Education Is The Key To End Stereotypes About Northeast India

Education Is The Key To End Stereotypes About Northeast India
Problem—Education. Solution—Education. Find out how.
Manish SharmaSri Aurobindo Center for Arts and CommunicationPublished on 11 Nov, 2014

Before we delve further into this discussion, let me throw some light on a few facts about the Northeast India—

  • The North East of India comprise of 8 states—Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Tripura, Sikkim, Manipur, Nagaland and Mizoram—all of which have been identified as 'Priority Global 200 Eco region' by the WWF.

  • Yes! All of them. It is also a part of the Indo-Burma hotspot which is the second largest hotspot in the world. According to the Botanical Survey of India in the Red Data Book, it is stated that out of 1500 endangered floral species, 800 are reported from the North East of India. A staggering 50% of India’s endangered species are found in the North East of India and almost 51 types of forest currently cover this greenbelt.

  • ​The average literacy rate as per 2011 census of India in this region is roughly 80%; almost 6% above the average literacy rate of India and only 4% below world's average literacy level. This region also constitutes a single linguistic region of over 200 languages. Yes you heard me right. 200!

The conclusion I am trying to infer from this data is even more staggering—the region is not only India’s top hotspot in flora and fauna but it is also the most diverse in linguistic and cultural fields and to top that, it has an average literacy level which is higher than the average literacy rate of India.

If such is the case, then why are we again and again made to feel like we are 'the others'?

If you do consider the people of the North East of India to be ‘the others’ then let me tell you, my dear friend, you have been misguided. And this misguidance of knowledge has erected a dangerous stereotype, which consequently infiltrated our mind and which the media achieves effectively; precisely.

Frankly, it is not your fault nor is it ours.  And saying 'us' again, divides us as—'You and I'. The fault lies in the system, the system which has somehow failed to recognise the history of this region and its 45 million citizens who have found themselves totally missing in texts at school, college or university level even after 68 years of Independent India. You know about India’s Freedom struggle because you read that in your history books since the 4th grade. Time and time again! Imagine a history book without any mention of India’s Freedom Struggle. 70% of the population, I am sure would have never known about the heroics of our forefathers which led to the formation of a great nation, 'INDIA'.

Then... how could you know about the Northeast India and its people after all? How could you? It is because of the lack of education about this region’s history, culture and language. Nelson Mandela once said, 'Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change this world'. It is on the basis of this education itself that we find ourselves capable of self-identification and change, the being of us. If education has such a major role in our minds and thought process, I am not surprised at this sense of alienation. It is natural.

On the 3rd and 4th of May 2013 Manipur Women Gun Survivors Network, Control Arms Foundation of India, Northeast India Women Initiative for Peace in collaboration with India International Centre (IIC) with support from Heinrich Böll Stiftung, New Delhi successfully hosted a conference on the theme “Weaving History of Northeast India. The event concluded successfully. More than 100 people attended the two day event that consisted of renowned historians, scholars from Northeast India, institutions such as  CBSE (Central Board of Secondary Education), NCERT (National Council of Educational Research and Training) , ICHR ( Indian Council of Historical Research) ; publishers such as National Book Trust (NBT), Ratna Sagar Pvt. Ltd., scholars, media, students and professors from various universities such as Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Delhi University (DU), Jamia, IGNOU and concerned citizens.

It is perhaps a outcome of many such conclaves and the growing awareness for the need to include Northeast India studies at school, college and university level that the University of Delhi is set oncourse for an educational trip to Northeast India (The Gyanodaya trip). Not only that, but Delhi University has also announced the introduction of short term certificate courses for 8 northeastern languages which aim to provide a better understanding of the people of the region. The languages for the proposed courses include Assamese, Nagamese, Manipuri, Arunachali and Tripuri. There will be foundation courses in Nepali and Bengali as well which are widely spoken in Sikkim and Tripura, respectively.

This turn of events definitely offers a bright prospect as a medium of unifying agent from the long prejudices the people of NorthEast India have suffered. Hopefully the regions diversity in culture and history will be included in textbooks at school and college level soon.

Remember; You are I are brothers and sisters of the same nation sharing the same patriotic feelings. We are as much as Indian as you are. We are not 'the other' but an integral part of 'us'