ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Reality of North-East as an Entity

In spite of the fact that "north-east" is a commonly used term at all levels of discourse, there are some who still have problems with it. This article is an attempt to show that "north-east" or "pan-north-east" has become a legitimate term that one has to reckon with.

Diversity is a state best exemplified by a “salad bowl”. The distinct character of each item is clearly visible, though the different ingredients are placed in a single bowl. Diversity, in fact, tells the totality of a set or system. North-East (NE) India represents a mosaic of diverse geographical features inhabited by different peoples with distinct ethnic markers. Howsoever diverse the region appears to be, the NE as an entity has been constantly shaped and reinforced by certain features, issues, and agendas.

The first thing that comes to mind is the geographical location of the region. Connected with the rest of India by just a 22 km land corridor in Siliguri referred to as the “Chicken’s Neck”, the region served colonial interests by acting as a “frontier region” of British India administered under the Bengal province until 1894.1 It was considered as merely a peripheral space perceived as inhabited by “poorly administered” and “unadministered tribals” with distinct ethnic and cultural markers. This perception continued to colour the imagination of Indian leaders for some time, even after the postcolonial period. The cultural proximity that the people of the NE have with those of south-east Asian countries, coupled with little contribution to the Indian exchequer/economy, resulted in the lack of serious policy thinking and implementation from the political mandarins in Delhi.

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