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Strangers in the Mist- Part 1

* I wrote this during my recent trip to Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Nagaland and it's in the form of a diary. And now that I read back on it, I'm longing to edit it out and make changes, but in the interest of being true to myself, I'm going to do no such thing*

6th January 2008
16:05 pm

The train journey lasted a very long while and while most parts were fun, bits of it were quite boring.

After arriving in Assam and now Arunachal Pradesh, I am awestruck by how beautiful it is and how absolutely little I know of the country I live in. Though I must admit that I'm a little bit better than most. What saddens me most is that for these people, they are not Indians but are made to feel like outsiders, that some of them do not feel Indian, that they are called 'chinkies', that we generalise all the states in the North-East whether Assam, Manipur or Mizoram as North-Eastern. That we fail to see them as states with different cultural identities but just as people with small, slanting eyes.

And now that we know that we must work that much harder to make them feel like a part of us. That India would be incomplete without them.

None of our mainstream newspapers or TV channels give much prominence to happenings in the North-East and we are majorly to blame for that.

Newspapers these days exist not to tell people what they need to know but what they want to know. And on that premise, it is important for us to make it known that we 'WANT' news about the north-east. That we are interested in them and the happenings that affect their lives.

Why is it that until today there has been no famous actors or actresses in the mainstream media.

Why did the Delhi RJ make a comment about Prashant Tamang and watchmen? Because that's the kind of mindset that we've been born and brought up with. The stereotypes that we've been fed and I say this not only for the people from the North-east but for Mangalorean Catholics who are referred to as bitchy, Goans who are called lazy, Gujjus as loud and uncouth etc etc.

Why is it that out of the seven North-eastern states, four are not connected by railway. For these 7 states, there are only 15 MP's. Compare that with states such as UP and Bihar which have 88 and 52 MP's respectively.

Is it any wonder then that their needs are not addressed?


Nutee's said…
i shall be the first one to say it loud on this post .... ;) i think its a very nice post .. i've had a lot of NE friends during my college days ( which is not distant past ) True they are not made tp feel indian at all but tell me one thing do they really feel that they belong here ?? i think they are wonderful people but like many minorities in this country their premier loyalties do not lie with the country but rather the state in which they reside . Our concept of patriotism is a very Urban one ... the whole I M PROUD TO B INDIAN slogan doesnt apply there ..... i say all this because apart from having a lot of NE friends i also have a friend who has stayed in NE for about 7 years .... none the less its a very nice post ..
Homecooked said…
Hey nice article.I hope that when you become a journalist you will highlight these issues. But overall I hope u had a great time.DO put up some pics.Let us all see the beauty of Northeast :) I hope i get to go there someday.
Mugger Much said…
Lovely post.
Having said that, however, I believe the brunt of demonstrative patriotism has always been borne by visible minorities, everywhere in the world. Most of us in peninsular India or the Cow Belt feel no need to show our patriotism; in fact, we find that mocking the flag and other national symbols might be a source of much laughter in public areas such as movie theatres. We have absolved ourselves of the responsibility of being patriotic by hoisting it upon the "weaker" sections who don't look like us (North East), talk like us (South India) or pray like us (Muslims all over India).
It is precisely this kind of an outlook, the one which labels patriotism to be an urban phenomenon, that trots out lame reasons for the under-development of a massive region of our country such as its "remoteness". It is remote only if you're looking at it from Delhi; it is pretty close to being the center of the world for those who live in that region. It is barely an hour's flight away from Bangkok, and there is no reason why it can't be as economically developed as South East Asia (countries which are more than two orders of magnitude better than the best that the over-hyped cities of Delhi or Bombay can come up with).
Yes, those who belong to the North East can justly feel deprived of the economic benefits of their strategic location. It is an implicit tax on their souls, and a cross that every biased BIMARU Indian should bear.

Now, coming to the fact of lesser number of MPs from the North East, it has less to do with marginalization and more to do with the politics of reproduction. While the rest of India followed reasonable birth control practices, the Cow Belt believed that their masculinity is strongly correlated with the number of children sired. The quirkiness of our proportional representation system ensures that states which strove for population control compliance have been fined for the same, and their voice in the democratic process has correspondingly been throttled.
Which simply goes on to show that a democratic system is not necessarily the panacea for all problems, a fact we face each day when we read the latest mainstream media reports concerning how the Yuvraj is being primed to take over the dynastic throne.
All in all, much food for thought here. I thank you for it.
Gentle Whispers said…
@ Mugger Much : I agree with what your saying. However my point was not of being patriotic but more on the fact that they are not made to feel Indian, for instance when we visited a tribal village in Assam, the guide introduced us to the villagers there as "people from India". And it stung. Something similar happened on a trip to Kashir when we were speaking to students of Kashmir University, whre again, they constantly referred to us as "your'll people from India". And its hard to be patriotic towards a state which doesn't make you feel a part of it.

Also, I know that representation in Parliament is on the basis of population. But what I was pointing out, was that with only 15 MPs there is little chance of the needs of the North-East being addressed. And to a state like Assam, which supplies 60% of India's oil needs, it is grossly unfair not to provide any development or infrastructure.
Over Rated said…
Nice Post!

I too feel that there is this whole disconnect between the all the different sections of the people of the country.

Everybody feels disconnected from everybody else. The majority feels that the minorities are being favored and the minorities feel oppressed since ancient times. And our politicians do nothing to bridge these gaps rather they continue to exploit them and the gap keeps going wider and wider. The sad part is that the only time someone feels Patriotic is when India beats Pakistan in a cricket match or when someone calls Shilpa Shetty a 'popadum'. Then we collectively cheer or are feel outraged (as the situation demands). Most people in our country have made peace with the fact that the country is going to the dogs, and all they want to do is live their lives in peace until their children call them to live with them in America or they face the sweet release of death.

Sorry!! I didn't want my comment to be so somber ... but your post got me thinking :P .....

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