Sandeep Jain writes: The recently signed Naga peace accord did not find as much media attention as it probably deserved. This was largely due to the fact that the exact contours of the accord were not known. Moreover, the general public at large has very little knowledge and thus interest in affairs of our North Eastern states. However, it is an event of some significance as it displays the intent of the Central Government towards solving this long standing conundrum. The intentions were in fact evident right from the start of the present Government when Gen VK Singh (Retd) was nominated as the MoS with independent charge for affairs of NE states.
The resolve shown subsequent to the ambush of the soldiers of DOGRA Regt wherein, we carried out hot pursuit in Myanmar was also praiseworthy. The present dispensation would do well to continue this strategy of engagement, firmly backed with the resolve to take stern and decisive action if required.
However, in addition to above we must also wage an extensive perception management campaign. This should have three pillars. First and foremost, the drain which this instability in our North East has caused on our economy and resultant lag in our growth must be brought out in a subtle manner. Both the Northeast as well as J&K receive disproportionately large amount of Central funds. We must also show the insurgency for what it has now become-a mafia to extort and loot with little ideological moorings. The top leadership is hardly facing any hardships. The foot soldiers are the readily available unemployed youth of the region. The last theme should be to bring out the opportunities available in a resurgent India. The youth from our Northeast states now find job and education opportunities all over India. Many have permanently settled in other states. Thus the process of integration is complete and irrevocable. The relative dilution in importance of the state boundaries due to large scale migration of population, social media etc can also be part of the same theme. While a lot of effort may be on to improve infrastructure, trade& economy in our Northeast, the same must also be known to the public. For too long, in our collective national psyche, we have relegated our Northeastern states to “That Far Off Region”. Thus, changing own perceptions may well be the most important step.
The recent progress with Bangladesh-boundary as well as transit agreements and more cordial relation with Myanmar would also help in a conducive environment. After all, a large role in this instability was also by external players. Thus managing our extended neighborhood would also be necessary in the long run.
Last but not the least, the state governments would have to pitch in by ensuring a better law and order mechanism. While they may claim that the insurgency is beyond the control of local police, it may not be necessarily true. As brought out earlier, large part of the problem is now deteriorated law and order situation rather than an active insurgency. This can best be tackled by the state machinery.
In summation a more stable North East may well become another engine of our growth story. We need to stay focused towards achieving this stability.