The Dynamics of Terrorism in North East India – A Critique

This article was submitted by Rini Mathew from School of Law, Sastra University for National Legal Writing Competition,2016.


North-East states of India are located in a corner of the Indian Union with natural frontiers on three sides. Its northern frontier from Sankosh River on the west to the entrance point of the mighty Brahmaputra into Assam in the east is guarded by the Assam Himalayas. The Manmohan line separates North-East India from Tibet. The region is bounded by Bhutan in the west, Tibet and China in the north and east, Burma in the southeast and Bangladesh in the south. The numerous number of people live, they are from different walks of the society, drawn from diverse stocks speaking hundreds of different dialects and living at various stages of development inhabit the region. Northeast India comprises of seven sister states- Assam, Nagaland, Manipur, Tripura, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram. The geography, history, and traditions often transcend the political boundaries and bring the old region back into its single identity. The northeastern states present a kaleidoscopic fiesta, similarly, the problems and the violent life experienced by the people, the citizens of the country are also beyond imagination. The problems are of these people becomes history in the mind of spectators, but the sufferings caused to the natives are unsolved and unsaid.


The borderlands of North East States represent a case of ‘alienated borderlands’. The terminology refers to that kind of borders which reflect ‘extremely unfavorable conditions’ defined by various situations including warfare, political disputes, intense nationalism, ideological animosity, etc.[1] Such conditions leading to stringent control over people living in the border areas, impact on their quality of life.


The passes and valleys of the North- East region were the great crossroad of the movement of people, commerce and culture that linked India overland to East and South East Asia.[2] This great ethnocultural frontier is a rich complex transition period of racial religious and linguistic streams. Most of the people of India are generally very ignorant of the people and the problems of the north-eastern part of India. It might be geographical isolation, but an important cause is also due to the fact that the tribal areas of this region.[3] North-East is one such region in India which feels and is excluded from the rest of the country. The roots of alienation of the region from the rest of India is an open nakedness. It is not just a matter of feeling but almost all development indicating point towards a position of utter backwardness. Apart from these, a major factor of discrimination lies in the Parliamentary form of democracy in which the population logic off constituency formation has directly marginalized the people of the region. Only a minor group of these people and their interests are represented and all the represented interests are not implemented too.

Rights of Natives of North East.

Primarily the concern for the right to self-determination is embedded in the issue of human rights. Human rights are rights held by individuals simply because they are part of the human species. They are rights shared equally by everyone regardless of sex, race, nationality and economic background. They are universal in content. The right to self-determination, a fundamental principle of human rights law, is an individual and collective rights to freely determine the political status and freely pursue economic, social and cultural development. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) refers to the right to self-determination as a right held by people rather than a right held by the Government alone. While, the need for maintain peace and tranquility and at the same time firmly dealing with the forces of lawlessness cannot be underplayed, yet it would be imprudent to forget that the use of force alone cannot stamp out the unrest in the region. On the contrary, indiscriminate use of force without a corresponding drive to win the hearts and minds of the populace of the region would only further alienate the restive population.[4] Unless the underlying causes of unrest are eliminated and the feeling of deprivation removed, there can be no lasting peace in the North-East.


The border areas of the north-east India often been a talk recently due to the ceasefire violations. Caught in the hostility between four countries, people in the border area of North East India are struck up in the situation of uncertainty. While the multiplicity of insurgency activities, militants, terrorist etc. created havoc in the border areas, even peacetime did not provide relief to the people here. The borders have continued to remain volatile even during the so-called peacetimes. As the history of the borders in the state shows, guns actually never fallen silent. There has been intermittent firing and shelling, generating a situation of unpredictability and insecurity. The situation during last two and a half decades has been more precarious. With the onset of militancy, the border became more active. The infiltration bids by the armed militants have been accompanied by the firing and shelling adversely affecting the normal conditions of life.[5] The Continuous volatility of borders has resulted in the militarization of the borderlands with its own kinds of implications for the people residing here.


An insurgency in the north-east is the product of more than one factor. There is significant evidence to testify to the volatile pre-conditions, which existed prior to the actual armed outbreak. The underlying factors, prevalent as they were, required just a spark to ignite the tension-ridden atmosphere. The culmination of latent and immediate factors resulted in the successive wave of insurgency across the northeastern region. The insurgency movements have come to greatly challenge India’s security and internal stability with the more militant outfits demanding no less than secession from the Union. The armed insurgency movements are the culmination of historical factors, political aspirations denied and the lack of economic development which was not at par with the rest of the country. The political development in the country failed to encompass the northeast which inculcated feelings of alienation and isolation. The growth and development of an Indian identity were blocked by the cultural and race divide which further became the main plank of propaganda by the radical leaders to justify their refusal in accepting Indian authority.


The northeast located at the far-flung eastern corner of the country has lived in an isolated world even in the not-so-distant past Therefore, the existing situation demands a search for alternatives to military operations. Time has come to heal the wounds caused by years of fighting, severe restrictions on freedom, curfew, even atrocities. A policy of accommodation with special provisions is urgently required in the North-East India.


[1] Oscar Martinez; Border People: Life and Society in the US-Mexico Borderlands.

[2] Essays on the Look East Policy and North-East India:  Thongkholal Haokip  Man and Society-A Journal of North East Studies, Vol. VIII, Summer 2011, pp. 161-172.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Insurgency in Northeast India: The Chinese Link Wasbir Hussain.

[5] Conflict in Northeast India: Issues, Causes and Concern available at Conflict Northeast India Issues Cause and Concern last accessed on August 12, 2016.

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