Define and not be defined
[dropcap]I[/dropcap]t took the spark of the death of nineteen year old Nido Tania from Arunachal Pradesh to lead to the decision that textbooks of the National Council of Educational Research and Training will include matter on the north east of India.
The decision is criminally belated but nevertheless heartily welcomed.
Why it did not come earlier is a regret a mystery and can only be put down to indifference by the people who decide such policies. There is no gain in looking back but in this case it is important to just pause a while and remember all the victims from the north east who became targets of discrimination because they appeared different and were not accepted as “Indians” but as ‘junglees’ to some, as ‘chinkys’, of ‘loose character’ to others.That such instances of victimization should occur at an age when information technology is bursting at its seams is food for thought. It only goes to prove that unless information is put put out in the right places, forum and platform and targets the right audience it amounts to zero information.
For this reason, while the intent to provide information on geography, history, tradition and culture of the indigenous people of the region is a step to bridge the gap in perception, it will be naive to believe that NCERT books alone will achieve this.
NCERT books are published in three languages Hindi, Urdu and English.
But most of the incidents and attacks have been carried out by persons who will not read NCERT books.
Information about people of the region has to be made available in vernacular media,on unconventional platforms and creative means. Bollyowod, TV serials, cricket and other sports personalities, the armed forces who are posted in the region could also be sensitized to culture in their areas of posting and the holy men of India.
There can be no short cut to make up for the decades of ‘information block out’ on the region and people. An exercise of this nature to usher in a sense of assimilation with the rest of the country dare not be rushed, superficially dressed up or forced. The result could be a recipe for disaster only further endorsing the divide.
It will be of vital importance that the books on the indigenous tribes of the north east are written by the people who are familiar with the region, tribal customs and traditions. Nuances however subtle if misplaced can alter interpretations and impact how a tribe with their specific and unique traditions and culture is perceived.
The tribes and people of the north east are an enigma unto themselves, resulting in clashes within their folds.
Ironically the one factor they are united in has been in the sense of ‘equi-distance’ from the centre and people of the country.
While it will be a while before textbooks on the region will be available for gen next an immediate remedial measure is to encourage travel to the region for students, central and state officials. In the past the centre had encouraged and rewarded central officers who availed heir annual leave to visit the northeast.
Meanwhile the community from the northeast staying in the metros can also lend a helping hand in bridging the gap by holding seminars and conferences. Taking part in activities of the local neigbourhood, as they would if they were living back home. Many families are already doing so and well integrated into their colonies.
The one thing which distinguishes the people from the north east with the rest of the countrymen is the sense of ‘community’. This is often misunderstood and misinterpreted as ganging up, being snobbish, selective or even downright a sign of vulnerability.
Perhaps the truth is floating somewhere in the midst of all these definitions.
In the tragic death of Nido and other boys and girls, victims of rape, racial slur and discrimination and the united outcry an opportunity has come for the north east to define itself and not be defined.