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‘Need to educate rest of India about North East’

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By Surbhi Moudgil

For decades now, the Northeast, comprising seven sisters – Assam, Manipur, Nagaland, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh – and a brother – Sikkim – has been neglected by both, the government and their fellow countrymen.

Almost 98% of the north-eastern borders are international borders, which the states share with Bangladesh, Myanmar, Bhutan and China. A major risk associated with this unique geopolitical hotspot, apart from militancy or development, is its lack of representation to the rest of our country.

Why has their plight not been dealt with? Is it only the government which is to be blamed or the locals should be held responsible as well? Most importantly, will this country ever realise what it is losing in this bargain of ignorance and rights?

To find out answers to these queries, NewsGram interviewed Member of Parliament Dr Thokchom Meinya representing Inner Manipur from India National Congress.

Speaking about the diversity of Manipur, the MP remarked about the state’s beauty of a diverse set of heterogeneous people, with so many dialects living in harmony with as many as 38 multi-lingual ethnic communities. The beauty of Manipur lies in the unity of ethno-diversity and multilingual co-existence.

Manipuri language is called Meiteilon; it is the lingua franca of the state and is spoken by all locals. Meitei is a Sino-Tibetan language whose exact classification remains unclear. It has lexical resemblances to Kuki and Tangkhul Naga.

Giving a historical perspective, in the wake of the Bhakti movement, the Manipur monarchy converted into Hinduism, leading Hindu priests to burn their holy books (Puran) written in their own scripts. They decided, instead, to introduce Bengali characters to rewrite their old literature. Of late, people have started to express their concerns over the authenticity of Bengali, leading to controversies as there were multiple (3-4) scripts that were claimed to be original by different groups.

The Manipuri language was finally included in the 8th schedule of the Indian Constitution after the loss of many lives during the long drawn language struggle from 1972 to 1980. Yet, a proper development of the languages is not being carried out, laments Dr Meinya.

For a functioning state and better governance, rest of India would have to know the history of the Northeast region and be inclusive towards them, concluded the MP.

Dr Meinya condemns the state for representing such an administrative failure.

“For this I don’t blame the Union of India. The blame should also fall on the state because of the three provisions in the constitution; one is the Union List, another is the Concurrent List, and the third is the State List.

“Since, education, health and home come under the State List, it is Manipur government’s prerogative to display good governance. Unfortunately, for many reasons, I am sorry to say, good governance cannot be carried out in these parts of the country.”

He added, “Manipur locals, including the hill region people, speak Manipuri. We don’t know the dialects and languages spoken by the tribes but we all know Manipuri. We now have a big plan to rewrite the entire books written in Bengali. We will retain them but we are also publishing their rewritten versions in the new script.”

There is another issue that the adoption of the new script faces. Technology as well as tradition, somehow, is a hindrance to the new script as the youth prefer English whereas the older generation understands the Bengali script.

“Bengali script is fading away. So, the language is in a haphazard status. We now print all our cards in Bengali scripts but the young people write their names in English. English is becoming easier in terms of expression,” said Dr Meinya.

Although this “easier term of expression” (English) is a completely alien language to the tribals. If the young generation is encouraged to use it, won’t it create a language gap within the state?

With the language issue comes educational problems: what should be the medium of instruction in schools and colleges; do we have books in that script; is it in line with the national education policy; is it good enough to give confidence to the young men and women who fly away to Delhi and Bangalore. The surge of militancy is related to lack of livelihood which finds its origin in lack of proper, skill-oriented education.

The MP claimed that higher education had expanded over the years in Manipur in terms of the number of institutions. Data shows that from just one college in 1946-47, higher education today is imparted through two universities and 68 colleges, including seven women colleges. However, these are concentrated mainly in the valley districts of Imphal East, Imphal West, Thoubal and Bishnupur.

Dr. Meinya expressed concerns over the safety of students in the light of militancy. For a state trapped in the claws of the insurgency, the students need to feel safe and need to be at peace. An ideal study environment needs to be established for the better accumulation of tutelage.

He recognised the issue of student safety and appeared concerned. Militants often convey threats amid a lack of safety provisions for students. Persistent strikes, boycotts and curfews interrupt the regular schooling of students. As a result, they lack the skills and knowledge of their respective subjects due to the fewer lectures delivered.

Deficiency of academic atmosphere, parental and government support are some the reasons for this situation. Therefore, it is not surprising that many parents send their children outside the state for their studies.

The MP from Inner Manipur spoke at length about the apathy of governments, mostly the state, for the issue of militancy and unsafe environment for the youth. However, when asked if there was a solution, he expressed disappointment as well as emphasised upon the prevailing atmosphere where militancy was just one issue.

He said that the Northeast was gripped in corruption, bad physical and human infrastructure, lack of ideas and will for the betterment of the state at the governance level, among many other smaller issues like violence, conflicts, blockades and strikes.

MP Meinya stressed upon the fact that “the solution lies with the people, of Manipur as well as rest of India,” and nobody else. Institutions and societies are made of individuals who care about it.

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Dalai Lama on Three Day Visit to Manipur

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Dalai Lama
Dalai Lama will be in Manipur on Tuesday. ians

Imphal, October 16: Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama will arrive here on Tuesday on a three-day visit to Manipur, officials said.

This will be his second trip to India’s northeast after his April visit to Arunachal Pradesh.

Manipur Chief Minister N. Biren Singh told IANS on Monday that the government had declared the Dalai Lama a state guest.

“We will extend a warm welcome to him. He will be given all facilities as an honoured guest,” he said.

On Wednesday, the Dalai Lama will be given a public reception at the Convention Centre here. It will be followed by a felicitation programme at the same venue.

The Dalai Lama will interact with members of the public and dignitaries.

The Dalai Lama, who has lived in India in self-imposed exile since fleeing his homeland in 1959, is coming to Manipur at the invitation of the Speaker of the Manipur Assembly.

His Arunachal Pradesh visit had sparked a diplomatic row between India and China.(IANS)

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India Demands Data on UN Staff Misconduct, Use of Immunity

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India has demanded the secretariat disclose information about misconduct by UN staff. Flickr

United Nations, Oct 7: In an attempt to break the wall of silence around the crimes and UN staff misconduct and those on its assignments, India has demanded the secretariat disclose information about such cases and the immunity invoked against prosecutions.

Yedla Umasankar, the legal advisor in India’s UN Mission, touched a raw nerve here by criticising the UN on Friday for not vigorously following up allegations of serious wrongdoing by its employees who enjoy the equivalent of diplomatic immunity, a prized possession of its staff.

“It appears that the UN system itself may be reluctant to waive immunity even for serious misconduct carried out by its personnel while serving on its missions, so that such cases can be prosecuted by the host governments,” he told the General Assembly’s committee on legal affairs.

“Even a few of such instances or allegations of crimes committed by UN personnel is highly damaging for the image and credibility of the United Nations system and its work around the world,” he added.

His statement also touched on the practice of some countries that protect their wrongdoers at the UN.

Umasankar demanded that secretariat disclose how many cases of serious misconduct by UN personnel were registered and the number of cases where the UN refused to waive immunity to allow their prosecution.

He also wanted to know in how many cases the host country wanted the immunity waived so it can prosecute those accused; the number of times the UN asked the host country or the country that sent them to prosecute them; how many times it consulted countries before waiver of the immunity of their personnel and how many of them refused UN’s request to waive their citizens’ immunity.

The information he wanted does not cover the diplomats sent by member countries to represent them at UN bodies and enjoy diplomatic immunity with the nations hosting the UN facilities.

After scores of serious allegations of sexual misconduct by peacekeepers, especially exploitation of children, the UN vowed to uphold a policy of zero tolerance and began publishing data on such cases in peacekeeping operations including how they were dealt with.

Starting with the year 2015, it began identifying the nationalities of those accused.

However, it has not made public a roster detailing all the allegations and proven cases of serious misconduct across the entire UN.

While the focus has been on sexual exploitation and abuse reported on peacekeeping operations, Umasankar said that “at a broader level, the issue of accountability has remained elusive in some cases”.

He attributed it to “the complexities of legal aspects relating to sovereignty and jurisdiction”, the immunity or privileges that may be necessary for UN operations, and the capability or willingness of countries to investigate and prosecute the accused.

He noted that the UN itself cannot make criminal prosecutions.

While Indian laws has provisions for dealing with crimes committed abroad by its citizens, not all countries have them, he said.

Those countries should be encouraged and helped to implement such measures, he added. (IANS)

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Indo-Pak Peace Talks Futile Unless Islamabad Sheds Links with Terrorism, says Study

A Study by a U.S. think tank calls India and Pakistan talks futile, until Pakistan changes its approach.

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India and Pakistan
India and Pakistan. Wikimedia.

A Top United States of America (U.S.) think tank, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace called the relations between India and Pakistan futile, unless Islamabad changes its approach and sheds its links with Jihadi terrorism.

A report “Are India and Pakistan Peace Talks Worth a Damn”, authored by Ashley J Tellis stated that such a move supported by foreign countries would be counterproductive and misguided.

The report suggests that International community’s call for the India and Pakistan talks don’t recognize that the tension between the two countries is not actually due to the sharp differences between them, but due to the long rooted ideological, territorial and power-political hatred. The report states that these antagonisms are fueled by Pakistani army’s desire to subvert India’s powerful global position.

Tellis writes that Pakistan’s hatred is driven by its aim to be considered and treated equal to India, despite the vast differences in their achievements and capabilities.

Also ReadMilitant Groups in Pakistan Emerge as Political Parties : Can Violent Extremism and Politics Co-exist? 

New Delhi, however, has kept their stance clear and mentioned that India and Pakistan talks cannot be conducted, until, the latter stops supporting terrorism, and the people conducting destructive activities in India.

The report further suggests that Pakistan sees India as a genuine threat and continuously uses Jihadi terrorism as a source to weaken India. The report extends its support to India’s position and asks other international powers, including the U.S., to extend their support to New Delhi.

Earlier in September, Union External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) slammed Pakistan for its continuous terror activities. She attacked the country by saying that India has produced engineers, doctors, and scholars; Pakistan has produced terrorists.

Sushma Swaraj further said that when India is being recognised in the world for its IT and achievements in the space, Pakistan is producing Terrorist Organisations like Lashkar-e-Taiba. She said that Pakistan is the world’s greatest exporter of havoc, death and inhumanity.

-by Megha Acharya  of NewsGram. Megha can be reached at @ImMeghaacharya.