Kohima: Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio said that the majority of mainland Indians would have little or no knowledge of the northeastern states, including Sikkim.
“It is indeed true that a majority of mainland Indians have little or no knowledge of this part of the country, which is definitely India but unfortunately an unequal India,” Rio said, addressing the Eclectic Young Leaders Connect-2 conference at Kisama village near Kohima, the mountainous state capital of Nagaland, Saturday.
He added: “It is an urgent national need for mainland India to appreciate and understand the northeast, and to make the people of the region feel a part of India.”
Moreover, he said that the feeling of distance, disconnect and neglect that the northeastern states feel with the rest of the country should be addressed as a national issue.
“Let us keep in mind that less than one percent of the landmass of the region is directly touching mainland India and more than 99 percent of our geographical boundary is international. The feeling of distance, disconnect and neglect that this region feels with the rest of the country is a national concern,” Rio said.
The northeastern states are surrounded by Bangladesh, Myanmar, Bhutan and China and the only land route accessible to these states from India is through the Siliguri corridor in West Bengal – also called ‘Chicken’s neck corridor’ – and Assam.
Rio pointed out that the northeast, including Sikkim, remained backward and underdeveloped, despite being a crucial region for India.
“The infrastructure is poor, the economy is weak, there is political instability and violent insurgency and social unrest and more, and these have created an environment of neglect and disappointment, where there is little or no hope,” he lamented.
Urging the centre to resolve outstanding political issues and resolve insurgencies in the region, Rio said, “Unless an air of political stability is created by removing insurgency and violence, the region will continue to lag behind.”
India’s northeast, wedged between Bangladesh, Bhutan, China and Myanmar, is home to more than 30 odd rebel groups with demands ranging from secession to greater autonomy. More than 50,000 people have died in violence since 1947.
At the same time, he said the people (rebels) of the region must understand the ground realities and appreciate the problems of the Government of India.
“There is also reason to believe that many of the problems we face are, in fact, created by us and it may be politically incorrect to say so, but the sad truth is that insurgency has become the best industry in the region,” the Nagaland Chief Minister said.