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The tribals in Tripura have suffered due to unemployment and ignorance at the hands of their own people 
The tribals in Tripura have suffered due to unemployment and ignorance at the hands of their own people |EastMojo image
OPINION

No one feels our tears: Silenced stories from NE’s remote corners

The apathy towards those whose stories never get reported is a part of a complex system where the meaning of reality and representation are in disorder

Sunil Kalai

We can only see what we are able to see, what we are asked to see and what the society allows us to see. Media is the influence of culture and culture is the production of human society. Messages of journalism are meant to mirror reality. In this situation, reality is unchanging and the meaning is unchanging. In today’s context, it is mystifying to say whether we can rely on media or should we fear media; this happens for simple reason that most of the mass media houses are turning into money media. The youths of today are in the crossroads of reality representation or representation of reality. What is construction by media remains opposite of that was said. Perhaps it could be media representation of constructed reality.

“Our past is silenced and present is suppressed,” said a 65-year-old widow, Lambuma (name changed), from Dwar Kai Kalai Para under the Jampuijala subdivision of Sipahijala district of Tripura. Her eyes were filled with tears, she was pale and soft with fear from the shock of losing her eldest son Lamaorai 17 years ago. “Everything was fine but it all happened and life has taken different turn. Now, I am a widow of 65 years old, can they bring back my son?”

This is a story of a family which might sound unique to us but common to many mothers like Lambuma; their everyday life is an experience with the moist of uncertainties with not much of choices but live as much as life blesses them. The death of Lamaorai 17 years ago still haunts the memories of many mothers as they live a sorrowful life. To those mothers nothing is more important than to live a normal life; happiness and blissful life is all they wish for. After her son was brutally killed, the man responsible for her son’s death offered her all support and financial help. The innocent mother blissfully accepted it. There was no record of FIR and no postmortem report for the cause for her son’s death, not even a single newspaper addressed to this incident; this is the fate of the oppressed.

A few weeks ago, I met a boy, 17 or 18 years old, who claimed to be Maheel Jamatia from a nearby village of mine. Like many other young boys and girls of his age, Maheel discontinued school when he just 10 and started working in a hotel somewhere in Hyderabad. “I left my studies because I could see many of my elders not getting job despite going to school every day. It is a waste of time going to school since it cannot provide us with money. If I work, I get money, but if I go to school, we starve for most of the days. For me earning for daily bread is more important than wasting our money on books and school uniforms which we can’t afford.”

Maheel calmly confessed about himself; he is of the opinion that education cannot do much help since he had seen for some years that many educated people remained jobless in the Northeastern. We see many of the youths of region particularly from Tripura migrating into other big cities in search of work. Many of the youths are engaged working in hotels, shops, etc. This trend has erupted over the past 20 years; the youths are in the crossroads between living a quality life versus scarifying their own homeland in the hope of searching for better earning beyond the states. How do we address these issues? What should be our role in shaping the life of the youths? What should be the role of media in the democratic society? Should not these unspoken stories be heard? Should we still remain confused in dividing ourselves on the basis of religion, education, caste and creed? It’s time we think of unity rather than uniformity.

“Who will speak for us when we cry? Who will see our tears when nobody takes our pictures? The national parties will always toe their party line and there is no one fighting for our people, raising our issues. People need to know this is the land of tribals. The problem starts when you do not accept or know this, so you want everything to be yours. If you respect me, I will respect you, but there is no mutual respect. They are encroaching on our right to employment, our right on land and all the other opportunities that present themselves. How can we accept it? Yes, we have limitations. We know that and they also have their rights but they must share these rights with us,” said Bijoy Kumar Hrangkhawl, ex-MLA belonging to the Indigenous Nationalist Party of Tripura (INPT), while talking to a journalist from Tehelka magazine on December 18, 2010 on the question why he joined politics.

Are our problems and issues, reality constructed or constructed reality? What comes to my mind every time in reflecting on the issues of what we see in reality and reflected in the media is an eagerness to do something for humanity. What makes our region behind is the mindset, an ideology of foolishness over a period of time and not to deny to the fact of false consciousness.

Renaming of Agartala airport in the name of Maharaja Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya Bahadur by the government in power is the gesture of respect to the history of the people of Tripura. Many such other initiatives taken by the present government shows some hopes for the parents of those children who are into drugs. Anti-drugs and environmental awareness campaigns by the current Tripura CM Biplab Kumar Deb are some of the positive signs that the citizens are living with the hope of a better tomorrow.

In the past, the proposal to rename Agartala airport as Kabiguru Rabindranath Tagore airport after the Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore did not disappoint the general public but evoked a thought-provoking question, whether, the most responsible leader like former chief minister Manik Sarkar and former MP Jitendra Choudhury acknowledge and respect the history of Tripura, forgetting about the contribution of the royal dynasty.

What is the lesson that the young generation is learning? They learn what is taught to them, but yes, they want to learn the true history. The older generation needs to acknowledge about the existence from the past to future.

On October 24, 1992, Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC), an autonomous body constituted under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution of India with its headquarters at Khumlwng, Tripura, established a hostel in Shillong for Tripura boys on lease for a period of 99 years. The land measuring 33,685 sq ft is situated at Mawblei in Madanrting. However, it has no proper toilets, kitchen and during the rainy season residents cannot sleep because of the rain dropping inside their rooms since the roofs leak, said Jugal Kishore Tripura, captain of the Tripura Boys Hostel, Shillong in the year 2006. “We cannot study at night because there is power cut due to non-payment of electricity bill for many years,” I recalled what he said.

Today, Jugal Kishore has become a successful police officer, serving in the government of Tripura. If my memory does not fail, there is another version. “We have sent letters of prayer for help and renovation work for the buildings and stipends but nothing is given to us. Prayers after prayers, requests after requests, everything remains in vain. When the leaders come to visit us, they go back after giving us big talks. When we go to Agartala to meet them, we never get appointment. We are sad because our own government is not doing anything for us. We really do not know whom to trust,” those were the echoes from him more than 15 years ago.

In the past the students’ community remained affected due to lack of proper infrastructure and facilities in Shillong, unlike the students of other Northeastern states. In the past, we had had many leaders in Tripura but not a righteous one. It reminds us of the verse in the bible, “For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened,” Matthew 7:8, but in the case the Tripura, students in Shillong 15 years ago must have found this to be strange when it comes to their demands from the previous state government.

The situation seemed opposite to “If a son asks a father for bread, will he give a son a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a snake?” Mathew: 7: 9-10. Is this verse a standing point? These are few of the insight stories one must listen and understand on the complexities pertaining towards the development of the region. With many such stories, we shall continue to come up to give voices in the present day to those silenced in the past.

(The author is a PhD, research scholar at AJK MCRC, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi and assistant professor of journalism and mass communication at Tripura University. Views expressed are his own)