While the seriously stigmatising potential of all things racist would perhaps continue to prevail even when those who discriminate against fellow human beings are rendered with all the ammunition of the rational human who works with their own logic and consideration and respect for others, there has existed a form of racism since times immemorial that works solely on the basis of ignorance and an ironic pride in that non- awareness, perhaps because the adage of ‘ignorance is bliss’ has been tended to be taken upon in too much literal a meaning. It is the blatant persistence of this latter form of racism that has been particularly upsetting for the people of the north eastern part of India for quite some time now. But with the dawn of the coronavirus crisis, the sensitivity of the issue has only aggravated since north easterners are often mistaken by people from other parts of India as Chinese, Japanese or Korean. Particularly offensive at this point of time in existence for the people of this distant part of the country is the analogy drawn to their perceived origin from China, the country where the COVID 19 disease stemmed from. And while over the past one year and a half, this seriously telling implication of being ‘fabricated’ as non Indian, either out of ignorance or otherwise has been all the more exasperating, the turn of recent events unlinked to the global pandemic has not been any less displeasing either.
As YouTuber Paras Singh from Punjab rekindled the long blazing flame of rampant discrimination of north east Indian folks by ‘mainland’ India when he referred to senior Congress MLA Ninong Ering of Arunachal Pradesh as non Indian and the state itself as being a part of China, what has ensued is a raging war of sentiments that seek to accord North East India and its people their due recognition of the Indian identity. Emerging therefore as a very conscious attempt at making a difference is a slated Twitter Storm that is aimed at bringing about to the common Indian knowledge the geographical inclusivity of each of the seven sister states of the north east within the ambits of mainland India which makes them and their people therefore very much a part of the Indian existence, in as exact manner and terms as it does with other Indian people. A week after the said incident which led to the arrest of Singh, at least 40 student organisations from eight universities are behind the social media campaign that is slated to storm the microblogging site from 6 P.M. to 8 P.M. on June 4 with the hashtags #AchapterforNE and #NortheastMatters to put forth their appeal.
Holding the view that ‘Racism at its peak is ignorance at its root’, the campaign aims for inclusion of the northeastern way of life and the representation of its culture, history, legacy and heritage in the form of a mandatory chapter within the NCERT syllabus so as to educate the masses of the country about each of the many prominent reasons that makes northeast a part of India as much as any place else. Seeking to tag Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union home minister Amit Shah, Union minister for education Ramesh Pokhriyal, Union minister of state for youth affairs Kiren Rijiju and the chief ministers of the eight northeastern states, the campaign has already garnered the support of a few politicians like former Finance Minister of Nagaland K Therie, Nagaland MLA Kuzholuzo Nienu as well as Arunachal Pradesh’s Ering, who have been at the receiving end of the latest racial slur owing to his request to PM Modi over the ban of the relaunch of PUBG Mobile India’s new avatar. Incidentally, Ering had in 2017 introduced a Private Member Bill ‘The Compulsory teaching of North-East culture in Educational Institutions’ in the Parliament but it was not taken up. The same year, NCERT also made the effort to publish a supplementary text book ‘North East India — People, History and Culture’ for students from Class 9 to 12 though without any impact. The aim of the Twitter Storm this time around therefore is to effect a more concrete step in this regard, asking the region’s “history, ethnicity, lifestyle, personalities, natural resources and patriotism” to make up for a mandatory chapter in NCERT textbooks so as to root out the inherent misconceptions so rampantly prevailing about the existence and identity of the entire north eastern region of the country.