On Friday (June 4), over 30 student unions and organisations in India started a movement on Twitter, demanding the inclusion of a comprehensive chapter on the North-Eastern States in the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) curriculum.
The movement was led on the micro-blogging platform with hashtags of ‘A Chapter for NE’ and ‘Northeast Matters’ between 6 pm to 8 pm on Friday. It was supported by activists, politicians, students, and academics from Tripura, Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, and Sikkim. The objective behind the Twitter storm was to draw the attention of the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) and NCERT to include a mandatory chapter on North-East India in school textbooks.
The Twitter campaign came at the backdrop of recent events that have sparked a debate around the alienation and racial discrimination faced by North-Easterns in other States. Lingdam Kane, the President of All Arunachal Student Union of Chandigarh, informed, “Because of racial discrimination, many people of the northeastern states have faced problems. We as students, who go to other states to pursue our studies, face racial discrimination at least 6-7 times a month.”
He further added, “We cannot say that the movement will completely eradicate the racial discrimination but it will sure to help to minimise it.” Kane emphasised that the history of the North East and its people had disappeared from Indian textbooks and the inclusion of a chapter on its demography and history will help disseminate knowledge among people in the mainland. Mayur Jyoti Kaushik, a student in Assam, said that a chapter on the region’s history, culture, ethnicity, and lifestyle can ensure that children don’t grow up to be ignorant about North-East.
Netizens trend ‘A Chapter for NE’, and ‘North East Matters’
Hima Das, the Indian sprinter from Assam, participated in the Twitter storm on Friday. She tweeted, “As a proud citizen of India, I want our textbooks to include all its colours and glory. So I request concerned authorities to include a chapter about NE in the NCERT syllabus. #AchapterforNE #NortheastMatters”
Popular Twitter user Amit Singh Rajawat wrote, “We know about Chatrapati shivaji or Maharana Pratap, but how many of us know abt Lachit Borpukhan? It’s unfortunate that #NCERT books don’t have a chapter on NE.
I’m a North Indian and I support the demand of our NE brothers to add #AchapterforNE in @ncert books.”
The events that triggered the Twitter movement
The Twitter movement, meant to raise awareness about the existence, culture, demography, population, and history of the North-East, was spearheaded by two recent incidents. On May 25, Punjab police had arrested popular YouTuber Paras Singh after a case was registered against him for making a racist slur against former Arunachal Pradesh MP and incumbent Congress legislator Ninong Ering in one of his videos.
Paras had called Ering a non-Indian and Arunachal Pradesh as a part of China. It was after the Congress legislator wrote a letter to PM Modi, asking to ban the re-launch of PUBG Mobile India’s new avatar Battlegrounds Mobile India. The Youtuber was then brought to Itanagar on May 27. He was also given lessons on Arunachal Pradesh’s history and culture and was taught about the international border separating India and China. Paras has now been sent to judicial custody.
The ignorance displayed by the popular Youtuber in his video rekindled discussions about racism and ignorance about the people of North-East India. To add salt to the wound, India Today journalist Rahul Kanwal suggested that Nagaland was not a part of India. He made the embarrassing faux pas while discussing the repartition of mehul Choksi from Dominica with Rupin Sharma, Nagaland DGP and author of the book ‘Extradition’.
During the TV debate, Sharma had briefly lost his connection. After being reconnected to the live feed, Sharma apologised and said that there was a power cut. “Don’t worry, you are in Nagaland, electricity goes off even in India, please go on,” Kanwal responded. Netizens were quick to question the journalist if he thought Nagaland was not a part of India. Although he had since apologised for the slip of tongue, his Freudian slip made the North Easterns understand the urgent need for a mandatory and comprehensive chapter on the region.