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Students Urge Centre to Include Northeast's History, Culture in NCERT Syllabus

The latest plea from students' unions from the northeast comes after a YouTuber from Punjab recently described Arunachal Pradesh as a part of China, drawing severe criticism.

Agartala: At least 40 student organisations from eight universities in northeast India have decided to create a ‘Twitter storm’ on Friday (June 4), asking the Central government to mandatorily include a chapter on the history and culture of the region in the NCERT (National Council of Educational Research and Training) syllabus in a bid to fight racism.

The social media campaign began at 6 pm on Friday and will see Twitter users tweeting with hashtags #AChapterForNE and #NortheastMatters until 8 pm.

The online campaign has been conceived after a YouTuber named Paras Singh recently made racist remarks against people from the northeast. A case was later filed against him. The 22-year-old YouTuber from Punjab called former Lok Sabha MP and sitting Congress legislator Ninong Ering from Arunachal Pradesh a “non-Indian” and said Arunachal Pradesh was “part of China”. It sparked furore in Arunachal Pradesh and in other parts of the country. He was arrested in Ludhiana on May 25 and was brought to Arunachal Pradesh on May 26. Paras was booked under Sections 124A, 153 and 505(2) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

Speaking to The Wire, Debonil Baruah, an advisor to the North East Student Union (NESU) Vadodara in Gujarat, said, “We will be requesting the Ministry of Education that they should include a mandatory chapter on northeastern states in NCERT textbooks. The idea behind this is to end racism and identity issues that students or people of the northeast have been facing. The people of other states don’t know where the states like Arunachal Pradesh or Manipur are. Such things are happening because people don’t read about the northeast. Once these issues get into the syllabus and people start reading about the northeast, these issues will be resolved.”

Also read: Governments Have Failed to Address Racial Abuse of People From the Northeast

Baruah, who is from Assam, recalled that the government did introduce a supplementary book on northeast India in 2017, but the purpose has not been achieved as many students did not read it because it was not mandatory.

“Sadly, this is not the first time that the people from northeast India are being subjected to racism in other parts of the country. Even during the first wave of the pandemic, we all read and watched videos on how northeastern people were mistreated and blamed for the pandemic, which is both highly offensive and illegal,” he recalled.

David Lalrinchhana, president of the Students’ Council, Mizoram University, lamented that people from Mizoram and other northeastern states have to prove every single time that are indeed bonafide Indians.

“We have made tremendous contributions to our country. A lot of vibrant sports stars, entertainers and academicians have emerged from northeast India. However, the sad thing is that despite the service rendered and reputation earned by the peace-loving people of the northeast, we still have to tell people where our state is located, and who we are. Some people from mainland India treat us like Chinese, Koreans or Japanese, making us feel alienated. If they claim our land as part of Indian territory, then why not accept its inhabitants as Indians?” he asked.

Lalrinchhana urged the Centre to take note of racism and to make the region’s history and culture part of the NCERT syllabus to make people from mainland India aware of the region.

“By doing so, racism will be uprooted, and national unity will begin to flourish gradually,” he hoped.

Arjun Saha, general secretary of culture at the National Institute of Technology (NIT) Agartala, said, “Whenever I  used to go outside of the northeast, people used to ask me from where I come from. When I used to tell them that I am from Tripura, they were confused and asked me if I was from to Bangladesh. This is what we have to face. Many people don’t know where Tripura is. At least they should be aware of states in India.”

Extending its solidarity to the online campaign, the Rajiv Gandhi University Research Scholars’ Forum of Arunachal Pradesh in a statement said, “….We have been noticing several incidents relating to verbal and racial abuse of students and residents from Northeastern states residing in mainland India owing to studies and jobs. The scenario portrays their lack of demographical and societal knowledge of the country and its provinces, which signifies a very dangerous situation for livelihood in those states. We, from the intellectual community, strongly condemn the mistreatment of northeastern people by those in the mainland.”

As part of the strategy, the Twitter campaign will tag Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union home minister Amit Shah, Union minister for education Ramesh Pokhriyal, Union minister of state for youth affairs Kiren Rijiju and the chief ministers of the eight northeastern states, demanding the inclusion of a chapter on northeast India in NCERT textbooks.