By Bobo Khuraijam
A wide spectrum of debate has been occupying the media space of the current Exodus:-Inaction of the Assam government to take control of the clashes between two groups in the state, viral circulation of video clips and words over the social media; claim and counterclaim of the involvement of foreign hand in its attempt to divide the country. Some reprobate has been successful in targetingimagined enemies that is the Northeast people. Pune, the cultural capital of Maharashtra was their first laboratory. People with ‘chinky’ looks were picked out and roughed up.It was followed byunrest which took place in the street of Mumbai. Thankfully it was not targeted to any Northeast people. Media was the immediate target for not covering the violence in Assam. Mumbai police was caught unaware of the procession turning into an arsonist’s concourse. When the ‘hate ripple’reached the city of Bangalore, it took the ugliest turn. Thousands of Northeast people start leaving the city. Senior ministers of the state rushed to the train station overcrowded with Northeast people. They promised maximum protection and acclaimed that the city was safe to stay. Nonetheless people from the Northeast kept leaving on special trains. Aviation industry reaped a golden harvest out of the misery. Ticket rate got inflated thrice the normal fare. A minister’s attempted demystification of ‘rumour’ with images of his arms around the shoulder of a Northeast boy served little to stem the disenchantment. News channels love to play it repeatedly.Khaki knickers served water to the fleeing people but failed to quench their fear. Parliamentarians condemned the incident in unison, appealed for peace and normalcy. They have never showered such unified love for the Northeast people in the history of the parliament. Yet special trains and flights keep leaving Bangalore.
The Ailment: The term ‘Northeast People’ is smartly used by educated class (a small section of India’s population) who perhaps seem to recognize the impropriety of using ‘chinky’. Else, Chinky which is a derogatory way of referring to a Chinese, is easily used in identifying the racial stock of people who belong to the north east part of India. The host of a television talk show had once asked the audience if anyone knew all the names of the Northeastern states and its capital. Two or three individuals raised their hands. No wonder that Chacha Nehru bade goodbye to his Northeast Children at the time of Chinese aggression in 1962. Most of the states are underdeveloped by all definitions, fills the ‘exotic’ pages of Incredible India’s coffee table book. There are numerous ethnic communities and rebel groups fighting against the Indian state. Each of them claims to have historical sense of purpose. Indian state discounts it as low intensity conflict.Needless to mention, the mayhems that results of these low intensity conflicts gives justification for imposition of Armed Forces Special Powers Act,1958 (AFSPA). Each year thousands of people from this part travel to major cities mainly for jobs and higher education. There are no job avenues back home.
One has to move out from their home out of compulsion.So there are lots of ‘Chinkies’who are taking up jobs in sectors like IT, BPO, Hospitality Industry, Beauty industry and so on. They work with dignity. A friend once asked why so many girls from Northeast are working in beauty parlors. An unsurprising question from a well-educated friend whose Janmabhoomi and its value systemare still trapped in the tangle of castiest hierarchy.Now the moot question, “why such gullibility to ‘rumour’ amongst the Northeast citizens”? Are they bunch of bumpkin who believes whatever people say?That they paid no heed to the appeals made by the Indian statesman and the like, in spite of the repeated assurance that they are ‘safe’ with ‘security protection’. It only throws more light to the darker side of the Indian Nationhood, more on its social engineering and political uprightness. This is atime to go beyond self-seeking hoopla of political milage. The slogan of ‘unity in diversity’ may remain a slogan.And ‘national integration’ may remain an empty rhetoric. Many commentators have suggested for a Northeast inclusive curriculum in the syllabi of school and college education. That could perhaps open some doors. But has any government after 64 years of independence been sincere about educating its masses? Most of the political parties whether they are in power or not, banks on the illiterate vote banks, who vote on caste and religion.Moreover, India is also a country with the largest consumer of ‘fairness cream’, whose idea of beauty is decided by the colour of the skin. Forget high economic growth rate, mission to the moon and the superpower dream. How does the Indian stateplough its engine of ‘integrity and unity’ through these kinds of barriers? It is never too late to learn lessons from the current exodus of Northeast people from the
Footnote: the rising trend of investing bulky amount of money in the ensuing Panchayat election is not less than a business enterprise. Leipung Ninghtou calls it, “MNREGS kikeithel da Potpham taanaba”.