What Does The New Year Mean For North-East India?

Ananya S Guha

What does the New Year mean for all of us? Let us forget the rest of the country. Let us think of North East India first. And the first thing to think about are the impending elections in three states: Meghalaya, Mizoram and Meghalaya, our very own. With every hustings there is expectancy of change. Change there will be, these fellows will be thrown out is the adage. We are waiting for this change like an elusive ghost, like the inchoate Godot, like the ephemeral wind, tangled in dust, or the branches of trees. Does change come? Is there change in lives of villagers, excepting that they have mobile phones? Do children go to school, or are they all dropping out? What are the conditions of schools and colleges, why are teachers not given pensions? There is no money in the exchequer, is the reply. But you have money, all invested in different cities of the country and the world. Oh, I forgot, the world is a global village, so we need not improve our villages.

Current politics. The Truce in Assam or Nagaland? Are the meetings still held behind closed doors? When will they open the doors for a whiff of freshness? In Assam the NRC is more than a ticklish issue, with the portends rather ominous. Moreover 31st December was the deadline for updating it and reports say many more numbers are still to be settled. Manipur seems to be quiet but the so called valley hill divide can always erupt. Politicians are waiting for their chances. In Tripura killings of journalists smell of politics before elections. In Meghalaya the ruling party is trying its best to make a dent before the elections. The education scam seems to have petered out. In Mizoram will there be the same tussle between the MNF and the Congress?

But forget politics. Why is not education getting the priority it deserves? There is the growing problem of drop outs and street children. Need we address these issues? Need we develop better roads? We are talking of internet technology but not of the down to earth connectivity, the roads.

Nagaland and Assam are two issues that have to be sorted out to bring some peace and restoration of order in the North East Region. Are the politicians listening? Having interlocutors and mediators isfine, but the mediation is turning out to be prolonged meditation. We still haven’t learnt from the Mizoram accord for peace, a phenomenal signature to give up arms and work for peace and development. Can the other states follow suit? There must be a political will.

But the people? Yes in all the states the people are fed up with corruption, divide and rule politics and subversion of law. Look at the APSC scam in Assam. Why are the state public service commissions not functioning dispassionately?

We are slowly seeing a mainstreaming in NE india with the rest of the country. But the mainstreaming ironically is through the forces of money and corruption. How many will deign to follow Tripura’s example? In fact there is a concerted act to throw out the ruling government there through fanning division on religious lines.

And I just hope to God that the people of North East India do not fall a prey to this bizarre formula of divide and misrule.

An article came out in Scroll India very recently about the disgruntlement of the people of the Barak Valley of Assam. Demand for an Union Territory is on the rise though not all would support it I am sure. The people of Tripura, and the Barak Valley of Assam, who are Bengali speaking, inherit the legacy of the partition of the country, and subsequently bringing these areas under Assam, in the case of the Barak Valley. The ‘ foreigners’ tag has led to problems and conflicts within the people coupled with a mental and physical distance from the Brahmaputra valley. History cannot be forgotten, true but a new history must begin, that of assimilation. The updating of the National Register of citizens, could be volatile in terms of Muslim baiting, with some politicos might wanting to reap political benefits.

The sharing of common borders with four or five countries has geopolitics involved and has strategically united the region, as well as the reason of foreign immigration. China’s interference in Arunachal Pradesh, has further made the geopolitics tense. This has been recently exacerbated by the Doklam stand off penetrating to almost Sikkim. The people of North East are caught in the throes of foreign intervention, social unrest, militancy, and the fear of invasion of ‘ foreigners’. The division of Assam into further states, has also witnessed formation of territorial councils. We can remain united through clean politics and sincere, honest development for the poor and the masses. Education in interior areas must be a thrust. Local industries must be given a boost so also agriculture and horticulture. Local traditions, practices concomitant with technology must be issues of good governance. But the religious card will not work, if at all it may boomerang in the worst ways.