The suggestion that a syllabus on the Northeast should be introduced in schools across the country is a wise one. Chief minister Pema Khandu reiterated it during a meeting of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidya Parishad’s (ABVP) students’ experience in interstate living (SEIL) programme in New Delhi on January 17.
The SEIL is a proactive programme aimed at integrating the people of the region with those in the mainland and vice versa through personal interactions. It involves encouraging students from the region to travel to other states and experience their way of living, aesthetics, social makeup, etc. At the same time, students from other parts of the country are encouraged to visit the Northeast and experience the region’s diverse cultures and traditions. The experiences that the youths go through would certainly help them understand people across cultures and bring about greater understanding and bonhomie in the long run.
This, however, is only one aspect of the situation. A racist mindset is not an easy one to deal with. Over the years, people of the Northeast have borne the brunt of this mentality.
The murder of Nido Tania in New Delhi in January 2014 was the incident that brought the whole issue of racism to a head. Twenty-year-old Tania, a student from Arunachal Pradesh, was murdered in Lajpat Nagar of New Delhi, which triggered widespread protests. The word ‘racism’ began to gain currency following the incident.
Several steps have been taken to contain racism in the national capital, including the setting up of a 24×7 special unit for the Northeast people and a separate helpline for the people from the Northeast. These efforts may have helped in containing racism to some extent, but the problem is far from over. Sporadic reports of discrimination against people from the Northeast continue to emanate from the national capital from time to time. Not to mention similar reports coming from other parts of the country. All these incidents are triggered by racism.
In light of the situation, the ABVP’s SEIL initiative is commendable. It is only through sustained exposure to other cultures that people can develop an appreciation for what they perceive as ‘the other’. Perhaps it is time other organisations across the country launched similar programmes in order to promote equality and fraternity and make India truly a symbol of unity in diversity.