Assam is Burning. 77 casualties have been officially reported so far. Thousands are now living in makeshift shelters to get away from the war zones. None of it is new. The strife has been on for decades, the murders too. But We, the People of the ‘Civilized’ worlds, the people of the North and the South aren’t really bothered. And why should we? Our breads butters and the milks don’t come from Assam. Or for that matter from any of those states we so lovingly call, ‘The Seven Sisters’. Think you are different, try remembering the name of all these states, with their capitals and stop pretending you have any idea about anything, when it comes to our North Eastern states.
For decades now, the entire local populace has been screaming for their screams to be heard, for the powers to be, to wake up from their slumber and pay attention to their plight. They scream for the masses of their own country to acknowledge that they even exist. The Union doesn’t really care, not unless there are riots in Mumbai or the railway stations in Bangalore are choked by a mass exodus of North Easterners who are so convinced by a mere rumor of violence against them, that they have stopped paying any heed, either to their own rationality or to the sane voices around them. The last time, I remember this happening, was when the Kashmiri Pandits were evicted. The propaganda war back then was at least backed by AK-47s. Right now, a mere SMS seems to be sufficient.
But Why the apathy? Because they look a little different or because they have a different dialect? But if facial structures or dialects are where we draw a line, then why the double standards, in not extending the same discriminatory logic, in case of a North Indian or a South Indian? Oh but wait a minute, we do discriminate between a North Indian and a South Indian too! A North Indian meets a certain unfriendly airs in the depths of South India while a South Indian may be made a butt of several jokes up North, but why should the East Indian, be made to suffer the same jibes and taunts, irrespective of whether he is in the North or the South? Because they don’t have the bargaining power to make some noise? Because, unlike the Jats in Haryana, they don’t have the luxury of threatening the supply of milk to Delhi?
There are several layers to the aforesaid apathy, namely:
1. Government Apathy
2. Public Apathy
3. Media Apathy
These three are so interlinked, that there just is no way to unravel them. The government primarily doesn’t care because whatever happens in NE stays in NE , because, the media doesn’t go there. The government doesn’t care because NE has so little power when it comes to the central power equations.
The public doesn’t care because the entire education system (read government) treats NE as a black hole, the media doesn’t talk about it and governments don’t generally hype it up. Try to remember, what have our text books ever told us about our North Eastern States? Why is that, we only faintly remember the names of the states and the state capitals and that Cherrapunji, the wettest place is somewhere there?
The media can always let go of pretending to be an altruist entity and claim, that like any successful business enterprise, they simply follow the demand and supply curve, so if a sick molestation can be sensationalized into a front page news, they can send hordes of TV cameras into Assam, but when it comes to covering the perpetual violence and sectarian strife, that’s been on for decades, the media moguls just don’t care, perhaps because we don’t care. The media does its fiduciary duty, at times, when the violence spikes, but pretty soon, some other scam comes up somewhere or some other girl is molested/beaten by a group of cultural vigilantes, again in Mangalore and that seems to block all airwaves because that ‘affects’ us more.
The happenings in NE, as far as the natural consciousness is concerned, is akin to whatever happens in Sudan or any other war stricken country. We know that something horrible is going on there, people are perhaps dying and when it comes up, we play the sad humanitarian act by being grave and sombre for a bit and beyond that we neither care nor want to know.
The hard truth, dear North Easterners is, we like you on paper, we like it because you look really good on our diversity propaganda, your scenic locales sure make those ‘Incredible India‘ ads glitter, we like it because your states swells up the number of states we have under one flag and makes the numbers look good, we like it because we seldom have any problems from your states(most probably, because the media doesn’t care, because we don’t care), you seldom try to hog the limelight from our states and when our state leaders, do no work for our states, we look at your development numbers and console ourselves, that we didn’t finish last. The hard truth is, your 7 states are conveniently located. There are two bullies in the neighborhood and you are bang in the middle. You are our very own buffer zone. In medieval times, forts had deep moats around them, Now we just have you. No point developing the roads in your states, we don’t want the mighty Chinese PLA army tanks, to have smoother access towards Delhi.
You see, development is never free. You need to have a bargaining chip. With the 7 states, so culturally and linguistically different, each one fighting the neighbors for borders, what you don’t realize is that the 7 of you together can perhaps demand more from the union. Hype up the China card and things can perhaps work out. But that is not very likely to happen. Which leaves everyone happy, everyone except you, that is.
Too bad for you guys, if only we could have been born 500 miles either east or west of where you were born, you would perhaps be in a place where people would have given a shit!