Millennium Post

Northeast: a paradise unexplored

Northeast: a paradise unexplored
Discrimination against the people from the northeast is an old issue. This discrimination may be broadly categorised into sexual abuse, racial profiling and economic exploitation. There have been many criticisms and counter arguments about this discrimination. There have been criticisms from certain sections of society that emphasising discrimination, in fact, promotes a wrong perception of victimhood and ghettoism. We need to appreciate that there is ignorance about the history, polity, sociology and culture of the northeast. There has been a pitch made by many, from time to time, to increase awareness about the northeast.

However, to criticise the media buzz about discrimination and the registering of protest in this guise is absolutely uncalled for. Today, amidst the clamour for space and dearth of time and opportunity, one has to make use of all legitimate and ethical ways to make voices heard. This should be seen as ready reference to expedite justice. This will also act as a deterrent against discrimination.

The struggle between and within societies, as is evident in many Indian metros today, is nothing new. There is growing confusion and chaos about the confluence of various value systems in these modern melting pots. As we become an integral part of a transition from a collective society to more of an individualistic society, we cannot ignore the fact that such transitions are often painful unless measures are taken to ensure they are smooth. The biggest factors are education and knowing each other. Once we understand what the other person is saying, we will be able to communicate our mind to them more logically. However, there has been lack of initiatives in this regard which have created a hiatus. If we do not take appropriate measures like reflecting the social changes in the educational curriculum, we will only aggravate the already worsening situation of communication gap. We should do away with a colonial hangover and edit the syllabus suitably to include and depict a complete picture of India.

The interim findings of a perception audit recently undertaken by a voluntary group of communication professionals, the Northeast India Image Managers (NEIIM), is anything but shocking. This survey wanted to establish that there is lack of awareness about the north eastern region of India. And, this is at least true with a certain section of people whose media consumption is higher than any other group in India. A staggering 52 per cent of the surveyed respondents have a negative perception about the region. Now, this is crucial. Given the fact that the northeast has been mired in decades of insurgency and, of late, terrorism, we may deduce the fact that the situation is improving as almost half of the people interviewed (48 per cent) have a positive or neutral view of the region.

This may be a reflection of some fruits of socioeconomic development trickling down to the farthest corners of the country. But we cannot discount the fact that the region itself promises to be a great harbinger of development and growth, if India sustains its thrust on its ‘Look East Policy.’ The recent visit by the Indian leadership to Myanmar is a good indication that the region may not be deprived off the fruits of development in the foreseeable future as it has been for many years now.

The most important take-away from this survey was the fact that as many as 91 per cent of the respondents were inquisitive about the region. They wanted to know more about this region which has been marginally represented in the colonial curriculum of the country. There is whole world out there that remains a ‘paradise unexplored.’ However, if the government does not brace up to tackle this issue in the right spirit, then this ignorance will continue. Such sociocultural-educational initiatives may not only be the responsibility of the government but also, more importantly, of sociocultural and political entities, and on the various social platforms. The hiatus between the two perceptions can only be bridged by facts.

The onus of leading such campaigns has to come from the government but the success of such campaigns can only be successful when these organisations start work from the grassroot level. We have to respect the fact that such sociological correction takes time and, all of us who are in the process of making this amendment, have to be patient and sustain our efforts to achieve the desired result.

It is a shame that we, the civil and educated society of modern India, the political and the cultural brass of the country, have failed in our efforts, if any. An interesting figure from these aforementioned interim survey findings by NEIIM is that a whopping 91 per cent wants to know more about the region. While we cannot deny the fact that there is lack of interest among people to know more about their country, their countrymen and their diversified culture, it is to be seen what measures can be taken to direct this keenness to take shape. Since the surveyed population are said to have high mass consumption and in some way professionally related to the field of mass communication, their education about the region will be reflected in their work and such a communication will eventually trickle down to the common man.

The lacuna in our educational system has been one of the pioneering reasons about this mammoth ignorance. The first step towards correcting this image deficit of the northeast is to give space to its history, economy, sociology and culture and giving it a place in the curriculum of the country. Sixty one per cent of the respondents said that they read too little about the northeast and 56 per cent said that the government should carry out special campaigns to spread more knowledge and awareness about the group. This is needed and an efficient execution of this model will definitely bore fruits in the future.

The question remains whether the government will initiate any such campaigns or diversify the curriculum of NCERT and other relevant educational institutions.

By Tituraj Kashyap, communication professional and general secretary of northeast India.
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