In a small function held recently, workers of the Nagaland State Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) helped launch a forum called the Seemanta Chetana Mancha, Purvottar. The entourage was accompanied by a BJP Member of Assam Legislative Assembly.
Those who attended the program in Dimapur were left puzzled—the MLA came to the rescue. Seemanta means border, Chetana means awareness and Mancha means forum, he explained. Purvottar means north east. The forum, a non government organisation registered in Guwahati, was setting up its Nagaland chapter with the hope to push development of the State’s long, international and fluid border with Burma.
The members claimed that the forum was started by some “patriotic people” at Rajasthan’s Indo-Pakistan border in the 1980s to keep vigil on “anti national activities” and raise national consciousness. A strange claim as its logo consisted of a chain of people surrounding the North East map coloured in orange, white and green; a bigger circle of orange and green held the logo together.
A Google search was eminent. None of the details of the organisation’s genesis found corroboration on the World Wide Web—the website they provided at the event did not work and the internet was unable to trace any of the people who visited Nagaland on behalf of the forum. Newspaper reports on the organisation run back to only a couple of years, all from the North East region, particularly Assam, with the State’s Chief Minister (BJP’s Sarbananda Sonowal) supporting its initiatives.
The Telegraph reported in January last year that the forum is an affiliate of the Sangh Parivar—a collection of Hindu Nationalist organisations (including religious, student, political and paramilitary organisations) with similar ideological goals and often overlapping membership.
As per the Seemanta Chetana Mancha, Purvottar, international borders have remained underdeveloped because people are not patriotic enough! If only people had known this since 1947, a few slogans would have helped Longwa, Awangkhu or Pangsha become Delhi, Mumbai or Kolkata. But there is no development till now because border peoples “lack awareness” and people from Hindi-speaking belts of the Indian Union will now raise the right kind of awareness that draws the right kind of funds and ensures the right kind of development.
Nearing election time in Nagaland, if this is not propaganda, then what is?
The BJP has shown astuteness in politics, and commitment towards development. It would be a pity if it loses track of these by attempting ideological coups in marginalised regions. Development in border areas has not suffered because people don’t speak Hindi or are otherwise ‘unpatriotic’; development has been lacking because governance has been sidelined, with Delhi focusing more on ‘buying’ decision making elites to agree with central policies rather than working with the people of the region.
Misplaced patriotism will only jeopardize ‘national integration’ further, promote more violence in the militarised zones called international borders and spell doom for the ‘Act East Policy’. It is the government, not NGOs, that needs to set transparency, accountability and accessibility required for development through a consensual (plus non partisan and secular) mechanism with the people in the border areas. If NGOs are needed to facilitate this process, there is no dearth of them in the Naga areas—why import them from Rajasthan?
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