On Friday, Opposition MLAs disrupted Assam Governor Gulab Chand Kataria’s address in the state assembly over a Maharashtra MLA’s remarks regarding dog meat consumption in the northeastern state. Congress MLA Kamalakya Dey Purkayastha and Akhil Gogoi of the Raijor Dal raised this matter while the governor was speaking. Recently, MLA Bacchu Kadu of Prahar Janshakti Party, a tiny regional party currently supporting the NDA government in Maharashtra, said “all stray dogs of Maharashtra should be sent to Assam as the residents there consume dog meat”, as quoted in media reports.
It is true that stray dogs are a problem in the society and this issue needs to be dealt with properly by the administration. But statements like sending dogs to Assam, assuming people in the state consume dog meat, is an insult to the people of the state and also once again confirms the stereotype that exists among the many Indians about Northeast.
Indians living outside Northeast assume everyone in the region looks similar, wears similar, eats similar, and follows a similar culture. It is very difficult to believe that this type of stereotype exists even in today’s age of social media. There are eight states in the Northeast, and they are home to different types of communities and tribes who have their own culture, language and food. For example, Nagaland alone has 16 major tribes. In Assam, one would find Assamese, Bengalis and also tribes like Kachharis, Rabhas, Bodos etc. In Tripura, there are 19 different types of tribes.
In reality, consumption of dog meat is limited to only a few, and not all, Naga tribes in Nagaland. It’s not a common practice in Assam, and the Northeast as a whole. Northeast is a region known for its diversity.
Not to forget, there is also a widespread stereotype that “Nagas eat human beings”. Nagaland BJP president Temzen Imna Along, who is quite popular on social media, had once spoken about this horrible stereotype about the Nagas that he encountered when he landed in Delhi.
In fact, there are different types of cuisines in the region. If there are pork and beef, there are also bamboo shoot, jujube, banana stem, and pumpkin stem that people relish. In my Bishnupriya Manipuri community, a Vaishnavite community found in Assam, Tripura and Manipur, khichdi is enjoyed with bamboo shoot curry. A bean-like vegetable yongchak, as called by Meithei Manipuris, or longchak in Bishnupriya Manipuri, is a popular food item in the region. From non-vegetarian to vegetarian, the region offers a vast spread of delicacies. But unfortunately, people are not aware of this as the region has failed to become mainstream even after so many years of Independence.
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Opposition-Less Govt In Nagaland Again
When it comes to Nagaland, there is something unique about the politics of this state — an assembly with no opposition. This time, the Nationalist Democratic People’s Party and the Bharatiya Janata Party alliance came to power by securing 37 seats. However, the interesting story is that the remaining 13 MLAs have also lent their support to the Neiphiu Rio-led government.
The Nationalist Congress Party won seven seats and the MLAs after obtaining permission from party supremo Sharad Pawar have decided to support the NDPP-BJP government. Obviously, this has raised questions on the opposition unity discussed nationally to fight against the Narendra Modi-led BJP in the next year’s Lok Sabha polls. To be fair, NCP played the role of B-team for the NDPP, which was in a proxy war with its ally BJP. NCP is the alliance partner of Congress in Maharashtra, but part of the CPM-led Left Democratic Front government in Kerala. Now, Pawar’s party supports a government in Nagaland where the BJP is a constituent.
The lone MLA backed by the state unit of Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) has also decided to support the NDPP-BJP government. Angry with this, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who has been trying to emerge as the face of the united Opposition nationally, has dissolved its state unit. Union minister Ramdas Athawale’s Republican Party of India (Athawale) and Chirag Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party (Ram Vilas), Naga People’s Front and four Independents have also decided to support the government. NPF, the party that ruled the state for 15 years, was able to secure only two seats in this election while RPI(A) and LJP(RV) won two seats each. RPI(A) and LJP(RV) were openly supporting the BJP even before the elections and they contested mainly where NDPP had candidates. The five MLAs of the National People’s Party of Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma also lent their support to the government.
In a democracy, there is also a need for a strong opposition as it helps in checking the flaws of the government. But in the state of Nagaland, it seems a no-opposition assembly has now become a tradition. In the previous assembly, the space of the opposition was left empty after the NPF, which was then the main opposition party, decided to join the NDPP-BJP government. Even before this, in 2015, the state of Nagaland became Opposition-less when Congress MLAs joined the then government run by the Democratic Alliance of Nagaland led by NPF, where the BJP was also a constituent.
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How PM Modi Is Successful In Building A Pro-Northeast Perception
This week, the new governments of Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura took oath in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Also present were Home Minister Amit Shah and party president JP Nadda. Conrad Sangma of NPP and Neiphiu Rio of NDPP took their oath as the chief ministers of Meghalaya and Nagaland, respectively, on Tuesday. Manik Saha of BJP took oath as Tripura CM the next day.
In politics, perception also plays an important role. In Meghalaya and Nagaland, the CMs belong to the allies of the BJP. However, PM Modi did not skip those ceremonies and sent representatives from his government. However, Modi along with Shah and Nadda were present there, along with attending his party’s second government in Tripura. Some may mock Modi for “unnecessarily” going to these ceremonies just to boost his image. But what these critics don’t understand is that a prime minister attending these oath taking ceremonies brings the attention of the entire country to the developments happening in this region, which is often neglected in the mainstream discussions that take place. This way Modi is able to subtly convey the message that they care for the region. This is the reason that Modi, who is regularly attacked for being “anti-minority” by the “secular lobby”, is popular in the northeast region, where three states have Christians as their majority.
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Post-Poll Violence Rocks Tripura But Makes Little News Outside State
After the BJP-led alliance came to power last week, there has been a rise of post-poll violence across the state. There have been many allegations against miscreants belonging to the BJP that they attacked the supporters of the CPM-Congress combine. In the hills, there are allegations mainly against miscreants belonging to TIPRA Motha for attacking the voters and supporters of BJP. There are also some allegations against miscreants belonging to CPM-Congress attacking the voters and supporters of the BJP.
Chief Minister Manik Saha has said strong action would be taken against the perpetrators without looking at any political colours but violence is still continung in many parts. On Wednesday, some miscreants attacked the house of CPM MLA of Pratapgarh Ramu Das and injured his old mother. Ramu was not present at home during the attack. This time, the Left party has been able to wrest this seat in the West Tripura district. A parliamentary team of the Congress and the CPM are in the state to visit the violence-hit areas and talk to the victims. They will be joined by the state’s Left and Congress leaders.
The developments are extremely unfortunate. Imagine the situation of common people when even the house of an MLA is not secured. During his election campaign, PM Modi repeatedly stressed “how Tripura has become free from violence under BJP rule”. But the truth appears to be different. While the BJP is blaming the CPM-Congress for the violence, it’s time all parties must ensure that their supporters are not involved in such activities.
Significantly, there is hardly any discussion on Tripura post-poll violence while there was a large hue and cry when there was post-poll violence in West Bengal in 2021. Post-poll violence is a big danger against democracy whether in Bengal or Tripura, or any other part of the country, but it is unfortunate that the section which was so vocal about Bengal’s post-poll violence after Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool’s victory is now silent on the post-poll violence in Tripura.
The author is a political commentator.
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