A book on North East India, but with a new approach and insight

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New Delhi, Dec.3 (ANI): There are many books on the North East and there are many experts on the region but if there is one name that really commands authority on the region because of his long journalistic and academic experience it is Subir Bhaumik.

The veteran reporter of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in East India has come up with a new book, "Troubled Periphery: Crisis of India's North East", published by Sage India.

"The book is a personal insight without reflection", said Bhaumik after the release of his book in New Delhi on Wednesday.

Releasing the book former Union Minister for Development of the North Eastern Region (DoNER) Mani Shankar Aiyer praised Subir Bhaumik's book for "a combination of sympathetic and empathetic treatment of the issues" affecting the region.

What came for special appreciation in the book was the "reliance on democracy to overcome the insurgency".

Dwelling at length on the problems afflicting the North East Aiyer said that the centre should stop "mai baap" attitude towards the region. Second issue that the former Union Minister highlighted was the promotion of "participatory democracy" in the region to give greater voice to the people "to attack insurgency". Substantiating his views on the importance of "democracy at the bottom" the former Union Minister underlined the problem in Manipur where lack of "Nagaland way of village Self government" has compounded the problem of insurgency.

Coming down heavily on the Foreign Policy makers Aiyer termed it the biggest failure of India to retain the initiative gained after the creation of Bangladesh in 1971.

"Economic relation with Bangladesh is worse than what it was with East Pakistan" and this has affected the "economic interest" of the North East.

This is one of the reasons why the "North East remains a prisoner of its frontiers" and a "golden bird remains completely caged", said the Congress leader.

He advocated greater economic interaction between the North East and Bangladesh and the encouragement of investment from Bangladesh in the North East for greater development in the region.

Participating in the discussion E N Rammohan, Former Director of the Border Security Forces, he underlined the issue of "insurgency due to poor response of the state" and linked the problem in the region to the "artificial boundary".

Professor Tiplut Nongbri, from the Centre for the Study of Social Sciences. Jawaharlal University, praised the book "Troubled Periphery: Crisis of India's North East". However, she termed the book as "statist" and lacking in materials from the ground level.

Subir Bhaumik refuted the "statist" argument and said that the book is very critical of the government and has time and again pointed out the failure of the State to tackle some of the insurgency issue in the initial stages of their development. Substantiating his argument Bhaumik singled out India's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to solve the problem of the Naga insurgency by giving autonomy or some sort of Union Territory status to the Naga region to kill the movement in its nascent stage.

Talking about the separatist and insurgency movement in the North East the veteran journalist underlined the role of democracy as the single largest factor that thwarted the "creation of a Bangladesh" or East Timor" in the region. He feels that the space that democracy provides has helped in accommodating the disparate voices in the region thereby nullifying the edge of insurgency so far.

But at the same time he warns that if India is to solve the problem in the North East "mindset in Delhi has to change" and instead of dividing the insurgency groups the government should try to co-opt the whole group and bring them into the mainstream as it was done in the case of Mizo National Front in 1986.

Veteran journalist and the honorary Visiting Professor, Centre for Policy Research, B.G. Verghese, moderated the book release function. By Sanjay Kumar (ANI)

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