Monday, October 7, 2013

Human Migration is Natural; what is Unnatural are The Borders

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

As the spirits of festivity surround us and we celebrate the triumph of ‘good over evil’ some would question the purpose of such a write-up amidst the current scenario that engulfs our state and society. The fact remains that such an issue affects all of us either directly or indirectly. For long we have been pointing fingers at different communities for all the ills and failures in our lives. We have called names and looked down upon cultures, religions and social practices that we cannot identify with ours. There is no point pondering on the merits and demerits of the issue that has gripped over our psyche for last few weeks. It is a known fact that every individual or community would see it from the prism of prejudice and assumptions and what is right to me may be wrong to others and vice versa.

It is time that we look into this issue from a broader perspective. Migration is a natural phenomenon not just among the humans but also animals. Man and animals have always migrated and made new places their habitat. There are many reasons why people migrate from one place to another, at times to rule over the land as aggressors or in search of better opportunities of livelihood as migrants and at times to escape religious persecution as victims. Apart from this migration has also been encouraged by the local inhabitants and rulers to fill in void due to the skills and expertise that the migrants bring in. 

Throughout human history we have witnessed migration and it started many millennia back. For instance anthropologists have found out similarities between the Jarawa tribe residing in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands with several tribes in Central Africa who are isolated by several thousands of miles. Similarly the powerful United States of America that we know of today is nothing but an amalgamation of different people – the English, the Irish, the Germans, the Hispanics, the Africans and of course the Red Indians who were the original inhabitants of the land. Similarly the British are known to share common inheritance with the Germans and not the original inhabitants of the land as many would believe.

Even in our motherland India no community can claim the land as their own. We have the Aryans who migrated from Central Asia. In our own state of Meghalaya we have three distinct tribes of people – the Khasis and the Jaintias are said to have migrated to this land from what is present day Myanmar while some historians suggest they migrated from as far as Central Asia. Similarly Garos are believed to have migrated from Tibet. In the above context wouldn’t it be right to say that no race of people has been a permanent settler anywhere in the world and thus claims about some land belonging to some communities won’t stand a case if human history is studied in deep.

The question now arises, How can a group of people who migrated to certain land before others call them outsiders? Going by the account of Vedas when Hinduism extended as far as Cambodia as proven by the great Angkor Wat temple complex dedicated to Lord Vishnu, can some Hindu fundamentalist group claim all the territory that lies between India and Cambodia? They can argue this temple complex to be a proof of Vashnavite culture which should have prevailed and all others who live on the land today be marked as outsiders who have destroyed the great culture.

We need to understand that borders are a recent phenomenon considering the fact that man first walked on this planet 30,000 years back. Cultural exchanges have made the world what it is today and binds us in a common brotherhood. The concerns about cultures being annihilated due to migration is also uncalled for as the survival of any culture lies on its custodians and not on the actions of others. Indian sub-continent was under the rule of the invaders for more than 800 years and yet the rich cultural heritage survived. Humans will thus continue to migrate and anybody standing against it won’t survive the test of time. 


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