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  • Writer's pictureK S Deepak

Arunachal Pradesh standing out from the farrago of mottling secessionist demands: A quirky thought

Introduction: A gingerly touch

Northeast has been fizzing in secessionist demands from its days of existence. The story of secessionist demands or in-principal Insurgencies starts with that of British-India. At that time, Europeans were in the vicious race of controlling regimes worldwide, and India was one of its prey. However, even the northeast was comparatively free and smoke-screened from those greedy eyes thanks to the rough terrain and peculiar & pointillist customs, and the scenario has not changed much yet.

Let us restrict ourselves to Arunachal Pradesh, home to more than 100 sub-tribes. Each district has various tribes, customs, and languages, thus making it a herculean task for an outsider to overhaul it. Nevertheless, this bulge has not stopped me from loving it.

The question which haunted me is that even after being a multifaceted society what had kept arunachal free of parasitic demands as seen in the neighboring states and can the answer to this be a panacea. As Grp. Cap. Chandrasekaran[1], the progenitor of my curiosity in one of his book has rightly said COIN is never studied as seriously as Conventional warfare. David Galula[2] , who has found numerous praise in this book and is also the foremost expert in COIN stated that insurgencies starts with nothing but a cause where as COIN starts with everything but a cause.

Possible causes: Sneaky peek of the crux

Before diving into the core it is sine qua non to understand that the reasons for this problem may seen same across NE but don’t let it fool you. The generalizability of any pre-evident solution is null and there is no panacea[1].

Per contra, we could also find some converging domains with other doctrines, the most evident progeny is the Indian government’s COIN triangle approach viz. Security, development and governance[3] but the spearhead should be prepared depending on the history, culture, present scenario etc.

Figure 1: The Taraazoo of I & CI

The reasons on LHS are those that fuel up and eventually sustains an Insurgency whereas in the RHS we have those that help in pruning out the same[4].

In Arunachal, we find that most of the insurgencies have fizzled out, and only some, like NSCN (K), still operate but have shifted their operational bases to safe houses at the porous borders of Myanmar.

Figure 2:Schematic Showing insurgent groups in Arunachal Pradesh

It is not esoteric for anyone to understand that jam-packed immigration is the one to be cursed. Nevertheless, is it the sole culprit, and if yes, then why only Arunachal free of such incidents?

Figure 3: The Vexatious Cycle

A graph plotted between fatalities (civilian, military, and militants) over time (1993-2018) is enough to prove that the ‘Carrot and Stick approach’ had been the double-edged sword responsible for keeping such insurgents on the wane and also for the rise of animosity[5].

Figure 4: Timeline of Fatalities in North east

So, an insurgency end if the government forces win or lose or insurgents are bereft of support from the local population. Now it is evident that the first two things have not occurred, so we are left with the third reason, i.e., they have been bereft of support from the local population, but why?

Drug trade: Tryst of the land of dawn

North east has been famous for its notorious drug trafficking, thanks to its proximity to the golden triangle and corrupt mechanism[6], this tryst of the land has grown over the years.

Among illicit drugs trade in India, opium has a much greater share[7]. India is the world’s only legal opium exporter. In India most of the illicit opium cultivation occurs in Arunachal. But Arunachal wasn’t the epicenter of this infamous trade all along the timeline[8]. This parasitic addiction spread from Yunnan province in mainland China to Assam and then to Arunachal Pradesh, main reasons for which were the porous borders with Myanmar and China and the state’s sluggish preventive and corrective mechanism[9].

In Arunachal Pradesh ‘ the epicenter of opium trade’ production comes from five districts Upper Siang, East Siang, Changlang, Tirapand Lohit. Kanni as the mishmi’s call it is actively grown by all sub-mishmi groups viz Idu, Digaru and Mijo. Illegal opium production in Arunachal Pradesh has been largely ignored by recent international publications, including the United Nations’ annual World Drug Reports[10-11] and hence it is difficult to cite any reference data.

Figure 5: Major Drug trafficking routes in North-East India[12]

Iniquitous snollygosters and their apparatchiks

S. Bhaumik, in his book Troubled Periphery: The Crisis of India's North East, has highlighted how essential it is to consider aspects like Insurgency, HIV/AIDS, Drug trade, immigration, power politics, and Corruption to understand the northeast[12].

Figure 6: The jigsaws of north-east

In Arunachal owing to the state policies no outsider can buy land or can start a business of its own. It should always be backed by a local inhabitant. This red tape creates a pothole in the system due to which the power politics gets fueled up. Corruption has well preserved roots in north east and is looked after by the insurgent groups. They make sure that every business or project pay a price to them[13]. This blob of corruption is catalyzed by apparatchiks. For every project a huge percentage is fixed only to feed these apparatchiks who have the tasks of makings every penny of the assigned sum seem white and clean[14]. The power politics too plays a role in dictating the insurgency in north east. Being a federal structure the political parties play the dirty game of vote-politics and once they are crowned they no longer represent the views of local population[15].

Conclusion: The coup de grace to insurgency

The epochal reason for their failure is that they have failed in retaining their support from the local population, and there could be endless reasons for it. For understanding, let us consider only two cases: one stating that people have come close to Delhi and the second because they had found something more lucrative. The first reason, though partially true, seems vague for a state like Arunachal, where there is a prevalent notion of dereliction from the Lutyens. Also, the presence of porous pathways and heavenly atmosphere in the thick jungles of the Myanmar- Arunachal border have made them change their strongholds.

Figure 7: The taraazoo of Arunachal's lifeline

It seems that a delicate balance between power politics and the drug trade is established. This delicate balance is on a slender thread but has successfully maintained the volatile yet stable atmosphere backed by progressive arunachali mentality and proportional military action.


  1. Chandrasekaran, A.V. Insurgency & Counter Insurgency: A Dangerous war of nerves. s.l. : KW publishers Pvt Ltd, 2013.

  2. Galula, David. Counter-Insurgency Warfare. s.l. : Praeger Security International, 1954.

  3. Ray, Ayesha. Culture, Context and Capability. IDSA Monograph Series. s.l., New Delhi, India :Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, December 2016. However, what is often forgotten is that the spearhead should be prepared depending on various factors like history and culture.

  4. Commission, Second Administrative Reforms.capacity building for conflict resolution. Department of Administrative reforms & Public greviances, MINISTRY OF PERSONNEL , PUBLIC GRIEVANCES AND PENSIONS. s.l. : GOVERNMENT OF INDIA, 2008. pp. 130-160, SEVENTH REPORT. SECOND ADMINISTRATIVE REFORMS COMMISSION SEVENTH REPORT

  5. (SATP), South Asia Terrorism Portal. [Online]

  6. Bhomik, Sudhir. SAGE Studies on India's North East: Troubled periphery: Crisis of India's North East. New Delhi : SAGE Publications India Pvt Ltd, 2009. doi:10.4135/9788132104797.

  7. Ghosh, S. Northeast India: The Region of Blood Money. 1. s.l. : Jadavpur Journal of International Relations, 2010. pp. 206-212. Vol. 14.

  8. Bhattacharyya, Rajeev. India’s Northeast Emerges as a Drug-Trafficking Corridor Between Myanmar and Bangladesh. [Web portal] s.l. : the diplomat, 2019.

  9. Murali, D.‘Taxes’ in North East. [Website:Book review] s.l. : The Hindu, 2009.

  10. Bhattacharji, Romesh. Unpublished Report. s.l. : Institute of Narcotics Studies and Analysis (INSA).

  11. Chouvy, Pierre-Arnaud.Illegal Opium Production in the Mishmi Hills of Arunachal Pradesh. s.l. : Digital himalaya and University of Cambridge, 2014

  12. Bhomik, Sudhir.SAGE Studies on India's North East: Troubled periphery: Crisis of India's North East. New Delhi : SAGE Publications India Pvt Ltd, 2009. doi: 10.4135/9788132104797.

  13. Dai, Mamang. Arunachal Pradesh The Myth of Tranquillity . South Asia Terrorism portal. [Online] 2001.

  14. Rammohan, EN. Corruption as a factor in Northeast Insurgencies. 2016.

  15. Madhab, Jayanta. North-East: Crisis of Identity, Security and Underdevelopment. Economic and Political Weekly. 1999, Vol. 34, 6, pp. 320-322.

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