The Talking Guns: North-east India, Nirendra Dev, Manas Publications, Pp 304, Rs 495.00 (HB)
THIS is a book about north-east India written on the basis of the author’s personal experiences as he was born in Nagaland and educated in Nagaland, Mizoram and Meghalaya and is currently working as a journalist in New Delhi.
Cradled amidst the hilly wilds, the north-eastern end of India is famous for its pluralistic, multilingual and multi-racial character. The region is home to a number of ethnic communities – about 200 tribal and non-tribal groups living together and braving extreme odds. Mutual suspicion and rivalry abound between the tribes, the clans and even confusion abounds about the historical background. For tribals to tea estate managers, militants in this region have spelt terror. In 2003, a high-level delegation tells then Home Minister, LK Advani that terrorism in states like Tripura and Manipur had ceased to exist for any political cause. Advani tells a meeting of military officials that Tripura, a state with only three million people, has the highest rate of kidnapping for ransom and warns, “No businessman will ever invest here if such a situation continues to prevail.”
Advani had a serious point to make with guns reigning supreme and panic gripping the fledgling tea industry where tribal guerrillas-with tacit support from Bangladesh-regularly went on rampage, killing and kidnapping tea-garden owners and staff in a bid to step up their extortion activities.
Initially the extortion drive was directed against the outsiders (people from mainland India). In Assam, for instance, the anti-foreigner agitation was against the influx of Bangladeshis and later turned against the Biharis due to the fear that railway jobs meant for the locals would be taken away by the Biharis. In Nagaland and Manipur, after years of staying together, the Kukis and the Nagas turn bloodthirsty in their hatred for each other.
The author says that in the history of any nation or in the case of any ethnic or linguistic conflict, the youth play a vial role and it is no surprise that many student federations are active in the northeast. The author adds that the infiltration of Bangladeshi Muslims “has assumed such ominous dimension that the very movement has somewhere lost its tract and has turned into a primarily Bengali kheda (Hate Bengali) campaign.” The very fact that the northeast shows 98 per cent of it borders foreign countries and a negligible 2 per cent is with the rest of India is a cause by itself for the problems haunting the region. But the author’s prime sorrow is that this vital fact has been hardly “understood and looked into seriously both by New Delhi’s sarkari policy-makers or their ivory tower experts in the mainland” and it is no wonder that this “has caused tremendous harm in bringing about emotional integration.”
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