At 62-plus, where is that Indian-ness?

When the nation turns 63 today, patriotism and Indian-ness is such a relative concern. My part of the country, Meghalaya and the NE region of the country has seen independence day observations of a certain kind - decades of ethnic violence and reconciliation - a constant struggle with identity. In colonial times, there were two princely territories and undivided Assam. The two princely states are present day Manipur and Tripura, remnants of royalty can be seen until date. Undivided Assam per the States Reorganisation Act of 1971 and later gave birth to Nagaland, Mizoram, Meghalaya and we had NEFA, now Arunachal Pradesh. The struggle is not over. The NE region of India is rich and diverse with tribes and smaller tribes, each with a distinct identity and ethnicity. They don’t come under the media glare so much like the Red Indians do in Uncle Sam’s, they are fierce about their preservation of their community. Indian-ness as a concept is not absolute and binding, of one voice over the other. But there is a clear unacknowledged divide of the mainland and the hinterland. Each one of us is very proud of the heritage and legacy we have inherited and are ambassadors in our lil’ capacity.

Interestingly, history is full of tales of crossroads of national and regional moments of glory, strife and sacrifice. Manipur had Bir Tikendrajit fighting the common enemy of sovereignty, the colonial British forces. Present day Meghalaya was predominantly Hindu/pagan comprising the tribes of Khasis, the Jaintias and the Garos. The Khasis fought under U Tirot Sing. Undivided Assam gave the nation many Gandhians and reformers. The Welsh missionaries and the Salesians set up churches, hospitals and schools, the popular notion of the NE being a western society began then. Naturally blessed with heavenly dales and unexplored virgin territory, the clean air and the pristine-ness. Not as flamboyant and rich as Europe, but it was no less.

The 1971 Indo-Pak war’s result was Bangladesh. Pre-partition times had people in the region going to Dhaka and Sylhet to meet friends and relatives, study and trade. Things changed overnight. The influx of communal riot victims to the Brahmaputra Valley took away scarce national resources and means. The immigrants are survivors, to snatch opportunity and set up a comfortable haven not alien to them. I still have friends who suffer humiliating comments on the basis of their religion and where they come from. The locals are also bitter, and from a fun loving hospitable race they have become insecure and need inner line permits for non-locals. Absolute dynastic non-mainstream power corrupts badly. The region suffered in the hands of some Mammon worshippers. The youth went mad, some protested, some gave up school and work, some became militants. The region wept blood. It is limping back to normalcy, the prodigal sons are making it happen after realising that someone malicious is misleading them for some other intent. Many jingoistic rebels felt, they were accidently born and proclaimed Indians. Only natural. The on-the-fence intelligentsia and the yellow-journalism driven elite play safe and want to be politically correct. How simplicity is bruised. People lived the trauma of ethnic killings, mothers wept their bosoms at factional violence. Unsuspecting victims of violence and bitterness. It took music and grit to heal the wounds, and take the bull by the horns. Terrorism became a business, the centre provided crores of funds, wonder if those funds actually made sense-- never saw much of security and para-military stuff doing their work, business thrived on protection money, the region was in the news for terrorism, tourism died many deaths and a separate ministry was created for us, endangered species that we are.

Anyway, the cosmic joke didn’t spare many who wanted to rise above the cramped life. Parents thought their kids were safer in metros, so broods left their nests. The parents worked double hard to keep the money flowing. Some kids went back, many lost in the metro madness. Things in the mainland ( err.. sorry, why mainland? Who created the mainland?) were not rosy. The Mongoloid features made them the butt of all jokes. The chinkies or the Chinese or the Japanese -- that is how they are known. They speak English well and not speaking in Hindi ( one of the national languages) is a crime, they dress well and are easily available and gullible. Nietzsche said history is recorded by the powerful about what they choose to. The NCERT and the other so-called national enough education boards have been governed by size, the big states where the big money went with every national Budget. State boards made local history available in second language studies, which sadly is optional.

They come under the scanner faster than anyone. One reason is because they are “aliens” and look different and easy enough to judge since they are not from this part of the world. All the national hoo-hoo haa-haa around being patriotic and Indian died the day enlightened and proud Aryans and Dravidians displayed national ignorance and brouhaha around where the NE is and also, the jokes. Damn it, the enigma of the NE became smaller in focus than a question around cannibalism and the like. The mainland IQ is definitely relatively poorer and also, majorly indifferent. Molestation and sexual abuse of women in the NCR and in many parts of India is not a new thing, people complain and protest, file an FIR and the road to justice and perdition is a long agonising one. A few years ago, when two NE girls were molested in Delhi and two others were attacked at Gateway of India, there was uproar and divided opinion over clothes and culture. Delhi Police did something more wretched by producing a pamphlet for potential UG people from the NE with a list of do’s and don’ts and what to wear and not. Regressive times. The experience of bias is strong. It is not a one-day paranoia. Sigh! I don’t know how and where parents involve themselves at a child’s growth, the callousness is shocking at times. The sense of alienation only grew bigger, the rifts just grew wider. Now, it is a tch-tch feeling, call it thick-skinned otherwise. And, I am affected definitely. I wish to believe a free India exists for all of us.

A Kargil, a tsunami, a national calamity and a 26/11 inadvertently brings the nation together because the battleground is the mainland. Terrorist acts and bomb blasts are mundane part and parcel of life here, it is not probably over magnified and blown for 24/7 satellite TV coverage. The stakes are low but the pain of being abandoned is bigger than the casualty.We used to watch/observe Independence day and Republic day within closed doors on DD-1, we had token celebrations where the Guvs took the salute and a few made it. When I was the Vice head girl in school, I managed to take 16 brave hearts for whom disobeying parents was regular, to the parade ground. Yes, I was scared what if we get caught in some rampant crossfire. Today, things are fine. We fought terrorism in our own way, we came out on the streets. We had to be accountable and responsible for our lives and future, didn’t want to die like cowards. If at all, in action, in protest. Music is a magical healer and, prayer too. The region is scarred but the flowers are blooming in the hills, giving a chance to their fraternity in the mainland a chance to bridge the gap.

We have to rise above the cosmetic clarion call of Jaiho or Jaihind..
Post a Comment