North East India (NEI) has been witnessing insurgency since 1950s and there is no end in sight. Even though some states in the NEI have remained peaceful after ending insurgencies, overall, the situation in the region is not conducive to peaceful living and corresponding prosperity.
- The British had generally followed a policy of non-interference in the NEI. However, the newly independent India in 1947 had the formidable task of uniting various princely states not only of NEI but of the country as a whole.
- The integration of these distinct cultures of NEI into the “mainstream” was generally met with resentment. The insurgencies started with Naga Hills. Under the leadership of Phizo, the Naga National Council (NNC) declared independence from India on 14 Aug 1947.
- Despite efforts at political settlement by various leaders of that time, the unrest did not die. As a result, Indian Army (IA) was ordered to undertake Counter-Insurgency (CI) operations in Jan 1956, after the Government of India (GoI) declared Naga Hills as a disturbed area.
- Thereafter, various regions proactively voiced their demands for freedom/independence, and initiating insurgencies in the region.
- Major outfits fuelling insurgency in the northeast were United Liberation Front of Assam (U.L.F.A.), National Democratic Front of Bodoland (N.D.F.B.) who laid down their arms after Bodo peace accord in 2020, Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA) etc.
Change in India’s anti-insurgency operation needed
- The use of necessary military force to counter the aggressiveness of insurgents.
- While military operations are being enforced, the government must have ideas and initiatives ready, with plans for infrastructure upgrades that would address the basic grievances of the alienated people, who took to arms in the first place.
- Finally, when military operations are reduced to a minimum and the ground situation is under control with the implementation of such initiatives, then ‘talks’ must be initiated to address the political demands of the locals, with fixed timelines for political deliverables.
- Above all, to successfully battle an insurgency, all major governmental agencies must be on the same wavelength.
- A wise mix of socio-economic development and political settlement are the pillars of an everlasting peace in the NEI. Winning the hearts and minds should be the cornerstone for achieving conflict resolution in NEI.
- Enhance communication and connectivity, infrastructure improvement for better integration of the region with the mainland.
- Stringent law and fast criminal justice system for quick disposal of insurgent’s attack cases.
- Greater coordination between central forces and state forces for better tactical response.
- Greater cultural interaction with the rest of the country and socio-economic development that includes a holistic inclusive development.
- Decentralization with alertness, improving administrative efficiency, pro-people governance and coping up with regional aspirations must be the immediate need of the hour.
- Strengthening of local self-government with additional financial and decision making power would promote development by making them stakeholders in development.
- Apart from this, discrimination related to residence, food, clothing, marriage and employment must be removed.
- Roping in more NGOs and other groups that work with these tribals to help them get more skills and opening new vistas of employment based on their skills can help nip alienating feeling among them.
The insurgencies of NEI have continued for the past seven decades despite various efforts by GoI for a permanent solution. However, with the older generation passing away and the new generation having little interest in insurgencies, the time is ripe to hammer out a long-term strategy for elimination of residual insurgencies.