At the time of writing this article, an alert is flashing on my computer screen which says that the water level of Brahmaputra River at Guwahati D C Court measured today has been found at 50 meters exceeding the danger level of 49.68 meters. While the water level is rising with every passing day, so is the anger against mainland apathy on the perennial problem of the State which should have been declared as a national disaster long back.
Twitter is flooded with angry rants on how Northeast India is yet again overlooked by the national media. In fact, Union Minister Kiren Rijiju, who hails from flood-hit Arunachal Pradesh has tweeted, ‘Friends, don’t cry that in this catastrophic moment national media ignores North East unlike Kashmir floods or Chennai floods. Govt cares.’
Well, we are not really sure about the last sentence. Till now, not a single Union Minister has found out time to visit the flood affected corners of Assam. Maybe, few days later, we will find a minister making an obligatory visit. Once again, there will be demands to make Assam floods a national calamity and once again, the demands will be rejected. Life will go on as usual in the rest of the country.
Apathy from media
If our politicians at least pretend to care, national media is free of these trappings. They don’t even care to show that they are caring. However, it is not always that they are passive about Northeast. The G S Road molestation in 2012 got non-stop coverage in most news channels for two days. But the floods which can be called the biggest of all problems in Assam have been overlooked year after year. Why just floods, even the catastrophic earthquake which shook Manipur in 2016 was overlooked by media.
A senior journalist from Assam on conditions of anonymity said, ‘Well, there are number of reasons why Northeast is neglected. For politicians, there are not enough votebank, for business class there is no market and for media, there is no TRP. Of course, we ourselves are also to blame. We have not represented our problems well enough to create awareness on the bigger stage.’
70 percent of Kaziranga National Park (KNP), a world heritage site and the favourite tourist destination of many people across the globe has been inundated by flood water. The animals which are trying to flee in search of highland run the risk of either being killed by poachers or being hit by speeding vehicles on the national highway. Right now, 24 districts have been affected by the devastating flood. Population affected in the calamity has crossed 17 lakhs and among them 31,456 people are staying in the 294 relief camps opened across the State.
This is catastrophe of epic magnitude and something which deserves urgent attention. However, the last time I checked a national news channel; it was Kamal Hasan who was hogging the screen for being threatened by some fringe Hindu group. The same old story of neglect has been repeated so many times that it doesn’t even come off as a surprise.
Words- Nabarun Guha