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Congress leader calling BJP ‘wild poachers’ of Northeast no political jibe, it’s pure racism

The Northeast is not all jungles, hunters, bamboo, and colorful costumes. But Congress’ Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury is not the only politician to show such ignorance.

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Warning Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar against the ‘poaching politics’ of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury recently said the party was similar to the “notorious wild animal poachers” of the Northeast.

This came up days after six Janata Dal (United) MLAs jumped ship to join the BJP in Arunachal Pradesh.

Apart from the bizarre, out-of-place analogy, Chowdhury’s tweet reeked of a racism that has become all too common in Indian politics and society at large.

The Northeast is not all jungles, hunters, bamboo, and colorful costumes. But Chowdhury is only the latest in a long line of politicians who show this kind of ignorance. A Delhi government officer, who was later suspended, referred to Sikkim as a “separate nation” earlier this year. E-commerce giant Flipkart also casually placed Nagaland outside of India — showing prejudice or plain contempt for the Northeast and its people.

Some years ago, former Congress legislator Ajit Singh Mofar had moved a resolution in the Punjab assembly to tackle the stray dog menace by sending them to China or Nagaland for “whatever they do to them”.

Almost all parties are guilty of this. Late BJP stalwart Sushma Swaraj once got so passionate while defending people from the Northeast that it only ended up adding insult to injury. Speaking after the death of Nido Taniam, a student from Arunachal Pradesh who was beaten to death in an alleged racial attack in Delhi, Swaraj ended up saying that “people with flat noses are as much Indians as those with sharp ones”.

Also read: UEFA to probe racial slur charges at PSG-Basaksehir match where players walked off in protest

‘You don’t look like you’re from the Northeast’

During a panel discussion on an international news channel, former BJP MP Tarun Vijay once said Indians couldn’t be called racist because they live in harmony with dark-skinned people from the South. He later said he “really felt sorry” for his comment. All was well after that.

Sometimes racism against people from the Northeast is justified by pointing out how there are jokes on Punjabis and ‘Madrasis’ too. But two wrongs don’t make a right.

Personally, I have also laughed away some of these ‘jokes’. Despite being a thoroughbred Assamese, I have been mistaken for being both Nepalese and Kashmiri because of my fair skin. It has, once in a while, come with a clincher that I “don’t look like one of those from the Northeast”.

Or, they have had problems with potatoes in my chicken curry.

Statements like these, even when made in jest or without malicious intent, just go on to amplify the narrative of people from the Northeast as being the ‘other’. And when senior political leaders do that, it only magnifies the impact.

Just as I wouldn’t want to be mistaken for someone else, a Naga will hate to be called a Manipuri, and a Mizo a Khasi. And none of us, whether Sikkimese, Nepalese, or Arunachalee, like it when we are called ‘Chinese’, because we are not. We are all Indians.

Also read:The itch of mainland Indians to ‘civilise’ northeast hasn’t gone. Dog meat ban another example

‘Every Naga house has a pet dog’

The focus is not just on our looks or how we speak, but also on what we eat.

West Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh had once said those eating beef should consume dog meat too, but inside their homes and not on the roads. Days later, Congress leader Pratima Coutinho asked Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant to organise a “dog meat party” for those ministers and MLAs who eat beef.

Released earlier this year, the Netflix film Axone (pronounced aa-khoo-nee) delves deep into the discomfort of the ‘mainstream’ with food from the Northeast. In the movie, a bunch of young Northeast women are made to move from one house to the other because neither their landlords nor neighbours can stand the smell of akhuni, a Naga delicacy made with fermented soybean.

Indian politicians would indeed do well to get to know the magnificently rich cultures and traditions of the Northeast — a multitude of languages (there are 16 major dialects spoken in Nagaland alone), its natural love for and guardianship of the environment, its fascinating histories and geographies. And when that happens, they will be as proud of the eight Northeastern states being a part of India as we are. It’s sad that we even have to say it.

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  1. I think MADAM will be upset.

    Remember how northeast was left to proselytizers to carry on conversions and the success has been MADAM ‘s greatest achievement.

  2. Mythili Hazarika protests too much! Adhir Choudhury is not saying that ALL of NE are wild animal poachers. But that there are wild animal poachers in the NE is true. Just as there are in other places. BUT only the NE has silent forests, without the sound or smell of a wild animal. Think about it!

  3. Most North Indians imagine themselves as the colonial masters of the rest of Indian. That is the inspiration behind the slogan, “Hindi, Hindu, Hindustan”.

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