ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Desire, Difference and the North East

How Not to Fight Discrimination in India

Desire, Difference and the North East

The obsession with India’s past, pride and self-worth has engendered extraordinary stifling of dissent, and normalised violence against those who call for these passions to be tempered with humility. These brazen illiberal outbursts, accompanied by incendiary utterances are usually credited to “fringe elements” by the media and by those who claim to hold liberal attitudes, at least in public. Such a declaration is crucial for my purpose here, for it encapsulates a muted discomfiture that serves to elucidate the pervasive, systematic discriminations which people from the North East are confronted with. Juxtaposed against these confrontations in a caste-ridden, racialised India, the so-called “fringe element” appears to be the dominant mode of experience.

Simultaneously, this obsession has also triggered extraordinary opposition and resistance such as the protests by the Ambedkar–Periyar Study Circle (IIT Madras), the protests by writers/artists, and the recent protests taking place in various universities across India. However, this obsession with the past, pride and self-worth appears to accord positive attention towards ending discrimination against people from the North East. Hardly a month passes by without an event dedicated to changing perceptions about the region—the National Youth Festival, Light Up North East Festival, Monsam Keri Youth Festival—all geared towards dispelling negative perceptions. My primary focus will be the widely shared news of University of Hyderabad and Osmania University’s attempt to end bias against the North East by introducing courses on the culture and history of the region. This article is a critique of such endeavours—especially the desire to teach the rest of India the uniqueness of the region—primarily because they proceed from an uncritical evaluation of the self, a self tethered to a certain kind of politics that perpetuates discrimination and racism.

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