Perhaps, for the sake of convenience Sikkim, Meghalaya, Assam, Tripura, Arunachal, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram are dubbed simply as Northeast.
With an amazing array of cultural and physical landscapes, amazing cuisine, wide range of attire, myriad languages, history and repository of indigenous communities and identity, this land of eight states is a thousand countries in itself, with each village, so unique and so different.
Rejoice we must, for the fact that we are born in a land that nature has blessed with such abundance; our rivers, our mountains, our flowers, our hills and valleys.
Treasure, we must our history, often bloodied and where we come from as we continue to chart our own destiny; individual and societal identities amidst realities of indifference, brutality and racial discrimination.
Just before I sat down to write this piece, I saw a poignant obituary message from parents and friends of Nido Tania, to mark his death anniversary. As one recall the tragic killing in Delhi on 29 Jan 2014, one cannot help but get upset that a son, who had his whole future ahead of him, was snatched so cruelly because he looked different. While laws have been enacted to safeguard the people of the eight states, Tania was not the first nor will he be the last.
India remains a country that is deeply racist and people from the eight states have been at the most receiving ends, along with the Dalits, but sadly this country has not done enough to contain it leading to deep anger, absolute resentment and alienation.
It would be foolish to expect that few protest marches or appearance in TV would solve the deep rooted problem.
Perhaps, a small beginning is to ensure that our histories, no matter how uncomfortable to the idea of Indian nationhood, should be part of the school and university curriculum as well as our identities, culture and languages.
Apathy from the policy makers in Delhi is abound with examples, on the other hand, we have not done enough to save our own languages, while we easily embrace alien languages that ensure that we reach places. Arunachal and Nagaland are two great examples where things have gone so horribly wrong when it comes to safeguarding local languages.
The next generation needs to have a space to learn the language; to sing the songs in native languages, perhaps dream in that language and be able to translate it into four other. Forgive me for being a romantic. After all life is fast paced and we don’t have time to speak our native languages, forget about dreaming and being able to translate it into four other languages.
So what if the rest of the country has very conveniently dubbed us as one unmindful our diversity and stories we have to tell.
Come together only when we have to bash up a guy in Delhi or Bangalore, celebrate a festival or eat a sumptuous meal consisting of beef, rice and the stinky chutney?
The Arunachalee Poet Yumlam Tana writes in his poem ‘ A Dirge From The Northeast, “the books of maps, Says nothing about or land and forest rights,…Its intricate lines and legends are the tools, used by the spin doctor, to manufacture a new myth for us every day”.
Where do we figure in a larger landscape called India? Perhaps, we don’t mean much.
Even if no one is listening, we must continue to share stories, in all possible form and forums and amongst us.
(by Tongam Rina)
(Associate Editor of Arunachal Times)
The views reflected in this piece are that of the author and need not necessarily be that of TNT-The Northeast Today