Sinlung /
11 July 2014

Rejoicing For Seven Sisters

Sinlung Says: We don't know what it is we need to rejoice for....India has been oppressing the Northeast India from time immemorial...

By Sujata Garimella

Seven People from the North Eastern States of India have long suffered isolation from the rest of the country. The Seven Sisters (Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland and Tripura) have been blighted by a triple whammy: geographical remoteness; markedly different physical characteristics and apathetic measures for development and inclusion. Resultantly, there have been mutual problems of acceptance between the people of North East and those on the larger side of the slender Siliguri Corridor (that narrow corridor leading into the North Eastern States).

On one hand these States have faced issues of assimilation from India and on the other hand, China claims that Arunachal Pradesh is theirs – as reveals by the map of China used on the eighth pages of their new passports released around 2012 (that map shows Arunachal Pradesh and part of Ladakh as part of Chinese territory and it also shows Kashmir as a part of Pakistan). The international political power play has made this region one of the most sensitive and volatile areas of the country.
Popular culture first acknowledged the state of these States in Chak De (a wonderful film on National integration, especially the part where the players are being introduced – the registration scene. That was outstanding in its identification of the country-wide acceptance issues between people of various States). After Chak De it is the new advertisement for the upcoming season of Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC) that makes a very, very strong point about the acceptance issues faces by the people from the seven States.

Between Chak De and the KBC advertisement were two devastatingly shameful incidents with regards to these States. In August 2012 the rumours of threats against people from these States spread like wildfire and there was a huge exodus from the southern States to the North East by the panicked inhabitants whose domicile was in the Seven Sisters. In 2013 a boy from Arunachal Pradesh, Nido Taniam,  was beaten to death in Delhi for looking “different”. This incident sparked protest marches and created an outrage in the country. But not quite enough underlining the social fissures in the country. However, this incident led to at least one excellent social experiment video to hold up the mirror and show up a society that doesn’t want to “get involved”. Watch the following video to see who did actually get involved.

After popular culture and some amount of social awareness, political will is turning in favour of the much ignored and under-developed part of our country. Three actions demonstrate the political resolve of the current BJP government towards incorporating and absorbing the seven sisters more completely into the larger family.
  1. The first action is slightly roundabout, but nevertheless crucial. Early in July Prakash Javadekar, Minister for Environment, Forests, and Climate Change announced fast track clearance for any defence related projects (including infrastructural projects like building roads) within 100 kilometres of the Chinese border. He additionally rested the power of veto with the five States that share borders with China, viz. Arunachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim and Uttarakhand. While this announcement is largely defence-related aimed towards strengthening and protecting our borders from a rather avaricious neighbour, it undoubtedly benefits Arunachal Pradesh (and Jammu and Kashmir) in more ways than one. The first benefit is better infrastructure. The second benefit, which is a slightly utopian, but not an impossible outcome is the abolishment of the very controversial Armed Forces (Special Forces) Act (AFSFA).
  2. The second action was the Railway Budget. Seven new trains from the vastly under-connected North East have been announced. This will provide more connectivity for these States. If you consider India as East, West, North, South and North East, the last zone has the poorest railway coverage and connectivityRs. 5,116 has been allocated to north eastern projects (this is 54% higher than in the previous year). These were cheering announcements, indeed.
  3. Quickly following the Railway Budget was the Union (or General Budget). This has really brought reason to cheer for the Seven Sisters. Finance Minister, Arun Jaitely, has allocated Rs 53,706 crores to North east in this fiscal. Acknowledging the isolation of these States, the Finance Minister augmented the Railway budget for this area by Rs. 1,000 crore. Launching a sports university in Manipur, a new 24 x 7 channel for the region and other measures have also been mooted for the region in the Super Budget.
You don’t have to be from North East to appreciate these initiatives by Modi Sarkar. While budgetary decisions like Rs. 200 crore for Sardar Patel’s statute and Rs. 50 crores for building a memorial are unfortunate and of little consequence or benefit to the country, this budget surely deserves cheering for its attention to merge all States into the nation. It surely is high time that no person from the North Eastern States is ever refereed to as “Chinky” again.


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