REMEMBER THE TIME, NOT LONG AGO, when every South Indian in Delhi, Lucknow, or Rajasthan or anywhere in the North was referred to by the locals as a ‘Madrasi’? Or every North Indian in the South a Marwari?
The ignorance of, and misconceptions about, linguistic or ethnic groups other than their own has been massive, but is reducing gradually. Earlier people from south moved north for jobs. Most ‘babus’ were Tamilians and almost all nurses, anywhere in India, Malayalees (they mostly are, even now).
Migration, to some extent, brought Indians with different languages, faiths and cultures a little closer. There used to be a National Integration Council and when a crisis like war or a major disaster occurred efforts were made to make all the citizens feel united.
RANI GAIDINLIU Otherwise the country rarely had Indians – we have been Maharashtrians or Marwaris, Keralites or Telugus ( see ‘In Search of Indians – In India‘, Aug.13,2016). All Americans come from different ethnic and linguistic groups of Europe, but they are now Americans first.
But the ignorance about the Northeast in the rest of India is abysmal and highly disconcerting. It is as if that part of India is another country or wrose. Northeast people, with their Chinese-like looks are considered foreigners. So much so that people from NE working in Delhi and Bengaluru faced discrimination, hostility and even violence, resulting in some deaths.
Violence against them in Bengaluru resulted in an exodus, forcing several beauty parlours, spas and restaurants to shut down for several weeks as most of their employees, known to be hardworking and efficient, came from that part of the country.
Despite that, very little effort was made to popularise the NE states in the rest of India. Only one organisation, the much-maligned Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and its affiliates Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram and Vivekananda Kendra was working to integrate NE with India by organising regular visits of NE students and youth to other states. This was, perhaps, , because Christian missionaries were active there for generations, converting most people. Dyan Prabodhini of Pune helps NE students in a many ways and trains volunteers to work in NE.
A message on NE has been doing the rounds online for the last three or four days. It says:
Arunachal Pradesh Governor P.B. Acharya said Indians know more about the US than about the Northeast.He made a valid point – very few of us know enough about the Northeast.
Here are some of the surprising facts about the Northeast.
1) There are eight states in Northeast: Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Tripura, Sikkim, Nagaland.
2) There are nearly 220 languages spoken in the Northeast, which has a mix of Tibetan, South-east Asian and East Indian cultures.
3) Northeast is the only part of India that the Mughal Empire could not conquer.
4) The Ahom Dynasty, which ruled the Northeast for 600 years, is the longest unbroken dynasty in Indian history.
5) The world’s largest river island, the Majuli and the world’s smallest river island, Umananda are both in the Northeast.
6) Seven prominent National Parks of India are located in Northeast.
7) Shillong is considered as the ‘rock capital’ of India.
8) Mawsynram in Meghalaya holds the Guinness World Record for being the wettest place on earth.
9) Sualkuchi in Assam is one of the world’s largest weaver villages where the entire population is engaged in weaving silk fabrics.
10) Muga, the Golden Silk of Assam, is not produced anywhere else in the world.
11) It is the cleanest region in India. Mawlynnong in Meghalaya is the cleanest village in entire Asia.
12) 70% of the country’s orchids are found in Northeast.
13) Mizoram and Tripura are among the states with the highest literacy rate in India.
14) There is no dowry culture in entire Northeast.(It has more gender equality than rest of India)
These are only a few interesting facts about the Northeast.
The post urged the recipients to forward it to as many as they could to promote tourism to NE region, which can bring it closer to the rest of the country. Acharya’s initiative is praiseworthy. Many others were Governors in NE in the last 70 years but he led the way.
But a social media initiative, even if it goes viral, is not enough. Much more needs to be done. The RSS experiment can be duplicated on a larger scale. States, especially Karnataka where there were conflicts involving NE workers, could have arranged cultural exchanges.
Delhi, Bengaluru, Pune, Chennai and Kolkata attract many NE students.The Parivar’s Ahilya Mandir girls hostel of at Nagpur hosts some NE girls every year.
Incentives could be given for tours to NE. Programmes highlighting their culture, dances, music and customs could be organised in different states.
In 2016 the new Government of India honoured 10 freedom fighters from NE. My father used to tell me about Rani Gaidinliu (in picture above) whom he had met in the freedom movement. He even wrote a poem on her. A Naga spiritual and political leader, Gaidinliu (1915–1993) led a revolt against British rule and joined the Heraka religious movement against conversions at the age of 13, later turning it into a political movement for freedom from British rule.
The Harakas considered her an incarnation of the Goddess Cherachamdinliu. Arrested in 1932 at the age of 16 and sentenced to life imprisonment, she was given the title of ‘Rani’ (queen) by Jawaharlal Nehru. She was released in 1947 after Independence and conferred Padma Bhushan later.
How many today have even heard of Rani Gaidinliu or Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi of
Assam? Or of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose’s work in NE? There are many more such things to learn about Northeast.
The movement for re-discovery of India can start with Northeast.