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Why are Northeast Indians different from rest of India?

North-eastern people face numerous problems when they find themselves amongst the rest of the Indian population and there are historical reasons for the same.


Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  1 Sep 2022 3:47 AM GMT

Shrabona Borthakur


North-eastern people face numerous problems when they find themselves amongst the rest of the Indian population and there are historical reasons for the same. The Mughals began to rule parts of India in 1526 and established complete rule over most of the subcontinent by the end of 1701. The Mughal empire spanned from the Indus River Basin in the west, parts of Afghanistan in the northwest, Kashmir in the north, to the highlands of present-day Bangladesh in the east and the Deccan in the south of India.

Whenever mentioned, textbooks and histories refer to the entire India being under the rule of the Mughals but what they fail to incorporate is the fact that the Northeastern part of the country was never under the said empire. The Ahom Kings of Assam led by Bir Lachit Borphukan courageously defeated the Mughal army seventeen times under the rule of Aurangzeb since the year 1682 in the battle of Saraighat. The territory was not annexed until British Raj was established in the year 1826 after which the English took over Assam and Manipur.

What the mainland Indians fail to realise is unlike the rest of the population, the people of the Northeast were not slavery-bound for almost 400 years. There was no forced labour, and every state had its kings, empires, and treasuries. They were self-sufficient and never approached the mainland kings for help, neither financially nor politically. All the current indigenous ethnic groups of the Northeast's seven sister states were present, as they are today. Tripura, Imphal valley, Khynriem and Jaintiya kingdoms, Dimasa Kachari and Sutiya kingdoms were all-powerful. Also included was the Koch empire, which eventually engulfed the entire doors (western Assam and North Bengal). There were no migrant communities like those found in the Northeast today. Before Bhutia from the Kham region, Tibet established a monarchy, and Lepchas were the sole inhabitants of Sikkim. Mech (Bodo) and Koch communities lived in North Bengal. Unlike today, there were no Nepalese or Bengali immigrants in north Bengal. Tawang in western Arunachal was colonised by theocratic feudal warlords from Lhasa in Tibet. Tibetan marauders used to pillage northern Arunachal, and indigenous animists who did not practise Tibetan Buddhism were religiously persecuted. In Tibet, there is a derogatory term for these indigenous animists: "Lhoba." It means "southerners," but it was used to refer to non-Buddhist animists as savage, uncivilised, and brute. Nagaland and Mizoram both had village republics, in which each village represented a sovereign city-state whose chief was elected by the villagers. Each village had its language and cultural identity.

Today, Northeastern students face endless racist comments based on their looks. They are referred to as "Chinese" and northeastern girls are considered and called "prostitutes" on the roads. Catcalling is common and no one, not even educated people realise the grave intensity of the situation and how ethically and morally incorrect it is. People consider themselves free in this part of the country because they were not enslaved for as long as the rest of the country and that is probably why historians took on themselves to attain Aurangzeb's goal of conquering the North-east by presenting them as not having a culture as rich as others and considered historically backwards.

Increased rates of racism, stereotypical commentary, catcalling and sexual harassment have not gone unnoticed yet governments of states, especially in New Delhi fail to discuss and solve the pertaining issue for decades now. Students face harassment daily and apart from creating a little ruckus on social media applications, no other steps are taken. FIRs lie unresolved and in most cases, the police end up blaming the victim for the situation at hand.

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