What made headlines in 2017? A recap of what went viral in Northeast India & beyond

What made headlines in 2017? A recap of what went viral in Northeast India & beyond

By SHWETA RAJ KANWAR | December 31, 2017

2017 has been a year of strange happenings: From suicidal games to rapist god fathers, from cows being worshipped to women being harassed, from journalists being killed to freedom being restricted, busting fake news from real and using social media as a source of spreading false information and the list goes on…

Below, we give you a list of incredible instances that will soon become a thing of the past and may be carried over to the next year! So, ladies & gentlemen, here we go:

The Blue Whale Game: You must have heard of the Blue Whale Challenge — a deadly online game which has reportedly claimed the lives of many teenagers including those residing in India in general and Northeast India in particular. From Assam to Tripura, instances of deaths among youth citing Blue whale as a reason made headlines almost every single day with governments as well as the SC issuing check on Social Media activities. None of the cases have yet been officially linked to the game; it remains a convenient smokescreen for India’s high incidence of student depression and mental health issues.

Aadhaar enrollment: From taking over to our wallet details to leaving a person unspared even after death, dying in India became a complicated affair this year, as the Central government made it mandatory to provide the Unique Identification Number or Aadhaar for obtaining a death certificate (in various parts of the country) but not as strictly in Northeast India due to its vehement opposition to Aadhaar. The rationale was to prevent identity fraud but the right ti privacy in turn, became a highly debatable issue. From ‘Opt out of Aadhaar’ campaigns in Meghalaya to fake Aadhaar card rackets being busted in Nagaland and other parts of Northeast India, all this and more finally led to the extension of deadline for Aadhar linkage to bank accounts and phone numbers to March 31, 2018, from December 31, 2017.

Rohingya Crisis: When hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims were forced to flee from their homes in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, Northeast India was at greater risk of being encroached by illegal immigrants. From Assam to Mizoram, the influx of Rohingya’s put the region on high alert. The government of Myanmar, a predominately Buddhist country, claims the Rohingya people are illegal immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh and has denied them citizenship, leaving them stateless. While the whole affair created quite a stir, the region in particular and the nation in general is still working towards tackling the menace.

When tradition was shamed: The Delhi Golf Club incident that was encountered by a Khasi lady from Meghalaya, Tailin Lyngdoh created quite a stir not only at a national level but also at an international level. It had come to light that a Khasi lady hailing from Meghalaya named Tailin Lyngdoh was asked to leave a venue in Delhi for wearing a ‘Jainsem’- the Khasi traditional attire and justified their acts by saying the attire made her look like a Maid’! The incident invited criticism from all sections of the society throwing the much needed light on the presence of ‘British Raj’ and ‘Brown Supremacy’ even after more than 70 years of independence

Where CM’s changed with the blink of an eye: The Northeast Indian state of Nagaland saw a political drama that was equal to none with the change of Chief Minister in just 2017 more than once. With Zeliang and Shurhozelie being on the same page in the month of February 2017 to the split of Naga People’s Front into two parts, the political scene in the state invited much attention and drama, but , as usual, the plight of the common man still remained at large-  un attended and ignored. While on February 22, Naga People’s Front (NPF) supremo Shurhozelie Liezietsu was sworn in as the 17th Chief Minister of Nagaland following the resignation of T.R. Zeliang after ending more than two weeks of standoff with Nagaland Tribes Action.  Committee (NTAC). However on July 19, after Shurhozelie Liezietsu failed to appear for a floor test in the Assembly, TR Zeliang was appointed as the new chief minister of Nagaland again. With 2018 elections on the fray, the new year is expected to be bring out more clarity on the political situation of the state.

The 104 days of Gorkhaland reverberation: The oldest statehood demand in Indian history, the demand for Gorkhaland reached its peak this year with various agitations in Darjeeling. Protests first started after the West Bengal government announced on May 16 that Bengali language should be a compulsory subject in all schools across the state. This was interpreted  as an imposition of an alien culture by the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) administered area where the majority of the people speak Nepali and this gave wind to the already persistent demand. There were widespread instances of violence including riots, arson, torching of vehicles, government properties and houses. In one of these protests, the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, which is a UNESCO World heritage site, was torched by the protesters. Mass rallies were taken out regularly by the supporters of the Gorkhaland agitation. There have been multiple injuries of both the Gorkhaland supporters and security personnel. A total of 11 people have died in the protests till date. On July 9, the protests reach New Delhi. The supporters met the Home Minister on September 19. This was followed by the hills slowly returning to normalcy. On September 26, internet services were restored in the region. Then on September 27, GJM finally called off the strike after 104 days.

BJP and RSS became the hot topic in the region, often accompanied by ‘beefy’ conversations: With BJP’s victory in Assam in 2016 elections, the party’s hold over the region gradually became much stronger and when the BJP outsmarted Congress in Manipur Elections 2017, BJP became a hot topic of discussion in the entire region. With several residents all over the region taking a firm stand against the BJP’s Hindutva ideology to them organizing beef parties in Mizoram, the region has never shied away from showing what they feel. However, some others began to believe that the end of Congress’s dynastic rule was the only way in which corruption and development could be dealt with. Whatever may be the case, the region as a whole waits with bated breaths for the 2018 Assembly election in Meghalaya, Nagaland, Tripura and Mizoram to see what the cards hold.

Journalist deaths came into prominence: 2017 has been the worst year for journalists not only in Northeast India, but in the whole world. The memory of Gauri Lankesh, a journalist from Bengaluru who was assassinated on September 5, 2017 still remains fresh in our minds. She was the editor of Gauri Lankesh Patrike in Bengaluru. Not very long after this shocking incident, Pankaj Mishra, a journalist working for Hindi newspaper Rashtriya Sahara, was shot by two bikers on September 7 in the Arwal district of Bihar. Following this, another journalist from Tripura, Santanu Bhowmik was murdered on September 20, 2017 while on duty. This was the third case of a journalist being murdered in India within a fortnight. Amidst mass protests in the world’s largest democracy for protecting the rights and freedom of the Press, on November 21, another journalist named Sudip Dutta Bhowmik, also from Tripura was  murdered by a police officer of the Tripura State Rifles. This was just after a month of the previous murder of a journalist in the same state. And despite all of this, the deafening silence of the national communities, leave alone the international communities poses a big question mark on the freedom of journalists not only in India, but all over the world!

The Sarahah craze: The craze on social media about an app called Sarahah created waves all over the world and Northeast India was no exception. Every once in a while we all must have had the urge to yell at our bosses and tell them how much do they annoy us. Well, a Saudi Arabia developer ZainAlabdin Tawfiq came to the rescue by developing Sarahah. Sarahah is an anonymous messaging app that allows you to send messages to anyone you want without the recipient knowing who the sender is. However, the cons of the app soon came into the limelight as cases of hateful messages popping up on the screen surfaced on the ground. Sarahah has taken over people’s life by storm and people have started linking the Sarahah profiles to Snapchat stories. Well so much for only sending an anonymous message!

China’s repeated attempts to irk India: China’s claim over India’s Arunachal Pradesh is not a new phenomenon and we all know the amount of effort the country makes to keep India on its toes with its sub-standard behavior. And as if all this was not enough, on 16 June 2017 Chinese troops with construction vehicles and road-building equipment began extending an existing road southward in Doklam, a territory which is claimed by both China as well as India’s ally Bhutan. On 18 June 2017, around 270 Indian troops, with weapons and two bulldozers, entered Doklam to stop the Chinese troops from constructing the road. On 28 August, both India and China announced that they had withdrawn all their troops from the face-off site in Doklam. The tension that prevailed during the three-month-long standoff at Doklam was diffused by the announcement to dilute military presence at the India-Bhutan-China tri-junction.

Also, let’s not forget the letter written by Congress MP from Arunachal East constituency, Ninong Ering to Prime Minister Narendra Modi hinting that China could be constructing a tunnel under river Siang known as Yarlung Tsangpo in Tibet. He said that Siang has turned muddy and slushy with traces of cement at one point of time when its waters are supposed to be crystal clear. The incident came to light in November after which instances of the turpidity level of Brahmaputra river turning dangerously high also came to light. Although China denied allegations of building an underwater tunnel, the recurring instances caught the attention of many environmentalists and the issue remains unsolved as of now.

NSCN (K) loses its Chairman — SS Khaplang:  Chairman of Naga rebel group Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland — Khaplang (NSCN-K), SS Khaplang, who had engineered many attacks on the security forces including the killing of 18 Indian Army soldiers in Manipur, died on June 9, 2017 at Takka in the Kachin state of Myanmar. He was 77 years old. The leader of the Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland (Khaplang) who had been ailing for quite some time, died following a cardiac arrest. His death was condoled by many including then Chief Minister of Nagaland, Dr Shurhozelie Liezietsu and present CM TR Zeliang.

Well, the above were the top instances that impacted Northeast India and the reverberations of which can still be felt at many levels. The events cited above are not ones to be read and forgotten but to analyse and retrospect as to why they took place and how, in the coming year we do not repeat the same mistakes. From allowing games like Blue Whale influence the minds of our youth to spreading misconceptions about the Aadhar enrolment, from China’s psychological invasion of India to deaths, killing and agitation in the name of statehood- an affair which could have been controlled much earlier but which was allowed to go on only for the benefit of political motives of some parties and group of people.

Let 2018 bring in rationality and more sense among the civil society so that we in turn become more aware of our rights and duties and not allow ourselves to be gullible so as to be carried away by a whiff of mild rumor. In the world’s largest democracy, let the power be rightfully ours!

The writer can be reached at shweta@thenortheasttoday.com & shwetarajkanwar@gmail.com



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