‘Understand history to resolve issues relating to the northeast’

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New Delhi, March 27 (IANS) History needs to to be understood well to find a resolution to the conflicts in the northeast, senior Manipuri journalist Pradip Phanjoubam said on Monday noting there had been little change in the manner in which governments had looked at the region post and pre-independence.

“History has to be a chronicle of the state. Everything in the past is not history. It is history only if it tells the state of the nation. Much of conflict in Northeast is about that,” Phanjoubam, editor of the Imphal Free Press said while delivering a lecture on “The Long, Broken Road Ahead to Reconciliation in the North-East”.

He also defined the two approaches needed to resolve the problems of the region.

“The first approach is about how they (the people of the northeast) see themselves…that has to undergo a change. They need to know that identity is not redundant and if they don’t change the approach, their identity will become redundant,” he said.

“You can’t always be living in a perpetual conflict. The need of the hour is to resolve it at the local level.”

He went on to explain the second approach, saying: “It applies to the Indian state. The state will also have to look at it very differently. We only remember the things that are becoming a problem and forget the region for all the rest of things it stands for.”

He also traced the rising problems in the region to the Burmese invasion of Assam between 1817 and 1826.

“You had small small states emerging. You suddenly came into one state or the other. Amongst the non-state people, consciousness of the state dawns. Dealing with a situation, certain people come into state consciousness,” he said.

“When you start to look for a state kind of identity, you are already in a different state. This situation has called a lot of insecurity,” he added.

He also said that Burmese history and Tibetan history are important to understand the issues in the northeast. He also referred to the British invasion and stressed that everything in the past shaped the present condition of the region.

He also alluded that there had been little change in the attitude of the Indian government toward the region post independence in 1947.

After Independence, articles 371 A and 371 C (special status for Nagaland and Manipur) “became a part of the constitution as an adoption (continuation) of the same outlook that the British instituted during their rule,” he said adding: “Philosophy on the…management (governance) remained the same as it was before independence.”

According to Phanjoubam, “the mental boundary has to be broken…it doesn’t depend much on the physical boundary. Some psychological change is needed”.

Highlighting the boundaries of the mind, Phanjoubam said that the idea of nation as a “cultural container” (melting pot) hasn’t worked in the northeast.

“You are thinking of connectivity (between the northeastern states and the country). You don’t put them on track, you also don’t merge them together. Some kind of federation always sustains,”

“The idea of nation as a cultural container hasn’t worked, especially in the northeast.”

“We need to open up windows. You don’t have to bring up walls,” he said.

Noting in this context that a list of endangered languages was released by Unesco in 2016, he said: “except Bengali and Assamese, most of the languages (of the norhteast) fall in this category”.

“Almost all northeastern languages are vulnerable. Few are endangered. Many of them have probably gone extinct also. These are very very vulnerable people..very very vulnerable communities,” he said.

“People are intact at this moment, they can still be endangered,” he said, rather ominously, adding: “By the very status of being small (in numbers), they are vulnerable. You have to be a little more considerate in dealing with them,” he said.

–IANS

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