Friday, August 14, 2009

And the bandhs continue in North East...

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

15th August and 26th January as India celebrates Independence Day and Republic Day for most parts of North East its a 'bandh'. The reason well some underground ultras do not believe in being Indians and feel the their states are under the subjugation of the Indian Union. These people feel being Indian is a misfortune and live with the utopian dream of independence. Not only that, they try to enforce their dreams and fantasies on others too.

Unlike most parts of India these two days are marked by a empty streets, cat and mouse game between the security forces and the ultras and lazy day for an ordinary citizen. When India celebrates people of North East watch policeman and armyman patrolling the streets and government officials speeding through the empty roads in their white Ambassadors with red beacons. The official functions are held under unprecedented security cover with very few people around to cheer.

Having spent the first 21 years of my life in the scenic town of Shillong I can hardly recall any great images of the both these days. A few schools like the one I studied in celebrated Independence day one day prior or after August 15. One of my friends had once joked that we should be hoisting the Pakistani flag as we were having the function on the 14th of August. Being Indian in that part of India is still not possible in true sense.

The streets aren't empty because people fear for their lives but the lahe lahe (easy going) culture that exists in entire North Eastern region. A call for a bandh, road blockade is met with cheers from the entire society. Not because they believe in the cause behind such protests but it is a paid holiday for the working class and a welcome relief from schools and colleges for the students community. It won't be wrong to say that the entire region patronises bandhs.

These bandhs and strikes have hardly yielded anything in decades. The ultras are not any better than thugs who extort money and have held our lives to ransom for decades now. They have subjugated our lives with their utopian ideas. The ordinary citizens who have certainly contributed to the success of these bandhs forget that such incidents cast an negative image of the region. It is one more reason why most of the North Easters are stereotyped on other parts of India as being non-Indians.

It's high time we wake up and stand up against such meaningless protests. If we don't celebrate ourselves as Indians what treatment should we expect from people sitting in Delhi, Bangalore or Mumbai?


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