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E-Pao! Essay - Peace and Unity : A common vision for NEI

Peace and Unity : A common vision for NEI

Lalrindiki Ralte & Z. K. Pahrii Pou



We are a group of students coming from Northeast India belonging to different tribes and states. We came to Madurai (Tamilnadu) to get higher education in different disciplines. Coming far away from our respective communities and region has given us the space to look back at where we come from in a collective manner. By sharing together our diverse experiences, we came to realize that Peace and Unity are some of the most important concerns among different ethnic groups as well as within the same group in Northeast India. Since the different ethnic groups are spread out all over the region crossing inter-state and international boundaries, we feel that no particular ethnic group can survive by themselves without having peace and unity with their neighboring group/s or among themselves since we have to share and safeguard together the resources such as land, forest, water etc. for our survival and peaceful existence.

At the same time we also realize that unless and until we identify and try to understand the persistent problems in our region in their totality, we will not achieve the peace and unity that we longed for. Out of the many problems, we identify the following on which we, the people of Northeast India, can share a common platform:

1. Violence: We realize that violence is deeply entrenched in most of our traditional leadership practices, among different movements for autonomy and in the state structure in the form of militarization. We feel that it is this kind of violence, which is the greatest obstacle in ensuring peace and unity among us. Nowadays more and more victims of different forms of violence are innocent civilians like women, children, elderly people as well as marginal and weaker groups such as immigrants and landless laborers.

Since violence has become an everyday reality among the different groups, we feel that large-scale awareness programme need to be held on the destructive role of violence. The increasingly popular "Gun culture" and the misguided attempts to solve problems through the barrel of guns should be rejected. Above all, we feel that the people of Northeast India together should adamantly say "NO" to all forms of violence.

2. Ethnic Identity Politics/Tribalism: The politicization of different ethnic identities by certain groups having vested interest is creating more hostilities and suspicions among the different ethnic groups in our region. This has further exacerbated violence and xenophobia among the people.

While affirming and acknowledging the importance of safeguarding and upholding the different distinctive ethnic identities of our region, we also feel that there are many crucial issues, which transcend ethnic barriers on which we can take a stand together. Many ethnic groups and the weaker sections in each group are in the process of losing their control and access to resources, which threatens their very survival. This is one crucial issue, on which concerned people of Northeast can stand together irrespective of ethnic identities, in order to safeguard the livelihood and survival of the marginalized groups.

We feel that a conducive political atmosphere needs to be evolved to start the process of linking up with one another on crucial livelihood issues. The people of the region have to resist divisive ethnic identity politics to ensure the development of such political atmosphere.

3. Problems in Educational System: As students, we strongly feel that it is the irrelevant education and corruption in the educational system in our region that gives rise to alienation from our own cultural heritage, unemployment, and unwholesome behaviour. Educated unemployed youths are the most susceptible ones in joining groups who uphold the culture of violence. We also feel that increasing alcoholism as well as drugs and substance abuse among the youths all over the region is largely due to the problems in our educational system.

Hence, we feel that we need a curriculum, which is relevant and suitable in the Northeast context particularly in inculcating the ethos of peace and unity among the younger generations. We need education, which will help us to value and sustain the constructive practices of our different ethnic traditions as well as the values of modern democratic society. We also need education, which will help us to innovate our traditional skills in order to provide sustainable livelihood and employment. Students' organizations all across the region together can challenge the increasing privatization and commercialization of the educational system and corruption in the system and structures of education.

4. Materialism and Consumerism: Increasing materialism and consumerism are destroying the fabric of the communitarian and a more egalitarian structure of the different ethnic communities in our region. We think that this has led to rampant corruption and the widening of gap between the powerful affluent class and the mass toiling class in almost all the ethnic groups all over the states of Northeast India. By corruption, we mean not only the mishandling and misappropriation of public money, but also abuse of power and responsibilities by our leaders as well as moral and spiritual corruption of the general public.

Once again, a concerted effort on the part of all concerned people in Northeast region is needed to fight against the vices of materialism and consumerism. We need to have a strong sense of responsibility and accountability in handling financial resources which mostly come from outside. Since materialism and consumerism are directly related to imported goods from outside, we feel that buying and using the local products available in different parts of our region could be one important way of checking these vices. This in turn can give secure livelihood for the local producers. Our value system based on uncritical worshiping of material possessions due to the influence of consumeristic societies elsewhere need to be challenged and condemned.

There are many more common issues, which we need to continue to discuss together in order to promote lasting Peace and Unity in Northeast India and beyond. We would also like to appeal to all other Northeast people, who are studying and working in different parts of the country, to make the time to come together and share common concerns of our region. We do not have any other place to call as our homeland except Northeast India. We are all responsible for the welfare of the whole region. Sharing and discussion lead to conscientization, which ultimately leads to concrete involvement and actions.

We would appreciate if you could kindly send your comments and suggestions to the following persons:

Lalrindiki Ralte
President
Northeast India Students' Fellowship
Madurai- 16, Tamilnadu
E-mail: lalrindiki@rediffmail.com

Z. K. Pahrii Pou
Secretary
Northeast India Students' Fellowship
Madurai- 16, Tamilnadu
E-Mail: zkpahr@yahoo.co.in


This article was webcasted on 20th November 2005.


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