India China Border Conflict-7: Arunachal : Demographic mess and ethnic strife

 Chakma Protest Arunachal

Opening Pandora’s Box of  CAA in northeast : Chakmas and Hajongs Protest in Jantar Mantar, Delhi, on January 8, 2023, against cancellation of Residential Proof Certificate (RPC) by the state government of Arunachal Pradesh. (Image Courtesy: Twitter)

Home Minister Amit Shah recently claimed peace was restored, and insurgencies were resolved, in the Northeast by the Modi regime. He was touring there in the new year ( Jan 6-7) for elections ahead in the region. He claimed the Modi regime successfully transformed the Look East policy of Congress into Act East policy.

But by the way it implemented its Act East policy, the BJP unleashed new problems and tensions, even before old problems including insurgencies were resolved. The problem of Chakmas and Hajongs is one such.

BJP and its ‘double engine’ government are playing up controversies, that too in Arunachal, lying along the LAC. It is also part of BJP’s politics of chauvinism, meant for electoral gains at any cost. That would only complicate and aggravate the border conflict, and make it all the more intractable.

In addition, their policies would inflame, revive and aggravate ethnic conflicts that have been associated with insurgencies in the Northeast; India, during 1960s and 1970s, had alleged they were backed by China. Now the BJP regime will alone be held responsible.

They want to secure the LAC but not the people there, nor its fragile environment, we have seen in Part-6.

In this part-7 of the series on India China Border Conflict, we shall focus and discuss the demographic mess and ethnic strife created by the governments in Arunachal sector of the LAC, among other things.

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Chakmas, invited after the 1962 war, as a buffer against China are now branded as “illegal migrants’!  

In his 2021 Independence Day speech, Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu claimed that the Chakma and Hajong communities in the state were “illegal migrants” who needed to be shifted out of the state because they were not tribals…

He blindly asserted: “ per the Constitution , Chakmas can’t live in Arunachal Pradesh because  Arunachal is a tribal state.” (, Aug 17, 2021).  He added he discussed with Home Minister Amit Shah, and they would be relocated honorably elsewhere. Perhaps the BJP has its own Constitution wherein such provisions are there.

In the 1960s, the Indian state had settled the two communities legally in the territory now known as Arunachal Pradesh. The local people then treated them like any other indigenous people of the state.

Despite this, Union Law(less) Minister Kiren Rijiju expressed the same view as Khandu in public gatherings and TV interviews.  Rijiju even claimed that the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Act , CAA 2019, by the Union government has annulled Supreme Court judgments of 1996 and 2015 that favoured granting citizenship to the Chakmas and Hajongs.

Rijiju said in January 2022 that “under CAA, no refugee can claim tribal rights in Arunachal Pradesh. The government has sent a clear message to the Chakma refugees to look for alternatives”, a reference to moving them outside the state. Rijuju is a law unto himself, it is now well known.

They were settled there in NEFA, renamed later as Arunachal Pradesh, which had a very low population of 3.37 lakh in 1961, and density of population of 4, yes four, per square km. Even now Arunachal has a small population of around 18 lakh (2022) , and a (lowest in India) density about 17 per sq km (compared to adjoining Uttarakhand’s 190 / sq km; it is also a border state along the LAC.)

The population went up presumably by immigration that was then welcome, preferably from non-Tibetans  in the NEFA  territory bordering China. They were more from adjoining states of northeast, where Christian population is relatively high: Now that is being kicked up into a row on religious and ethnic grounds.

Is this the way BJP implements its Act East policy?

Once part of Assam, the NEFA was declared a union territory (UT) in 1972 and in 1987 emerged as the state of Arunachal Pradesh. Being then a UT, there  was no need for the centre to consult anybody. In any case, the citizenship issue is the prerogative of the union.

CAA supposedly was meant to help such foreigners or immigrants by conferring citizenship, but of course excluding Muslims. The Chakmas are a sect of Buddhists and Hajongs are a sect of Hindus, though both were formerly animist tribes with local customs. But that does not protect them. Instead, they are now sought to be relocated, by the BJP government, after 60 years of living in Arunachal.

Mahendra Chakma, president of Chakma Rights and Development Organization (CRDO), an advocacy group created in April 2018 to lobby for the Chakma and Hajong tribes said :

“This (Chakma population) is an artificially and politically constructed narrative because the government wants to stay in power.,.There are only two issues that sell in Arunachal Pradesh, the China issue and Chakma issue.”

Mahendra said the Chakma were resettled near the China border after the Sino-Indian war of 1962.  “There was a need for people to be transported there to act as a shield, and Chakmas were taken there…Since they wanted some buffer, some set of loyal people were sent to act as a bulwark”  against China.

Today, Chakma representatives said, the past had been forgotten, and state government’s non-cooperation so marked that even birth certificates were hard to get from the local administration, which contends that all Chakma midwives are not registered. Many depend on midwives because there are few hospitals in Chakma settlements. (, 02 Feb 2022)

(, says it is a joint effort between lawyers, journalists, and academics,  addresses threats to and failures of justice and deficiencies in the legal system.., It takes its name from fundamental right conferred by the Constitution of India.)

This question has an international dimension too: it is a question of refugees across countries. India had been engaged in discussions on these refugees with Bangladesh, and some agreements were arrived at.

The total Chakma population of 865,126 (2021) is distributed as follows:

Bangladesh: 552,845  (over 64 %)

India: 228, 281  (over 25%)

Myanmar:  84,000 (10%)

A major part were accommodated by India, with its own needs, to counter China. Among those settled in India, the majority, around half of them, are in Arunachal. The rest are mostly in other Northeast states.

Arunachal Pradesh, though has very small population, is home to dozens of distinct ethnic groups, most of which are in some ways related to the peoples of Tibet and the hill region of western Myanmar. More than two-thirds of the state’s people are designated officially as Scheduled Tribes(STs).

Throughout the state, the tribal peoples generally share similar rural lifestyles and occupations; many are subsistence farmers who supplement their diet by hunting, fishing, and gathering forest products. Dispersed villages and isolated farmsteads are typical features of the landscape. (

Aside from such STs, much of the remainder of the population of Arunachal Pradesh consists of immigrants from Bangladesh, as well as from AssamNagaland, and other states of India. Many of them are also STs. The same group may be recognized as STs in one state but may not be in another.

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Pandora’s Box opened in the sensitive border state

Arunachal Pradesh

The Chakmas or Hajongs were settled between 1964 and 1969 in Bordumsa-Diyun and Kokila area in southeastern Arunachal district of Changlang   and Papum Pare district.

They were refugees following ethnic clashes and a dam disaster in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) of erstwhile East Pakistan (present Bangladesh). The area was mostly forest. The immigrants began farming, building  homes and expanding into other professions.  Such settlements complicated the ethnic situation in the Northeast, Arunachal in particular. Tribal groups in Arunachal have been agitating for years against their settlement.

The issue had also triggered tension and violence in Arunachal Pradesh several times. Now again the BJP govt itself ignited the ethnic conflicts. It was a bombshell thrown by it on independence day, 2021.   

How the authorities themselves ignited the ethnic divide in Arunachal Pradesh was explained in an article by Shyamal Bikash Chakma, a doctoral scholar  at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London:

The CAA , brazenly asserted  the Law(less) Minister, annulled the Court judgments! That was 16 months ago. Now he is even more aggressive against the judiciary. He hails from Arunachal and says the “illegal migrants” needed to be shifted out of the state. These two tribes constitute more than one lakh out of 18 lakh population there. They were legally settled there by the Indian state 60 years ago! 

“Till 1980, Chakmas and Hajongs could get government jobs, ration cards and access other rights and privileges just like Indian citizens. They were also given trading licences, agricultural assistance and more.”

Uncertainty haunted them even earlier. What is new is the official warning that they would be destabilized.

Later on “their rights were taken away. From the 1990s, they were branded as illegal migrants. In September 1994, Gegong Apang, the Arunachal chief minister at the time, tried to settle members of these groups but was not successful.”

The author recalled the turmoil in Assam:

In 1979, the Assamese movement against the “others” led by the All Assam Students Union (AASU)  started…But this movement polarised communities across the North East, creating a sense of natives being pitted against outsiders. The Assam Chief Minister, Himanta Biswas Sharma (now a rabid BJP leader)  himself was a leader of AASU  in 1979 who led the Assamese movement, and exploited the border dispute to strengthen his political position in the state.

This resulted in communal profiling, labeling and racial discrimination. The region witnessed frequent ethnic clashes. Among the worst was the infamous Nellie massacre on February 14, 1983, in Assam’s Nagaon district in which 4,000 Bengali Muslims were murdered by Lalung tribes.

Eventually, on August 15, 1985, the Assam Accord was signed between the government of India and the leaders of the Assam Movement.

Thus , says the author, “the threat to remove Chakmas and Hajongs is the long tail of the Assam Accord”: The year 1971 was agreed as the benchmark: anyone from East Pakistan/ Bangladesh who had entered Assam after the start of the Bangladesh Liberation War could be deported.

“The Assamese movement has had an influence on all of the North East and overshadowed the long history of coexistence among the region’s myriad ethnic groups. As a consequence, the region has experienced several ethnic conflicts. Among them: in Manipur between Nagas and Kukis, and Nagas and Meiteis; in Assam between Karbis and Kacharis, and Kacharis and Hmars; in Mizoram, between Mizos and Brus, and Mizos and Chakmas; in Tripura between tribals and Bengalis…”

The scholar mentions a specific feature of these tribes:

“However, historically, the attachment to a particular geography or area was absent for indigenous peoples here. It developed only during colonial times.

“People kept moving from one place to another because of environmental disasters, inter-tribal conflicts and the conduciveness for habitation based on their socio-cultural beliefs and practices.

“That is why members of ethnic groups in the region can be found in more than one state and country. For example, members of many indigenous communities of India’s North East can also be found in Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) of Bangladesh.”

Then he warns of the consequences:

“ The exploitation of such ethnic sentiment by politicians results in minority groups being branded as illegal migrants and are identified as enemies or threats. Consequently, these ethnic minorities face systematic and state-sponsored discrimination. The Indian state’s failure to understand the region and its societies resulted in arms rebellions against imposing dominant and colonial ideas of nation state.”

( , Aug 30, 2021)


Thus it is a Pandora’s Box opened in the sensitive border state.

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The CAA that ignited ethnic strife and disturbed peace in the border states

Amit Shah’s claim that Modi regime’s Act East Policy heralded peace in the Northeast is not borne by facts. The CAA that promised citizenship selectively did not help to resolve the problems of people, even those of the Buddhist and Hindu denominations.

The contentious CAA seeks to provide Indian citizenship to Hindus, Jains, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis entering India on or before December 31, 2014 from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan after five years of residence here. But in Arunachal Buddhist Chakma and Hindu Hajong tribes face uncertainty after five decades ; CAA does not protect them, even while it antagonized other natives.


 Following the call from the North East Students’ Organisation (NESO), the All Arunachal Pradesh Students’ Union (AAPSU), observed on  December 11, 2020, the ‘Black Day’ against the CAA of 2019.( Photo by agitations are now back again after a lull due to Covid-19 pandemic.

The Modi regime has been beefing up the defence establishment all along the LAC, more so in Northeast and Arunachal sector. But the internal situation is rendered more  fragile:

The non-chakma native people of Arunachal have their own bitterness, now aggravated by the double engine government of Arunachal, as we see below.

The ethnic divide revived by the govt  has already inflamed the situation in the State that is along the LAC, that is very long in this sector. Deccan Herald’s Guwahati  correspondent reported:

All Arunachal Pradesh Students’ Union (AAPSU), which has been demanding the expulsion of the Chakma and Hajongs for decades said that the announcement by Chief Minister Pema Khandu on August 15, 2021 and later by union law minister Kiren Rijiju was “historic” and was a step forward to end the “demographic threat” posed to the ethnic communities in the state.

“People of Arunachal Pradesh will never allow the Chakmas and Hajongs to live in the state. They are illegal migrants and were settled in the state without the consent of the local people. When they were brought between 1964 and 1969, their population stood at 14,000. But now officially their population has increased to over 65,000. But practically, it will be more than a lakh. Local communities like the Singphos, Khamti and Thangsa, whose population will be between 7,000 to 30,000 have already been outnumbered by the Chakmas and Hajongs. As a result, the local communities are facing an identity crisis,” AAPSU general secretary, Tabom Dai told reporters in Itanagar.

National People’s Party, an ally of the BJP-led government in Arunachal Pradesh said the door for Chakmas should be closed and they must be rehabilitated outside the state.

Chakmas protest, and say it is brazen discrimination by the State:

“More than 90% of these people were born here and are citizens by birth. They will live and die here with dignity and honour and cannot suffer through another mass migration to start life afresh outside Arunachal Pradesh,” Chakma Rights and Development Organisation said recently.

Suhas Chakma, founder of Chakma Development Foundation of India (CDFI) submitted a memorandum to PM Narendra Modi, home minister Amit Shah, Rijiju and others asking why Chakmas cannot be given citizenship in Arunachal Pradesh as the same was given to Lisus and Yubins community, who had also migrated in the 1960s.

The Northeast Students’ Organisation (NESO) and All Arunachal Pradesh Students’ Union (AAPSU) also staged a dharna here recently in Itanagar. AAPSU has called on the government to resolve the Chakma-Hajong refugee issue and those immigrants from the neighboring country of Myanmar.

AAPSU president Dozi Tana Tara stated that the illegal settlement of Chakmas and the Hajongs is a direct threat to Arunachal Pradesh.

( , August 18, 2022)

Thus to counter China, all this ethnic strife is being created by the governments, with its own consequences.

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Arunachal : Constitution and Law don’t apply here

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Banner  of  Chakma and Hajong students’ protest. December, 2022.  People of these tribes are more in Arunachal Pradesh’s Changlang district – many of them had arrived as refugees from East Pakistan, now Bangladesh. They ended 2022 with an eight-day “non-cooperation movement”. 

People of these tribes, Chakmas and Hajongs, (seen in the photo in the beginning of this article) fear they would be thrown out of Arunachal, their home for five to six decades.

Notwithstanding the (discriminatory) CAA, and the slogan Sab ka sath, this is the plight of a section of people of Arunachal, adjoining LAC with China.  

The government want to secure the LAC, but not the people there?

“Christian population on the rise in Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur”: BJP leaders alleged.  Congress had accused the BJP of “converting Arunachal into a Hindu state”. Why rake up now?

Both the major all India parties of the ruling classes injected a communal twist – this in a border area with a sensitive situation and riddled with a festering border dispute.

Even while allowing the (Christian) US and its NGOs to penetrate interior areas of Northeast and fish in troubled waters, and while holding  joint military exercises with US close to the disputed Mc Mahon Line, the BJP is extending its communal and divisive politics in the sensitive border region. This needs to be understood. 

The above two tribes are not Muslims, nor Christians. The BJP did not however spare them from their ordeals. Nor the CAA came to their rescue, notwithstanding claims of helping those communities.

Resident Proof Certificates: verification and cancellation

The BJP govt thus “acted” on the 2021 speech:

Arunachal Pradesh’s government said on July 30, 2022, that a five-member committee, including two representatives from the AAPSU, would be formed to check the RPCs (Resident Proof Certificates). The group would be chaired by the secretary for food and civil supplies.

In August, 2022 the Arunachal Pradesh government announced that it would no longer be issuing RPCs to the state’s Chakma and Hajong refugees.

They were settlers useful to India at the time, but not so later. Now uncertain future stares them in their face.

This is on top of the already bad plight:

The Chakma and Hajong residents allege direct discrimination from the state. There is not a single government college in their area, while conditions of the primary schools are dilapidating with just one teacher in many schools, teaching up till class 10th, allege the residents.

A recent report by Hrishi Raj Anand , an author, published by the web magazine, (10 Jan 2023), narrated their plight in Arunachal Pradesh. This article highlights some parts of that report.

Many Chakmas and Hajongs in Arunachal Pradesh, technically speaking, are not Indian citizens and, therefore, ineligible for official identification documents. These certificates are usually issued by the district administration on a case-to-case basis on the request of Chakma-Hajong refugees.

Post July 2022, the Hajong and Chakma tribes of Arunachal Pradesh have been battling the disadvantages of not being permanent residents of the state. To people from these tribes across the country, landing a government job or getting admission to a Central University is impossible.

“I talk to my friends in the southern states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. All of us from our community come from financially marginalised backgrounds. We are solely dependent on agriculture. We wanted to uplift the condition of our families, but we are being stopped from doing so. My friends in the southern states work in factories and motor industries despite being highly qualified,” iterated Rahul, a Chakma now facing uncertain future.

Rahul could not study post his graduation since he was not financially strong. He gave an exam for paramilitary forces and was also selected, but he was denied because of the residential proof.

Rahul who did B.Com from Guwahati, narrates, “There was always a hesitancy in accepting that I belong to the Chakma tribe. I could never state that..I would be labeled as a refugee even though I was born in this very country. All my friends in my college days were only from my tribe.”

Hundreds like him were denied government jobs and admission to Central Universities.

“We were born here. The ones who migrated from East Pakistan, almost all of them are dead now. Why are we labeled as refugees? We were born here, studied here, and want to serve the country. We have lived with this label for almost 60 years now. And now, if we settle for a temporary resident certificate, the refugee tag on us will stay for the next 60 years,” says Priyanka, another youth from the Chakma community who has been living in Delhi for a couple of years now.

Chakmas and Hajongs say it is Racial Discrimination,” despite High Court verdict

Youth like Rahul have accepted their fate. They feel that the government will not do anything for them now, and they will have to survive somehow. However, their battle for a Permanent Resident Certificate is for the younger generations. People in the community are under a lot of rage and want to amplify the protests in the near future. As the northeast state moves closer towards the Assembly elections this year, so does the battle of the Chakma and Hajong tribes to get their basic human rights of being citizens.

“We are like a golden egg to the parties,” said a youth from the Hajong community.” The parties discriminate against us to lure the votes of the majority tribes. Whoever would talk ill about us is surely going to come into power,” he added.

The communities strongly disagree with accepting the tag of a Temporary resident.

The disallowance does not just stop mere residential proof, but obstructs these tribes from accessing education from government-aided universities and has even suppressed them economically.

This is how One India and sab ka sath are implemented in Arunachal. This is the Act east policy of BJP.

The government went against an earlier verdict by the Gauhati High Court, say the victims:

“The Chakmas and Hajongs are neither illegal people, foreigners, nor refugees but bonafide Indian Citizens and permanent residents of Arunachal Pradesh. The Hon’ble Gauhati High Court vide Judgement dated 19.03.2013 in PIL No. 52 of 2010 has held that the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation (BEFR), 1873, or ILP, shall not apply to the Chakmas and Hajongs because they were permanently settled in Arunachal Pradesh by the competent authority. Hence, the decision to withdraw the residential proof certificate (RPC) and to issue a ‘Temporary Settlement Certificate’ (TSC) to them is illegal and illogical. 90-95% of Chakmas and Hajongs are citizens of India by birth under section 3(1)(a) of the Citizenship Act of 1955,” stated Drishya Muni Chakma, President of the APCSU.

Tejang Chakma, Delhi-NCR convenor of the Chakma-Hajong Rights Alliance, said the stopping the issuing of the certificates was “completely illegal”, alleging the move was based on “racial grounds”.

“They think that we are outsiders,” said Tejang Chakma. “We are not given ration cards and are ineligible for so many government schemes. The fact that the order of cancellation is against only two communities amounts to racial discrimination.”

Persistent protests by the groups representing the two communities led to the state government announcing in December that the RPCs would be replaced by temporary settlement certificates.

However, the agitators refused to budge – and, hence, the non- cooperation movement. Hundreds of students from the communities boycotted their classes, and markets and commercial establishments run by the community in Changlang remained shut in the period.

The protests currently happened only at Jantar Mantar in Delhi, but in the coming months, if the government fails to provide residential proof to these tribes, the youth say they will protest in every state.

( for more on this aspect,visit:

It is an ethnic conflict the political parties and their governments exploited for their political ends, and failed to resolve. Instead  they aggravate the same for electoral ends. 

The state government’s decision to suspend the issuance of these certificates was an outcome of a stir by the All Arunachal Pradesh Students’ Union or AAPSU. The union is a native outfit claiming to represent the indigenous communities of the state. It considers the Chakmas and Hajongs outsiders and wants them expelled from the state.

In an interview with (Jan 07, 2023), the union’s president Dozi Tana Tara said they protested against the Chakmas and Hajongs being issued the residential proof certificates because “they are not residents of Arunachal Pradesh”. “So why were they given [the certificates]?” he asked.

Instead of resolving this issue amicably, the BJP Govt exploited the tribal divide, and issued the above orders, protested by Chakmas and Hajongs.

Observers say the stalemate is likely to continue as the state government cannot publicly oppose the All Arunachal Pradesh Students Union’s main contention: that the Chakma and Hajong residents are refugees.

“The stand of the AAPSU is clear from day one,” said Nani Bath, who teaches political science at Itanagar’s Rajiv Gandhi University. “On the issue, the state government could not ignore AAPSU’s demand. The opposition parties would have taken advantage, if the residential proof certificates were not revoked.”

In fact, Union Law Minister Kiran Rijuju, who hails from Arunachal, openly sided with the AAPSU demands, and the decision by the State government.

( for more on this side of the picture, visit

Arunachal: ‘Changing’ Demography 

China (PRC), conducted census in 1954 that included TAR(Tibet Autonomous Region) and its population of 12.7 lakh people.

Whereas the first-ever census in NEFA (now Arunachal) was conducted only in 1961, when there was no civil administration of India there. 3.37 lakh lived there , as per the data.

That is one year before the 1962 war that had this disputed area as one of its theaters. China, it is well known, calls the area as a part of“South Tibet”. The area had little to do with British India, which conducted decennial census, which was simply not possible for Tibet.

Non-Tibetan tribal people, hapless refugees, were brought here as a buffer against China, it is said.

These tribes and sub-tribes lived in South Tibet, as it was called, for centuries, on both sides of LAC that came much later: The century-old McMahon Line (of  1912–13, about 885 km long line) was a device by the colonial British establishment, ostensibly to resolve the disputes between, on the one hand, China’s central power, and on the other hand Tibet that was assertive in the context of then weak Centre. It had nothing to do with Britain itself, which was initially only an intermediary.  Later it sought to fish in troubled waters calling it as NEFA.

 It was rejected by China soon after it was drawn, and so did Tibet soon after.

Even if it were accepted, because of the way it was drawn, disputes are bound to exist and needed to be resolved by mutual adjustments and mutual accommodation (MUMA as it was called in talks that went on endlessly in the past). That is the fact, and ground reality, reiterated recently by AS Bhasin, an officer of India’s MEA who retired as the Director of its History department after 30 years of   service there.

A peaceful, negotiated settlement of the border conflict must take into consideration the rights and interests of these people, irrespective of the ethnic group they belong to.

China has been suggesting a resolution based on historical aspects and existing actualities, that would have accorded with interests of various ethnic groups. But India has subordinated its China policy to the Asia-Pacific strategy of the American super power.

This harmful foreign policy is all the more vitiated by the narrow, electoral interests of various ruling class parties, with now BJP topping and manipulating them using and misusing its power, both in the Centre and various states.

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Ethnic conflicts compounded by Communal divide in Northeast

The BJP-led government is obviously led by the RSS. In the name of One India, they are creating ethnic turmoil in Northeast, by sowing Hindutva among tribes who were animists, with their own local customs.

It is well known that in Gujarat (Godhra), in Odisha and elsewhere, tribals were brainwashed, converted into Hindutva , and incited to indulge in deadly violent acts against those of  other religions.

The well known history has been the entire Northeast has been a centre for insurgencies for decades. Many people there, even today, do not identify themselves as Indians. Union governments led by Congress, by Vajpayee and Modi of BJP, have been holding negotiations for decades with ethnic groups, amid ‘ceasefire agreements’  with their armies, setting aside the pre-condition that they must accept territorial integrity before the talks.

Home Minister Amit Shah in this new year 2023 said Modi govt almost resolved the problems. Agreements with Nagas remain a secret, and BJP-led govts in northeast protested the same.  As if they are not enough, the sensitive NE states are also subjected to rabid politics of Hindutva .

A report by Mayank Kumar, in, May 7, 2022 says:

“ As per the data accessed by this paper, the Akhil Bharatiya Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram ( ABVKA established by the RSS in 1952), whose purpose is to make the tribal community self-reliant and empower them, is presently running 19,398 projects among tribals all over the country through which it is benefiting more than eight lakh people. The projects are mostly in education, health, sports and economic development sectors.

The data suggests that 3,602 small/big projects are functional in the education sector, while 4,486 projects are running in the health sector benefitting 6,90,372 people in tribal areas.”

“ Interestingly, the Sangh Parivar is working on two fronts among the tribal communities: reconstructing tribal culture and trying to forge a Hindu-tribal synergy as it believes that both societies have the same values and moral structures.”

Now, it functions in all the states and Union territories of the country, covering more than 30,000 villages. Even recently, Mohan Bhagwat, the Sarsanghchalak of the RSS, called upon the workers of the Sangh Parivar to embrace tribal communities and work for their uplift.

Political analysts believe that the Sangh Parivar’s outreach among the tribals from the northeast to Gujarat had also in a way helped its political affiliate, the BJP, to achieve major electoral successes in these areas which were never its area of influence.

“If we look at recent elections, tribal communities had voted in large numbers for the BJP in Gujarat, northeast states and in Maharashtra. The BJP won more than 70% tribal seats in the Maharashtra Assembly polls and all the four tribal reserved parliamentary seats in the Lok Sabha polls in 2014. In Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh also, its performance in tribal areas had improved significantly.”

(Sangh Parivar’s ‘outreach’ among tribals is going on

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Territorial and Border Disputes within Northeast and those with China are inter-related

Border Dispute is not only with China. Arunachal Pradesh is part of Tibet, Dalai Lama maintained until as recently as  2008.. That shows how China and Tibetans, even Taiwan, view it.  Arunachal has border disputes with other states too.

One may say they are not comparable, but the fact is they  were all disputes that are rooted in the same colonial past of British rule. ( see below).

The complex ethnic situation complicates it all the more. All this has a bearing on the defence situation in the region.

Territorial changes were brought in within India, and between states. It was so in NEFA then. Recently it was division of J&K into three parts, Jammu Kashmir and Ladakh. It was in the same speech by Amit shah declared in parliament, “PoK is ours, Aksai chin is ours, and we shall take them back’. That is Forward Policy-2, the first being one by Nehru. But such changes have their own consequences.

See how things happened in Northeast:

The state of Arunachal Pradesh, created in 1987, claims some land that traditionally belonged to its residents has been given to Assam. A tripartite committee had recommended that certain territories be transferred from Assam to Arunachal. The two states have since been battling it out in the Supreme  court over the issue. Some incidents of local violence have been reported from the borders.

Dr Pushpita Das, Research Fellow at the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, discusses the issue in a longish paper. An extract from it is worth noting :

 Border disputes between various states in Northeast India have been recurring since the 1960s. These disputes emerged after states such as Nagaland, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram were carved out of undivided Assam. However, almost all these border disputes have their origins in colonial times and reflect the consequences of the British policy of creating and recreating boundaries for administrative convenience based on annexation and exploration of territories in the region.

 The Union government has made efforts to resolve these disputes, however not much success has been achieved as one or the other state remained non-cooperative. Non-resolution of these disputes has given rise to strong community sentiments among states concerned and resultantly vitiated the inter-state relations. Further, the security situation of the region is jeopardised with insurgents and criminals gaining the upper hand. The need of the hour is to shape public opinion for peaceful borders and redouble efforts for a political solution to these decades-old disputes.

Arunachal shares an 804.1 km long boundary with Assam. The boundary dispute between the two states came to the fore after the establishment of Arunachal Pradesh as a Union Territory in 1972. The process of demarcation of the boundary between Assam and Arunachal started in 1972 and by 1979, 396 km of the boundary was demarcated.However, a number of anomalies and disputes regarding the border surfaced during the survey. As a result, the process of demarcation had to be suspended.

The border dispute between the two states arose when Arunachal Pradesh refused to accept the 1951 notification as the basis of boundary delineation. In April 1951, on the recommendations of the Bordoloi Committee, a total of 3,648 sq. km of the plain area comprising the present-day Darrang, Dhemaji and Jonoi districts was transferred to Assam. Arunachal argues that the plain area was transferred to Assam without the consent of its people…

Efforts at Dispute Resolution

Several efforts have been made to arrive at some kind of resolution to the border dispute. In 1979, both governments agreed to set up a high-powered committee to discuss the disagreements, but nothing came of it. In 1983, the Arunachal government sent a proposal to Assam asking it to return 956 sq. km of land, but the Assam government did not respond. In 1989, Arunachal again renewed its claim and argued that it has been magnanimous and asking only a small portion of the plain land transferred to Assam. In response, the Assam government filed a civil suit in the Supreme Court requesting it to ascertain the Assam–Arunachal boundary. Incidentally, in 2007, Arunachal presented its proposal in front of the Tarun Chatterjee Commission in which it increased its request of return of territory from 956 sq. km to 1,119.2 sq. km. Assam rejected it in 2009 and argued that the boundary should be settled in the spirit of give and take. It is reported that the Commission upheld 70–80 per cent of Arunachal Pradesh’s claim.  

Present Situation

Assam has raised the issue of encroachment in 2020 and claimed that Arunachal Pradesh has encroached upon 6,375 hectares of its forest land. It is important to note that the Assam government has been periodically launching eviction drives in the encroached lands leading to violence on the ground and tensions such as in 2005 and 2014. The present situation on the border is calm but could flare up at any moment given that encroachment from both sides is taking place at a rapid pace. In particular, the Bodos from Assam and the Nyshis from Arunachal Pradesh are at the forefront of this encroachment. The issue is also politicised by various vested interest groups.

(Inter-state Border Disputes in Northeast India, July 29, 2021.  For more:

“The border dispute between the two states arose when Arunachal Pradesh refused to accept the 1951 notification”, says the paper.

However, the issue should be viewed in a context of not so remote history.  A.S. Bhasin, former Director of the History department of MEA, wrote:

 “The northern part of India’s bequeathed border with Tibet was haphazardly fixed by Henry McMahon on a map without surveys. Not only was such a border neither delineated nor demarcated, the utterances of its very architect that the same was to be surveyed, delineated and demarcated fell on deaf ears…”

It should be noted that the erstwhile NEFA (presently Arunachal Pradesh), until 1951 was known by the Tibetan name Tawang, and despite the claimed McMahon Line, it remained under Tibetan occupation since 1914 and they collected the civil revenue as well.

The fact is much of the NEFA territory, Tawang in particular, were not in India’s possession. Even after Independence, the government of India too assured Tibet that it would adjust the border in Tawang in favour of Tibet. Despite this assurance, in 1951, as the negotiations for 17-Point Agreement between China and Tibet started in Beijing, India occupied Tawang ignoring Tibetan protests:  .

To be precise, on February 12, 1951, Major R. Khating forcibly evicted the Tibetan administration from Tawang and sought to establish India’s control that was never accepted by China. Thus it is a post-British possession, and added after the Constitution of 1950 (Article- 1defines Indian territory) came into effect.

Thus the border disputes within Northeast and with China had not only common colonial roots, but also are inter-related, and hence intractable, except by mutual accommodation, and spirit of give and take, as Assam argues. Ethnic affinities across borders  are a factor that need to be taken into consideration.

The fact that  Dalai Lama, a Tibetan Buddhist Chief, despite being hosted by India and funded by USA, for the last 60 plus years, did not accept, until 2008, Arunachal  as part of India, when all the above disputes were raging, is to be noted here.

 Even today Taiwan, courted by USA and Delhi, claims it is part of its (China’s) territory. Modi is closer to them both more than in the past.

Raking up these things, the territorial changes and the the ethnicconflicts in the Northeast is like playing with fire. Amit Shah’s claims of peace and prosperity there are dubious. They may serve them in the coming elections.

But they would create more problems, to the people and to the country. That is not the way.

At a time BJP-led by Modi is celebrating India heading the G-20, with 200 events across India, and at a time the G-20 adopted Modi’s precept “ this is not an era of wars, ”  it is pertinent to recall Modi’s summit with Xi Jinping, and decisions taken then.

A negotiated settlement, with a spirit of give and take, is the need of the hour.

***                                    ***

The author is a political observer who contributed to

Articles in this series by the author are listed below:

See also India-China war at 60 : A Review, 01/12/2022

India-China conflict in the Global Context:  Part-1  (25/12/2022)

 and part- 2 on The Arunachal sector ( 27/12/2022)

Part- 3 : India China Border Dispute: Some Myths (03/01/2023)

Part- 4 : Modi’s precept “this is not an era of war,” should be applied to China and Pakistan as well : Normalization, not chauvinism, is the need of the hour (09/01/2023)

Part- 5: India-China Border Conflict: Dangerous, Divisive Games of  BJP in the Northeast (14/01/2023)

Part- 6:  India China Border Conflict:

They want to secure the LAC but not the people there, nor its fragile environment!


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