The North East problem in India 2023



The north east always remains in the news mostly due to protests and militant clashes with the armed forces, most recently was the protests against Citizen Amendment Act.

The North-Eastern states also are known as seven sisters connected to India by the “chicken neck”.

The north east problem - 7 sisters States

Why north east is called Seven Sisters?

Because they have similarities in factors like geography, politics, social life and economy.

The North East States

Tripura, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Mizoram, and Nagaland.


‘CHICKEN NECK’: – a very narrow strip of land with a width of about 22 km called connecting the northeast region the mainland India.


The love of one’s country is a splendid thing. But why should love stop at the border? – Pablo Casals

STATISTICS – What Numbers have to Say?


Combined Population- 45,772,188


Countries bordering Northeast states

  • China (1395 km)
  • Bhutan (455 km),
  • Myanmar (1640 km)
  • Bangladesh (1596 km)
  • Nepal (97 km)


National average unemployment rate – 6.1% (before lockdown)


  • Meghalaya- 1.5% ( least unemployment rate among the Indian states)
  • Tripura-30% (the highest unemployment rate among the Indian states)

The North-East region geographical area – 7.8% of the country.


Many of the states are carved out from Assam. The area is dominated mainly by Bengali and Nepali who have come into parts of Northeast at different points in time.

Apart from coming as colonial workers under the British rule, migrants have also come due to geographical contiguity before and after 1947.



The double tragedy:

  1. Tribal rights have been under attack for centuries.
  2. Non-tribal citizens have fled fearing oppression, massacres, and religious clashes.

DESCRIPTION – Let’s take a Deep Dive

The problem in the North East is double folded. Both internal and external factors have major roles to play.





1.Border Disputes


  • The longest and the bloodiest inter-state dispute is the border dispute between Assam and Nagaland. The claim of Assam and Nagaland over the forest tracts along the border is, in reality, a border conflict.


  • The internal boundary disputes between the states of North East India lying on the boundaries of the state of Assam and its three neighbouring states, viz. Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and Nagaland have created huge instability in the area.


  • The boundary problems in these states started since the creation of new politico-administrative units from the composite Assam.
  • Other than this, other states having border issues are Assam-Meghalaya, and Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.



2.Economic Problems

Why north east India is not developed?


  • Since the colonial period, there has been a great inequality of economic growth. For the British, the North-East was a storehouse of raw materials. The resources were overly extracted and then exported to other parts of the country for processing.


  • However, the British did not set up any manufacturing units, neither did they pay any attention to the development of transport and communication facilities, so the region did not get benefited and stayed underdeveloped.


  • With the partition of India, trade with Bangladesh (East Pakistan) came to a stop which seriously damaged the economic and growth potential of the region.


  • This widened the gap between the region and to the rest of India.
  • Similarly, the development of railways and road transportation has been poor.


  • As this region is blessed with rivers, inland water transportation is important for its development.
  • In the case of energy, there has been an imbalance between the generation and availability of thermal and hydroelectric power.


3.Insurgency and Militancy

Northeast India is the most insurgency affected place in the country after Kashmir.

REASON – The demands of the different militant groups for autonomy.



How did insurgency start? 

Militant groups in the northeast enjoyed vast popular support initially by voicing genuine issues of the local people such as poor governance, lack of development, and an apathetic attitude from the central government. This is how they grew strong and started nurturing the other motives as time passed.


  • Nagaland: Then part of Assam, was the first to experience militancy. Nagas declared themselves to be independent and petitioned the British to consider them as an independent country.


  • Mizoram: militancy developed in the state after the central government failed to respond positively to the assistance demands during the massive “Mautam famine.”



“Mautam famine” – The flowering of bamboos gave rise to rats in huge numbers. The rodents destroyed all the crops and forest products and the situation turns to widespread famine. The Mizo National Front in 1966 demanded independence for Mizoram.


  • Tripura: The over the migration of the Hindu population from the British-ruled East Bengal(East Pakistan/ Bangladesh) has reduced the population of tribal people to minority status. This sparked a violent backlash among the indigenous people in the 1970s.

This witnessed the birth of a strong militant group the United Liberation Front of Assam (U.L.F.A.) in 1979, who started demanding the restoration of the tribal rights from the migrants, who are accused of dominating the political and economic affairs of Tripura state.

Often these insurgent groups indulge in subversive activities like damaging rail tracks, smuggling, extortion, kidnapping, strikes and curfews, attacking forces and illegal cross-country migration. One of the important targets of the insurgents is the resource-based industries like petroleum and tea which form the core industries in the region.




Threats from International Borders

The remoteness, difficult terrain, and unfriendly neighbours are the serious setbacks in the development of the region. Being a bordered area, the region is suffering from specific problems like illegal cross-border movements, law and order, security, insurgency, smuggling, exchange of illegal weapons, etc


  • Assam also faces illegal infiltration from Bangladesh while Arunachal Pradesh faces a constant threat from Chinese incursions.
  • China, too, is believed to have provided some assistance and secured help to the militant groups.


  • Pakistan, through I.S.I., is believed to have assisted the militant groups in terms of training and providing funds.
  • Besides, Myanmar has many militant hideouts operating in Nagaland and Manipur.


Illegal Infiltration of Rohingya In Assam

What is the issue with Rohingya?

It began with a case of gang rape and murder of a Buddhist woman by Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.

In 2012, the Rohingya were evicted from their homes, and their villages and habitations attacked by the military.

Rohingya entered into northeast India through various routes and spread over a large area across various states.



  • Lack of infrastructure was a major cause behind the failure to bring stability to the border tensions
  • Tourism, which could have flourished, has suffered a lot.
  • The insurgency has affected the development of the area such as employment generation.



  • Government through DoNER (Department Of North Eastern Region) has undertaken infrastructural projects in the last few years.
  • It has invested substantially in road, air and water routes, rail, energy, and telecommunications. Fourteen major railway projects for which Rs.10000 crores has been allocated. Also notable projects include NW-II on the river Brahmaputra is identified to develop trade activities through water routes.


  • The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan has also been implemented in these states with positive improvements.
  • The important Central Institutions in the North East Region like IIT, NIT, IGNOU has been recognized to improve the scope of education, and awareness in the area.


  • A North Eastern council was created to address all the socio-economic and political problems of these states.
  • The AFSPA has been imposed to encounter the militancy in most of the eastern states.


AFSPA– Armed Forces Special Power Act: –

It gives some special powers to forces to ensure public order in “disturbed areas”.


DISTURBED AREAS: – areas having instability due to disputes between different religions, language, caste, and community.

What can be done?


  • Representation of North-East India through cultural and various sports activities may bring a sense of unity within the country, which we can also work for removing the clashes among states.


  • Deeply analyzing their tragic situation and working towards their benefit can develop a sense of unanimity among the inhabitants of North-East.


  • Regarding the border clashes, rather than criticizing the government, a concept of understanding between the Naga and Assamese can be developed by organizing awareness programs.


  • Employment opportunities can be improved by developing forest produce, cultivation and export of local fruits and plants as well as developing the tourism sector. The tea industry in Assam heralds a huge potential.


  • National programs and schemes supporting the indigenous community’s forest and agricultural practices need to be introduced to remove their insecurities.


  • It is very important to win the trust and confidence of the people thus making them realize that the military is working for them, not against them. This can be done by arranging various programs for youths especially.


There have been various social, economic, political, and geographical problems that have hindered the development of these states and the government has been trying to put in policies regarding the overall development and social integration of North-East.


At present, violence in North-East has almost reduced a lot. States like Meghalaya and Tripura are completely free from militancy now. Assam is probably the next state to be free from militancy and violence. It is expected that North-East will be free from militancy by 2022.


However, the North East has done reasonably well in terms of human development indicators. Also, the government is playing their part efficiently but in the end, it is up to the local people to work hand in hand with the Central and State Governments to ensure the prosperity of the region.

Author: Priyanka Mahala

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