‘What language do you speak?’
‘Why do you wear the kind of clothing that you do? Don’t you think it is too unlike Indian standards and kind of exhibiting?’
Welcome to a parochial nitty-witty world once again where the eastern wing (oh I mean the Northeastern wing of the country) is once again bestowed the needful to do the job of reminding our beloved country that Indian independence that took place on the 15th of August 1947 did cluster us in the group of identified national segment.
Northeast is a beautiful land of people living in a fabricated anonymity of unknowns, under the ‘mainstream’ bandwidth of Indian nation. A cumbersome failure of logistics has still made me think and rethink of possible reasons bearing some responsibility to the threat and classification that Northeasterners are subjected to in everyday affairs.
With a major segment of people flowing into the capital city each day, for better education purposes, we have discerned that even though education and mindset building is what the place promises, yet a sub-standardized clad in ignorance amid a learned populace characterizes us with mongoloid features for Chinese (Oh what do they call? Chinkies).
A realization that around 45 million of people from this race (if there is anything like race at all) is living here in the country and that such inference can be very misleading. The poor geographical knowledge has a tad bit of role to play. But what geography are we talking about? Maybe, a better explanation is that the seven sisters only work for them in books and not in reality. An attack on the sanctity of the sisters is straightway high on alert, but we can proceed with other reasons.
Now to put this blatant racism of our ‘fellow countrymen’ for us into perspectives and the logics behind it:
With smaller eyes, white faces and descriptive facial features, discrimination is easy. It is not easy for a ‘normal’ IQ guy to actually sit and compare a Punjabi from a ‘Haryanvi Jat’ and then judge them. But why judge at all? And what calls for differential treatment if small eyes and fair skin are the only causes? Let’s go for eye surgeries?
Too far to melt together
It is easier for a Tripuri to mingle with an Assamese or a Bengali, not so much with an American. Neighboring cultures often have many common things. Delhi is far away and there is practically less common thread that can bind these people.
This is especially true for perception of women. The Hills have never been theaters of war, men and women have worked peacefully with women often outworking them. Many tribes are strongly matrilineal and matriarchal.
Northeasterners roam around in a group like oil droplets on water is one accusation that we have registered. Problem is that the animal brain we have beside the logic faculties readily sees this as a threat; they are ganging up, most probably not to our best interest. This underlying fear often makes them more targeted, without their knowledge.
One of the fundamental issues that prevent Indians from other States from accepting Northeasterners as such is because of a huge disconnect in shared history. India has one of the most richest and ancient history in this world. We share a lot of common aspects in terms of culture, legends, mythology, rituals etc. across the country. We unite in terms of our shared past, the myths, the heroes, the literature from north to south, east to west. But a very peculiar aspect to be realized is that while the average Indian knows rudimentary historical developments in the North and Southern India, in west (even current day Pakistan) to Bengal (and Bangladesh), we know nothing much about the Northeastern States – the people, their culture, their languages, any history associated with that region.
In all of the history taught to us, we have never read much about what was happening in the north-eastern region all this while. What was happening there when Indus Valley was prospering, what kind of kingdoms ruled those places, what type of heroes are popular there, how was the society functioning. It’s like a blank page with just one line after added the consolidation of Indian states – a small paragraph about the names of the Northeastern states and their capitals. That’s it.
This appalling lack of knowledge, ignorance makes it harder to associate them with the history of our country and consider them as an integral element of Indian society. But I still question the gruesome nature of targeting a group which has no responsibility to bear for the history.
The average Indian has no sense of what’s happening in the Northeast, the political situation, separatist movements and insurgency issues. We have no clue. The media doesn’t cover it. The regional media is totally not interested in covering even events of natural disasters in those regions. An occasional art film would crop up with sketchy elements of Naxal and insurgent activities but we don’t know anything about the real heroes – people who are battling enormous struggle, people who could achieve small victories despite the utter lack of support from the government.
There is absolute zero awareness in the mainstream film industry. Tourism is not promoted as much though people can’t stop gushing about the seven states if they happen to take a tour out there.
All this results in an uninformed mass like in Delhi University where racism is very vulgarly present, the brunt of which is faced by students from Northeast every day.
Can we revise our knowledge and understand linguistic differences of a diverse land? Can we see everyone through an eye that is more egalitarian and less attacking? Can we think they are as much Indian as we are?
Qwingkl, A Northeasterner
Photo Source- Youth ki Awaaz