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‘Need to highlight issue of threatened identities in balanced way’
STAFF REPORTER
 GUWAHATI, Jan 19 - Asking the north-eastern states to realise the strength in unity, Pradip Phanjoubam, editor of the Imphal Free Press, has said that the region would begin to matter much more in the nation’s policy making if the NE states together make a strategy to use democracy’s number game in their favour.

Delivering the second Radhikamohan Bhagowati Memorial Lecture at the Pragjyoti ITA Centre here today, Phangjoubam thoroughly analysed the topic “The need for political understanding and solidarity among the States of Northeast India.”

He also stated that the current controversies in Assam over the NRC and Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 prompted by the apprehension of a shift in demographic profile of the State, are among the ‘shared demographic insecurity’ across the North East.

The lecture was organised by the Radhikamohan Bhagowati aru Rita Devi Bhagowati Smriti Raksha Samiti in memory of renowned journalist and former editor of Dainik Asam Radhikamohan Bhagowati.

“Eight states of the region together command 25 Lok Sabha seats and currently, our strength in the Rajya Sabha is 16. Democracy is a number game and cutting across the party lines if our representatives can have a mechanism to evolve consensual voices on the issues of the region, this number cannot be slighted by anybody,” he added.

Critically dissecting different aspects of the North East, its geography, demography, aspirations vis-a-vis the common challenges before the region, he said that the issue of threatened identities must be taken to the world in a balanced manner so that it does not look like mere xenophobia.

“Demographic overturn has happened in Tripura and the consequences are known. The same fear is behind periodic outbreaks of ethnic violence in BTC area and also behind the demand for innerline permit in Manipur. Here, we must convince the world that this apprehension on population influx relates to a cultural invasion. It is an instinct of self-preservation well within the parameters of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 of the United Nations,” the noted journalist added.

Elaborating on the topic, Phanjoubam added that migration is a natural process but, when the pace of population influx gets to be beyond the threshold of natural accommodation, the host communities begin to feel threatened and start resisting. “Again, democracy is a number game and those who have numbers hold the levers of State power,” he said.

“Worse still, if the migrant communities have intents of colonisation, considering themselves culturally superior to their hosts, treating others with patronising condescension, the sense of invasion felt by the hosts naturally gets more acute,” he mentioned.

Phanjoubam said it would be fallacious to assess the North East as a single layered canvas. Different layers of the issues afflicting the region must be identified and addressed adequately to find a lasting solution to the vexed problems of the region, he said.

The programme was presided over by former Gauhati High Court judge Dhiresh Narayan Choudhury. Earlier, Akhil Ranjan Dutta introduced Pradip Phanjoubam to the gathering. Hemanta Barman, executive president of the memorial committee was also present on the occasion.

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