'Unmitigated migration to Nagaland a worrying trend’

Naga tribals.

With the 60-year-old armed insurgency in Nagaland showing little sign of abating, a former army general blamed unmitigated migration from West Bengal and Bangladesh for the crisis.

Retired Major-General N George, a former infantryman and ex-chairman of the ceasefire monitoring group in Nagaland, made the comments following a round table discussion charting the history of troubles in the Northeast post-independence with active and retired officers at the Synergia Foundation, a think tank in Bengaluru.

The problem, according to George, began 24 hours before India gained independence in 1947, when the Nagas declared independence on August 14, fearing the region would soon come under the hegemony of a Hindu-dominated rule. At the core of the Naga insurgency, George explained was a fear among the tribe that their way of life would be swamped under a deluge of foreigners, which George described as rooted in tribalism.

“It is a fear that has been largely justified,” the general said, explaining that increased migration of Bengalis who dominate local commerce and Bangladeshis who dominate labour, has exacerbated tensions.

“The problem is set to worsen with climate change, which will inundate tracts of land in Bangladesh and lead to more migration into the Northeast,” George cautioned.

It was a view that many at the round table endorsed. A former senior officer of the Indian Air Force added that outsiders with their monopoly on the local economy were engendering resentment among the indigenous population. 

“This adds to the Centre’s neglect of the region, especially in infrastructure,” he said, adding that although infrastructure has improved in the region over the last decade, it still amounts to 10% of what can be found in New Delhi or Bengaluru.

For George, the solution to defeating the varied insurgency groups - which he said are as numerous as there are combinations of letters in the English alphabet - is clear: the armed forces must take in more Naga youths.

“The armed forces must assimilate more Naga youths into service to deprive the insurgent cadres of fresh recruits,” he said.

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