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Monday September 16, 2019

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DSA is as much yours, as it is ours!

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India’s Northeast is its road to greater prosperity and as a corollary to greatness. Although its formal trade and remittances from countries to its west far outrun those in the east but it is through the jungles and their myriad dialects that India will grow as a people and as a country. While the countries in the west have vast reservoirs of fossil fuels and sustain a huge diaspora that remits billions, economic dynamism is in the east. Countries of western Asia attract labour and some skilled personnel, but it is all enterprise in the east. Little wonder that when economists worldwide speak about an Asian century they mean a specific geographical part of the continent. Not the whole of Asia for sure. There are reasons for that as western Asia continues to remain mired in millennial conflicts. And the east seems to be looking ahead through the prism of trade, not terror.


So for India to partake in the Asian century as a full-blown partner and thereby gain in every sense, it can only do so once it has resolved the continuing cycle of violence in its Northeast. For too long now the people and states of the Northeast have been held hostage to the various militant groups that dominate discourse in this neglected part of India. It has come to the point that militancy has become a way of life, something generations have become accustomed to. This is a tragedy of national levels. Generations have been wasted at the altar of violence, living alien and artificial lives. They feel alienated from their own country and the artificial existence imposed on them by militants groups has made them lead unreal lives.

That, alas, is the sad reality of India. This must change if the Northeast and India as a whole have to grow to their fullest potential. But not all change in the offing is always of the positive cycle. Far too many Bangladesh based jihadi groups and cadres have floated into these troubled states, to fish for recruits and volunteers. They have brought in a new dimension through the millions of illegal migrants who have crossed over from Bangladesh into these states. The story of Assam is too well known to be repeated here, but needless to say that each state is affected, directly or indirectly by this ‘human bomb’.

Even as the security forces and the huge number of people with a stake in India, do their bit in handling the crisis, a major change of mindset is required, on both sides. As far as the Northeast is concerned there should be a clear message that violence will not help anyone in solving problems. Negotiations are the only way forward, as has been demonstrated in Mizoram and as the Nagaland ceasefire has suggested. The hundreds of groups still operating in these states must be dealt with firmly and fairly. Abuses cannot be tolerated, at any level of the conflict. Which also means that the rest of India also adjust to the reality. Targeted attacks on common working people from the Northeast, as happened in Gurgaon recently, cannot be acceptable. There should be no compromises on that. It is a right that every citizen of India has been given.

Similarly, there also needs to be a realisation in the country that people of the Northeast be allowed to maintain their ways of life. Each state and region of the country has its own cultural specificities and keeping them alive makes the country a richer place. India cannot become a robotised Soviet Gulag, or an enforced uni-cultural place like China. India’s beauty lies in the vividness of its colours and they must be allowed, encouraged, to grow ever brighter.

This can only happen when the youth are not drawn into a culture of violence, through jihadist, naxal or militant groups. This is most apparent in the Northeast where generations of the young have been lured by crime syndicates to provide manpower to such nefarious groups. And end to this recruitment will help considerably in tackling the menace of militancy that affects the Northeast. This end can be brought about when more of the youth realise they have a future in this country, wherever they choose to work in it. But that work will only come about when the Indian economy grows ever more, so as to absorb its aspirational young. For the economy to grow to its potential it needs to expand eastwards, but that it can only once the region is cured of its ailments. There are many problems and they are a national issue not a local one. Which means they should be treated as such and tackled on a national level.

-Manvendra Singh


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