Human rights issues in Northeast India

Human rights issues in northeast India have been widely reported in the press and by human rights activists.[1][2] Northeast India refers to the easternmost region of India consisting of the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, and Tripura, as well as parts of northern West Bengal (districts of Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri, and Koch Bihar).

Northeast India
Location of Northeast India
Location of Northeast states within India
Area262,230 km2 (101,250 sq mi)
Population density148/km2 (380/sq mi)
Time zoneIST (UTC+5:30)
States and territoriesArunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Tripura
Largest cities (2008)Guwahati, Dimapur, Agartala, Shillong, Aizawl,
Official languagesAssamese, Bengali, Bodo, English, Garo, Khasi, Kokborok, Meitei, Mizo, Nepali, Pnar, Sikkimese
ReligionChristianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam


An ongoing separatist struggle has continued in the region since the late 1940s, making it the longest running separatist struggle in South Asia. There are multiple parties involved in the struggles including different ethnic groups and states, some of whom want total independence from India while others call for a restructuring of the states.[3]

There are existing territorial conflicts within the Northeastern states, including between Manipur and Nagaland, Nagaland and Assam, Meghalaya and Assam, and Mizoram and Assam. These are often based on historical border disputes and differing ethnic, tribal or cultural affinities.[citation needed] There has been a number of insurgent activities and regional movements in all parts of the northeast, often unique in character to each state. Military action by the armed and paramilitary forces and political action have led to the intensity of these insurgencies fluctuating and to the resolution of the insurgency in Mizoram.[citation needed]

Human rights abuses on the part of Indian forces in the area are frequently traced to immunity granted to Indian security forces under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958. The act has been criticized by Human Rights Watch as a "tool of state abuse, oppression and discrimination".[4]

The South Asian Human Rights Documentation Centre argues that the governments' call for increased force is part of the problem.[5]

"This reasoning exemplifies the vicious cycle which has been instituted in the North East due to the AFSPA. The use of the AFSPA pushes the demand for more autonomy, giving the people of the North East more reason to want to secede from a state which enacts such powers and the agitation which ensues continues to justify the use of the AFSPA from the point of view of the Indian Government."[6]

A report by the Institute for Defense Studies and Analysis points to multiple occurrences of violence by security forces against civilians in Manipur since the passage of the Act.[7] The report states that residents believe that the provision for immunity of security forces urge them to act more brutally.[8]


Violence broke out between Bodo tribes and Muslim migrant settlers in the Kokrajhar district of Assam on 20 July 2012, leaving at least 45 people dead and approximately 300,000 displaced in the month of July. According to Human Rights Watch, the fighting has led to a strict curfew, with police being given "shoot at sight" orders for curfew violators. Multiple police shootings were reported after the order was given.[9]

Allegations of sexual assaultEdit

Women are mostly raped during militant attacks where men of the villages or towns are gathered outside their homes and women are forced to stay indoors. Furthermore, most of the rapes go unreported due to the social stigma and fear of backlash.[10]

The Assam Police between 2006 and 2011 received over 7000 complaints of rape and also 11,553 complaints of kidnappings involving women committed mainly by militants.[11]


  1. ^ Bendangjungshi (2012). Confessing Christ in the Naga Context: Towards a Liberating Ecclesiology. LIT Verlag Münster. p. 60. ISBN 978-3643900715.
  2. ^ Chakma, Suhas (2001). Marianne Jensen (ed.). Racism Against Indigenous Peoples. International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs. p. 204. ISBN 978-8790730468.
  3. ^ Binalakshmi Nepram. Gender Based Violence in Conflict Zones : Case Study of India's Northeast (PDF) (Report). Centre for Equity and Inclusion. p. 2. Retrieved 21 June 2012.[permanent dead link]
  4. ^ "Crisis in Kashmir" Council on Foreign Relations
  5. ^ India: Repeal Armed Forces Special Powers Act; 50th Anniversary of Law Allowing Shoot-to-Kill, Other Serious Abuses. Human Rights Watch
  6. ^ AFSPA South Asian HRDC
  7. ^ Institute for Defense Studies and Analysis, 'Manipur and Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act 1958' "the alleged rape and killing of Manjab Manorama", "security forces have destroyed homes", "arrests without warrants", "widespread violations of humane rights", "The cases of Naga boys of Oinam village being tortured before their mothers by Assam rifles Jawans in July 1987; the killing of Amine Devi and her child of Bishnupur district on April 5, 1996 by a CRPF party; the abduction, torture and killing of 15-year-old Sanamacha of Angtha village by an Assam Rifles party on 12th February 1998; the shooting dead of 10 civilians by an Assam Rifles party in November 2000 are some of the glaring examples that are still fresh in the mind of Manipuris."
  8. ^ Institute for Defense Studies and Analysis, 'Manipur and Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act 1958' Archived 12 July 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ Human Rights Watch, India: Rescind "Shoot at Sight" Orders in Assam, 27 July 2012
  10. ^ Nonibala Devi Yengkhom; Meihoubam Rakesh (4 October 2002). "Fear of rape: The experience of women in Northeast India". Article 2. Asian Human Rights Commission. 1 (5). ISSN 1811-7023. Retrieved 21 June 2012.
  11. ^ "Over 7,000 complaints of rape in Assam since 2006". CNN-IBN. 26 March 2012. Retrieved 21 June 2012.[dead link]