Seven Sister States
|This article does not cite any references or sources. (October 2013)|
The Seven Sister States (Assamese: সাতভনী ৰাজ্য), also called "Paradise Unexplored," is a name given to the contiguous states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura in northeastern India. These states cover an area of 255,511 km2, or about 7 percent of India's total area. They had a population of 44.98 million in 2011, about 3.7 percent of India's total. Although there is great ethnic and religious diversity within the seven states, they also have similarities in political, social and economic contexts.
The Seven States
When India became independent from the United Kingdom in 1947, only three states covered the area. Manipur and Tripura were princely states, while a much larger Assam Province was under direct British rule. Its capital was Shillong (present day Meghalaya's capital). Four new states were carved out of the original territory of Assam in the decades following independence, in line with the policy of the Indian government of reorganizing the states along ethnic and linguistic lines. Accordingly, Nagaland became a separate state in 1963, followed by Meghalaya in 1972. Mizoram became a Union Territory in 1972, and achieved statehood - along with Arunachal Pradesh - in 1987.
Ethnic and religious composition
Except for Assam, where the major language is Assamese, and Tripura, where the major language is Bengali, the region has a predominantly tribal population that speak numerous Tibeto-Burman and Austroasiatic languages. Meitei, the third most spoken language in this region is a Tibeto-Burman language.The large and populous states of Assam, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Tripura remain predominantly Hindu, with a sizable Muslim minority in Assam. Through the work of Christian missionaries, Christianity has become the major religion in the states of Nagaland, Mizoram and Meghalaya.
Main industries in the region are tea-based, crude oil and natural gas, silk, bamboo and handicrafts. The states are heavily forested and have plentiful rainfall. There are beautiful wildlife sanctuaries, tea-estates and mighty rivers like Brahmaputra. The region is home to one-horned rhinoceros, elephants and other endangered wildlife. For security reasons, including inter-tribal tensions, widespread insurgencies, and disputed borders with neighbouring China, there are restrictions on foreigners visiting the area, hampering the development of the potentially profitable travel tourism and hospitality industry.
A compact geographical unit, the Northeast is isolated from the rest of India except through the Siliguri Corridor, a slender corridor, flanked by foreign territories. Assam is the gateway through which the sister states are connected to the mainland. Tripura, a virtual enclave almost surrounded by Bangladesh, strongly depends on Assam. Nagaland, Meghalaya and Arunachal depend on Assam for their internal communications. Manipur and Mizoram's contacts with the main body of India are through Assam's Barak Valley. Raw material requirements also make the states mutually dependent. All rivers in Assam's plains originate in Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and western Meghalaya. Manipur's rivers have their sources in Nagaland and Mizoram; the hills also have rich mineral and forest resources. Petroleum is found in the plains.
The plains depend on the hills also on vital questions like flood control. A correct strategy to control floods in the plains calls for soil conservation and afforestation in the hills. The hills depend on the plains for markets for their produce. They depend on the plains even for food grains because of limited cultivable land in the hill.
To provide a forum for collaboration towards common objectives, the Indian government established the North Eastern Council in 1971. Each state is represented by its Governor and Chief Minister. The Council has enabled the Seven Sister States to work together on numerous matters, including the provision of educational facilities and electric supplies to the region.
Origin of the sobriquet "The Land of Seven Sisters"
The sobriquet, the Land of Seven Sisters, had been originally coined to coincide with the inauguration of the new states in January, 1972, by Jyoti Prasad Saikia, a journalist in Tripura in the course of a radio talk show. Saikia later compiled a book on the interdependence and commonness of the Seven Sister States, and named it the Land of Seven Sisters. It has been primarily because of this publication that the nickname has caught on.