N(orth)E(ast)-glected…

Posted on April 3, 2009 in Featured


By Kiran Rao

This is something which I have been thinking about for quite some time now. How much do we Indians really know and care about the North-East? I personally feel that the seven sisters and Sikkim (maybe with the exception of Assam), have been a neglected lot in our country. This goes not only from development point of view, but from other aspects as well like sports, culture, entertainment — Sikkim, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Tripura, Nagaland, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh — are pretty much obscure as far as the rest of the country is concerned.

Lets start with the example of Television. All movies, serials, news channels concentrate on “mainland” India. Its all set in Delhi, Mumbai or Punjab. These days even South India is figuring in movies and television. But, what about the north-east? The consequence of this is not limited to entertainment alone. Thanks to TV, your average Indian aam admi in the Rest Of India (ROI – I call it that for a want of a better term — no intention of “dividing” NE from the ROI) has a fair idea of what life might be in Mumbai, Delhi, Punjab, Gujarat etc. This is true even if that average Indian has never been to any of these places. But, do we have even a remote idea of what its like in the NE? The only TV program where I have seen extensive coverage of the NE is the travel show called Exotica, on StarOne.

 

Now coming to sports. Other then Baichung Bhutia, the football star of India who hails from Sikkim, there’s hardly any mainstream sportsperson from the NE. I cannot recall any cricketer or tennis player or even hockey player from NE (again, that might be due to my ignorance too). I suppose there are a few names from NE in the athletic and sports meets who get us medals at SAARC games etc (for example in sports like archery) — but hey don’t u know that in India, “sports” equals “CRICKET+Tennis+hockey+f1”? The rest of them dont qualify — their achievements are not counted. Anyways, that’s not the topic of this post!

I am unaware about how ROI is perceived in NE. Is the influence of Bollywood present in NE? Does the aam aadmi in NE have a fair idea about life in ROI? Do they follow cricket and national politics just as we in ROI do? Maybe yes, maybe no.

Successive governments at the Centre have been announcing special economic packages for the development of NE. I am not aware of how much of this has really translated to results. Maybe the one aspect that stands out in this regard would be the road infrastructure development projects (NHDP) — these seem to have made a positive impact during the last few years.

The encouraging trend is the good representation of NE in reality shows. Remember Amit Paul from Meghalaya who was the runner up in Indian Idol 3? Remember the host of singers from Assam (Debojit, Kalpana, Prakriti to name a few)?

The reasons for the negligence about NE in ROI could be many. For one, the North-Eastern states are geographically isolated from ROI. They are “connected” with ROI through a narrow strip which is just 20-odd kms wide (this is called the chicken’s neck and is situated in Siliguri in West Bengal with Nepal in the North and Bangladesh in the South). Secondly, the NE states are culturally very different from the ROI — the culture here has elements of South-East Asia and China (Tibet in particular).

Nevertheless, the NE states are a part of India; NE contributes to a sizable chunk of the India – area-wise, population-wise, economically and culturally. Thus, it is imperative for ROI to start viewing NE as they would view states like Rajasthan or Punjab or Tamil Nadu, which are also located on the fringes. Only then would it be possible to foster a sense of unity and oneness. And, in my opinion, the media plays the most important role in spreading awareness .

ROI needs to know that just like elsewhere in India, NE too has a diverse culture, that there are several languages spoken here, that the climate, vegetation, topography, flora and fauna are as varied here as in ROI.

ROI needs to know about Assam’s natural beauty, the tea gardens, about Kazhiranga and the rhinos, about the ULFA’s, about the political scenario and about the issues facing the nation along its border with Bangladesh.

ROI needs to know about the Chinese Government’s claim to Arunachal Pradesh and about how the Army is on its toes there to prevent China from making mischief. About the sixth Dalai Lama being born here in AP. That there exists places in India where your constitutional “right to freedom of movement anywhere within the country” is restricted, that one needs a permit to enter some places in AP.

ROI needs to know about the Himalayan state of Sikkim, the second smallest state in India, by size and the least populated. ROI needs to know the history of the Nathula pass, the flourishing trade route which passed through here, and not to forget the Kanchenjunga, the third-highest peak in the world.

ROI needs to know about the WW-II battles fought in Manipur which stalled Japan’s progress and which had a major impact on the outcome of the war. About the history of the princely state of Manipur (just like many more in ROI) before it was integrated into the republic of India. About the UNLF, its demands and its activities in Manipur. About the troubles along the border with Myanmar.

ROI needs to know about the history of the mountainous state of Nagaland, about the Naga tribe, about how Nagaland was part of Assam and underwent lot of unrest before being declared a state in early ’60s. About the present-day culture which still revolves around the tribes and their shawl-weaving tradition. About the 90+% Christian population, about the Nagamese language — which is not the mother tongue of any of the tribes in Nagaland, but is the common language spoken everywhere in the state.

ROI needs to know about the plateau of Meghalaya, the Garo and Khasi hills. About the matriarch system followed by many of the more populous tribes in the state. About Cherrapunji, which was once the wettest spot in the world.

ROI needs to know about Tripura, the second-most populous among the NE states (even though it is relatively small in area). About the Bengali-dominant culture of the state (Tripura is surrounded on three sides by Bangladesh and is around the same latitude as West Bengal); about its festivals, indigenous dance forms and music. About its millenia-old history (Tripura is said to have had mention in Mahabharata).

ROI needs to know about Mizoram, the Indian state with the highest literacy rate. About the events which led to the formation of the state (famine, insurgency, bombing by the Indian Air Force to quell this insurgency); about the largely unexplored bamboo forests which cover about one-third of the state.

I think that we need to take a keener interest in the North-East. Probably if a few people from NE broke into the scene in some mainstream field, then that would function as a catalyst to increase the visibility of the NE states among ROI. This does not mean that they have to deviate from their culture and adopt cricket as a religion or get Bollywood-crazy. The NE is rich in dance and music. It would help if the media and entertainment industry took the initiative to showcase this cultural diversity to the rest of the world.

With the spurt in domestic tourism, more Indians are exploring “far-flung” regions within the country, including the NE. So, more people from the NE states are flocking to the mainland, be it for tourism, education, business or jobs. This exchange will only be for the benefit of either side.

I am hopeful that there will be more cultural, economic exchange between the NE and the ROI in the near future. We must remember that even they are an integral part of India and they own India as much as we do and they owe to India as much as we do. Looking forward to an India where there would be a tighter bond between North-Eastern states and the other states of India. JAI BHARAT.

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samson

To solve the problems of manipur, nagaland, assam, tripura, meghalaya, mizoram and runachal pradesh one must never forget the history especially post- independence period. don't waste time flirting with the people of these states by talking about their natural beauty or their interests in bollywood. indians too like "casino royale" despite 200 years of oppression. address the root cause. do any of the indians know a place called 'OINAM' in senapati district of manipur? ask your grandfathers or fathers who were once in the army before the nineties.
you will never know because you don't even know where is mizoram or manipur despite several years of learning of geography in the best public schools of the nation.
be honest with yourself my dear indians. we know panaji is the capital of goa, which is the smallest state of the nation india. but many of you don't even know where manipur is. let me tell you it is the state in INDIA where you will find the most diabolical law in the world (AFSPA).
YOU ALL GREW UP WITH HAPPINESS AND JOY AFTER INDEPENDENCE BUT WE ARE STILL UNDER THE MILITARY CONTROLL. CHILDREN ARE SCARED TO WALK NEAR THE ARMY WHILE YOUR CHILDREN EVEN HUG THEM AND KISS THEM. OUR MINDS ARE NOT READY YET FOR IIT or IIM. WE WANT PEACE.
WE ARE PART OF YOU. WE LAUGH WHEN WE WATCH "GOLMAL" and WE CRY WHEN WE WATCH "MOTHER INDIA". BUT YOU LAUGH AT OUR EYES AND HEIGHT AND YOU MOCK AT OUR ACCENT.

ARE YOU INDIANS??????????????????
"DO FOR OTHERS WHAT YOU WANT OTHERS TO DO FOR YOU". YOU DID NOT LIKE THE BRITISHERS MAKING A MOCKERY OF YOUR CULTURE AND COLOUR. THEY REALISED THEIR MISTAKE AND LEFT YOU FREE. WHY DO YOU DO TO OTHERS NOW. DO YOU WANT THEM TO DO THE SAME AGAIN TO YOU. WHY MAKE SUCH A CLAMOUR AGAINST THE ATTACK IN AUSTRALIA? IS IT BECAUSE THEY ARE RICH AND THEY ARE FROM THE MAINLAND?
WHAT YOU DO TO US IS NOTHING LESS THAN A RACIST ATTACK. IF YOU SAY IT IS NOT THEN WHAT THE BRITISHERS DID TO YOU WAS A "BLESSING". ACCEPT IT

Kiran

@Samson:
I agree with the gist of your comment – that Indians should address the root cause rather than throw a "veil" and ask NE about interest in Bollywood or other seemingly meaningless issues. I think I also understand your outburst here – it must have come after a lot of frustration.

However, I think things are changing for the better now. As I mentioned in the post, people are taking a keener interest in the NE region. People are opposing AFSPA in peaceful regions. Bloggers from elsewhere in the country are taking up the cudgels on behalf of NE states.

I think you are being unfair in criticizing the everybody just because of the ignorance of some. More importantly, you must realize that people in the mainland are simply ignorant about the NE – they dont have any ulterior motives. What is required from people like you and me is to raise awareness about the issues in the NE. When people from other regions of the country become aware of these issues – I guarantee you they will support your cause.

I dont think we are going to achieve anything by spewing venom at each other. You think people in the mainland make fun of only your accent? See how people in North India treat a South Indian's accent or his food habits. See how South Indians make fun of North Indians (especially when they pronounce words like scooter as "iscooter" and other such peculiarities). I wouldn't put that down to racism – its just "making fun".

I request you to join us in creating awareness and more importantly, in spreading the vision of ONE India – since Unity is Strength.

prabhu

yes it is true that some people dont know about NE but there are many others like me who do know.Infact it is mainly the uneducated poor people in cities and educated rural people in villages who dont know and treat the people of north-east as "guests from china".
when i was in school I had many classmates who were from NE.sometimes we did crack some jokes at their "chinese looks" but they were just friendly jokes and even they did not mind .They are still living in peace in my city ,hyderabad where an ignorant autowallah may call you chinese but no one will seriously abuse you .
I read that many people are fleeing from new delhi because of abuse but this is not the solution.People must go against the wave and INCREASE THEIR NUMBERS IN THE MAJOR CITIES.THE MAIN CAUSE OF THESE ATTACKS IS NOT HATRED.PEOPLE OF ROI HAVE NO LOGICAL REASON FOR HATING YOU.THE REAL CAUSE IS THAT PEOPLE ARE NOT USED TO SEEING PEOPLE WITH MONGOLOID FEATURES IN DAILY LIFE.THIS IS WHY SOME PEOLE FEEL SCARED OR SHY TO TALK TO THEM.THUS THE PEOPLE OF NE ARE SINGLED OUT AND ROUGES GET A CHANCE TO HAVE FUN WITH THEM.
THE REAL WAY OF LEARNING CULTURE IS NOT BY BOOKS BUT BY INTERACTING WITH PEOPLE AND THE INTERACTION IS POSSIBLE ONLY WHEN PEOPLE OF NORTH-EAST COME IN INCREASING NUMBERS,TAKE UP GOOD JOBS AND EARN RESPECT FOR THEIR COMMUNITIES.JUST AFTER INDEPENDENCE SOUTH-INDIANS WERE TEATED IN SIMILAR MANNER BUT NOW OVER THE YEARS THINGS HAVE CHANGED AND WE ARE NO LONGER CRITICIZED FOR OUR DARK SKINTONE AND EATING HABITS.SIMILAR SOLUTION IS POSSIBLE OVER A PERIOD ONLY IF THIS PROBLEM IS NOT BLOWN OUT OF PROPORTION.

Asish Ariel Lepcha

Uneducated youths is the causes of backwardness i north east regino of india…..
Friends i need your special suggestion on the above topic>

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