Being a person from north-east India and living in a metropolitan city is not easy. It is even tougher if you have not grown up in the city and have migrated for your career and only have your organisation as your support system! A new place far away from family and friends. Others would also have similar problems but it becomes complex if you have an added dimension of being at the receiving end of discrimination that many people from north-east India face. Particularly, girls and women.
I hear that there are many people from north-east in Bengaluru alone and we contribute a lot to this economy in this fast growing city in India, majorly in the service sector. The migration has been primarily due to a lack of industries in the region, mass corruption, unemployment and, to a great extent, to escape the ill effects of armed conflict. In many cases, it’s also due to the aspirations generated from movies about securing a bright future in the cities. Bengaluru also offers a very good climate with moderate temperatures in the summer and monsoon. This appears to be the greatest attraction for people from north-east India to choose the city over other destinations for education, jobs and starting business ventures. The migrations have only increased over time after news of people succeeding in the city reached others back home to inspire them.
It was only in 2012 that things began to change for us with the sudden rumours that were doing the rounds with a threat to our lives and safety. The people from north-east India responded in time and Bengaluru witnessed a large-scale movement from the people who fled overnight, leaving their jobs, their homes, getting on flights, getting on trains if flights could not be afforded and even buses, if nothing else worked. It was as if no one wanted to be here! The railway stations were crammed with hundreds and thousands leaving Bengaluru.
The beauty parlours were deserted, the spas looked unmanned, the restaurants and hotels looked as if the entire staff had gone on strike. The whole city looked deserted! I was one of the few people who did not flee and who decided to fight back and stay on. It was during this high alert period that I found the close relationship the people of north-east India had with the city and how a new trend of discrimination against us was rising from a select segment of the society. While many people loved us, there was clearly a section of people rising against us who did not want us to be here.
This gave birth to leaders from north-east India in the city to come together and start working on addressing issues of racial discrimination and attacks by giving support to victims in securing legal aid, safe space for rehabilitation, linkages to counselling and media and even medical services as and when required. These focused efforts have been carried out ever since but we found the rate of crimes were not decreasing. Our success was in giving support to people and in speaking out about our issues to the masses. We knew we had to work at deeper levels and work on the intellectual discourse and starting conversations on a larger scale if we wanted to make a change.
With Radio Active, the first community radio station of Bengaluru, we found a unique direction to influence and educate people about the north-east, its people and culture, and by way of these conversations, reduce discrimination at its foundation. Pinky Chandran suggested that we should have a program on the radio that covers the north-eastern way of life, food, handloom and attire, festivals, music, aspirations, success stories, role models and we should also have RJs who are from the north-east of India. That gave wings to our dreams for our community and we worked to mobilise our youth and could identify aspiring RJs. They were not just going to embark on an exciting career in broadcasting media but would be contributing a lot to the empowerment of north-eastern people living in Bengaluru.
Radio Active is the only radio station that truly understands the culture and unique identity of north-eastern people. It is the only radio station that airs a program devoted exclusively to the north-east titled, ‘Northeast Ki Awaaz’. So, many newspapers, TV channels and web media companies have given coverage to our issues but haven’t looked at our dignity and pride favourably. It is the only media platform that doesn’t project us as pitiful victims but as people with talent and honour.
In 2016, the home minister of Karnataka, G Parameshwara released the jingle for ‘Northeast Ki Awaaz’ during the Miss Northeast and Northeast Food Festival held in Bengaluru. Radio Active’s involvement in supporting people from north-east India goes beyond just radio programs and the radio station has always promoted all the activities and events organised by people belonging to the community in the city. Be it fashion shows, rock concerts, food festivals or handloom displays.
Radio Active is going to celebrate the 10th Anniversary on June 25, 2017, in Bengaluru. I wish all my north-eastern brothers and sisters come to the celebrations in all their strength and express our solidarity and friendship to our faithful friend in Radio Active which has worked to amplify voices of different communities over the past decade.