The northeast region of India refers to the seven states - Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura - which lies to the east of Bangladesh and is connected to mainland India by a narrow corridor, passing between Bhutan and north of Bangladesh.  A couple of years ago, the state of Sikkim has been added to the 7 northeastern states as the eight sister. But the region is still slow to recognize this fact and the northeast for all purposes refer to the seven states. The region forms 8% of India's land mass and has 4% (33-35 million) of her population. It is home to more than 200 of India's 300 odd listed tribes and most of these are of the Mongoloid stock belonging to the Tibeto-Burmese and Mon-Khmer races. Although scheduled tribes (STs) make up around a quarter of the region's population, another 20% belong to the tea tribes like Santhals, Mundas, Oraons- descendents of tribals brought to work on tea gardens by the British from Bihar/ Orissa & Andhra Pradesh - now living in Assam but do not have ST status in the region.  

 

Of the seven states, the largest is Assam, having over 70% of the region's population and elects 7 of the 14 MPs from the region to the parliament. Compared to the rest of India (70%), the northeast has a much larger number (85%) living in villages, which is not surprising given its dependence on agriculture & forestry.   

 

Rich in culture, tradition and community structures that foster deep social bonds, the northeast region is also rich in natural resources like oil, coal, minerals and forest resources. The biodiversity of the region has tremendous potential for eco-tourism, herbal medicines and much else. Yet, the region is most well known to the rest of India - mainly through the media - for its violent insurgency, floods and malaria. 

 

To understand the violent turmoil existing in five of its seven states (the sixth, Mizoram, has just come out of it and the seventh, Arunachal Pradesh is slowly slipping into it), one has to scratch below the surface. A perceived threat to identity, pathetic infrastructure, traditional societies unable to cope with the sudden transformation to modern life and a huge gap between the level of aspiration of a highly literate society and an abysmal lack of opportunities: all combine to foster the continuing state of a complex political emergency in the region.