Vikash Sharma

A huge transformation has taken place in North East. If India wants to do business with Southeast Asia, Assam and North East will be the first point. It will not be considered as the last point, said Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Saturday.

While attending OTV’s annual convention, Foresight 2024, Himanta Biswa Sharma recalled his memories of when the situation was completely different decades back. 

Sharing his views on the topic, “Reaching The Last Mile: Developing The Rest of India,’ Sarma recalled, “My first childhood memory in Assam is about agitation and social encounter- how to stage demonstration, do picketing and block CRPF. I did not go to school for two years as it was closed. From democratic agitation, it took violent turn. The people, who did not slapped anyone, had AK 47 in their hands. Our vocabulary included names like AK 47, 9 MM, all Chinese-made weapons. We lost 700 security personnel and casualty of around 45000 civilians. The discourse continued and tribal militancy started in Assam. The same story continued in neighbouring states like Manipur and Nagaland.”

According to the Assam Chief Minister, they never knew that the picture of Assam would change as they grew older. “Every other day there were grenade blasts, shortage of ambulances and doctors. This was our life and things never changed. If you look at Tripura, a state which was full of poverty and nobody knew what would be their fate if they go to Nagaland. If you go to Arunachal Pradesh, there is pressure from China on one side and notion of Indian government was then like border area should not develop. This was the case and we stayed in India’s last mile and the image was that this was an abandoned area of Indian nation. We grew like this,” recalled Sarma.

“Suddenly in 2014, we never thought that there would be a government in Delhi that will start caring for the Northeast,” said the Assam Chief Minister.

“The present generation of Assam forgot what was the agitation. The youths, who had arms in their hands, came to main mainstream. AIIMS came, Assam started registering growth at 17 percent, refinery came up and talks are going on for semi-conductor industry and it will come in the next couple of months. Gradually stadiums were built and national highway infrastructure of Rs 1 lakh crore was built up. Earlier, there was one road for the Indian Army to go up to China border, it has now three roads.  The Tripura airport is three times bigger than the Bhubaneswar airport. Gradually, the picture and things have changed in the last 9 years. Nobody will believe that it is the same land where 70000 people died due to militancy,” said Sarma.

According to Sarma, a huge transformation has now taken place in North East. “If India wants to do business with Southeast Asia, Assam and North East will be the first point. It will not be considered as the last point. If India wants to do trade with Bangladesh Bangkok, Myanmar or Bhutan, we will not be the last state or last mile, we will be the first mile, Delhi will be a little far. This is the renewed confidence and transformation,” said Sarma.

“After 2014, the story of North East also happened in another last mile, Jammu and Kashmir. Now the scenario of Kashmir has changed and nobody can say that there was militancy there. Same is the case of Uttarakhand, another last mile of the country. Everybody can see the transformation,” Sarma added.