Why are they going back on the issue of Inner Line Permit which the British had started? By now we should have been able to get rid of that but instead more states are demanding for it. For example, Meghalaya is now asking for ILP and so also Manipur. Though the situations may be very different in every state, the general psychology is that they want some sort of protection, whether justified or just born of apprehension. Consider the Assam Accord wherein the feeling of identity is strongly indicated. Such issues have to be tackled very sensitively and those at the Centre in Delhi might not be able to understand the psychology of the people of northeast and why such feelings exist.
There is a tribal versus non tribal divide, but there are divides between and within tribes as well. There are many linguistic divides, several religious divides, class divides, and political divides. So, for instance, the Chakmas are a tribal group, as are the Tea Tribes, but their status in Northeast India is very different from other tribal groups. Similarly, the Meiteis of Manipur are a nontribal group, but their situation too is quite unique. The Bengalis are united by language and divided by religion. The Assamese and Bengali are, in many cases, united by religion and divided by language. The Nagas are divided by tribe but united by a sense of Naga identity. And so on.
The most loathsome thing is – this is happening here in Assam, just before our eyes and we are witness to its spread.
For the last five decades, the most dominant narrative in Assam has been the identity politics.
There is a genuine existential fear among the community of Assamese people because of the longstanding influx problem.
What has happened is only politics is being played on this and nothing worthwhile has been done to safeguard the existential fear of the community.
But the afternoon’s incident had shaken him badly. He felt the need to talk about it to some- one, although he would have to be careful not to reveal everything. ‘Baba,’ he resumed hesitantly, ‘something happened today on the way back from school.’
‘Yes?’ said Mr Dutta.
‘Some boys were calling me dkhar,’ Debu replied. ‘What does it mean?’
Mr Dutta did not reply. He puffed on his cigarette and silently watched the smoke curl upwards. After a while he said, ‘These boys…they know who you are? Where you stay?’
‘Don’t think so. Never saw them until today.’ ‘I see. Make sure you stay away from them.’
‘Yes, that I will. But you’re not telling me, what does dkhar mean?’
His father stubbed out his cigarette in the ashtray and said, ‘It’s the Khasi word for foreigner.’