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Stop “Stereotyping” Northeast, States Hold Strong Cultural Harmony

Anungla Longumer, a writer-musician from Nagaland, explained how her state that has 14 different tribes, has massive ethnic diversities but comes together with a "common cultural ethos".

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north east india
Northeast is filled with diversities, shouldn't be stereotyped,pixabay

Writers and intellectuals from the northeast have said that the region is full of ethnic and linguistic diversity and urged the rest of the country to stop “stereotyping” the people living there as peripheral.

Noting that the northeastern states have a  but are marred by political conflicts, they claimed that the region can become “a great force” if the political ideologies match.

“The people of northeast are evolving while people from the rest of the country have a fixed image about us as a whole. Such stereotyping is often disturbing. People just lump us together and term all of us as the ‘northeasterns’,” Anjulika Samom, an independent journalist from Manipur said during a session at the Tata Steel Kolkata Literary Meet 2019 here.

north east India

Noting that the northeastern states have a  but are marred by political conflicts, they claimed that the region can become “a great force” if the political ideologies match.

Explaining the centre-periphery concept about the states, Dolly Kikon, a social anthropologist from Nagaland, said the region is conceived as peripheral due to policies made by the Central government and said such concepts should be questioned.

“The centre-periphery thing has its origin in the securitisation of the region and also the kind of policy that are made in Delhi. It has been built using a very colonial framework of remoteness. I think we need to question that,” she said.

Echoing her, Samom claimed that for the people living in those states, their habitat is the centre of their universe, while the other parts of the nation become peripheral.

north east india
Echoing her, Samom claimed that for the people living in those states, their habitat is the centre of their universe, while the other parts of the nation become peripheral. pixabay

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Anungla Longumer, a writer-musician from Nagaland, explained how her state that has 14 different tribes, has massive ethnic diversities but comes together with a “common cultural ethos”.

“On the ground we are very tolerant about our diversity. We identify and relate with each other. There are a lot of political conflicts in the region due to the ethnical diversity but at the ground level people are bound by a strong cultural ethos. The region can become a considerable force if it can come together in terms of common political ideologies,” she added. (IANS)

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Northeast Not Homogenous But Diverse Grouping of Communities

"The challenge for people like us is to find that space. If at all it still exists," Bakshi concludes

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Nepal
This photograph taken from a helicopter shows an aerial view of Mount Everest in Nepal's Solukhumbu district, some 140 kilometers (87 miles) northeast of Kathmandu, on Nov. 22, 2018. VOA

By Vishnu Makhijani

Some years ago, I was startled at a seminar titled “Seeking our collective peace: The northeast India diaspora looks into solutions for peace and development in the region”. Startled because to me, “diaspora” denoted a group of people voluntarily living outside their homeland.

Then I realised it could be a case of misconstrued semantics because, in the words of Professor Anuradha Chenoy, a former dean at the School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, “This meeting was just a start of a long journey, but the most important lesson learned today is that first the Northeast has to be linked together –politically, economically and culturally — before it can positively influence the peace process in the region.”

Cut to the present day agitation against the now-lapsed Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in seven of the eight northeastern states (Sikkim being the exception) and it would seem that the region is pretty much linked together even though there are differences, for instance, on the demand for a Greater Nagaland or the internal squabbles in Manipur, for instance.

Where then, does the faultline lie? It lies within.

“What is called the Northeast is not a homogenous entity. It is rather a diverse grouping of communities — this is mentioned time and again, and is correct, but how it works out on the ground has to be studied as well,” says author-journalist Ankush Saikia in the chapter titled “Man in the Middle” in “Insider Outsider – Belonging and Unbelonging in North-East India” (Amaryllis/pp 244/Rs 399), a compendium of works by 16 writers on various facets of existence within the region.

The creator of the Detective Arjun Arora series of books adopts a rather quaint manner of elaborating on this in the post 1972 scenario when Meghalaya was carved out of Assam and Shillong was no longer the parent state’s capital.

“While in Assam, I was an insider and while in Shillong, I was an outsider, but even there overlaps occurred, as I might be an outsider in certain contexts in Assam, and an insider in certain contexts in Shillong….I think the end result of this was that, again maybe unconsciously, I found it very difficult to chose sides,” Saikia writes.

The Lalung tribe is also known as Tiwa tribe, an indigenous tribal community from northeast India. Wikimedia Commons

And therein lies the rub — a rub that those of my ilk, born in the 1950s realise quite acutely of being neither here nor there.

It raises a fundamental question, as co-editor Preeti Gill, an independent literary agent, puts it in the introduction to the volume.

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“Who is an Indian really? Why are we made to wear our nationality, our identity, on our sleeve? Why are we required to constantly prove ourselves as Indian nationalists, as patriotic citizens? Can we not just be human, people who live together as neighbours , very different, very distinct, but still inhabiting the same space in a peaceable, gracious way,” Gill asks. “It is a reality that in this country, and especially in the hill states of the Northeast, there is no space to be just Indian. One remembers the lines by the Sufi poet Bulleh Shah, who wrote: ‘O Bulle, let’s go to that place/ Where people have not too much intelligence/For there, nobody will ask of our roots and look down upon us/And nor do we desire that they look up to us.’

“The challenge for people like us is to find that space. If at all it still exists,” Bakshi concludes. (IANS)