Several militant outfits of the Northeast are already on the talks mode with the Centre, as more and more such outfits are following their footsteps, the latest being the KLNLF. Till recently the Centre had no definite policy as to how to go about the so-called peace talks with the militants of the Northeast. But in the aftermath of 26/11, the Centre announced that it would not hold talks with any Northeast outfit unless they surrendered their arms, gave up their demand for ‘sovereignty’ and announced adherence to the Constitution. However, in the case of Jammu & Kashmir, the Centre said it is willing to talk to any outfit and organization, armed or unarmed, on any issue they would like to discuss, thereby clearly segregating the two groups into amenable and non-amenable types. Whether this way of discriminating against the Northeast militants would pave the way for peace, only time would tell, but the fact remains that this discriminatory attitude itself is violation of the constitutional guarantee of equality. It is one thing that the Pakistan-sponsored jihadi groups of Jammu & Kashmir cannot be equated with the insurgents of the Northeast, most of whom too have degenerated into terror outfits in recent times, or that the reasons for the rise of insurgency in the Northeast are vastly different from those of the Pakistan-sponsored terrorism in Jammu & Kashmir. But the fact remains that in both the cases the Centre must have a definite and single yardstick, not discriminatory. Perhaps the line dividing insurgency and terrorism is getting too thin to confound the country’s security establishment. But then is it not the mistakes of the country’s political establishment to differentiate between the reasons for Northeast insurgency and those of Kashmir’s, which is primarily to blame for the insurgents too having relapsed into the terror mode? And a frank admission of this fact too could open the gates to meaningful negotiations between the Centre and the Northeast militants, and eventually to a just and lasting peace in the region.
It is unfortunate that the Centre, despite all its tall talk about the Look East Policy vis-à-vis the Northeast, still perceives the people of the region as expendables in matters of devising a development strategy for the region. It would conceive and finalize projects in Delhi and force them on the Northeast people, without any regard to whether they, the stakeholders themselves, would accept them, as indeed it is happening in the case of the mega power projects in Arunachal, or the uranium mining in Meghalaya, or the hydel projects elsewhere in the region. Even in matters of day-to-day political-administrative issues, the Centre’s discrimination against the Northeast is too palpable for even the layman to miss. And this situation had not arisen all of a sudden, but had been given the stamp of the country’s state policy since Independence, as the question of security was, and is still, given a lopsided priority over development issues in the region. Perhaps the Centre is still waiting for the realization to dawn on it that it can no longer treat the Northeast as the country’s hinterland inasmuch as the people as expendables, if it really wanted a secure, peaceful and prosperous land in this part of the country, and thereby revise its strategy for peace in the region. But then, for this to happen, it cannot wait any longer as the environment is getting charged up in the region and internal strife taking ever new, unpredictable contours with each passing day. The issue is too serious to be left on the bureaucrats and generals to decide. THE SENTINEL