The fragility of the Northeast’s integration
How Britishers treated the Northeast India:
- The Governor of Assam, Robert Reid, in 1937 wrote a 22-page note titled ‘A Note on the Future of the Present Excluded, Partially Excluded and Tribal Areas of Assam’, said people in the northeast, “neither racially, historically, culturally, nor linguistically”, had any affinity with the rest of India.
- Foreign Secretary of British India Olaf Caroe called this region the “Mongolian Fringe” in a paper in 1940.
- Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation 1873, created an “Inner Line” to separate the unadministered hills of Assam separated from its revenue plains.
What Indian government has done to promote integration of the region:
- The Sixth Schedule was India’s first administrative instrument for undivided Assam’s tribal belt.
- The Schedule mandated the formation of Autonomous District Councils in which, among others, tribal customary laws were given legitimacy.
- The Naga Hills district along with the adjacent Mon and Tuensang subdivision of the North Eastern Frontier Agency (NEFA), or today’s Arunachal Pradesh, were merged together to form a separate Nagaland State in 1963.
- Meghalaya became a State, while Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram were made Union Territories. The latter two were upgraded to States in 1987.
- Tripura and Manipur, which were made Part-C States after merger with India in 1949, were also upgraded to States in 1972.
- The North Eastern Council (NEC) was founded in 1971 as an advisory body. Initially, its members were Governors of the Northeast States.
- In 2002, the act that brought NEC to life was amended. From an advisory role, it became an infrastructure planning body for the region.
- Sikkim was also brought into its fold. Significantly, its executive structure expanded to include Chief Ministers of these States, hence creating a link to the local electorates.
- The Department of Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER) was created by the Union Government in 2001, and in 2004 it was upgraded to a full-fledged Ministry.
- In 1991, India’s Look East Policy was born with the stated objective of linking the Northeast with the vibrant economies of SouthEast Asia.
Source: THE HINDU