North-East Migrants : Relationships between Borderlands and Heartlands in a Globalising Era

Publication Date01 July 2016
DOI10.1177/0019556120160310
AuthorNarendra Kumar Arya
Date01 July 2016
SubjectArticle
NORTH-EAST MIGRANTS : RELATIONSHIPS
BETWEEN BORDERLANDS AND HEARTLANDS IN A
GLOBALISING ERA
NARENDRA
KUMAR
ARYA
Globalisation not only shook the socio-eco-cultural landscape
of
the globe but also ushered
in
simultaneous unprecedented
changes in the fabric and conscience
of
our nation. The
North-East region
of
India has gradually but steadily emerged
as an active participant
in
the processes and is undergoing
many paradigmatic transformations. One
of
them that we
have seen in the recent two decades is substantial spurt
in
migration from the North-East
to
several metropolises
of
the
nation.
The
socio-economic profile
of
the migrants signifies
the vast probabilities for using them
to
be potent forces
of
nation-building process
in
the region, the issue unexplored
so
far.
The goal
of
nation-building becomes challenging in
wake
of
divergent religious, cultural, linguistic and regional
distinctions along with strong desire and constitutional vision
of
a democratic, secular and socially just society demonstrating
the highest levels
of
inclusiveness and socio-political integrity.
This article
is
an
attempt
to
analyse this purported hypothesis
that migrant intellectual class
of
the region can facilitate
this process,
if
exposed
to
right political socialisation and
attitudinal reinforcement.
Backdrop
of
the North-East Migration
to
Metropolises
The North-East region (NER) is a major challenge for efficacious
governance and democratisation in India, as the region has been a hot spot
of
insurgency, conflicts, violence and peripheral libertine tendencies. The
term, 'North-East' is a colonial legacy to denote the seven states
of
the
region spread over an area
of
255,037 km, surrounded by international
NORTH-EAST MIGRANTS I
491
NARENDRA
KUMAR
ARYA
boundaries
of
China, Myanmar, Bhutan, and Bangladesh.
It
is
linked with
Indian heartland through the 27
km
wide Siliguri Corridor (a part
of
North
Bengal), which is commonly known
as
the 'chicken neck' 1 created by the
Radcliff Line, the boundary drawn by the British colonial administration
before they departed from India in 194
7.
The region shares over 90 per cent
of
its borders with other countries.2 The region is culturally and socially
a treasure-land amassing more than 213
of
635 tribal groups. In NER,
ethnicity and language have emerged as the fertile soil for regional identity
and movements for autonomous or secessionist regionalism.
Despite being
demographically
diminutive,
geo-politically
and
culturally, it occupies a prominent place
in
psyche
of
the Indian decision-
makers and poses serious governability issues. From the early 1990s to 2011,
some 800';000people have run away from western Assam due to inter-ethnic
conflict.
As
a result, the region has experienced economic stagnation and
its people have felt marginalised. Conflict occurs mainly in six
of
the seven
"sister states"
of
North-East India: Assam, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram,
Tripura, and Meghalaya. In words
of
a veteran observer
of
the region, "The
North-East has been seen as the problem child since the very inception
of
the Indian republic. It has also been South Asia's most enduring theatre
of
separatist guerrilla war, a region where armed action has usually been
the first, rather than the last, option
of
political protest".3 The NER people
sometimes have blamed the Indian federal state for following a policy
of
"internal colonialism" to describe the exploitative relationship between the
"core" and "periphery" within a nation-state a
la
Andre Gunther Frank
and Samir Amin and Michael Hector in different contexts.4 The whole
of
the NER, except Assam, was declared by the Government
of
Assam as
"backward" for the purpose
of
industrial assistance. Consequently, the
Central Government set up North-Eastern Council (NEC)
in
1971
by an
Act
of
Parliament, the NEC Act, 1971. The Council started functioning
from 1972 as an advisory body and a development wing
of
the Ministry
of
Home Affairs. The amended NEC Act, 1971, also included Sikkim
into its fold in 2002. Though the region has rich mineral, water and forest
resources, the absence
of
industrialisation makes the region gross importer
of
manufactured products from industrialised regions oflndia. "Economic
deprivation, disparity, exploitation, lack
of
development and a growing
sense
of
alienation,
en
masse, created congenial condition for the rise
of
ethnic conflicts leading to insurgency
in
the region". 5 Youth unemployment
is staggeringly high at 61.45
in
Tripura while average for the region is almost
two times the national average. 6 The sectoral distribution
of
employed people
suggest 60 per cent
(Sikkim)
to 88 per cent (Mizoram) work in primary
economic activities which points out the dismal condition
of
industrial and

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