When in far flung areas of Arunachal Pradesh the sun rays strikes the land and people start their usual activity, they greet each other by saying “Jai Hind”. Just think about that! In spite of usual manners of greeting with good morning, they start their day with a slogan igniting passion for their country. And yet people from north-east are the less known Indians to their countrymen and face wide discrimination in most regions of India.
The culture, music, dance, food, living styles, etc. of north-eastern states are very different from other states of India. They add to our richness of diversity. They have their own unique way of living and sense of life which is their own but oblivious to majority of India. Hence when they come to other places, they are seen as externals and face wide disparity. Even the National capital of Delhi has a large population of people from North-East India. Almost twenty thousand take admissions for educational purposes every year in universities but often cases of discrimination are evident. The brutal example was the death of Arunachal Pradesh student Nido Tania in 2014.
To a region which is as equal as north or south, North-East India remains more or less isolated even after almost seven decades of independence. The blame lays on all of us not only the Government. As a society we have not matured enough to see someone from Manipur adjust quite comfortably in Chennai or someone from Arunachal Pradesh in Mumbai. The differences and prejudices are omnipresent everywhere and that’s because that part of India is that part of India which is underdeveloped and have little avenues for providing more opportunities to their youth. But when they come to larger cities, they are demotivated by seeing the level of discrimination and make them a bit cynical too.
This problem is acknowledged widely now and discussed at various forums too. Even MP Bezbaruah Committee set up in 2014 suggested various measures for inclusion which were very progressive in nature. But the most visible problem is the mindset of people. That change is required from societal perspective but sadly it will be a long process. But we have to make efforts very soon now to bring that change and melt the dividing glacier. It will take time to melt the ice but certainly the ice will melt.
Recently I was at my brother’s place in New Delhi and was going through summer assignments given to my niece who is in fifth standard. Her assignments were beautifully arranged in a decorated file putting me in nostalgic mode. Then my eyes suddenly went to a page that said “The Seven Sister States”. She wrote about folk dances of these states from Bihu of Assam to Bamboo dance of Mizoram with photographs attached. Then she highlighted about important places like Guwahati, Shillong, Kohima, Itanagar, etc. It was jovial to see all this and I could suddenly relate that how little I knew about North-East when I was of her age. Maximum I did was mugged up all eight states with their capital cities and tried to flaunt this knowledge in quiz. But what these kids are taught or made to do as assignment will bring them true appreciation and connectivity to the people from these areas. Definitely education is one of the effective ways to bring societal change about any problem.
The North-Eastern states, the paradise which is unexplored must be promoted as hub of tourism. The region has lot of tourism potential and can be addressed if the Governments take proper care about creating awareness among people, building required infrastructure, providing connectivity and taking care of law and order. Even when just today I saw Sachin Tendulkar posting pictures about the beauty of Scotland on Facebook , I just wondered how beautiful it would be if he could just go to Scotland of the east- Shillong and post some pictures. It will not just let people know about the beauty of our country but will motivate millions of his fans to take time and see these places which are God’s gift to India.
Although things are changing at rapid rate and now Government is trying to focus on North-East and even sloganeering of Acting East via North-East exists, time is very crucial to integrate and assimilate people from this region. They are our own people and every positive effort should be made to bring balanced regional development and provide each and everyone equitable opportunity to grow and prosper.
In the times of high insecurity, unsustainablity and instability we must try to fasten the process of nation building. If people from far flung areas in the morning can say Jai Hind with hearts full of pride then the country must provide them reasons to feel more and more proud about their Hind, their own motherland India!
ABHISHEK RANJAN is a researcher and policy analyst.