The capital has been busy organizing a couple of North East Festivals to promote the culture of North East India and create awareness among the non- Northeasterners about the rich, vibrant and exotic culture in the Northeast. There are a couple of questions that arise with this move of promotion. Are the eight regions of the Northeast being represented equally and well in these promotion fests? Is it really promoting awareness by showing the vibrant culture of the otherworldly Northeast? Is it also creating an awareness of the problems faced by people in the Northeast? Is it conveniently turning a blind eye to Northeast when help is needed and making up for it by organizing Northeast fests in the Capital?
The entire need to organize a fest to promote a culture points out the dangerous play of dichotomy that exists in the mindset. Is it an ‘us’ versus ‘them’? To promote a culture of a region within a country is like alienating the region from being a part of the country. Is northeast really a place to be painted with edited glory and served to the rest of the country in a plate for it to be loved and accepted?
In the entire gamut of culturally mixing regions up, it not only limits the culture of a region and glorifies the orientalism associated with such practices but also paints half the moon without the craters, therefore hiding its true identity and culture. India is a nation state. Having to promote Northeast in the Centre is like promoting a different nation in a nation state. This entire game of India versus the Northeasterners must first be put to an end. The entire need to paint a pretty picture of the Northeast in front of everyone for them to love the Northeast must be dropped.
There has been a rising debate of including the history of Northeast in the textbooks of history. When we read history as a subject, we must not focus on one region more or on a region less just because of the cultural discrimination associated with that region. We must read history collectively and inclusively as a subject. Including Northeast India’s history should not be because of burden of leaving out a region behind in epic battles and movements we study about in history. The reason must arise due to a collective study of the movements and battles in history. We must not conveniently leave out history from regions just like we must not conveniently add histories of regions for the sake of superficial inclusion. Historical corrections must be made as a matter of mistake or facts and not as a matter of feeling sorry about leaving a region behind. This attitude towards the Northeast of the Northeast being a left out region which needs to be engaged in the ‘mainstream’ culture needs to be put to a complete end.
The death of Nido Tania has created rifts and worry about racial discriminations faced by students from the Northeast in Delhi. There has been a special Northeast cell set up in Delhi. Many critics have argued the move as being wrong as it again creates a feeling of separation between the Northeast and the rest of India. But the racial discrimination against people of the Northeast has a cruel past that it carried with it. People who advocate for creating a cell against ‘racial discrimination’ and not specifically for ‘discrimination against the North East people’ have a point which clearly suggests that celebrating a beautified and painted culture or creating a special cell is not the only solution to end discrimination. Somewhere it cannot be refused that creating a special cell is a much needed and advanced step in the matter of ending discrimination because of the kind of discrimination that has been shown only against people of the Northeast for being from the Northeast. As much as we should have cells that work against racial discrimination in general, cells for discrimination against the North eastern people is also needed till the special kind of discrimination against Northeast Indians is put to an end.
Lastly, it is not the institutionalized form of discrimination we must feed, but the kind of attitude some people carry against Northeastern people that should be addressed. What we must focus on is creating a culture of coexistence and not a culture of separate existences. What we must create is a true sense of belonging. What we must shun is the nature of discrimination that slips out in our conversations against the people of Northeast. What we must understand is that we must first respect a human being for being a human being and not for the place he/she belongs to. Discrimination against people in the Northeast and embracing a culture different from ours just because it has been packaged and presented in an exotic way, for its exoticism, is just as dangerous.