ILAKSHEE NATH relished the Chai, Coffee and Cookies affair in Delhi recently
A relaxed Sunday evening , at Kunzum Café in the urban village of Hauz Khas propped the ambience for the much awaited and The Thumb Print magazine’s promised “chai, cookies and coffee” affair. But what provided the punch to the evening was the stimulating Conversation that stirred up many ideas and threads to the intriguing topic “Where is North East India, in India?”
The webzine The Thumb Print brought together some very seasoned journalists as well as young minds to deliberate on the topic. The evening was moderated by Sanjoy Hazarika, the eminent journalist, author and the Director of Centre for North East Studies, Jamia Milia Islamia, who began with the idea of the “other”, alluding to the post screening discussions in the recently concluded North East Film Festival held at Jamia, under his initiative. He went on to say that this idea of the “other” exists within the North East region as well, the result of distrust among the various ethnic groups.
This further hampers a possibility of a dialogue between them to understand and find a way out of the problems faced by them. However it was seen that these affected groups were willing to talk to the centre about their grievances and wait out for a suitable solution, even if it amounted to waiting for decades. Sometimes we are our own enemy calling for frequent bandhs of long hours not realizing how it will affect the daily wage earner.
Jyoti Malhotra, a writer and a senior journalist, toyed with the idea whether it was possible to have many more political identities in the North East for the people to find their aspirations. Later in the discussion it was felt that, this may not smoothen the frictions since the North East housed more than 220 ethnic groups.
Sanjoy Hazarika’s light hearted take on considering Delhi itself as North East, found some positive echoes. Elucidating this, on a lighter note, he said when Punjabi grocer’s in a particular area in North campus have managed to pick the Meitei language or the many youth from the region have managed to find employment as guards from the last ten years and publishing houses like Zubaan translating some good women writers, the scenario has changed. Senjam Rajsekhar of Vedanta Group, felt there was a discernible change in Delhi in the past decade. People from the North East have done exceedingly well in their chosen professions here in Delhi. Achan Mungelang, formerly with Euro Burma Office, now independent researcher from Ukhrul, a Naga minority in Manipur where their concerns are not entertained, also believed that Delhi gives the opportunity to raise a voice at least.
Binalakshmi Nepram, a social activist credited with mapping of conflicts in the North East owing to narcotics and small arms, felt there still exists apathy and indifference to the predicaments faced by the North East people in Delhi. Citing the reactions in the capital and the police’s indifference to the mysterious death of young Reingamphy , she said it is a long way ahead. But one positive outcome was the coming together of almost 300 people of the North East to protest against this insensitivity.
There were some who felt that North East was a distant place for many in the country and that people elsewhere were unaware of its people and their culture. And yet there were some young minds who felt mindsets are changing and that the present generation from other parts of the country were helping to bring about this change in attitude.
Joydeep Gupta of the The Third Pole, felt people of the region should also take into consideration the judicious use of the vast natural resources for sustainable growth; that they should negotiate with the centre for optimizing the returns. He also brought in an interesting thought of the Nation State idea losing its hold with the complex issues faced in the present world and not aiding in any way to take us forward. This was on the similar lines of what Sanjoy Hazarika and Jyoti Malhotra had posed in the beginning of the Conversation.
Founder member and President of South Asia Women in Media, Pamela Philipose felt it was essential to acknowledge the idea of multi-identity and then to begin a process of negotiation. In this, media should involve itself in knowledge creation which could further serve as a channel for facilitating connects between the people. There were some who felt cultural exchanges and festivals were a good media to bring awareness of the rich diversity. For example, The Scorpion playing in Shillong brought an instant affinity with all Rock lovers in the country, or the Metropolis Urban Winter Festival that brought the youth of the North East together on the common platform of music and culture.
Media analyst Sevanti Ninan urged The Thumb Print to see if it can share it’s stories with similar other portals, so that it has a wider reach and it does not remain a niche website.
And so volleying ideas and thoughts across the room, the Delhi Conversation came to an end with Mridula Sahay thanking all present and the Kunzum Café for providing the cosy and yet thought provoking space. Teresa Rehman, Managing Editor of The Thumb Print magazine said, what started as a necessity to find space for the voluminous expression of the region, that was not possible in the mainstream media, had completed a year now hoping to be a scaffold to leave an imprint.
Evening had set in and the Hauz Khas village was alive with people mingling, the various restaurants offering different cuisines ; little shops selling antiques and old prints. A bit of the old and a bit of the new, a lot of experience and a dose of fresh ideas, perhaps this was the right way to pave the way for changes.