The desire to be recognized as part of the entirety of the country is deep seated among the common people of North East India. They only feel that treatment meted out to them not in terms of governance but in attitudinal terms is different. That is also why there was such a protest against the deaths - one a suicide and the other a clear case of murder of two students of North East India in Delhi and Bangalore respectively.
Even when festivals are organized to highlight North East India it is as if a big favour is being done. I don't think that is the right attitude, always carping on the separateness of the region which is actually known for its rich diversity. And this diversity can best be understood when we look at each individual state and study their distinct flavours whether it be the colourful communities or their attire, songs, dances, theatre and literature. But everything is drowned in the amorphous story of one distinct region, as if they all have a single identity. It is this monolithic structure that must go in our thinking and response to the individual states of this region. True for certain administrative purposes we conceive upon the region as one whole, and true also that the people of this region feel to a great extent a singular identity consciousness. But this consciousness must not be mistaken as something that is singular. We are in fact searching for the pluralistic and the diverse as opposed to the singular principle of one entity and one people. Ironically in such a discourse, even religion is forgotten. That is to say all communities are not uniformly Hindu, Christian or Muslim.
The complexities of each state and the intercultural and intra-cultural relationships must be comprehended. For example, the Naga community itself has at least sixteen to seventeen different and diverse tribes. Yet they colourfully combine to constitute the colourful Naga culture and community. The sub tribes among the Mizos who extend to Manipur as well as the Cachar districts of Assam and Tripura is another case in point. The revealing histories of the tribes and communities, the hills and plains dichotomy is also another factor for our understanding of such a varied combination of peoples. This is what makes this vulnerable region of our country so beautiful if not exotic. And again there is the sensitive issue of land whether it be in Assam, or Manipur. It is not a question of internecine strife. Those who emphasize on this perhaps want discord. It is there as it is in other parts of the country.
Mainstreaming (I hate to use that word) would entail understanding of historical realities and juxtaposition of present realities in each state, whether it is the tribal non tribal relationship, or the hills valley relationship or it is the Hindu, Muslim factor exacerbated by the problem of immigration. Certainly, cultural aspects have to be highlighted but not through two day or three day meets. This can be enhanced only if people reach out to each other individually in the spirit of compassion, understanding and listening to a point of view. There must be give and take here. Otherwise I believe that as the recent violence in Assam has shown and the effect of which had an impact on other states of the region, this will only continue to make the region more and more vulnerable and alienation unfortunately may grow. Politicians of the region must also understand that they should not handle fire, pitting one community against another.
In the mainstream Indian consciousness there must be a conscious thinking that the people of this region are as good as anyone when it comes to anything such as academics, sports, creative writing, theatre, music etc. I was shocked once to hear what a colleague said there was no one worth the salt to write our course material in an English Literature Programme. Such prejudice smacks not only of ignorance but an arrogance and totally false superiority.
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