IMPHAL, January 28: The United NGOs Mission Manipur, North East Dialogue Forum and the Conflict and Human Rights Studies Network, Manipur jointly organized a Two Day National Seminar on `Singularity of India: Integration, homogenization and racism` at Classic Hotel, Imphal.
Giving the key-note address, Dr. Thangjam Homen of Conflict & Human Right Studies Network, Manipur and Assistant Professor, M.B. College, Imphal said that the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) on Northeast India and Manipur on May 5th, 2007, had requested India to provide information as concluding observations on the status of the recommendation to repeal the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act and to replace it “by a more humane Act,”. “This was in accordance with the recommendations contained in the 2005 report of the Review Committee set up by the Ministry of Home Affairs. In the same Concluding observation, the Committee have also urged India to fully respect and implement the right of ownership, collective or individual, of the members of tribal communities over the lands traditionally occupied by them in its practice concerning tribal peoples,” Homen added.
Satyajit Usham, Editor of Hueiyen Lanpao (English), Imphal expressed that India is a land of contradiction. where even a professor from a university from `mainland India` does not have a clear cartographic knowledge about the North-eastern states. He also pointed out that there is misrepresentation of the events taking place in the Northeast in the national media.
Speaking at the U. Nobokishor, Secretary United NGOs Mission, Manipur in his Presidential speech said that some of the states in the Northeast have already sold out forests to private companies which will have serious impacts on the livelihood of the people. He remarked that Racism does not come in term of attitude alone but also in terms of policy and legislation while stating that AFSPA is a racially discriminatory legislation.
The first session of the Seminar was chaired by Prof. Vanlalnghak, Director, Indira Gandhi National Tribal University, and Regional Campus Manipur, Rupachandra Yumnam, Correspondent of the Guwahati based daily the Seven Sisters Post was the Discussant.
Giving a critique of the Indian nationalism and the practices of the Indian state, in his paper titled “Nation, Race and Caste”, Dr. G Aloysius Visiting Faculty, English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad and author of “Nationalism Without A Nation in India” alleged that India is a racist state. “Nationalism in India was an anti-people project as it was constructed by the Brahmin class for promoting and protecting their caste interest via-a-vis the British colonial rule. Fighting the British was a mere pretext to gain control over the people by the Brahmin high caste,” he said.
Speaking on the topic “Nation-State, Civilization and Race: Reflection on Exclusionary Politics”, Dr. A. Bimol Akoijam, Associate Professor, Centre for Study of Social Systems, Jawaharlal Nehru University said that AFSPA is a paradigm of the government to create a “state of exception” in the region to govern those who could not be incorporated in the Indian nation but who comes within the purview of the Indian state, which is nothing but the re-enacting of the Nuremberg Law. By virtue of this India is a racist state. AFSPA has been captured in a limited space within the Human Rights discourse. Undue focus on the legal aspect of AFSPA while ignoring the deeper political implications underlying it, the fight against AFSPA has not been able to engage the Indian state effectively.
Session II of the seminar was chaired by Prof. K Rajendra Singh, Nagaland University. Dr. RK Ranjan, Director, College Development Council, Manipur University was the Discussant. Resource persons of the session included Dr. Dhanabir Laishram, Social Activist, Moirangthem Madhuchandra, Spokesperson, Northeast Helpline & Support Centre and Rev. (Dr.) PBM Basaiawmoit, Vice President, National Council of Churches in India, Advisor, NEDF and renowned Uranium Activist from Meghalaya.
Dr. Dhanabir Laishram spoke on “New Face of Racial Discrimination in the Light of Neo-Liberal Policy”. He stated that the gap between the rich and the poor is increasingly enhanced on account of the neo-liberal policy while pointing out that the Indian state has not been able to cater to the needs of the common people.
Moirangthem Madhu Chandra spoke on “Social Profiling: The Root Causes of Racial Discrimination”. He was of the opinion that racism cannot be fully understood without understanding casteism; casteism without Brahmanism; Brahmanism without Manusmriti. Pointing out that 50% of the cases of sexual harassment perpetrated in Delhi are perpetrated against the Northeast women, he remarked that the root cause of racial discrimination is the racial profiling of the people of the Northeast. He concluded by stating that racial discrimination is a great challenge to the people of the Northeast.
Rev. (Dr.) PBM Basaiawmoit speaking on the topic “Institutional Racism vis-à-vis Singularity of India” expressed that the Northeast region is treated as a dumping ground for the surplus population of the mainland Indians.
Dr. RK Ranjan remarked that the lamented how the Indian authority treated the voice of the Northeast people as noise.
Prof. K. Rajendra Singh concluded the session by remarking that racism has been practised in India since the pre-independence era in one form or the other.