New Delhi, Nov 13: The North East region of India comprises eight states – Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura – each with its own distinct history and identity.
The region shares its borders with Bhutan, China, Myanmar and Bangladesh and has been one of the most sensitive regions in India.
Since 1947, the history of this region has been marred with insurgency and under development.
The Central government under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been making continuous efforts to end insurgency and violence in the region. Several efforts have been made for the overall development of the region.
The Central government has identified three core objectives for the North East Region:
to preserve its dialects, languages, dance, music, food, and culture and to create attraction for it all across India;
to end all disputes in the North East and to make it a peaceful region,
to make the North East a developed region and bring it on par with the rest of India.
In this regard, various border dispute settlement agreements and peace accords have been signed with relevant stakeholders. Further, with the help of the armed forces, satellite camps of insurgent groups operating from foreign soil have also been neutralized at scale.
Major Agreements Signed to Bring Peace and Prosperity to the Northeast
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 separate state of Udayachal. In 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 1615 cadres with a huge cache of arms and ammunition at Guwahati.
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 23-year-old Bru-Reang refugee crisis by which more than 37,000 internally displaced people are being settled in Tripura.
National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT) Agreement
The National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT) formed in 1989 has been involved in violence, operating from their camps across international borders. After several years of negotiations with the Government of India and the Government of Assam, an agreement was signed with National Liberation Front of Tripura (SD) in August 2019 resulting in the surrender of 88 cadres with 44 weapons.
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 in the Karbi regions of Assam, the Karbi Anglong Agreement was signed on September 04, 2021, in which more than 1000 armed cadres renounced violence and joined the mainstream of society.
Assam-Meghalaya Inter-State Boundary Agreement
A landmark agreement was signed on March 29, 2022, to settle the dispute over six areas out of a total of twelve areas of the interstate boundary dispute between the states of Assam and Meghalaya. This agreement alone resolved around 65 per cent of border disputes between the two states.
From Disturbed Area to Aspirational Area
As a result of the border dispute settlement agreements and peace accords, there has been a significant improvement in the security situation of the Northeast. The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) has been reduced from a large part of the North East, fulfilling the long-standing and sentimental demand of the North Eastern states.
Assam: 60% of Assam now free from AFSPA
Manipur: 15 police stations in six districts were taken out of the periphery of the disturbed area
Arunachal Pradesh: Now AFSPA left in only three districts and two police stations in one district
Nagaland: Disturbed area notification removed from 15 police stations in seven districts
Tripura and Meghalaya: Completely withdrawn.
Current Security Situation in the Northeast
The security situation in the North-Eastern states has considerably improved since 2014. The year 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 the year 2014, there has been a reduction of 80% in the incidents of insurgency in the year 2020.
Similarly, during this period, the number of casualties in security forces decreased by 75% and civilian casualties decreased by 99%. While there were 824 incidents of violence in the Northeast in 2014 in which 212 innocent civilians were killed, it has reduced to 162 such 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.
Making Northeast the Economic Hub of India
The government is committed to the all-round development of the Northeast region and making it an economic hub connecting Southeast Asia under the Act East Policy. The total earmarked funds under 10% gross budgetary support from 54 Central Ministries for expenditure on development works in the North East have been increased by 110% from Rs 36,108 crore in 2014-15 to Rs 76,040 crore in 2022-23. A new scheme, The Prime Minister's Development Initiative for the North-East (PM-DevINE), was announced in the Union Budget 2022-23 with an initial allocation of Rs 1,500 crore.
Act East Policy
‘Act East Policy’ announced in November 2014 is the upgrade of the ‘Look East Policy’ which was promulgated in 1992. The Objective of ''Act East Policy” is to promote economic cooperation, cultural ties and develop strategic relationships with countries in the Asia-Pacific region through continuous engagement at bilateral, regional and multilateral levels thereby providing enhanced connectivity to the States of North Eastern Region with other countries in our neighbourhood. 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.
In the past, Government policies and their implementation had proved inadequate for giving shape to the immense inherent potential of the North East region. Over the last eight years, the Union Government has been extremely responsive to the needs of this region, by making enhanced connectivity, improved infrastructure and people’s welfare part of its core development agenda. From being on the margins of the India story, the Northeast is quickly becoming one of the country’s growth engines.