My father was posted in Shillong between 1980 to 1983 and I went to the Kendriya Vidyalaya Happy Valley school there. Shillong was beautiful and untouched… there were almost no scooters or bikes there and we went walking everywhere. We managed to get many western clothes there as we would go to Bara Bazaar and Police Bazaar, where we would find lots of inexpensive T.Shirts and track pants etc. Most of those were oversized so made up for a nighty often. At that time we didn’t know that they were clothes that had come from the US or Europe as part of their charity programs and some smart Indian had figured a way out to sell these clothes and make a buck.
We had gone to Shillong after living in Dehu Road, near Pune. The only thing that we found very different was the number of churches and the anglicized population. The local Khasis would speak in English but struggle with Hindi. They would wear their traditional dress and celebrate their traditional festivals as well but most of them were Christians. Since I studied in a KV, religion never mattered and it still does not. I was too young to understand politics and my parents were least interested in it. So that was that.
Krishnan and I went to Shillong in 2003 and we were in Guwahati just two weeks back. We were surprised to know that Aadhar is not implemented in Assam and Meghalaya. Besides these two states, the state of J&K does not have Aadhar. When we met some of our NGO contacts in Guwahati, we were told that the border with Bangladesh was porous and there is a huge influx of Bangladeshis everyday ! There are several millions who have settled down in Assam and I think the Government is trying to do a detailed census to figure out who these people are and yeah, they have to be repatriated.
When we visited Shillong in 2003, we went to the Jaintia hills and visited the Nartiang Durga temple. We didn’t know then that this was one of the Shakti Peethas ! I think I was surprised to see a temple in Meghalaya so didn’t probe any further and we are not the temple visiting kinds so it didn’t affect us much. Then I went to Nagaland in 2004 – it was a very different experience. I was picked up in an army jeep at the airport and when Geetu and I would go shopping there would be an army jeep escorting us with armed men. We visited the model village that had been setup to show the different kinds of dwellings that the different Naga tribes made. Again, I wasn’t aware of the history of Nagaland and while the state was beautiful, it was clearly a disturbed area.
I feel a huge connection to the North East, maybe because it has been part of my childhood or maybe because the people are just wonderful – they are trusting and warm and very hardworking. I dismissed the Christian influence as just the missionaries settling there and leaving their influence. The ugly side of this came up during the recent elections in Nagaland, Tripura and Meghalaya.
The Nagaland Baptist Church Council (NBCC), the state’s biggest church organisation, had apparently urged the common man to choose between the “Trishul” and the “Cross”. Really? Is this happening in India, supposedly secular ? Apparently the same NBCC had called Yoga a Hindu practice, advising Churches not to practice Yoga. Nagaland and most other states of the North East were traditionally shamans, animists or more generally nature worshippers – how did the state of Nagaland become 96% Baptist? And how dare the NBCC decide who votes for whom on the basis of religion? And the sick pseudo seculars are crying hoarse about “ghar wapsi”.
Am not getting into a pissing match between religions, but if there is a pissing match, remember the oldest religion is Hinduism and variants of nature worshipping religions. All of the world was largely Hindu – that’s why you find Ganesha’s idol in Turkey, the Shiva Lingam in UAE and will find many more Hindu religious relics buried underneath every Christian and Islamic structure. And Hinduism doesn’t care who you vote for !!! Now who is dividing the public mindset ? The despicable Mr. Owaisi speaks of Muslim soldiers – and am glad the army told him off. How dare he bring religion into our armed forces – every Indian soldier is an Indian first. Just as it should be for the rest of the citizens. My identity is Indian wherever I go – its not Hindu Indian and it never will be.
The North Eastern states have always been treated differently. First the British colonial empire tried to keep the North Eastern states out of the Union of India, preferring to create a larger Burma which would remain under their control. Then the successive governments run by “THE” family largely ignored the North East, especially Nagaland.
On Saturday when we saw the election results in Tripura, Nagaland and Meghalaya… it was quite astonishing. Tripura and Nagaland voted overwhelmingly for the BJP and the modern day Chanakya Amit Shah brought in Himanta Biswa Sarma to forge the required alliances to form the government in Meghalaya. For the first time, there is saffron in the air …. and suddenly everyone is discovering the Unakoti rock cuts of Shiva, the Nartiang Durga temple, and Ulupi who married Arjuna in the Mahabharata. The North Eastern states have a shared history with India and all attempts to rewrite that history has to be thwarted and all that has been rewritten has to be re-rewritten. About the left’s glorious rule in Tripura, the lesser said the better. We only have to thank them for not handing over Tripura to China :(:(.
Hoping to see the seven sisters flourish and grow to their full potential ….. and certainly praying for their original culture to flourish as well.