What we have witnessed in the last few days is one of the largest scale migrations within India in recent years. Multiple facets of this boiling problem have cropped up.
In the backdrop of violent riots and instability in Assam, north-easterners living in different parts of India, especially in the metropolises in the south, are rushing back to their homeland in fear of becoming victims to communal violence.
It is one of those moments when the vast diversity of the nation becomes a setback, and it becomes easier to pit one group against another as certain identities temporarily assume more importance than others. Thus, making it simpler for those who wish to provoke instability and violence; and our nation is no stranger to the cruel shapes riots can take.
Recent reports have shown a foreign involvement in aggravating this mass displacement across India.
Naturally, moments such as these can be capitalised on; there are scores of possibilities of attacks on trains, planes, or even busy, crowded areas such as refugee camps. And India is far from immune to foreign invasions.
But why take the pains of illicitly entering India and planting bombs at the risk of getting caught? Isn’t it always easier to let the dummies pit themselves against one another?
A spark is all that is needed to fuel the rumours of a fire. Rumours do have a tendency to manifest themselves as far more gruesome than the truth.
Mercifully, the government is waking up to contain the rumours. But a hell lot more needs to be done to restore trust and stability.
The last few days have put the focus back on the north-east and hopefully for every problem that arises, there will be a solution.
India is such a large and diverse nation, that at any given point in time, there is always some tension (communal or ethnic) simmering somewhere or the other. It is when tensions reach boiling points that the lens of the nation is focused at one particular place.
Though the north east has always remained an integral part of the sub-continent, only its volatility has attracted the attention of the rest of the country, time and again. It’s a paradise screaming for attention; one that should not become the next Kashmir.
The north east first received the ardent attention of the centre only after the 1962 war with China and the 1971 war with Pakistan over Bangladesh. In 1962, China vied for a territory not at the core of the country’s attention, yet vital to its territory.
It started in the year 1971, and thousands of Bangladeshi migrants have crossed the border since.
The intensity of the cultural, ethnic and religious diversity was then acknowledged and the consequent re-bordering of states was done with further analysis and better awareness of the region, rather than simple delineation on paper by authorities.
This time around, the situation needs as much economic attention as political.
With inadequate facilities for good higher education, and limited job opportunities, many youngsters from the “seven sisters” and Sikkim are compelled to come to big metros such as Kolkata, Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore.
This migration also results in partial alienation from their native tribes and greater influence of the agents of globalisation.
Thus, while, they learn a lot about the west and the life of the city they live in, there is not a symbiotic cultural exchange due to the apathy of the locals.
People from metropolitan cities are only willing to learn about “momos”, a dish that has now replaced the samosa and kachauri as staple snacks.
Not to mention that there is a lack of recognition of the different regions and states. People in the metropolises, which appear to be cosmopolitan in nature, can usually not even gauge the difference between an Indian and a Nepali or Tibetan.
Earlier in the year, when a Tibetan had self-immolated in Delhi, many north-eastern students had been detained by the police on the pre-text of being Tibetan. This apathy towards them, even by the authorities, and this treatment meted out to them as if they are not an integral part of the nation by the shared ideal and community that is India, is both humiliating and highly embarrassing for those who claim to live in cosmopolitan cities.
This is resulting in a slow but sure erosion of several diverse cultures.
The further influx of migrants and refugees in the north east, and the displacement of about five lakh people (if these enormous figures are to be true) already point to an injurious clash of the cultures.
Fortunately, the government is slowly taking initiatives to take control of the situation.
Though, it has tried to curb the rumours and the mob frenzy, it needs to now delve deeper and resolve the screaming attention the region is demanding.
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