Thursday, May 3, 2012
The North East India Resonates!
Neglect, backwardness, colonial exploitation, discrimination etc are the words we grew up with. As we grew older we began to understand the pathos underlined by these words and began to wonder aloud why and how.
The North Eastern Region of India has always been ethnically, culturally and linguistically distinct from India. With a spectacular diversity in ethnicity, culture and languages this region witnessed the formation of new and newer states, districts and communities over the decades. Geographically this region is connected to mainland India only through a narrow corridor known as the chicken’s neck or the Siliguri Corridor with Nepal and Bangladesh lying on either side. This region is also a natural paradise on earth and a treasure house of natural and mineral resources.
A kind of self-sufficiency and almost geographic isolation created the problems related to the ‘words’. Neglect—because we never got adequate attention for making an effective appearance in mainstream India. Backwardness—because of lack of infrastructure and development projects. Colonial exploitation—because precious resources are mostly taken out for refining and thus creating revenues or employment outside the region. Discrimination—because the naturally slowish and nervous people from the region are never taken seriously outside, let it be with students coming out to study or any professional leaving the region for work.
And, how we struggled to realize our aspirations to study outside! There was an utter lack of information or networking or facilities. Then, there were the inevitable domestic pressures and economic compulsions. After somehow crossing all the hurdles we rejoice at the opportunity to study outside, but soon we get devastated when we find us being ignored and made fun of, our linguistic abilities in Hindi laughed at and in English ridiculed. The plain or hill tribal students, with their distinct ethnic look, find things worse than this.
In our study years in Delhi the apathy about our region was shocking. I was asked so many times ‘Is Assam in Darjeeling?’ My brother got more infuriating queries, like ‘Hey you! You dress like us yaar! But do you wear anything at all out there in your native land?’ Angry and exasperated my brother used to reply ‘You see, we keep on wearing it till our trains reach Guwahati. Then we jump out of the train, tear off our clothing and run into the jungles!’ Surprisingly, things did not change much since then. Even now in my professional capacity I get questions ‘Where is Assam?’ ‘How do you go to Assam and the North East?’ and so on. This is really agonizing since the eternally backward students that we are or were we still knew about the map of India and always remembered where Jammu and Kashmir was or where Maharashtra or Tamil Nadu was. Besides, as the easternmost extension the North East is the most recognizable portion of the map. The syndrome of isolation combined with the compulsions having to fight for everything ranging from mere existence to languages contributed as one of the most important factors to the growth of extremism in the region.
Recently there were two deaths of north eastern students—Dana Sangma from Meghlaya who committed suicide in around Delhi and Richard Loitam from Manipur who was killed under mysterious circumstances in Bangalore. Students of the region in different parts of the country did not accept it passively this time and rose in protest marches. Yesterday in the national capital Delhi there was a candlelight protest where hundreds of students from the seven states of the region took part spontaneously. High time all the intimidating ‘words’ get eliminated from the mainstream dictionary.
Belonging to the beautiful North East we extend our support and we appeal to all northeastern communities to unite and launch a righteous movement all over India for justice and equality. Allow us to feel like proud Indians too!
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