The recent spate of crimes in Delhi against people from Manipur has reminded us how unsafe our capital can be for people from northeastern India. It was only a few weeks ago when a prayer meeting was convened at Jantar Mantar to condole the death of 30-year-old Manipuri man Akha Salouni. Present at the rally was the mother of Nido Tania, the young Arunachali boy whose death shocked the nation earlier this year. Grieving at the loss of another son of the soil, her shrill question “ab aur kitno ko maroge” made us realise how little has changed since Nido’s death. Since Salouni’s death, national media have reported several other cases where people from the Northeast have been unfairly targeted and attacked in Delhi and Gurgaon.
But violence and crime in the Northeast have often featured prominently in newspapers and TV channels. Familiar stories revolve around the theme of
guns, power cuts, bad roads, insurgents and bandhs. The media is quick to headline attacks on railway stations, bandh calls by student groups, protests or lack of infrastructure. The region is perceived as a place where nothing seems to be going right. This leads to apprehension in most people about visiting the region. Even after a decade with a stable political and economic climate, most people in Delhi still ask if it is safe to travel to or establish a business in Assam.
Yet, an alternate story does exist, and it needs to be told. While attacks against Manipuri people in Delhi seem to be on the rise, Manipuri sportspersons brought medals to India at the Commonwealth Games. One of India’s most celebrated sportswomen, Mary Kom, has become a national icon and now the whole country will watch her story on screen when the biopic on her life releases in theatres. In Nagaland, the perception of Northeast India being comprised of primitive tribes has been turned on its head by the increasingly popular Hornbill Festival. In 10 years, this festival has grown from strength to strength and now, it has become a must-do on the annual holiday calendar of tourists. Assam, known to be the hotbed of the ULFA, has seen a rise in peace as most insurgents have surrendered. People who have taken a road trip to Kaziranga National Park in Assam have marvelled at the beautiful and serene landscape and the significant improvement in infrastructure.
Northeast India plays an integral role in relations between India and its immediate Saarc and Asean neighbourhood. The ministry of external affairs in the previous UPA government also took important steps to the bridge the region with Southeast Asia through the India-Myanmar-Thailand Asean trilateral. Also, in order to bring down the time and costs of freight transport, the MEA has been working on the multi-modal Kaladan port project, which will connect continued…