The Northeastern states of India are often mentioned in the context of separatist movements and insurgency. But these states are also examples of faith and political awareness in the democracy.
On the one hand, we have separatist movements and demands for sovereignty, and on the other, expressions of faith in the Constitution of the country and increased participation in the elections. It may seem contradictory to hear that both of these things coexist. But this is the ground reality in the Northeastern states. Voters in Tripura, Nagaland and Meghalaya have once again proved this. Awareness of political rights in the states governed by the Left Front is not new. This awareness has been observed on the occasion of elections in West Bengal and Kerala. The Left has been in power in the Northeastern state of Tripura for some two and a half decades. As a result, this state has always seen heavy voting.
In the Vidhan Sabha elections of the year 2008, 91% voting was registered in the state. Next time, in 2013, it increased to 91.8%. But in the upcoming Assembly elections, about 92% of people voted, setting a new record. Tripura’s chief election officer Shriram Taranikanti says, “89.8% of the votes for the state’s 59 seats were cast. But after adding the postal ballot, the figure will reach 92%.”
In addition to Tripura, in Nagaland, despite the activism of all the militant organizations, despite the decades-old demands of different states, appeals for election boycotts, and adverse conditions, over 80% of the voting had been conducted. Earlier, all the parties, including BJP, had decided not to participate in the elections. They demanded that elections be conducted only the decades-old Naga problem had been resolved. But later all the parties agreed to participate in the electoral process. The Naga organization is very powerful in the state, and the guidelines of the election are decided only on their instructions. In spite of this, if it is so heavily polled, it can be considered a sign of the people’s faith in democracy. 90% of the votes were cast in the last assembly elections. In Meghalaya, which is called the Scotland of the Northeast, the voting percentage of ABC has crossed 70%. Despite all the problems, unemployment and backwardness, people’s involvement in the elections is remarkable.
In the last Lok Sabha elections, the voting percentage in most of the Northeastern states was around 80%. In states like Nagaland (87.82%) and Tripura (85%), it surpassed the national average of 66.4% of the vote.
After all, why is there such a contradiction between democracy and society? On the one hand, we have the demand for a different state, on the other hand, increased participation in the elections – the biggest festival of democracy – in comparison to the other states of the country. Political observers say that its roots are hidden in the literacy rates in the area and socio-political awareness of people towards their rights. All the regions of Tripura are young compared to the other states of the country, and the generation born after it got the status of a separate state is still young. People have better literacy rates and they are conscious of their rights.
Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar says, “With the increase of literacy in the people of the state, awareness of their rights has also increased. They know that using franchise is a positive change in society and politics, which is why, always in this state, the average of the voting is higher than the other parts of the country.”
“Despite the decades-old Naga problem and adverse conditions, people are quite aware of their democratic and constitutional rights,” says Naghey, the former chief minister of Nagaland and the foremost in the race to form a new government. Neiphiu Rio, who combined BJP with a new organization named National Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP), says that people know that their problems can only be solved by staying within the constitutional boundaries. But is this picture not contradictory? On this question, Rio says, “It is not that movement and extremism are in their place, but the confidence of the people in the area has not diminished for democracy like in the rest of the country. There is no indifference towards elections in the state.”
Supervisors say that the Northeastern states have consistently participated in the biggest festival of democracy, and have once again transformed the meaning of the phrase “unity in diversity”. People from other parts of the country can also learn lessons from this mindset of the people of the area. It would be correct to say that in this case, the Northeast can show a new path to the rest of the country.
A version of this article was previously published here.