Nagalim: Northeast Hopes for Peace Despite Violence
The states of Assam, Nagaland, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh and Tripura - popularly referred to as the seven sisters - are besieged by a myriad of problems, mainly ethnic conflicts and armed insurgencies.
Barring Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and to some extent Meghalaya, the other four states have for long been battling some 30 odd rebel groups operating in the region with demands ranging from secession to autonomy.
But there is a ray of hope this New Year with New Delhi trying to broker peace with some of the frontline militant groups.
There is every possibility of the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) coming for peace talks with the Indian government soon.
The ULFA is one of the most organised militant groups in the northeast and once this outfit talks the language of peace, there is a chance of many smaller rebel groups coming forward to join the peace process.
Another silver lining could be a possible breakthrough with the Isak-Muivah faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM) - talks are underway between the rebel group’s leadership and government peace negotiators.
“We hope to see a permanent solution to the Naga problem this year,” a senior NSCN-IM leader said.
Considering the fact that insurgency is the biggest roadblock to development in the northeast, there are many positives one may expect in the New Year.
At least eight prominent separatist groups in Manipur are holding informal negotiations with the central government and one may expect a formal announcement by these groups about cessation of violence sometime this year.
“Once the government brings some of the top militant groups to the negotiating table, the region would automatically see all round development and peace,” said Aniruddha Das, a retired college teacher.
Politically the region may also witness some dramatic developments this New Year with assembly elections in Assam scheduled sometime in April. For the regional Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) this would be a severe test with its founder and former chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta severing ties with the parent party.
“The relevance of regionalism would be tested in this
election and if the ruling Congress comes to power again, this could well be
the end of the road for the AGP,” an analyst said.