Fear of different kinds

By M C Arun
People of the northeastern community arrived from Mumbai by the Lokmanya Tilak Express in Guwahati Railway station . Photo: Ritu Raj Konwar ( via: IFP) .
People of the northeastern community arrived from Mumbai by the Lokmanya Tilak Express in Guwahati Railway station . From our Archives: Photo: Ritu Raj Konwar ( via: IFP) .

A few SMSs and some doctored video clips created panic among a larger number of North Easterners who are living in Mumbai, Bangalore and Pune.  A few sporadic attacks on a couple of persons with lesser lethal weapons (sticks, swords or so) make these people so fearful that they had to flee away from their host States. If you look at recent history of North East India, illegal migrants settling in different parts of NE India did not move an inch away from their temporary homes or rented houses or work places, when they had been attacked several times with more sophisticated weapons (AK-47, 9 mm pistols or so). When some unknown persons killed non-Manipuris in a series in the recent past, they did not run away leaving their business, education and belongings. The common denominator of all these happenings is the fear of migrants. The North Easterners in south and west India are afraid of living there so also Indian migrants from mainland India in North East India. The same fear is with the illegal migrant neighbors in this region. But the responses to the fear are different. The NE Indian fear was so strong that a large number of them rushed back to their home States. Even the fearful rush in groups was termed as Exodus in Indian media. All the Guwahati bound trains were full of such fearful passengers. Their destinations were not same; they belonged to Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland or Tripura. They are all afraid because they are North Easterners.

The question is not of racial profiling. It is question of identity given by others.

To the attackers, they are all same. Another shared element is that all of them did not dare to fight or stay back in their host States. There may be thousands and one reason. The fact remains they did opt for confrontation with the ‘attackers’.


Questions arise: Why did not they opt for fighting or overcome the situation then and there? Did they think that they would be isolated from Indian mass when any unwanted eventuality broke out in their host States? At another plane, one question is prominent: Why the responses of North Easterners in Southern States and of migrant communities in different parts of North East are different?

It is all because of the fact that the fears of North Easterners and of migrants in North East are different. For the North Easterners in other parts of India, there are two kinds of fear: fear of being attacked in their host States and fear of ‘support-less-ness’ from their home States. The fear of the first kind is temporary one as the attackers will not target them for long. The threats are generated only for specific political goals: Assam riot should be brought up to national and international levels, giving a new color. The attackers will calm themselves after their purpose is served. But, political and psychologically speaking, the fear of second kind is very complex. This is deep rooted in their mind and historical experiences in the recent past. Their respective home State is busy with its own internal affairs. These States are facing many problems ranging from AIDS to corruption, ethnic clashes to insurgency, financial irregularities to extortions, fake NGOs to irresponsible officials, and many more. These States cannot plead their real needs to the central government. These States do not have time to think of their own Diaspora communities. We have heard many the passengers, coming back from their host States, saying that they would like to go back to their host States as soon as possible.

Many of them went to host States because they did not like the ‘hellish way of life in the region having no means to materialize their dreams’. Bangalore, Delhi, Mumbai are their dreamlands. When they face uncertain attackers in their dreamlands, their hopes and aspirations were shattered. When there is crisis like the recent ones, these two images of their home State as hell and host State as dreamland make them confused. Rather they are facing a state of disorientation. They are caught in between two uncanny situations from where they cannot escape easily.

Any person whose home State is strong and concerned about his existence in any part of the globe, is bold enough to face any eventuality occurring anywhere. The quality and ability of home State are important for a Diaspora community. The pride of being born in home State/country is itself a psychological support that enables one to face odd situations in a foreign setting. Southern States are not even foreign to the North East migrants there.

Why did they feel helplessness and puzzlement with wild sms and other messages threatening their lives in their own ‘dreamland’?

They are in deep trouble because of the double burden of ‘dark home with no power’ and ‘emptiness in their land of choice’. Their fear with the emptiness is further aggravated by their fear of ‘support-less-ness’ in case of accepting the physical challenges.

Now, we all see, India is not burning; Indian media are following the North Easterners since the first attack. Attackers will not attack anyone now because their purpose of sending sms has been served. But, the fact remains: the panic of North Easterners is the result of recent clashes between original settlers and migrants in western Assam. These migrants are facing all the odds; they do not flee in spite of threats, killings or even house burning. Are they brave or are they supported by their home country or any other who could mobilize world opinions in their favor?

The answer will tell you why there is a difference between North East migrants and migrants in North East.


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