Watching the sudden, mass exodus of Northeast Indians from some of the most hospitable cities in the South is a bit like viewing the many formations of a kaleidoscope. Whoever holds it sees a different pattern and there is, seemingly, little that connects any of them; almost nothing that makes sense.
Are northeasterners in the mainland so insecure as to leave for home at the first rumour of possible violence? Is taking a long, much-advertised train ride through several States the best way of staying safe? Is “home” at this juncture safer than Bangalore, Poona or Hyderabad, no offence intended? Or, because of their distinctive physical features, do we fail to understand the vulnerability of northeasterners?
If the exodus is a testimony to the power of social media (which amplified the rumours), how come it didn’t have the power to dissuade them to stay? Does anybody seriously believe the government’s convenient explanation that the photos, videos and SMSes all emanated from Paksitan, like our fundamentalists are angels? And a country which has still not convinced Pakistan that it was behind 26/11 is going to prove that their websites did all this damage?
But, above all, the key question that the exodus raises is of “assimilation”, patronising as it may sound.
For long years, the “Seven Sisters” of the northeast have been treated by mainland India like step-sisters; starved, ignored, humiliated. It is only in the post-1991 era that their young men and women, with their proficiency of the English language, have ventured out to find jobs in BPOs, stores, malls, restaurants, etc.
Is the northeast’s Indian dream over? Or has it only just paused?