A week after a YouTuber from Punjab was booked for his purported racial remarks on Arunachal Pradesh MLA Ninong Ering, more than 30 universities and student organisations from the northeast have come together to organise a ‘Twitter storm’ demanding that the history and culture of northeast be made a part of the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) curriculum.
Slated for 6-8 pm, June 4, participants at the virtual gathering will tweet with the hashtags #AChapterForNE and #NortheastMatters with an appeal that the region’s “history, ethnicity, lifestyle, personalities, natural resources and patriotism” make up a mandatory chapter in NCERT textbooks.
The Twitter storm was triggered by a video uploaded by Paras Singh, a 21-year-old YouTuber from Ludhiana, last week. In it, he commented on Ering’s appearance saying he did not “look Indian” and claimed that Arunachal Pradesh was not a part of India, but in China, causing widespread outrage in Arunachal Pradesh and Northeast. On Tuesday, Paras was booked under sections 124A (sedition), 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on ground of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc), 505(2) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for “inciting ill will and hatred” against the people of Arunachal Pradesh. He was remanded to six days of judicial custody by an Arunachal Pradesh court.
“We believe that this kind of racism can be solved only through education,” said Debonil Baruah, Advisor, North East Students’ Union (NESU), Vadodara, one of the organisers of the Twitter storm. “The Paras Singh case was what set it off, but such instances of racism are very common,” he added.
After the NESU Vadodara reached out to universities across the eight Northeastern states, more than 30 major universities such as Guwahati University, Dibrugarh University, Nagaland University, Mizoram University, NIT- Agartala, Rajiv Gandhi University Arunachal Pradesh as well students unions in Delhi, Manipur etc, have come on board to participate.
“We think the Twitter storm will help bring the issue to the notice of politicians and lawmakers,” said Tarh Naki, a 24-year-old student from Arunachal Pradesh. “When I studied in Gujarat, people were clueless about where Arunachal was. They would directly ask me which country I belonged to — ‘Are you from China?’ Sometimes I felt like putting a banner on my head saying I am from Arunachal Pradesh and it is in India,” she said.
The plan is to tag Chief Ministers, Education Ministers and other concerned authorities to bring it to their notice, Baruah said. A few politicians such as K Therie, former Finance Minister of Nagaland, MLA Kuzholuzo Nienu from Nagaland as well as Arunachal Pradesh’s Ering have tweeted their support for the storm. “Inclusion of our culture and history must be done in the curriculum. Had introduced a Bill on the same issue in 2017 in Lok Sabha” tweeted Ering, tagging the handles of the Prime Minister, Home Minister, CBSE and NCERT, among others.
In 2017, Ering had introduced a Private Member Bill ‘The Compulsory teaching of North-East culture in Educational Institutions’ in the Parliament but it was not taken up.
In 2014, following the attack and murder of 19-year-old Nido Tania in Delhi, the M P Bezbaruah Committee report had made a number of recommendations, including integration of Northeastern culture and history in the NCERT syllabus.
“While there have been discussions on including Northeast-related matter in textbooks, it has never really worked out,” said Baruah. While in 2017, the NCERT did publish ‘North East India — People, History and Culture’, a supplementary text book for students from Class 9 to 12, Baruah said it really did not have any impact because it was only suggested as “supplementary reading”. “So no one took it seriously. What we need now is a chapter which is a compulsory part of the syllabus so that it can bridge the gap between the northeastern states and ‘mainland’ India,” he said.
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