Let people, not politicians, be the centre of our election coverage
Editor-in-Chief of EastMojo, Karma Paljor

To say that we started 2022 with both relief and trepidation would be an understatement. 2021 had been, without doubt, the bloodiest year in recent times in the Northeast, like the rest of India, thanks to the pandemic. In January this year, there were murmurs of an impending third wave of the pandemic, but it never turned into reality.

Which meant that after two years, the region could return to a sense of normalcy, and what better than elections to push the idea that things were back to normal? Manipur elections were everything they promised to be: high-powered, frantic, pulsating, and of course, violent. Our documentary on the same did what few other media outlets did: it humanised the violence, showing us the true cost of what we lose while those in power enjoy the power. The results? Expected to say the least: the BJP improved its performance, but in many ways, it was also a testament to the leadership of N Biren Singh. And under him, the BJP is safe and secure in Manipur for the time being.

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But perhaps the biggest news from Manipur emerged in a tragedy. I will never forget the sight that greeted me and my camera person Mukut Medhi as we stood on top of the hill, or whatever remained of it, and looked down as over 50 people lay dead, scattered over kilometres, following a huge landslide in the Noney district. The fact that this happened in an ongoing railway project hurt us even more. I will admit that I was stunned at how little the mainland media cared about the issue. Returning from that trip once again reaffirmed to me the importance of EastMojo as a digital media platform.

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Of course, I have not forgotten about the havoc we witnessed in the rainy season and, in fact, the ‘summer’ season. The floods of Dima Hasao and Silchar in Assam, the never-ending landslides in Meghalaya, Sikkim and Arunachal, and the ‘drought’ that followed was a grim reminder of the scale of climate change we are witnessing, but that is something I have touched upon in a previous editorial.

It was not all doom and gloom, of course: this year, more than ever, I witnessed how the entrepreneurial spirit has spread in our region. From mushroom-preneurs to people choosing to stay at home and start businesses after losing their jobs to the pandemic, I can say that the start-up culture in our region is stronger than ever. May this continue for many years to come; our region needs to become the start-up capital of India.

After the bloody July 2021 affair witnessed between Assam and Mizoram, it was heartening that the situation between the two states has improved. While there have been tensions in that region again, thankfully, 2021 did not repeat itself.

But if last year we had the Assam-Mizoram border, this year we had the Assam-Meghalaya border which hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons. We have done several stories and videos on what conspired in Mukroh, which led to the death of six innocents but suffice it to say, it is high time our state borders issues are resolved.

This also brings me to Meghalaya, which perhaps had the toughest year in the Northeast this year. Barely a week passed when we did not cover something going wrong in Meghalaya: from teachers going on strike to non-locals being attacked, I hope that the 2023 elections usher in a much more peaceful period for the residents of this amazing state.

But is there a chance we might have another state in the Northeast? That depends on who you talk to in Nagaland. Six districts of Nagaland want their own state: and some say, they are justified in their demands. Others nod their heads but refuse to say much. I am not sure if the demand will materialise. However, it once again reminds us that within states, some regions are much more backward than others and if people think making a new state can help address it, why not. And if it helps weed out corruption, even more so.

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But Arunachal residents do not need a new state. Instead, at the end of 2022, they demand answers: who was responsible for the Arunachal Pradesh Public Service Commission (APPSC) question paper leak case? At a time when Arunachal is trying to impress upon its people that they are promoting a transparent, paperless government, such leaks are a rude reality check.

Last, I would say this: we have four states heading to elections in the coming year. Democracy is only as strong as its electorate. Every resident must ensure they participate in this process in whatever capacity they can. Our region, more than any other region, needs its people to be more active. We do not need only good leaders, we also need a responsible electorate.

In Tripura, for example, party members, irrespective of their ideologies, must shun violence at all costs. In Meghalaya and Nagaland, this means we must no longer vote for those who fool us in the name of the community and keep us wanting for the next five years. Above all, I hope we strengthen democracy in our region. Because while some might feel otherwise, there is no such thing as too much democracy.

Also Read | School children & soldiers: Road accidents killed our brightest this week 

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