(MENAFN- IANS) By Sujit Chakraborty
Agartala/Guwahati, May 21 (IANS) The northeast region, which covers 8 per cent of India's total geographical area and has 4 per cent of the country's population, presents a complex linguistic mosaic with over 200 tribal dialects.
Since 1947, the history of the northeastern region has been marred with insurgency, ethnic hostility, infiltration from across the border and under development.
Devastated by decades old insurgency and infrequent ethnic hostilities and violence, India's northeastern region, comprising eight states and home to 45.58 million people (2011 census), has abundant natural, mineral and human resources.
Over 200 communities of indigenous tribes and sub-tribes constitute around 28 per cent of the population and they mostly speak in their mother tongue or their indigenous language.
The tribals and non-tribals belong to Hindu, Christian and Muslim communities with different lifestyles, cultures, traditions, food habits and languages.
Surrounded by China, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal, northeast India considered one of the most culturally diverse regions of the world, is a land inhabited by a large number of tribes and sub-tribes, including Garo, Khasi, Jaintia, Adi, Mizo, Karbis Nyishi, Angami, Konyak, Bhutia, Kuki, Rengma, Bodo, Deori, Chakma, Tripuri, Reang, Debbarma.
Besides the insurgency, occasional ethnic violence, riots and disputes and numerous other ethnic conflicts have claimed thousands of lives and damaged huge property during the past many decades in the northeastern region.
Any kind of negative incident involving one or two communities in a particular state often has a counter-effect in other states of the region causing ethnic trouble and tension besides mistrust.
Infiltration from Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal, illegal drugs trade from Myanmar, cultivation of poppy and ganja (marijuana) among other problems create trouble and lead to various crimes in the region, surrounded by 5,437 km international boundaries with China (1300), Myanmar (1643 km), Bangladesh (1880 km), Bhutan (516 km) and Nepal (98 km).
After the signing of several peace accords with many insurgent outfits including the Mizo accord (1986), Tripura National Volunteer (1988), Bodo Accord (2020), over 15,000 cadres of many extremist outfits have surrendered leading to largely taming of the militancy in the region.
The Central government has identified three core objectives for the northeast region.
These include preserving its dialects, languages, dance, music, food and culture and to create awareness and attraction for it across India, to end all disputes in the northeast and make it a peaceful developed region and bring it on par with the rest of India.
In this regard, various inter-state border dispute settlement agreements and peace accords have been signed with the stakeholders.
"Further, with the help of the armed forces, satellite camps of insurgent groups operating from foreign soil have also been neutralised at scale," an official document of the Union Home Ministry said.
It said: "Long pending disputes between various states in the Northeast had been a major concern in the development of the region. Many decades-long disputes are finally getting permanently resolved through the proactive efforts of the Central government. This has given a push to integration and trust and has paved the way forward for long-term peace and progress."
During the 1960s, the Bodos and other tribes of Assam called for a separate state of Udayachal.
In the late 1980s, there was another demand for a separate state for Bodos - Bodoland, and for Assam to be divided "50-50".
As a result of these continuous demands, there had been 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 1,615 cadres with a huge cache of arms and ammunition in Guwahati.
A Memorandum of Settlement (MoS) was signed on September 15, 2022 with representatives of eight "Adivasi groups" to end the decades old crisis of "Adivasis" and tea garden workers in Assam, following which 1,182 cadres of these groups have joined the mainstream by laying down arms.
As a result of the border dispute settlement agreements and peace accords, there has been a significant improvement in the security situation in the northeast.
The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) has been reduced from a large part of the northeast, including Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Manipur, fulfilling the long-standing demand of the region.
The security situation in the northeastern states has considerably improved over the years. The years 2019 and 2020 witnessed the lowest number of insurgency incidents and casualties of civilians and security forces during the last two decades.
In comparison to 2014, there has been a reduction of 80 per cent in the incidents of insurgency in 2020.
Similarly, during this period, the number of casualties among the security forces decreased by 75 per cent and civilian casualties came down by 99 per cent.
While there were 824 incidents of violence in the northeast in 2014 in which 212 civilians were killed, it was reduced to 162 incidents in 2020, in which only three civilians were killed.
In the last two years, 4,900 militants have surrendered. Overall, a total of 6000 militants have surrendered since 2014.
Following the ethnic violence in Western Mizoram, over 37,000 Reang tribals, including women and children, fled to Tripura in October 1997 and sheltered in seven camps in northern Tripura.
After a quadripartite agreement signed between the Centre, Mizoram and Tripura governments and the Reang tribal refugees on January 16, 2020, all the 37,000 internally displaced tribals are being settled in 12 locations of Tripura, ending a 23-year-old ethnic crisis.
(Sujit Chakraborty can be contacted at )
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