Students demand to include Northeast culture and history in Indian textbooks6 min readReading Time: 4 minutes
We live in a world where #Blacklivesmatter trends across social media handles, and where even muppets from Sesame streets are talking race. But we still find ourselves at an impasse every now and then. An impasse that implores us to think more about the world we live in and those who live in that world with us. This time, we find this impasse closer home, and it demands our attention.
If you have a subject called Civics in school, then it is likely that the first page of your school textbook will have the Preamble to the Indian Constitution (I remember reading it there for the first time). Here’s what it says:
There are a lot of big words in there (Click here to know their meanings. You can also read this book to know more about the constitution ) and they all mean wonderful things. But let’s focus on the fact that it is for ALL citizens of the country, all 1.38 billion of us scattered across 3.287 million km² that covers mountains, islands, plains, deserts, forests, and plateaus. The history of each of its being constitutes the history of India.
But representation is tricky business, and not every part of the country gets an equal role to play on the stage of visibility!
And this story is unfolding in India as you read.
Students and activists from Northeast India, that has 4.5 crore people, are now lobbying for representation of their history and culture in school textbooks all across India. As an attempt to fight this internal racism, 40 organisations from eight universities have decided to create a Twitter storm today, on June 4 2021 demanding that the Government of India include a chapter of the legacy of Northeast India in NCERT textbooks (Read about the changes the Welsh made to their curriculum).
Owliver decodes the reasons for the storm.
Not a Playful Stroke
A 22-year-old gamer and Youtuber from Punjab, Paras Singh, released a video where he called the Congress MP, Ninong Ering from Arunachal Pradesh a non-Indian. He went on to say that Arunachal Pradesh was not a part of India. He has been booked under various sections of the Indian Penal Code including sedition, and spreading hate. The gamer has uploaded a video apologising to the people of Arunachal Pradesh, but the charges against him have not been lifted.
An Absurd Blame-Game
This has followed earlier incidents of prejudice that were reported during the coronavirus outbreak in the country. In a study conducted by the Indian Council of Social Science Research, it was found that the “Northeast India seamlessly fits [an] Indian’s imagination of a Chinese person.” A certain racism is doing the rounds against people of China owing to their connection with the nation of origin of the coronavirus pandemic. The study by ICSSR showed that this racism has extended to the people of the Northeast India. 78% of the interviewees claimed that their physical appearances contributed to this image. The study also reported that people from the area experienced increased prejudice and racism ever since the outbreak of the virus.
The Northeast is a beautiful part of India, and has been an active part of the country’s development and growth.
Did you know that Mawlynnong in Shillong, Meghalaya is the cleanest village in Asia! And that Majuli Island in Assam is the largest riverine island in the world! Also, the Northeast is the seventh richest centre of biodiversity in the world, and Sikkim was the first state in India to become fully organic! There is so much to learn from and about this part of the country, and that is what the activists are lobbying for.
Through this campaign, student organisations and universities from the Northeast, and their supporters from around the country will share their cause through the hashtags #AChapterforNE and #NEMatters on Twitter all through the day on Friday. The Twitter campaign will also tag Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union home minister Amit Shah, Union minister for education Ramesh Pokhriyal, Union minister of state for youth affairs Kiren Rijiju and the chief ministers of the eight northeastern states.
At present, NCERT offers a supplementary reading on the Northeast in school textbooks. The new campaign is demanding inclusion of the region’s history and culture in main textbooks across schools in the country. This will ensure that people are better acquainted with the area, and that we move towards inclusion through awareness The campaign wants this education to start early on. After all, you never really forget your a, b, c!
India is a diverse land, and such a land has multiple voices. Imagine the stories still left to be heard!
Owliver is all ears. What about you?