| Bengal governor M.K. Narayanan during the seminar in Calcutta. Picture by Sanjoy Ghosh |
Calcutta, Oct. 26: Conflict, when prolonged, betrays its root causes to create a society, which is its offspring.
The Northeast, a victim of such malaise, needs an evaluation and check of this situation, asserted experts at a seminar organised by Research Centre for Eastern and Northeastern Regional Studies — Kolkata (CENERS-K) and Centre for Security Analysis — Chennai.
Bengal governor M.K. Narayanan, while giving the keynote address, said to island the problems of the region, has only led to its isolation.
“We must not exaggerate the distance between the Northeast and the rest of India. Islanding its problems would only prove to be counterproductive,” he said.
Alluding to the recent exodus of several northeasterners from cities across the country, he said, “The people from the region do face problems in other parts of the country but it is not something that happens only with them. Even in metros like Mumbai, people from Bihar have felt the same way.”
He added that faultlines among communities have increased across the country resulting in clashes and added that the recent conflict in Kokrajhar, the flames of which are yet to be doused, can hardly be spontaneous.
Falguni Rajkumar, chairman, IIM Shillong and former secretary of NEC, pointed out a Catch-22 situation of peace pacts with groups in the region.
“Whenever there is a peace pact with some group, a less voluble group feels wronged. Over the years, this has created a vicious circle of pacts and subsequent sparks of militancy,” he said.
He said it is important that before signing any more accords, a uniform approach is taken towards the problem of militancy in the region, adding that ethnic identity is a construct and is different from racial identity.
So, accords signed on the basis of ethnic identity are bound to create problems. Apart from the Mizoram accord, no other accord in the region has met with much success.
He said, “Bifurcation of the region has only created politically desirable but economically non-viable units.”
Moreover, solutions for the development of the region have to emerge from it, said T. Monalisa Chankija, a journalist from Nagaland.
She spoke of the need for an in-depth study of the psychological aspirations of the people.
Ambassador Veena Sikri, faculty of Jamia Milia Islamia University, spoke on the stake of Bangladesh in the Northeast. “There is a vested interest of Bangladesh to let the Northeast be inaccessible for they consider the region a captive market,” she said.
She elaborated with an example: “Raw material for Pran juice, which is very popular in Northeast, is imported from the region and the finished product is then smuggled into the region again.”
Journalist Samir Purkayastha, Lok Sabha MP D.P. Rai, professor Gulashan Sachdeva, professor J.K. Ray and Maj. Gen. (retd) S.V. Thapliyal were the other speakers at the seminar.