By Amar Yumnam
“Multiculturalism without culture” is a big debate in studies of Feminism. Something like this, but in worse form, is happening in the social life of the country’s capital, Delhi, in so far as the daily encounters of externally imposed tragedies of the youths from the North Eastern Part of India is concerned. This absence of culture has colours of racism and involves extreme gender crimes. Thank goodness that this phenomenon has not caused a tit for tat effect in the North East due to rational expectations and cultural richness of the region. While Delhi has had experiences of cultural and political subjugation for centuries, the experiences of the North East have been mostly in flows of people and culture. The relative cultural richness of the region comes out well in allowing the conflicts and tensions to remain confined in Delhi only.
The most unfortunate thing relating to what have been happening in Delhi for months on end is the symbol of absence of governance there. India as of now has a government on paper and not in administration. This is the most convenient atmosphere for hooligans, charlatans, and quacks to flourish and practise their trade. The youths from the North East happen to be the easiest targets for their voyeurism and hooliganism of these perverts. The greatest casualty in this is the trust between the people of the region and the other people in Delhi which were being generated over decades. Now it is as if this trust and the wider social capital were never there in Delhi, and the miscreants (and accompanying racism) were only waiting for the opportunity to surface with a bang. It would definitely take decades to rebuild the encompassing social capital of Delhi.
Now the coupling misfortune is the non-encouraging socio-political milieu at home. I recently had the opportunity to sit in a selection committee for recruitment of school teachers, and I just could not muster the energy to sleep the whole evening. The overqualified and competent candidates could be anybody’s children including our own. The social absence of opportunities for earning livelihood with dignity was in full display. The feelings of desperation were visible among the candidates. The desperation and insecurity in the young faces were so painful. It is much more painful to see that there is no policy in sight and no transformation in the economy happening such that their fortunes could improve in the foreseeable future; there is no expansion of opportunities for productive engagement for the youths. This kills the very purpose of education at all levels. Education is valued for the outcome from it and the resultant positive atmosphere generated in the society. Education is supposed to enhance the quality of civic and social engagement. This would become real only when those who had undergone the rigour of it have the opportunities for competitive and productive social engagement as the outcome of the education they have received. In such a milieu the rich traditional values would be maintained and new enriching values would be generated to serve the changing needs of the dynamic society. But this definitely has not been the case in Manipur and the region. Even more painfully, education in Manipur is increasingly becoming an agent for social inequality. We can take the case of the schools here in Manipur. We are not sure if any government school is functional and playing the social role it should play. The children attending these institutes are from the destitute families. Two things we know for sure here. First, there is no effective teaching-learning process in the government schools. Thus they do not acquire capabilities to escape poverty inherited from their parents. Second, these schools have not b
y any means helped in building the self-confidence of the children from destitute families. In other words, the government schools in Manipur breed social inequality and diffidence among children of impoverished families. The social outcome for such a scenario can never be positive.
In the light of what has been happening in Delhi in recent months for the youths from the North East, we can think of two arenas for immediate and long term policy evolution. The poverty of governance by the government of the country based in Delhi seems to have been marked by another poverty in the capability for management of cultural diversity. The latter aspect calls for an active commitment to strengthen the capacity of management of cultural diversity in this land of huge heterogeneity in culture with differing geographical backgrounds. The historical caste diversity and concomitant social behaviour has now been allowed to extend to racist behaviours. This simply is not good. This should be an important agenda for the new government that would be coming in Delhi in two months. The diversified social and moral judgements in India need to be incorporated in policy designing, and penetrating actions should be put in place for enhancing the capability of the people to articulate with an understanding of the diversity.
The second arena relates to the realm of action by the provincial governments in the North East. They need to emerge out of the agents for implementation of union government schemes to innovative ones with strong abilities for contextual assertions. Exporting youths for employment outside the region cannot be a permanent and sole strategy for harnessing the youth power of the region. The relevant contextual solutions to problems within the region should emerge from the authorities in the region. While governance can fail in Delhi, the region cannot afford to continue with this experience given the state of development here.