Vantage point

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The Ignored Land

I refer to the North-Eastern part of India as the 'Ignored Land'. In my first month of blogging, almost three and a half years ago, I had written about how people in "mainland" India don't really give a damn about the North-East. A rape in Delhi makes headlines in Bangalore, and vice versa. News about Bombay's actors makes news in Chennai and vice versa. But even the most significant happenings in the North-East very rarely get too much attention in media.

And as a 'marketwallah' I have always said that the media gives us what we want. It doesn't give us news about the North-East because we don't want it. We just don't care.

Tony Tongbram, who hails from Manipur himself, has written a shocking post about the alleged use of poor fishermen as human shields by the Army. I am not jumping the gun, pardon the pun, and saying that the Army is guilty of what it is being charged with. But I think that such allegations deserve serious attention, and if they were made in "mainland" India, it would be frontpage news being covered on all news channels.

Most of us have an informed opinion on whether TADA, POTA and MCOCA are right or wrong. How many of us have an informed opinion about the AFSPA? How many of us even care enough to have an opinion about it?

From a purely strategic point of view, the North-East is viewed as something of a buffer zone shielding us from China and Burma. But viewing it as just a "buffer zone" is the job of army. We normal folks should not view it that way, should we? Isn't it time we pay more attention to some of our own people?

For what its worth, I demand that the Government look into these allegations of civilians being used as "human shields" in Manipur. I demand that the public service broadcaster, Doordarshan, which is funded by my taxes pay more attention to the topic. And as a customer, I would like to communicate to the mainstream media that I would like to see this issue taken up specifically, and would like a better coverage of N_E in general.

To end this post, let me end with these poignant lines from Tony's blog -

I always thought it was normal. That it was normal to hear gun shots, and bomb blast. That it was normal to be stopped on the roads at random by Army men or Police Commandoes and get roughed up. That it was normal to have seen cross fire in front of my eyes twice by the time I was 17. I also thought Combing operations were normal, that the army could barge into our house any time of the day or night without a search warrant. And that the shutter at the market will be down by 6:30 pm and we sleep by 7:30.

But I learnt, when I went outside the state that it was not at all Normal. Nothing that was happening was normal. That in other parts of India, you don't get to see army men every 5 Kilometers, and that the Police actually need an arrest warrant to arrest someone. Gosh! and I have seen people shouting at Police men. God help him.
Few months back, a person was shot dead by the police in manipur when he shouted back at the police who abused him for overtaking the police vehicle.