM [Retd…


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    All classes of membership except temporary membership and membership of Service Officers applying for Correspondence Courses being conducted by the USI, will be subject to approval by the Executive Committee. The following are ordinarily eligible to become members of the Institution, with full voting rights:-

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