By Tanuj Gupta
Edited by Anandita Malhotra, Senior Editor, The Indian Economist
In the hoopla surrounding Modi’s visit to the US or the attention revolving around Deepika Padukone or for that matter Jeff Bezos’ visit to India, once again, the Indian media has forgotten the plight of an indelible part of the country: The North-East. Ravaged with floods, Assam and Meghalaya are going through one of their biggest crises, but Indian media and Indian polity in general could be the least bothered.
This does not come as news to many as it is a bitter pill to swallow but mainstream India cares little, if at all, for the North-East region. In order to study this contrast we don’t need to go too far back. Look at the sort of coverage that Anna Hazare managed to muster at his fast against corruption in a mere matter of days, now compare that with the plight of an Irom Sharmila who has been fasting for years for the government to repeal AFSPA. The dichotomy that has existed in the politics is understandable. The North East hardly accounts for any significant number of seats in the Lok Sabha, but what is saddening to see is that the media, which usually champions itself as the instigator of social and political change in the country, silent on one of the most ignored regions of the country.
What is the reason for this? The North-East isn’t the best TRP generator, at the end of the day, media houses are running businesses. The problem with this is that what isn’t on the radar is neglected. While we go on about how sixteen individuals committed suicide after the arrest of a politician we forget that more than 150,000 people in Assam are to be displaced owing to the massive floods wreaking havoc in the region. And this is a problem that we as Indians need to look at very seriously. While coverage of Uttarakhand and Kashmir is all fine it does not mean that just because it is inconvenient and hardly remunerative that we ignore what is a major and most important region for us.
If this continues, the day is not far when the North-East starts looking at itself as less and less a part of India and more as an independent entity. Look at the separatist movement spreading itself in the region and Arunachal’s increasing affinity towards the Chinese and we realise that we cannot take one of our own for granted. There needs to be a start towards more recognition for the people of the region and since it has already been established that the political willpower to create change here is minimal, the change must be brought by another catalyst. One of the major change agents in recent years has been the Indian media and this too is something that they must look at as their responsibility towards a better country.
While painting such a grim picture may not be fully realistic, we must realise that the path that is being undertaken now is a dangerous one and unless we correct our actions and our attitude, it’s one that is destined to lead to more trouble.