Outsiders vs Insiders in the Northeast

Published: April 2, 2019 10:35:54 AM

Political parties are bent on playing with the fear of the outsider for a few votes little knowing its disastrous effects on the nation. Such a vacuum will create space for non state players.

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By E Bijoykumar Singh

The euphoric sense of something big coming up in the region has been aborted by the deafening din of election. It is also the time when the NDA government’s performance comes under the scanner along with the promises it had made at the time of election. The promises had been so persuasive that the people had entrusted them with their future. It used to be a routine matter. We realize that this time such an assessment is no longer a routine affair. The credibility of every data generating institution has become suspect. It is interesting to note that no firm inferences can be drawn . This state of uncertainty could have been by design because it is also happening in the northeastern region of India.

Issues of data cannot abort any debate in the northeastern region because the data base of the region has always been suspect. What we see playing out in the region gradually is also a massive diversion from relevant issues to seemingly relevant intractable issue of outsider vs insider. Every attempt is being made to activate every fault line in the region – undoing what has been developed in the last few decades for the sake of next five years. Issues like unemployment, price rise, corruption etc are out, outsiders vs insiders is in.

Tripura had the highest unemployment rate in the country. The Tripura experience calls for a redefinition of what we understand as good governance. Tripura very recently used to be considered as a role model state with good governance yet the ruling party was shown the door. In a region where the dividing line between an outsider and an insider is so thin and unnatural it is like opening Pandora’s box. The citizenship amendment bill put a big question mark on the unfinished nation building process in the region. Migration had played an important role in making the region what it is today. Very few communities can claim to have been here from the beginning. It is the time of arrival that differentiates an insider from an outsider. It is amazing to see the extent of social mobilisation invoked by the bill. Though the bill lapsed on its own, Amit shah’s statement came at the wrong time . It shocked the region literally adding salt on the raw wound. It invoked a nightmare where outsiders would endup marginalising the insiders.

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Political parties are bent on playing with the fear of the outsider for a few votes little knowing its disastrous effects on the nation. Such a vacuum will create space for non state players. If there is any measure which has affected the political landscape of the region most, it is CAB. It is going to be a prime electoral issue. This stand has eclipsed all other issues. In the face of this issue all other issues simply fade away. No one bothers to question the government. Not that the government has not done anything for the region, it has done so much and aroused the expectation of the people so much that now nothing is enough. We would have asked for more and more. Many questions could have been very inconvenient. Through the masterstroke of CAB those inconvenient issues have been sidelined. It also puts a big question mark on the fragile nature of development- a process of development which can be undone by a single policy But the fault lines will not disappear when the election fever subsides. Many more nationalities would have emerged in the post election social debris. Mutual trust so assiduously built up over decades would have vanished. We worry about the future of the renaissance of the region. Was there really a renaissance in the region ? The debate has been skillfully diverted.

Availability of cheap bank credit with the usual safety measures will play a significant role in concretising the Act East policy. Such opportunities do not come often. It will be a tragedy if we don’t avail of this opportunity. This should not be assessed in terms of economics alone. The huge flow of intangibles in the form of change in mindset should not be ignored. Cheaper bank credit and higher growth of money supply need not be feared when the inflation rate is also quite low. That calls for a lower interest rate regime.

( The author is a professor at Manipur University )

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