In the last few weeks, we have heard so much about Jallikattu and Sasikala, that I dreamt about a bull nominated by Sasikala taking over as the next chief minister of Tamil Nadu. The state seems to be the flavour of the month on every news channel, giving the UP elections a run for its money and TRPs. Amidst all the brouhaha, there seems to be an itsy-bitsy-teenie-weenie state somewhere in the eastern corner of the country fighting its own battles and desperately seeking some attention. For the uninitiated, the state I am referring to is Nagaland, whose capital is Kohima. No, Dimapur is not its capital, but the largest city in the state.
The same Nagaland, whose last encounter with primetime TV was when Mr. Modi had decided to sign an ambiguous peace accord with one of its prominent political groups – National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Isak Muivah NSCN (IM). Sounds familiar? The Nagaland that usually makes headlines on social media every year because of its Hornbill Festival – a musical event showcasing (read stereotyping) the state’s tribal culture that has done more harm than good to its PR exercise, as most people believe that the Hornbill is Nagaland’s state bird. It is the Blyth’s Tragopan in fact!
Like most north-eastern states that make it to the news only for the wrong reasons like insurgency, military operations, AFSPA, border security, political unrest, Nagaland too caught the media’s attention only when tribal groups opposed to the 33% reservations for women in urban local bodies went on a rampage, burning government buildings and vandalising public property. Till then, there was no talk or discussion about events unfolding in the state. No discussion about its pathetic condition of roads, frequent power cuts, poor internet connectivity, the absence of any opposition to the present incumbent government in its legislature, widespread corruption in public life and gender inequality.
Even the two minutes of coverage it got, flattened out a complex issue into black and white, with most TV channels not even having a correspondent posted in Nagaland. The correspondent of a popular English TV channel was reporting all the way from Guwahati and had to reiterate ‘Kohima is the capital of Nagaland’ thrice, so that many of his viewers didn’t feel lost and changed the channel. Have you ever seen a journalist repeatedly saying ‘Mumbai is the capital of Maharashtra’ or ‘Bangalore is the capital of Karnataka’, while reporting from these states?
Well, this should not come as a surprise for even our patriotic National Anthem does not mention the north-eastern region at all. The Assam floods are washed off the TV, Irom Sharmila gets just enough coverage to keep her alive, Meghalaya is all about rainfall and Christmas in Shillong, Arunachal Pradesh needs to be protected against Chinese incursions, Sikkim means a nice vacation, nevermind Mizoram and Tripura. So why should Nagaland expect to be treated any differently?
At the heart of the ongoing crisis lie issues of alienation and neglect, gender, customary laws, reservations, representation, and democracy – issues that India does not care about anyway. I wonder what Nagaland’s women’s groups, like the Naga Mothers Association and Joint Action Committee on Women Reservation, fighting for 33% reservations in urban local bodies would need to do, to grab your attention. Would they have to strip down like the indomitable women in Meira Paibis or go on a rampage setting ablaze buildings? Just what will it take to awaken your conscience?