This morning while I was going through the blogs of Times Of India, I came across this one by Tarun Vijay, spokesperson for BJP. Very interesting perspective of the situation in the Northeast, specially in Manipur. I have never been to that side of the country - hell, I've never been to Darjeeling or anywhere north of Kolkata for that matter!! My knowledge about the Northeastern states are as hazy as the mist that lingers over the mountains and the last remaining rain forests of India. And I can count the number of people I have come across who hailed from that part of India in one finger.
Of course it reminded me of Leela - long ago, in another life I had met this beautiful Sikkimese girl called Leela in a NCC camp. We had instant camarederie even though I could barely speak Hindi and she could barely speak English. She had taught me how to say I love you in Nepali and kept correcting my awful Hindi grammar and when we parted ways after being joined at the hip for two weeks, amid copious amounts of tears and snot I promised to visit her in Gangtok. Needless to say that never happened and after writing to each other diligently for a year or so and thereby improving my written Hindi considerably, we drifted apart. Till date though, I cannot think of Sikkim without thinking of Leela - my sole connection with the remote Northeast.
My mother's cousin owned a fairly popular store somewhere in Assam (the details escape me) selling imported goods. I was very young then, but have memories of the dolls and electronic gadgets that he used to bring whenever he visited Kolkata, even though I actually can't remember his face. What I do remember is witnessing their family in shambles when literally over-night they had to flee Assam in the wake of a very violent anti-Bengali movement in the early 80's. He brought his wife and kids to Kolkata, to safety and went back to wrap up whatever was left of his business and found his store burnt to the ground. He was found hanging from the ceiling fan a few days later by his neighbors. To this day no one knows whether he ended his own life or someone killed him. Funny how I'd remember that one violent incident while I was reading about the insurgent groups that are terrorizing the northeast, spreading anti-Hindu, anti-Indian, anti-immigrant sentiments in the entire area.
When I lived in Bangalore, every now and then I'd come across groups of Northeastern students - they'd always stay in a pack, socialize among themselves, remain aloof and sometimes hostile to anyone who'd try to get closer. They were labelled as "chinkies" because hardly anyone knew who they were or where they came from - their Naga, Manipuri, Mizo or Tripuri heritage wiped clean by their flat Mongoloid features. They'd stand out like sore thumbs in the Aryan-Dravidian population of the metropolis - treated with disdain and ridicule. How much of it was because of the ignorance of the people and how much of it was their inability to identify or blend is a topic I won't even touch. I don't see it as any different from a group of Bengalis in Seattle who refuse to socialize with any one other than another Bengali. As human beings we tend to look for our own kind and feel safe as a tribe. Any one who is different is a threat anyway.
I need to read up on this issue a lot more. The lack of knowledge is very unsettling. Ignorance is as bad as indifference...and that needs to change!