The enigmatic North-East

Sanasam Umananda *

Map of North East NE India
Map of North East NE India

The be-witching bouquet, that is the North-east, meaning North-east India, presents a unique picture of a rich amalgam of multi-coloured flowers in the idyllic settings of the Brahmaputra and the tea gardens of Assam, sparkling water-falls and pine-trees of Meghalaya, enchanting mountains and splendour of Nagaland, rich grape-vines and melodies of Mizoram.

Added to this are Manipur's blooming diamonds of Siroy and the racy currents of the boyish frivolity of the Barak River that originates in Manipur with the honeyed citrus delicacies, enigmatic caves, sprightly water-falls and majestic mountains that encircle the Loktak Lake which gives a floating shelter to the brow-antlered deer. Not lagging behind from these magnificent five, are the glittering palaces and lakes of Tripura and the celestial gate-way of Anmachal Pradesh to the Heavens. This completes the breath-taking contours of the seven sisters.

Surely, one will be tempted to utter thus. But the reality is different. True, the beauty of the landscape and the richness of the natural resources of the North-east will be anybody's envy. The utterance surely makes it a tourists' paradise and the huge potentials behind the bidden resources will unfailingly throb the hearts of geologists, botanists and scientists. Notwithstanding all these, an unpleasant picture of disappointment persists making the above plethora of adjectives and epithets hollow and meaningless. It, at best, becomes a flattering remark with no substance.

It reminds one of a remark by somebody that runs as, "If any phenomenon exists wherein Nature gives and man spoils, it is in North-east India". How true! The valuable gifts of Nature and a vibrant geography lie wasted, the responsibility of which may be fixable, without any doubt, first to the people of this "Paradise" and second the Union Government. For the first, the time demands a change in the over-all mind-set of the North - easterners to face the reality which presents a disheartening picture of the political, social and economic inadequacies of the region.

A congenial attitude amongst the people in question with a common bond for a vibrant common future is extremely required. For the second, India or for that matter the Indian government also requires to give confidence to these people who are always in the habit of disbelieving India's promises as merely lip-service. Sometimes criticisms of neglect and ill-treatments towards them reach a crescendo. These cannot be easily dismissed as untrue and figments of North-eastern imagination.

Recent unsavoury attacks on the North-easterner in Bangalore, Gurgaon and even in the capital of the country which are imbued with racist tinge are ugly examples about the under-estimation of the North-easterners as Indian citizens by the Indian mainlanders. The unrelenting nature of such crimes only odd to the severity of the matter. It demands very serious introspection for everybody in India because it speaks volumes against the emerging trends of India as a world power. Here, the right gesture of the present Home Minister of India may be given doe commendation if it really means what he says.

India's emergent task in this regard, therefore, is to formulate stringent laws against such racist crimes to discourage recurring enactment of hate-dramas at the cost of Northeast citizens of India once for all. Suspicion about the absence of the idea of the North-east in the Indian imagination should be put to rest immediately because cries of discontent and dis-satisfaction can be heard from this direction. The screams of anger against the unwanted attitude of mainlanders towards them and the depiction of Northeast India in very faint colours and dim contours with an uncharitable tag of a "liability" rather them an "asset" to its country, has become shriller and shriller.

And, the equally emergent task of the people of the North-east, also called the land of seven sisters, is to inculcate a sense of homogeneity and unity amongst themselves to bring about a power in its monolithic brilliance. It is a pity that the belief in a common root and structural monolithism seems unable to strike at the emotional chord of the people of this zone and penetrate deep inside their psyche thereby evading the basic prop for the supra -structure of the North-east power and prosperity. Illumination of the darkened minds of the incumbent people towards this feeling has become a historical necessity. It thus continues to become a never-ending malaise for the North-easterners.

But certain positive trends at the moment are discernible which indicate that this "Geographical entity" awakes to face the day. The North-easterners' voyage towards a competitive life with the mainlanders have just started and many battles have been won in various fields of sports, art and culture, ballets, medical and engineering, hi its wake some sky-watchers predict the grand "Nativity" of a "North - east selfhood" in the not-so-distant future.

However, this silver lining in the dark clouds may fail to combat reasoned optimism so easily. Sceptical observations are bound to persist given the contemporary trends of seemingly uncordial relationships amongst the citizens of this zone.

The observations of these sceptics cannot go away un-noticed. The uncalled -for imbroglios among the ethnics of this area, do not please the believers of a North-east selfhood because many times very slight ruptures between akin groups of this area bloat disproportionately until a communal -like crescendo is reached. Such inter-ethnic disharmony quite, unbelievably, persists against the wishes of the North-east Unionists.

Anyway, the dream of the birth of a solidified and monolithic North-east is a happy dream. And the dream itself is a realisable dream.

To realise it, two things, among others, are necessary:-
One, a different historiography
Two, a forward looking literature

To discuss the first, the role of history as a vehicle of peace and exaltation of humanity to a higher level of existence may be pin-pointed. Mere writing of records will not suffice. The puipose of history is more than that. The vital part of history is the keeping of records of the cultural and civilizational existence of mankind and create a more enlightened life out of the beams of the light-house of the past. Here the historians sometimes need to become artistsrather than photographers. Artists can beautify ugly things for the human goods without sacrificing the truth of the matter.

Coming to the North-east history, historians can play a big role in ending the unwanted state of certain imagined or seeming inter-ethnic discordance or exclusivism which sometimes damages inter-ethnic cordiality, by rewriting a healthy and positive history of this area where the denizens have the same roots, easy enough to create a North-east self-food and a people friendly future.

Another support to this is a North-east literature depicting sagas of unbreakable chains of emotional togetherness that are embedded in the romance of centuries in this part of India.

If the dream of a unified North-east is fulfilled, the augmentation of the personality of this geographical entity of India will be assured. Divisive features of this area invite disrespect and indifference. The unified North-east will have all the benefits of a welfare region, be it in politics, economics, sociology and what not. It will gain much in the operation of the much-hyped "Look east policy".

India also ought to be proud of the emerging force or power of its North-east. Recent bloody happenings, that also in the national capital and other big cities of India bodes ill of the nation's power and integrity. Urgent steps to check it need to be taken to avoid unwanted futurity. Otherwise India's march towards a strong nationhood may receive a severe jolt.

* Sanasam Umananda wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on October 28, 2014.

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