Pact with Armed Tribal Groups

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    • Recently, the Central government has signed a pact with eight armed tribal groups in Assam.

    Key Highlights

    • Tripartite Agreement: 
      • The Centre, Assam Government signed an agreement with eight armed tribal groups in Assam.
      • The groups that signed the agreement are Birsa Commando Force (BCF), Adivasi People’s Army (APA), All Adivasi National Liberation Army (AANLA), Adivasi Cobra Military of Assam (ACMA) and Santhali Tiger Force (STF).
      • The remaining three outfits are splinter groups of BCF, AANLA, and ACMA. 
    • Aim: 
      • Take the responsibility of fulfilling political, educational and economic aspirations of the tribal people in Assam. 
      • This agreement is intended to not just protect but strengthen the social, cultural, linguistic and community-based identity.
    • Main Features of Pact: 
      • A special package of Rs. 1,000 crore (Rs. 500 crores by the Centre and Rs. 500 crores by Assam government) in five years was announced in the agreement.
      • Establishment of a Tribal Welfare and Development Council with a view to ensure speedy and focused development of tea gardens. 
      • The agreement also provides for rehabilitation and resettlement of armed cadres and measures for their welfare.
    • Centre’s stand: 
      • Assam and the northeast should be drug-free, terrorism-free, dispute-free and fully developed.
      • Because of the improvement in the security situation, the disturbed areas under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) had been reduced from a large part of the northeast.
    • Northeast and AFSPA:
      • About 60% of Assam is now free from the AFSPA. 
      • In Manipur, 15 police stations in six districts were taken out of the periphery of the disturbed area. 
      • In Arunachal Pradesh, the AFSPA remains in only three districts and two police stations in one district. 
      • In Nagaland, the disturbed area notification was removed from 15 police stations in seven districts.
      • In Tripura and Meghalaya, the AFSPA was withdrawn completely.

    Importance of NE Region

    • National Security: 
      • Region shares an international border with the neighbouring countries.
      • NE is a landlocked region, the Siliguri Corridor connects the NE Region with mainland India. 
    • Act East Policy: 
      • The North Eastern Region is geographically contiguous to Myanmar, which is a part of South-East Asia. 
      • Therefore, it has the potential to act as the Indian ‘Gateway to SouthEast Asia’.
    • Energy Resources: 
      • Due to the presence of the Brahmaputra and its tributaries, the North-Eastern region has immense potential as far as hydroelectric energy is concerned.
      • Similarly, it has been a source of crude oil and natural gas in the form of Digboi oil fields. 
      • Potential oil and natural gas reserves have been found at the Arakan Basin.
    • Agricultural Resources: 
      • The North Eastern region is blessed with natural resources which are important for the economic growth of the country. 
      • For e.g. the tea plantations of Assam, Bamboo etc.
    • Eco Tourism: 
      • The North Eastern region can be a hub for tourist activity due to its lush green landscape, unique tribal culture, fresh air, comfortable climate and distinct topography. 
      • It can be harnessed as a source of eco-tourism and rural tourism
      • The North Eastern Region is ideal for both passive and adventure forms of Ecotourism with wildlife sanctuary/parks, good scenic beauty, waterfalls, forests etc. 
    • Carbon Sink: 
      • India has vowed to create an additional 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of carbon sink per year under its Nationally Determined Contributions as a part of the Paris Summit. 
      • North-Eastern India with its dense forest cover can play a huge role in such endeavour. Mizoram is the best state in India in terms of forest cover. 

    Causes for Armed Insurgency

    • Unique tribal & ethnic divisions: Ethno- communal conflicts, local vs migrants, dominant tribal groups (Nagas raising, NSCN (IM) & (K), ULFA etc). 
    • Historical reasons: Historical connections among tribes are large of Tibeto-Burman/Mongoloid (Ethnically, linguistically & culturally very distinct.)
    • Physiographic constraints: Mountain terrains make it difficult for security forces to track borders.
    • Governance issues: Lack of Politico-administrative arrangement, corruption, nexus b/w political & insurgent groups & Lack of Law & order
    • Porous borders & arms availability: Result in arms & drugs trafficking (Golden Triangle), illegal immigration.
    • Development Issues: Like poverty, unemployment, lack of connectivity, feeling of neglect etc, limited FDI inflow etc.

    Government Efforts to Tackle Insurgencies

    • Political & Administrative: 
      • Schedule 6 of Constitution, Establishment of Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER), Nagaland Peace Accord, Bodo Peace Accord, Bru Settlement & North Eastern Council & Digital North East Vision 2022.
    • Security: 
      • Declaration of Protected Area/Restricted Areas (no foreigner can visit without prior permission), AFSPA
    • Developmental: 
      • NE Road Sector Development Scheme, National Bamboo Mission, Mahabahu-Brahmaputra inland waterway project, Dhubri Phulbari bridge.
    • International:
      • Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Project, Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) Corridor, Strengthening Act East Policy (Agartala-Akhaura Rail Link
    • Cultural: 
      • North Eastern Cultural and Information Centre, Tribal Festivals.

    Way Ahead

    • The Assam Rifles and the Indian Army since independence have been working towards creating a peaceful environment for the civil government to function.
    • Protracted efforts by the Security Forces, involvement of interlocutors, participation of social groups and reconciliation by various insurgent groups are needed.

    Seven Sisters of Northeast India

    • The ‘seven sisters’ of Northeast India comprise Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, and Tripura.
    • Sikkim is also a part of the Northeast but is not included in the Seven Sisters because while the other seven states are contiguous, Sikkim is sort of a neighbour, divided by the Siliguri Corridor.
    • Sikkim is also referred to as the ‘Brother’ of the Seven Sisters. 

    Siliguri Corridor

    • India’s North East is geographically isolated from the rest of India and is connected to the mainland by a narrow strip of land called the Siliguri Corridor also known as Chicken’s Neck.
    • It is about 200 km long and 60 km wide. At its narrowest, it is just 17 km wide
    • The corridor extends from the Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri and Terai areas of West Bengal towards the North East. 
    • The region is important for trade, commerce and tourism for West Bengal, Sikkim, Assam, Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh. 
    • All land trade between the North East and the rest of the country happens through this corridor.

    Source: IE