The assertion of ethnic identities and cultures by innumerable tribal groups and communities across the north east has emerged as one of the major challenges for the central as well as the state governments of the region.
Today, there are dozens of tribal communities in the north eastern states which are fighting for greater autonomy and self rule. The policy makers sitting in Delhi never quite bothered to understand the multi cultural complexities of the region and initially doled out statehood to many tribes such as the Khasis, the Nagas and the Mizos, at the same time denying the same to some others.
Now many more communities are fighting, sometimes violent and sometimes non violent agitations, to get their share of the pie and quite frankly, Delhi does not know what to do. A few years ago, the Bodos were granted the ‘Territorial Council’ status to quell their long standing demand for a separate state. This precedent of granting a ‘state within a state’ status by the government gave another option to the agitating communities. Now, the Karbis also have been granted the same status and the Dimasas are going to get elevated to the same position soon.
However, the question is, whether such steps are leading to any permanent solutions to these decades old issues? The granting of ‘territorial councils’ under the sixth schedule of the constitution also warrantees the redrawing of districts, which again is bound to create controversies and unrest.
This issue has now become very crucial for the people of Cachar also as the proposed Dimaraji or Dima Hasao Territorial Council may claim some areas of the district where the Dimasas have been staying since ages.
Recently, the Dilip Nunisa faction of the Dima Halam Daoga (DHD) held a convention at Kumacherra in Cachar to discuss the issue of the territorial council. While there was no open demand for inclusion of parts of Cachar in the council, Nunisa tried to rake up ethnic sentiments by asserting that the Bengalis had been helped greatly by the erstwhile Dimasa kingdom in Khaspur and therefore, they should also respect the sentiments of their Dimasa brethren.
While the Jewel Gorlosa faction of the DHD is content with the creation of a territorial council within the present Dima Hasao district, the Nunisa led group wants the inclusion of Dimasa inhabited areas of Cachar, Nagaon and Nagaland in the same.
The presence of surrendered ULFA leader Arabinda Rajkhowa in the convention has queered the pitch further. Whether, Rajkhowa, a known Bengali baiter, intends to weaken the Bengali dominated Barak Valley by supporting the division of Cachar needs to be observed very closely.
This article does not intend to evoke micro ethnic sentiments by putting across points against this possible division of the district. However, we the people of Barak Valley, must remember that, safeguarding our linguistic and cultural interests has been a constant concern for us ever since independence. We must be conscious to the fact that the dispensation at Dispur will never resist such a division as it will weaken the identity of Barak Valley as a land of the Bengalis. And, therefore, we must resist, any such demand from any quarter irrespective of its origin.
Despite its Bengali identity, Barak Valley has always prided itself in being a multi cultural area where people of many communities live together peacefully. The three districts of Cachar, Karimganj and Hailakandi are home to many diverse communities apart from the Bengalis such as Manipuris, Bishnupriya Manipuris, Biharis, Marwaris and of course the Dimasas.
All these communities have contributed to the growth of the valley and are integral parts of it. However, if such divisive sentiments are allowed to develop and foster, this valley will also turn into a war zone like many other parts of the north eastern region, with more communities asserting their presence and demanding autonomy. In any case, we are drowned neck deep in problems related to development and now law and order. None of us, irrespective of what language we speak, can afford to encourage such sentiments.
Therefore, we the people of Barak Valley, must understand, that self ambitioned forces are out to attack our unity. The onus is on us to ensure that such tendencies are nipped at the bud and not allowed to grow.