Discrimination: How should we deal with it?
By Desperate Dreamer
Discrimination. This phenomenon has for long been the talking point for people who have opportunistic interests in fanning the emotional alienation of the North-East from the so-called mainland India. They talk as if discrimination were some kind of a strange treatment meted out by the mainland Indians to the ¡§fringe¡¨ Indians in the North-East. The truth however is this: discrimination is ingrained in human psychology. Discrimination is universal.
Let us look around ourselves. Worldwide, the Caucasians consider themselves and are mostly considered to be the superior race. Indians are often called ¡§dirty Indians¡¨. In India, there is always a North-South divide in psychological supremacy. The Bengalis are revered for their intelligence. Marwaris, Punjabis and Tamils are respected for their entrepreneurship. In the same vein, these communities find reasons to look down upon each other. In the North-East, the Assamese consider themselves the superior community. In Manipur, the Imphalites look down upon the Lawai machas (Villagers), and the Meiteis look down upon the tribal minorities. Among the tribes too, the bigger tribes have a condescending attitude towards the smaller ones. Does it mean we should have one million countries in the world? That too, just for the heck of escaping discrimination?
Let us discuss some issues people have raised time and again.
(1) National Newspapers are not carrying enough Manipur-related news. Here we should know that all news houses commercial enterprises. The commercial purposes are best served when the customers and potential customers are targeted. So, Delhi edition of Times of India has more news related to Delhi. This happens everywhere and with every newspaper. The Telegraph has extensive news about the North-East with substantial proportion being devoted to Assam!! They cannot be expected to be more interested in our affairs, more so because we have not done anything worth noticing except violence, violence and violence.
(2) Mainland Indians are ignorant about Manipur/Manipuris. But, let me remind you, we learnt whatever we know about other places of India because they were either important places of mineral resources or places associated with industries or places with major shares in specific crop production, or because they were places of major historic importance in terms of the Freedom struggle… Now, do you think Manipur deserves more mention in any of the above contexts? No!!! And, how much do we know about the Marathas, Punjabis, Bengalis or Telugus? Moreover, all South Indians are still Madrassis for many.
(3) The Central Government is not doing anything for us. Why should they be bothered? We, the Manipuris, are not doing anything to help ourselves. The terrorists are not going to come to the talks table for the obvious reason that they would never give up their hugely profitable armed enterprises. We, the common people, are least bothered by our problems and we look quite okay with whatever is going on. Instead of thinking for the fate of the whole community and of the future generations, we keep trying to reap individual mileage by collaborating with the terrorist organizations in some way or the other. We keep suffering silently and keep trying in vain to buy each day of our individual lives. We seem to have no time to think for the people at large. There’s no competent leader from Manipur who can talk about our problems audibly. How are they supposed to know our problems? We are in a democracy where the loudest voice always has the maximum chance of being heard. India is not a small country either. The Central leaders have enough headaches and problems to occupy their minds and time. How do we expect them to understand our problems? Their attitude is: “Let these stupid people kill each other and finish themselves. They are not ready to solve their own problems. Why should we take the trouble of trying to get them to understand the importance of solving their own problems for their own sake? We have enough worries.” To a discerning human mind, these Central leaders are right in every way. Nonetheless, it is a false propaganda by the vested interest that the Union Government does not give enough funding to Manipur. There was an analysis in the Telegraph some years ago about comparative funding to the North-Eastern states and to other mainland states. The only problem is that whatever funding the Centre hands out goes on to line the pockets of politicians and terrorists¡Xthe biggest pests in the society. In the North-East, every other state is better than Manipur in terms of development. Why? On the hindsight, why should we keep begging?
(4) ¡§Mary Kom vs. Saina Nehwal¡¨ Debate Mary Kom just about manages a highly accented Manipuri and fumbles around in the darkness when it comes to talking in Hindi or English. Saina Nehwal speaks both English and Hindi fluently and conducts herself smartly and intelligently. And, Saina Nehwal¡¦s good looks are not going to hurt either ƒº If you are the director of a commercial enterprise, whom would you like to pay and make your company¡¦s ambassador? So, isn¡¦t it weird that some people could be ignorant or squint-minded enough to make an issue out of it? It is economics, stupid! Mainland India is not a homogeneous population (or community) entirely biased against us. There are so many different communities that look down upon and make fun of one another. Bengalis are the ¡§rice and fish eating Bongs¡¨! But, no one can deny that they are an intellectual powerhouse. Marwaris are makkhi-chus. They are also the predominant community controlling a major chunk of the financial assets in the country. The Sikhs are always at the receiving end of dumb jokes. They faced a bloody riot in 1984 aimed entirely against them. Now, a Shikh is the Prime Minister of India. Another Shikh is the Army Chief. Yet another Sikh is India¡¦s permanent Ambassador to United Nations. They are a powerful community inside and outside of India. What can we learn from the Sikhs? That we should take ethnocentric conflicts in the right spirit. That we cannot keep blaming others for their chauvinism or ignorance about our culture or community. That we should be engaged in constructive activities, and excel, and make progress so that they sit up and notice us. That violence and fretting on others’ attitudes are not only futile but self-destructive. On a different take, if you look at the phenomenon of discrimination a little more closely, there is always a pertinent explanation in every case. I do not want to waste pages listing the reasons. Instead, I would give just a few examples. The Caucasians are physically (and aesthetically) and intellectually well endowed. The Caucasians colonized the world and have been and are still at the forefront of this civilization. They have every plausible reason to feel superior to other races. Similarly, the urban areas are more developed and equipped with modern facilities for employment and entertainment. So, the
urbanites have reasons to have a condescending attitude towards their rural counter-parts. Discrimination will be there as long as we have uses for adjectives like good and bad, black and white, rich and poor, developed and underdeveloped, ugly and beautiful, educated and less educated or uneducated, big and small, etc.
Hence, the oft repeated ¡§discrimination by the mainland Indians¡¨ is a silly reason for ¡§liberation¡¨ from India. The people need to be (they are already) wary of people who are trying to plant ideas of xenophobia and exclusivism and to alienate the North-East Indians from the mainland. First, because xenophobia and exclusivism have no place in a sensible and civilized world where relevance of nation states and racial segregation are increasingly getting blurred and the importance of cooperation is being increasingly underscored. Second, because the people who are ¡§waging a war for liberation from India¡¨ have other ulterior motives, the most predominant and obvious include money and power. Third, because we cannot escape from discrimination by breaking away from India. Fourth, because the state of affairs in Manipur now is such that even the Hell must be a better place to live: thanks to the politicians who have been looting the state¡¦s exchequer and the terrorists who are running armed business enterprises in the garb of ¡§freedom struggle¡¨. It would be worthwhile to remember that failure breeds contempt and complaints. Here failure of the community is entirely the making of the corrupt politicians and the demons of terrorists in the garb of freedom fighters with ample contribution from the vested interest among the civilians who have been making good use of their associations with the terrorists and politicians.
Peace, rule of law, education, employment, financial empowerment and development are the only things that can enable us to outgrow discrimination, to prosper as a community and to earn respect from other communities. Let us stop playing in the hands of the terror syndicates.