Sunday, September 26, 2021
Editorial

Changing narratives & aftermaths

Since the 1960s, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram have experienced boycott calls by insurgent groups on the eves of Republic Days and Independence Days. Then, since the 1980s, Assam and other Northeastern states began to experience the same ~ till about the mid-2000s although with the signing of the Mizo Accord, such calls ended in Mizoram in the late 1980s. However some insurgent groups of Assam and Manipur continued to call for boycotts of R-Days and I-Days. But since the mid-2000s, Northeasterners ignored such calls for almost two decades and by and large, peacefully celebrated R-Day and I-Day without any fear of reprisals from insurgent groups ~ though Government agencies upped security measures regularly every January and August but the tension was less palpable. Although some insurgent groups of Assam, Manipur and Nagaland have issued their boycott calls this year too, which have stopped being taken seriously by the people but which keep security agencies of these states on their toes, 2019 is scripting a totally new history in the Northeast ~ this time it is Northeast’s student organizations and NGOs that are calling for R-Day boycott. The Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB), recently passed in the Lok Sabha, and the GoI’s determination to get it through in the Rajya Sabha and then get the President’s assent, has really raised the heckles of the people here. Inter alia, besides the fear of being swamped by migrants and the negation of the Assam Accord implicit and explicit in the CAB, the GoI doesn’t seem to understand that the anger is directed at the BJP-led NDA Government at the Centre for cocking a snook at constitutional principles also. The GoI’s move is so blatantly toward changing India into a form of majoritarianism and theocratic state that people in the Northeastern, who have always lived secular lives, find it extremely disconcerting and threatening. It is difficult for people outside this region to understand and appreciate that despite the institutionalized religions followed here, it is the binding threads of our cultural weaves that have made possible for hundreds of communities here to live peacefully before colonialism, and what ensued thereafter, discoloured these threads. But mind you, these threads are discoloured, not broken or torn ~ so, it is still difficult for those outside the region to adapt and adjust to our ways of life and living ~ which has been often described pejoratively in colonial times and continue even now. And so, even if Assam’s Himanta Biswa Sarma would like to create the Muslim bogey to scare us, the opposition to the CAB is not about religion. It is about the invasion of cultures that are totally alien to the Northeast ~ after all we also have Northeastern indigenous people subscribing to the Muslim religion and that has never been an issue. In any case, the weapon of religion politicians inevitably love to wield to divide people isn’t being bought in the Northeast. That a certain religious community is excluded from the CAB also doesn’t lie easy with the Northeastern mind because the issue is the influx, the infiltration of illegal immigrants, irrespective of religion ~ you see, a non-Indian is a non-Indian is a non-Indian, period. The GoI has tried placating ploys ~ that Northeastern state Governments would make the final call on migrants being allowed to come here. Knowing our political parties and state Governments and living with them, the ploy isn’t being bought ~ not when the Northeast has also had to live with the multifarious problems illegal influx from Bangladesh have caused changing the Northeastern demographic, political, economic, social and cultural contours and Northeastern political parties and Governments did nothing. Indubitably, it all boils down to politics and this time clearly the Northeast is saying no to imported politics that have held sway over the region for decades, particularly since Independence ~ politics that have made the Northeast one of the most abused regions in the country. That this region venerates the letter and spirit of the Indian Constitution doesn’t seem to be understood and it has taken Northeasterners decades to get our message across. But thanks to the BJP-led NDA Government at the Centre, finally the Northeast gets the opportunity to put our foot down. The BJP-led NDA Government at the Centre must take responsibility for the boycott call given for this year’s R-Day by the people ~ thereby depriving Northeasterners from celebrating the national day. Oh, how narratives change when seeking to change narratives!

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