The region which is now popularly known as 'North-East India' was primarily familiar as the land of seven sisters viz. Assam, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Manipur, Tripura, Mizoram, and Arunachal Pradesh. Much later Sikkim was also added to this regional agglomeration which has a long history of politico-economic and socio-cultural formation of the land and its people. The scope of the present preface is primarily limited to a specific focus related to the contributions of seminar papers included in this volume. Therefore, I would not venture to go into its details, but mention that since the annexation of Assam in 1826 by the British colonizers the region and its people had gone through a number of historical turning points. Originally, Assam and its two substantial valleys i.e. Barak and Brahmaputra and the outlying hilly terrain along with two principalities i.e. Manipur and Tripura formed the geographical land mass of today's North- East India. Going through the various phases of political vicissitude Nagaland was curved out in 1963 as the first Hill State besides Assam. Subsequently, Manipur and Tripura, the hitherto known two princely states along with Meghalaya obtained their statehood in 1972. The declaration of hill states continued till the formation of Mizoram in 1986 and Arunachal Pradesh in 1987. Sikkim was declared as State in 1975 and was added to the North- East Region only in 2002. Officially the North-East Region came into being since the inception of North-Eastern Council (NEC) in 1971.
The North-East region is extremely important and unique in many senses of the term on account of its strategic geo-political existence having 25,500 sq. km area of which 4500 sq. km accounts for the international boundary with Tibet, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar and China. The region presents about 200 tribal communities out of the country's total of 650 tribal communities. About 175 languages are recorded in the region out of 325 in the whole of the country. The North-East Region occupies about eight per cent of the total geographical area having five per cent of the total country's population. In this region four states i.e. Meghalaya, Nagaland, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh have a majority of tribal populations. One is struck between the two archetypal characteristics of the region. While a beautiful natural scenario with its immense bio-cultural diversities presents a cogent and optically attractive mosaic on the one hand, it has equally earned a notoriety of being branded as a region full of continuous political violence, trans-border arms trade and drug trafficking and so on on the other.
The entire range of high human drama is being enacted here with a strong sense of ethnic identity and cultural autonomy. The papers included in the present volume were contributed by a group of very eminent scholars of North-East region as well as those who worked on this region. Very many social, economic, political and cultural issues have been covered by the individual scholars. This is the outcome of practically two seminars held at the Asiatic Society-one in April 29-30, 2003, and the other in March 25-26, 2004. As a host of these two deliberations, after a long interregnum, the Asiatic Society has practically picked up its thread of academic tradition with which it initiated research and publication on North-East India long back. A cursory glance on the list of publications of the Society's journal as well as occasional monographs would bring this point into relief for the readers.
Due to certain constraints beyond our control the publication of this seminar volume unfortunately got delayed and in the process we have unfortunately lost our respected Editor of the Volume, Professor Amalendu De (Former President of the Asiatic Society) who passed away on 15th May, 2014 and could not see the publication himself. I take this opportunity to pay my humble tribute to the departed soul with an apologetic mind for this incidental delay in bringing out this very important publication.
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