Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Yakkitak on Occasional Paper by Namrata Goswami

Been stuck with a proof that has been elusive for the last one year and a half, so I am taking the liberty to unshackle my boredom by pouring over Namrata Goswami's Occasional Paper on IDSA Linky

The article lists a lot under what I will call the "whine profile" of the community at large. The key things I notice are (not in any order of priority):
1) Poor infrastructure development that ails the whole ecosystem -- There are commonalities elsewhere too with poor infra development in Bihar, UP, MP, Rajasthan, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, North Karnataka and Marathwada region, but one has to see the peculiar situation of the Northeast in terms of the sub-Himalayan geography that makes rail travel close to impossible in many locations, National Highways that are often blocked by hartals and protests, rivers that change course and often even direction.
2) Poor acculturation of the Northeast community in the wide geography that is India -- Except for Bangalore, New Delhi and Calcutta, it is often hard to find people from the Northeast in most cities in India. Poor community feelings lead to various derogatory epithets, that often engender a vicious circle of pent-up fury on the lack of a complete Union with India.
3) Handling of self-pride issues that go with continued presence of AFSPA (the negation of which is a classic chicken and egg problem) -- These issues are common to J&K also. But as I pointed out earlier, AFSPA can be abrogated only with the commensurate rise of the state internal security apparatus to needs of the state, which in itself is conditioned on a leadership that sees its future in an overwhelming state of self-sufficiency rather than on victimhood that deserves the empathy of (and dole from) the GoI.
4) Religious and linguistic grievances that lead to the "two is a crowd" mentality -- Again there are commonalities with J&K in terms of religious grievances, some of it imagined, some of it real. Linguistic grievances put the Northeast in the same shade as Tamil Nadu, and also sporadic instances in the rest of South India and Maharashtra. From understanding Tamil Nadu's issues with GoI, the ball is certainly in the court of GoI (and Indians from both sides of the divide) on the language issue, while the case for religious accommodation leaves both sides heavily confused than clarified on the pre-requisites of good citizenry.
5) Extremely poor conversion rate of moneys allocated towards regional development versus regional development seen on the ground -- This issue has a wide commonality all across India with the rampant corruption that is easy to gloss over in the search for a "India Shining" paradigm. A widely leaking bucket leads to hopelessness in terms of the future, enervating the whole system.
6) Lack of regional benefits accrued by tapping the natural resources of the Northeast -- In this, there are commonalities with the region that is home to the Left Wing Extremists.

While the role of external powers in fostering the animosity of the people of the Northeast with the idea of India needs to be considered, two nuances need to be understood:
1) India is one not because of its politicians, but despite them. While the above makes for a heavy-duty sound-byte, one has to understand the complicated weave of ideas here. Politicians primarily focus on their own (and at times, only their microscopic community's) welfare, but they also set a role-model for peers to emulate. This pollination of a self-centred idea is the one that leads to progress (if any) across the nation. I may be mis-applying the "aham brahmasmi" idea here. But I believe I wont be too far off in saying that India is truly a democrazy -- quite unappreciated, especially in moments of extraordinary disquietude, yet perfectly stable and providing the right model (if any!) for a Union of peoples, ideas and widely-varying belief systems to progress towards a manifest destiny.
2) India is one not for want of others to divide us further, but for their ineptness. The more we slide to divide ourselves, the more inept the external powers get at accomplishing this task for us. While conspiracies to divide us are certainly conceived, the mere conception of an idea to divide and conquer is not enough. In fact, the closest parallel I can think of is Yogi Berra's sagely wisdom: "In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is." This is one reason why I have extreme doubts on fears of how a global Ummah can somehow be manufactured, how a certainly-more-vulnerable India of 1947 could not be divided into a gazillion pieces but a more pulchritudinous India of 2010 can somehow be, how the Anglo-Saxons and their torchbearers can somehow manufacture a sustained set of million mutinies, etc. Sure, there are aberrations on the short-term, but the long-term scope and direction of what is India should be rather clear.

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