Separate State demands in North East India : an analysis

There have been news about demand for separate states by many small or big tribes in North East India. While many tribes have their own autonomous councils which control many social welfare departments except police, judiciary, personals, PSUs and other central government departments.

Still, there are reports of ‘Bandhs’, agitation for demanding separate states. It may be mentioned quickly here that, apart from Manipur, almost all other states were once district of Assam! But one by one, many states were created carving out areas from Assam. Recently, separate state demand by Bodos are making headlines.

But apart from Bodoland, there are periodic demand by Koch for Kamatapur, Misings, Dimasas, Karbis in Assam, Tribals in Tripura, Garos in Meghalaya, few Naga tribes in Nagaland are also heard. Though almost all these tribes enjoy autonomy in the form of Sixth Schedule under Indian Constitution or Autonomous District Councils. So what went wrong or what are the reasons for this separate state demands tribal in North East India ?

Few known or much debated reasons on internet forums are listed below :-

1. Lack of development and exploitation by forward communities

This is one of reasons cited by the organisations who have been demanding separate states. Most probably, this kind issue should be probed by third party with known parameters.

2. Assamese Chauvinism in Language agitation in 1972 and Illegal Immigration in 1979-1985

Many opine these two incidents had induced fear in tribal about losing their culture, language by majority Assamese speakers. So almost all tribes had formed their student organisation in line with AASU during these period. Ad many opine that the process of assimilation by tribal with mainstream Assamese society was not only halted, but also reversed.

3. Past precedence of creating separate states

In order to quell armed separatist movements as well as ease of deploying laws like AFSPA may have forced Government of India to create separate states from Assam in 1960s. But this has created a precedence and many tribes now who now think it is quite achievable to get separate state.

4. Sense of Alienation by main stream forward society

Though discrimination of tribal on the basis of caste was not almost non existent in North East India, but with more education among tribal had made them aware how they have fallen behind other communities which may have forced them to be suspicious about other communities. Lack of proper implementation of “Tribal Belt and Block” system had also fueled the fear.

5. Separatism by historical reasons

Many tribe had a history where they were quite independent and self reliant in their own small geographical confinement and used to live isolated. But with modernization and advent of civilisation, this isolation has decreased and dependency on others have increased. Tribes had to abandon some rituals or culture in order to keep pace with modernisation.

Most probably, in order to address or solve this separatism problems, Government/NGOs should list out the grievances by these tribal people and try to convince to address or solve these issues with concrete steps with time deadline using SMART formula ( where S : Specific, M : Measurable, A : Attainable/Achievable, R : Relevant , T : Time bound) instead of failed experiments with autonomous councils. We would like to add one more wort for T : Transparency. Autonomous councils have been accused of rampant corruptions recently. People should be educated using road shows, SMS bulk messaging, Radios, TV etc. so that everyone is aware of the facilities provided and how to get them. Third party auditor should be employed for overseeing any project implementation.


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