When you track the instances of violence or racial affront against people from the Northeast (NE), a few things stand out: that the youth of the region, who travel far from home to chase their dreams, are not made to feel at home in their own country and that they tend to live with some kind of fear psychosis.
In future, the youth from the NE can become even more vulnerable in other parts of India. This will happen because their states do not provide enough facilities that they should be getting as citizens, be it schooling or job opportunities. To provide these facilities, states in the NE will first have to function as states should and end the raging insurgencies and intra-state conflicts.
Most importantly, corruption, which is milking the coffers of the states, must end. In other words, the eight sisters need to rebuild their systems and infrastructure to lure their youth back. Among other things, this is also an appropriate time to reflect on the existence of DONER (Development of North-Eastern Region), a unique feature that was set up to encourage physical progress and tangible development in the region, as it completes its 13th year. This rebuilding has to happen; we have no time to lose.
Since the beginning of their statehoods, the NE has been embroiled in many internal problems. And the few states that have been spared the horror of insurgency are mired in corruption, internal politics and ugly squabbles on ethnic lines, making life difficult for their youth. It is due to this failure of the NE states that their youth are seeking refuge/opportunities outside the region.
At another level, there is a lingering sense of neglect and anger against the Centre. For instance, the absence of chapters on the NE in our education syllabus even after 67 years of Independence appears to be an attempt to keep the region divided and isolated. When ignorance reigns, we have deaths like that of Nido Tania.
So what makes the youth from the NE soft targets? Perhaps, the issue could be as shallow as physical appearance or clothes. Most forget we are a part of the Mongoloid race and so we have a different culture and ethos. This innate cultural difference sets us apart from the rest of the country. We have our own mores and each state has its own distinct norms even to the extent of defining acceptable male and female attire. These norms also specify and dictate appropriate clothes for different occasions and ways to conduct our lives.
By no stretch of the imagination, do we live in a ‘free society’ as is often perceived and, this is often the source of misjudgement and prejudice. Yes, there is an element of Western influence because of the presence of Christianity (for some). The offshoot of this influence is our progressive mindset.
There is a high degree of modernity and egalitarianism in most communities in the NE. For instance, a girl can talk to a boy openly without any fear; this only reflects mutual respect and girls are rarely looked upon as objects. However, to an outsider, she is often seen as a ‘loose’ woman.
Being different from the prevalent norms is not a deviation from normal; customs that are different from the ones followed by the majority are never inferior or strange. Tania paid with his life for being a Northeasterner. Surely the youth of India’s Northeast deserve much more than this
Hoihnu Hauzel is a freelance journalist
The views expressed by the author are personal