Last Saturday’s newspapers’ headlines screamed “Modi vows to make NE development gateway of ‘new India’” ~ a vow apparently harbouring too many illusions and hinging on selling too much of a dream. Signs of delusions or desperation? Perhaps both, because development in and of the Northeast hasn’t been, and isn’t, easy due to various factors ~ not least because the development drama is usually played out mostly on the eve of parliamentary elections. Secondly, development connotes much more than infrastructure development, which all Governments at the Centre emphasize on and reiterate repeatedly. And we have seen that mere infrastructure development does not necessarily translate into human development and increase human development indexes ~ not with decades’ old issues still unresolved, which means the common person, especially in Manipur and Nagaland, continue to live under the shadow of guns. The continual imposition of the Armed Forces (Special) Act further darkens this shadow. But no political party or personality at the Centre talks about these issues while talking about development in and of the Northeast on the eve of elections because while they can claim that they have built this road and that bridge, set up this college and that hospital, they cannot make any claims about moving an inch forward in resolving unresolved issues that cast long and bleak shadows across this region’s length and breath.
In a paper titled Consequences of Long Term Conflicts in Northeast India: Impact on Nagaland and Naga Affairs, written in September-October, 2012 and presented at the Seminar on Consequences of Long term Conflicts In Northeast India, on October 26, 2012, at Kolkata, conducted by the Research Centre for Eastern and North Eastern Regional Studies-Kolkata (CENERS-K) and the Centre for Security Analysis-Chennai, I had written:
“Conflict in the Northeast is generally perceived from the prism of insurgency and militancy and worse still, it appears that such conflicts are perceived to exist in a vacuum or in isolation from the various other conflicts that not only create insurgency and militancy but also those that are created by insurgency and militancy. I would like to underscore that the commonly believed conflicts created by insurgency and militancy are only a part of the larger conflicts confronting the Northeast and it is these larger conflicts that pose perhaps greater challenges, threats and risks to the region.
“Let us appreciate that Northeastern societies were in existence centuries before the rise of some conflicts such as insurgency and militancy. In fact, these are recent developments, not even a century old. Older conflicts relating to histories, ideologies, politics, cultures, traditions, religions, beliefs, superstitions, lore and legends of primarily tribal societies are harder to deal with, especially through and with modern concepts such as democracy and institutions thereof, which are of the alien variety, unmindfully imposed post-Independence, on ancient societies with developed semblances of democratic concepts and practices. So when we talk about conflict in the Northeast and the concomitant challenges, threats and risks, we have to understand, appreciate and discern the kinds of conflicts that confront the region.
“Besides the usual conflicts that insurgency and militancy pose to any society in any part of the globe, perhaps what is often forgotten, ignored and demeaned are the conflicts entrenched in tribalism, conflicting aspirations and interests, cultural diversities and dreams and schemes of tribal hegemony, as also power struggles at varied and various levels of society, perhaps due to multiplicity of value-systems in our society, especially keeping in mind that these are the very same factors that also spawn insurgency and militancy. This, of course, we would be able to understand and appreciate better if we keep in mind the historical fact that not only have tribal societies in the Northeast, especially Naga society, been rudely tossed from our subsistence economies into modern forms of economies but also the fact that our histories and cultures were unceremoniously hijacked at a certain point of time by alien forces and factors. This has disoriented us and this disorientation has spawned conflicts that have hitherto been ignored, neglected or simply brushed off as extraneous to the larger scheme of things of matters Northeast. What needs to be underscored is that standing at the crossroads of the traditional and modernity, Northeastern societies are unsure how to view, and what to make out of the rapidly-changing equations we see all around us, locally, regionally, nationally and globally. And when one is not sure of things, one tends to look at them with suspicion, with fear and retreat into a kind of passivity…”
(To be continued)