By Anne-Kathrin Glatz
Anne-Kathrin Glatz is a country analyst at the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC). IDMC’s report “This is our land”: Ethnic violence and internal displacement in north-east India” can be accessed here.
The north-eastern region of India, which consists of the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, and Tripura, has seen many episodes of armed conflict and generalised violence since India’s independence in 1947. Some of these situations caused massive internal displacement, of hundreds of thousands of people. Currently more than 76,000 people remain in internal displacement in Assam, Meghalaya, and Tripura due to such violence, according to conservative estimates provided in IDMC’s new report.
Conflict and violence in north-east India have had different causes, including violent competition for land and political power. Rebel groups such as the National Socialist Council of Nagaland have fought for outright independence for their ethnic group, while other groups have strived to reach some level of autonomy. Related, the increasing scarcity of collective land available to indigenous people has led some to instigate violence against people they regard as “outsiders” in order to change ethnic demographics in their favour. Inter-ethnic violence between indigenous groups has also led to internal displacement.
The Sixth Schedule of the Constitution of India has been a means for some groups to establish a de facto ethnic “homeland”. It recognises “Tribal Areas” administered through Autonomous Councils, and thereby provides special protection to some “tribes” in the north-east. A demographic majority in an area is necessary for groups to seek this status. This has created grievances among minorities living in territories falling under Autonomous Councils. The hundreds of ethnic groups in north-east India do not live in distinct areas, and so their demands for ethnic homelands have often led to generalised violence and, in turn, internal displacement aimed at “ethnically cleansing” an area.