By Ananya S Guha

A lot of debate, discussion, for and against has been generated due to the Inner Line issue. They seem endless, and seem to get us into a `nowhere` promontory. The whole question is: why has this happened? Is it due to a ` political ` situation as many argue? Is it due to an effort to upstage people and political parties, which many feel? Or is it due to a xenophobia, which has valid reasons?

It may be importunate to ask such questions, but they may also be pertinent! Moreover they seem to be obverse realities and flip sides of the coin.

The entire issue, in my opinion is an abstraction: “Fear“. When real fears are juxtaposed with imaginary ones, there is something obfuscated, and something which may appear chimerical. Influx is often cited as a critique, influx happens anywhere as Janice Pariat and Samrat Choudhury pointed out in a recent article in “The Shillong Times“. But what is this influx, who are these `outsiders` are they `foreign nationals’ as the cry was in Assam three decades back? Or are they Indians from elsewhere? The protagonists of such a cry, also point out that certain states in North East India have been granted such protection, fair enough. But has this halted ` immigration ?

The polemic, the argument, reverts to culture and ethnicity. In this regard, why are our sociologists and academics, maintaining a stoic silence? If ` smaller ` communities feel threatened about an erosion of their cultures, what is the way out? The main question is: why do they feel so? What has gone amiss? `Small` (and I am using this term for want of a better word) communities feel insecure, that they may be swamped by migratory forces, a feeling which has been borne out by historical studies and Hegelian forces. But the Constitution of our country speaks, of an unmitigated diversity which is the foundation and logic of our ` unity `. What is this unity, has it happened? If states like Maharashtra, considered forward looking and ` developed ` in our country, can feel equally insecure and xenophobic, then why not the other parts? I am not at all justifying the recent upsurge, but I feel that the ` why ` has not been answered in the light of the events especially in North East India. Some speak in terms of Islamic infiltration, some talk about `outsiders`. Who these outsiders or ` foreign nationals ` remain inchoate, a passive witness to turbulence.  In between people and organizations, play both the cards, fuelled by other people and organizations. It is easy to blame politicians, but the public at large has a pivotal role to play! It, including the intelligentsia, also whips sentiments, and these go unrecorded. Politicians to many are necessary evils, but let`s not forget, that when we need them we go running to them brazenly! They are NOT necessarily the root of all evil, as we glibly argue, in a self congratulatory manner, we need to go into a deeper introspection, and if this is dispassionately done, the fault maybe ours “ that we are underlings “. Many thanks to Shakespeare for underpinning universal truths!

Do we not need these ` foreigners ` for building our houses, doing our houses, and making our toilets look more ornate? Alas, we are far removed from staring at glassy truths. Once we look at ourselves in a more unbiased manner, the truth will emerge resoundingly. Can we do that, instead of blaming others? ILP or no ILP we have to be witnesses to inexorable truths, not only politicians, but also OURSELVES, the large compendium, which makes up our societies. To earn a living people will go anywhere, and this is true not only of plumbers, carpenters and masons. It is true of teachers and bureaucrats. So let`s celebrate the ` truth ` without animadversion, however unpalatable it may be!!

If we are cannily duplicitous in our arguments, we may pay the price of being victims! And if we are uniformist or stereotypical , then we should be prepared to accept `bandhs` and their like. The whole point is to work out strategies, study the decadal growths in population, and whether this has been endangering local communities. The onus here is of course on governments!

But I have, personally speaking an empathy, however ` vague ` it might be: smaller communities who are not dispersed have a fear, an insecurity, which must be assuaged. Only time will tell, the great `argument` that is History!


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