India against India
The aftermath of 11th August, 2012 has redefined what Independence Day means to us, finds out Shruti Parmar
An early morning flag-hoisting ceremony, the loud singing of patriotic songs, listening to fervent speeches, singing of our National Anthem and a zealous Jai Hind. This is how the most of us will celebrate our Independence Day every year. At the most we may watch a patriotic film, the Parade at the Red Fort on DD and move on to finishing our pending work on the holiday and wishing each other Happy Independence Day. We needn’t spend it differently but we must be aware that this isn’t what everyone in our country can do on Independence Day.
As India celebrated its 65th Independence Day this year, a bandh was declared, as it is every year by various militant factions in Assam and many such parties in states in the North-East of India. Some organisations like the ULFA, National Democratic Front of Bodoland, Kamtapur Liberation Organisation, Coordination Committee Manipur, Tripura Peoples Democratic Front, National Liberation Front of Tripura and Hynnewtrep National Liberation Council, etc. called for the customary boycott of the celebrations and general strike in the region on the day. Another militant organisation in Assam in an e-mail to the media on the other hand, said that places where Independence Day celebrations are organised would be ‘legitimate targets’ for the outfit and asked the people to stay away from such spots. Besides the Army and the Government officials, few people dare to step out of their houses in many districts of the North-East India on Independence Day.
The animosity is not just historical or political. It seeps from even our social behaviour today.
Post the clashes in Mumbai on the 11th of August, the North Eastern states are the flavour of the media. As Lisa Marak, a student from Meghalaya rightly says, “From being ‘Chinese’ & ‘Nepali’, it’s great how people suddenly know that we too are a part of India.” Every headline screams about some part of the people and they are being interviewed for their opinions. The projection is as victims of course. But till early this year, not a single mainstream media house stationed even one OB van in any of the seven states. Why blame just the Government?
There are other legitimate stereotyping concerns. Why else would all North Eastern students feel threatened when the land dispute and violence is clearly between the illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and the Bodos in Assam. “The Seven Sisters label for the north-eastern states, each of which have completely diverse cultures and problems is a serious misrepresentation”, says Samiksha Madhukullya, a student from Assam.
The clashes at Azad Maidan in Mumbai on the 11th of August and the exodus of North-Eastern students especially from Bangalore, Mumbai and Pune is a disillusionment of our celebration of Independence Day. Says Mary Marbaniang, a student from Shillong, “Why celebrate Independence Day with such gusto when we don’t even consider other citizens of our country as Indians, beyond their regional/ religious identities?”
Districts in Chattisgarh and Kashmir too along with those in the North-East have groups propagating as Black Day the date that we commemorate as one gaining freedom from colonial rule.
This is not about being a sympathiser of the extremist outfits. This is about actually debasing the reasons for their existence. This is about understanding the complexities of the legitimate issues involved and pushing for them to be resolved in a sustainable manner. This is about responding to the voices of dissent in an India against India, with the concern of being fellow citizens.
This is about ensuring that our Independence Day is truly a happy one for each and every Indian.