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Idea Of India As A Nation

However uncomfortable it may be, it is time, Delhi, Imphal and the people of India confront the question of whether the idea of India as a Nation has succeeded or not. History tells us that the India we know today was inherited from the British Raj and there was no such entity, either politically or socially, known as India before the East India Company and later the British crown subdued one kingdom after the other to ultimately carve out the India that we know today.

However the freedom movement led by Mahatma Gandhi provided the perfect platform for all people, cutting across regional divides to come together and demand the independence of India and we are inclined to believe that the seeds of India as a Nation were sown during this period. It is the same case with Pakistan too. However it is now more than sixty years since India began her tryst with destiny but yet the question of whether the idea of India as a Nation has spread to the consciousness of all or not continues to dog us and there are political and social reasons for it.

What the Chief Minister of a North Eastern State said during a visit to West Bengal recently, that sometimes he feels as if he is an alien once outside the North East region rings loud with many unsaid but nevertheless important points. When people of Nagaland casually say that they are going to India to study while proceeding to Delhi, it should not be brushed off as a witty aside, for it has deep connotations. The bush wars waged by separate underground outfits in the region, demanding their right to self determination, the movement in Kashmir etc all points to one thing and that is the idea of India as a Nation is yet to enter the consciousness of all its citizens.

Delhi may find this unpalatable or hard to digest, but this is the reality and it is time some thoughts are given on why the idea of India as a Nation has failed to touch the heart and soul of all its citizens. The series of attacks including rapes and molestations of girls from the North East at the National Capital Region (NCR) is a point to ponder over. Rape is a crime that happens all over the world especially during times of war and turmoil. It cannot and should not be seen as being perpetrated only against a particular group of people, but yet why is there this disturbing thought that girls from the North East are specifically targeted by rapists in Delhi? Is it a case of over reaction, for Delhi is not exactly known to be a safe place for women, and moreover it is not only girls from North East who are raped but also girls from all sections of society?

Rape is universal, is a point that has to be taken into account here. There can be no two ways about it here. Either the people of North East are wont to over react or give in to their sentiments whenever any girl from the North East is at the receiving ends of some perverts or the idea of India as a Nation has totally failed to sink into the sub-consciousness of the people of this region. We may ask why it becomes necessary for the North Easterners to explain that they are Indian citizens, after they cross the Chicken’s Neck. Is this a sign of a complete Nation or is it a sign of a political entity still trying to spread the idea of Nationhood to all its citizens?

The recent gang rape of a woman from the North East at Delhi by some perverts has understandably outraged the people of the region and one prominent point that stand out and which should be a matter of grave concern to Delhi, is the charge or allegations that girls from the North East are specifically targeted. Discrimination is the key word that lies buried in all these allegations, with the Delhi police not spared either. Some have attributed this discriminatory outlook of the people in mainland India, notably North India and Delhi, to the different physical features of the North East people. Remember the people of this region are from the Mongoloid stock while the people in mainland India are anything but Mongoloid.

Lifestyle, daily interactions amongst friends and colleagues, in short the tradition and culture of the people of the North East may have led some of these perverts into thinking that all girls from the North East are easy lays. Rape happens all over the world especially in a place like India, where the people are forced to lead a regimented lifestyle with no opportunities for socialization outside the confines of their homes or their caste or gotras or whatever it is. If they find the jeans or skirts worn by the girls from the North East as provoking the men and inviting trouble, then we may also raise a counter question and ask whether the Sari worn by the Indian ladies are anything better. It is not for nothing that the Sari has often been described as the six yard of cloth, which covers and exposes the right proportions of skin!

This is not a debate on sartorial choice but somewhere down the line, we have to address this point too, for choice of one’s attire should not be the yardstick to judge anyone. It is time Delhi, Imphal, Aizawl, Dispur, Kohima, Itanagar, Shillong etc sincerely ask themselves whether the idea of India as a Nation has sunk into the sub-consciousness of the common people of the region and if not why. We are not ready to buy the overreacting line of thought for the simple reason that it is not only the rape victims who feel discriminated but everyone from this region unfailingly feel that they are entering a new zone, once they cross the Brahmaputra or traverse beyond the chicken neck, that connects the region to the rest of the country. The largest democracy in the world cannot afford to have people of a certain region feel they are in an alien land once they step foot in the Hindi heartland. That such a question as this one should arise after India made her tryst with destiny more than 60 years back is pregnant with meaning.

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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