For an Indian (specially the north indians), the very term “northeast” frames an image of a place which is riddled with insurgency and filled with jungle and uncivilized people. I don’t blame them for having such a mental image about North East. There seem to be thousands of people across the nation who have fabricated a certain notion about north east and its people.
North eastern region, since independence, has not gained much prominence and recognition over other states of India. This is precisely because of less media attention on the states of North East and its people on any matter or their cooperation in any sector. This part of India has always been on the side of negligence both by the Centre and the so-called mainstream Indians.
You can also consider what happened when Shabana Azmi decided to go for a fast for the rights of the slum dwellers who faced eviction. You could see the media persons taking coverage. You could see politicians making huge promises and the result? She came back to her biryani within a week!!
But did anyone take into account the heroic deed of Irom Sharmila who has stepped into the eleventh year of her fast, protesting the AFSPA which is imposed in Manipur? I do not know why it is such a case even at this modern liberal era. The educated class of people are the ones who hold a pre-conceived notion about North Eastern region, let alone the laypeople.
We hear incidents of North East students who go for their further studies in, especially, Delhi University in New Delhi and find themselves a victim of taboo and even become a target of bully and harassment of any kind. Firstly, they find it a little difficult to get accustomed to the new environment initially and secondly, they are neglected, left ignored and criticized which mounts up added pressure on them making their life miserable. Adding to that, many people cannot even name the states of North East and oftentimes misunderstand North East for Assam. Other few lots still express their wish to know more about North East. They have in them certain misconceptions and myths about north east which needs to be cleared out. Take look at some of the myth that follows.
10. North East people pretend to be western-
Before the Britishers have left India, their evangelical Churches have made a tremendous impact on the states like Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram and a few other colonized places of North East except the Brahmaputra valley. The tribes of these states were initially isolated and practised their own old rituals and customs but after coming into contact with the Britishers, they have converted themselves into Christianity and ever since, have been westernised in their lifestyle. They certainly do not pretend to be one as this is the way they live and have grown up with such western values.
9. North Eastern girls are shameless and dress to excite men-
This seems to be the worst misconception I have ever come across. Every culture has its own way of thriving in the way they see best suited to them. As for the tribes of North east, they have their traditional way of dressing and it goes back to their old custom which is said to be traced back from their ancestors. Saying that girls dress to excite or provoke men is nevertheless a crass conception one can form. And the concept of shame certainly does not reside in their clothing but in which way the mainland Indians perceive it in their culture.
8. They indulge into the minor vices and not studies-
The conservative North Indians take up the flight to land on the North east people, especially the students whom they think are into smoking and drinking. They feel that the North Eastern students are more inclined toward drinking and smoking giving less priority to their studies. But the unknown fact is, the NE students are used to have a life of pomp and splendour and laid back where fun is the pivotal thing. And while getting pressurized and harassed both mentally and physically, they take out time to smoke or drink and recall the golden times that they had back in their homeland.
7. They are less educated-
Now, here stands another one of the biggest misconceptions about North East. Mainstream Indians think them to be educationally backward and illiterate without having any sense of ethics and morals. No doubt, the population in this region is comparatively scanty than in other parts of India but that does not show a low indicator on the educational meter. Nowadays, students from North east are excelling in academic fields with flying colours and are getting admitted to the top institutions of India and even abroad. They are excellent research fellows and among all the best doctors, engineers and social scientists, they are the one.
6. Quota system for all-
This reservation system is taking a toll on people. But the naivety and innocence of the mainland people seems to be crossing the line. As we all know, the reservation or the quota system is basically implemented on the scheduled caste or scheduled tribe people or anyone belonging from the OBC or more backward categories of people. Now, like the myth they have about the north east people, they think that all of north east citizens hail from ST/SC/OBC category and none from the general category resulting in the implementation of the quota system for all!! The reality is, the general class people (who definitely thrive in the NE region) have got no quota system.
5. They eat dogs and anything bizarre-
I don’t understand what makes them think that? Well, yes, some Naga and Mizo tribes eat dogs because they see them as a means of food just like the mainstream Indians see them as pets. But how can it be applicable to the rest of the north east people? One section of people consuming a certain diet does necessarily not apply to all other sections of people. North east is a region of seven states and each state has its own tribe who have different eating habits. Talking of eating bizarre food, they are as much like the north Indian people living on rice, dal and roti.
4. North East is not safe-
North Indians, including west and even south Indians believe that North East is place of Adivasis and remote tribal people who live in jungles and abduct any person they see as an outsider. They pre-conceive that they carry with them brutal weapons which would slay them since they remain isolated from the rest of the people and into themselves. The truth is, there does not dwell any adivasi who would kill people or any tribal people who would abduct. Here, people are inasmuch civilized and easy going like every other citizen living across the nation and abroad with conscience.
3. It is a backward region amidst jungles-
North east is a land of hilly region. The first settlement was that of the tribes who now constitute the ST/SC/OBC category and they are regarded as the aboriginals. Nonetheless, it accommodates people of all ethnic and linguistic diversity and along with them flourished the urban settlement. So, it is absolutely wrong to say that the North east is still a backward place which the mainstream Indians have been saying. Also, having a hilly terrain does not refer to forests. With urbanisation, industries and factories have been set up including best educational institutions like the IIT, IIM, TISS, etc. People have been urbanized both in terms of infrastructure and mentality. As for jungles, they cannot be seen even in the distant horizon!
2. All people are “Chinkis”-
A term widely used in the northern India, Chinki , a taboo tag, usually is used in reference to the mongoloid eyes that the tribal people have. But the misconception lies here. The mainland people think that all the people of North east possess such eyes and makes one look like that of a Chinese or Japanese. The line “Chandni Chowk to China” was and still is thrown on the north east people living in Delhi as a means of harassment. They refuse to recognize them and oftentimes, are sceptic about their nationality and alienate them. What they don’t grasp is that not all people of Northeast have such facial feature. Such features can mostly be seen among the tribal community who are the aboriginals and not those who do not belong to tribes otherwise. A person from Nagaland carries a different physical feature than someone from Assam. But they hardly can discern.
1. North East is not a part of India-
Geographically, all seven sister states of the North east are pretty much within the Indian Territory. It was never isolated and is not isolated from India and dearly belongs to the Indian nation. With the sheer negligence from the Centre, it has been “made” isolated and the people are neglected. This is one of the prime reasons why the mainstream Indians are holding on to the absurd misconceptions about North east. Adding to the misery, the low coverage of this region tops the chart. But nevertheless, this region is under the Indian democracy and has all the fundamental rights similar to any other state of this country. So, it is high time you stop considering North eastern states as not belonging to India because it reeks of your poor knowledge.