The Creation of India’s North-East

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Sharing borders with Bangladesh, Bhutan, China and Myanmar, India's North-Eastern region is strategically important. The states that make it up today were chiselled out of a vast patchwork of ancient tribal areas and kingdoms, in the 1960s and 1970s.

These states were created to meet the aspirations of different tribes and distinct ethnic and linguistic groups. During colonial British rule, these tribes were deliberately isolated from mainland India.

Traditionally, these states enjoyed trade and tribal links with Myanmar, Bhutan and Tibet. It was after the Anglo-Burmese Wars in the 19th century that they came under British rule and were initially placed under the Bengal Province.

By 1947, when India achieved independence, the North-East region was divided into Assam and the princely states of Manipur and Tripura. The 1960s witnessed a massive change in the region’s map.

Most of the newly-created states began as Union Territories (UTs) and then became independent states. However, the story of their statehood is complicated.

Preceded by insurgency aimed at carving out a separate state each, the states of Nagaland and Mizoram were carved out of Assam Province in 1963 and 1987 respectively.

The introduction of the North-Eastern Areas Reorganzation Act in 1971 converted the princely states of Manipur and Tripura into Union Territories and, later, independent states.

North-East Frontier Agency by Elwin from Philosophy for NEFA | Wikimedia Commons
North-East Frontier Agency by Elwin from Philosophy for NEFA | Wikimedia Commons

Under the act, Arunachal Pradesh, earlier the North-East Frontier Agency (NEFA), became a UT in 1972. The Chinese aggression in 1962 and its claim over the territory prompted the Indian government to turn it into a UT and then a state in 1987.

Shillong | Wikimedia Commons
Shillong | Wikimedia Commons

The act also created a new state, Meghalaya in 1972, by carving out two tribal districts from Assam - United Khasi and Jaintia Hills, and Garo Hills, with Shillong as its capital.

North-East India | Wikimedia Commons
North-East India | Wikimedia Commons

The final addition in the region took place in 1975, with Sikkim. It was an independent princely state which after India's independence in 1947 became a protectorate of India via a treaty in 1950.

By 1973, the Indian government and the last Sikkim Chogyal, Palden Thondup Namgyal, and political parties entered into an agreement for elected representatives and a democratic Constitution for Sikkim.

On 28th June 1974, the Assembly passed the Government of Sikkim Act, after which Parliament adopted the 36th Amendment to the Indian Constitution, approving Sikkim's merger with India. This took place on 26th April 1975.

Cover Image: Wikimedia Commons

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