Characterised by tension and uncertainty that seem unending, Northeast India certainly needs a workable blueprint if one has to talk about peace and development. Peace deficit is certainly a stark reality. However, it is equally important to highlight that peace and development are not unqualified concepts. The two concepts are highly loaded in their connotative significance. At times, there could be violent peace, where peace is brought through fear that compels subjugation. Development in our time has seen unevenness of violent faces. It is not altogether out of place to ask the kind of peace and development one envisages in the blueprint.
Two political perspectives have emerged with contesting priorities. One group of political pundits is of the view that insurgency has to be contained first so that development and peace initiatives could be successfully taken up. They further argue that unless insurgency is contained, development initiatives will be misused and derailed by the armed political organisations. This view emphasizes on total restriction of violent activity for peace to find a space in the region. It is not only a one-sided articulation but also a highly statist response. This articulation comes from officials and those who echo the nationalist political leadership.
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On the contrary, there are others who highlight the need to initiate development programmes that can generate employment for the youth so that they are not attracted towards armed political movements. However, both the articulations seem to have been based on the foundation of state perspective, the former as hard state perspective and the latter as the soft one. While the former perspective rests firmly for securing national security, the latter seems to be ambivalent of its stand towards the debate on national security versus human security.
There is a third perspective that is also statist in nature, but challenges the very nature of the India nation that is in existence. Armed opposition movements in the region invoke the “right to self determination” to counter the idea of Indian nationhood as well as the existence of the Indian state. While these movements initiated by armed political oppositions stood at one time or the other in complete opposition to the Indian nation state and directed their opposition to the political content rather than the form. Even though the political aspiration is of “self-determination”, this “self” is not about the ordinary mundane “self”. It is about an imagined people who are supposed to be tied together with an organic bond. This “self” is highly political and at times has the potential to be synonymised with the state at certain point of its making. The “self” here is located in the fluid political transition phase from a (collective) people occupying a spatial reality to becoming a state on its own.
All these perspectives, including those who are demanding self-determination, (except for degrees) are state-centric. Aspiration and destiny of the ordinary people have always been structurally and politically subsumed within the state-centric perspectives. The challenge lies in inventing discourses where priority is truly given to the individual subject. This initiative has to come from the people living their everyday existence – from their needs and aspirations. These may not be structured and articulate, but fragmented and even arbitrary. That is what human aspirations are all about.