Among north-eastern states, Arunachal Pradesh is the only state that wholeheartedly takes part in the Independence Day celebrations. But it was not so until the 1962 Indo-China war. On August 15, 1947 most of the locals might not even know that they got a country that day. A nation might not bear any significance for them then. They would not have launched any rebellion had British decided to give away the vast Himalayan territory to China. It was after the 1962 war that most Arunachalees realised the significance of a nation. Since then they ‘belonged’ to India as they felt the need of a nation to protect them from the Chinese. The other north-eastern states do not have any hostile neighbour. There is little chance of any aggression either from Bangladesh or Myanmar! As such, spirit of nationhood is related to external threat to security of the locals.
In north India, we get to see ultra nationalism especially when it comes to matters related to Pakistan. The five wars fought between the countries might have contributed to the very high spirit of nationalism in states of the region. Of course, the religious divide multiplied by Partition also came into play in boosting the spirit of nationhood. No wonder, most of the jawans and officers in the armed forces hail from the states of Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. Hundreds of them were fallen by the bullets and bayonets of the Chinese in the mountains of Arunachal at a time when locals found it hard to distinguish between the enemy and fellow citizens. In fact, ethnically and culturally they were more close to the Chinese than the ‘Indians’ they saw in their land!
Yet, the nationhood spirit is catching up slowly in the Norh-east. Increased media campaign, NE people’s movement to other parts of country and rest of the world are factors helping NEans feel more Indian than ever. Instances right from a Naga girl making headlines for taking up the broom on the ghats of Varanasi to Mary Kom winning an Olympic bronze for the nation have too helped the people to identify with Indian nationhood. However, like it or not, these elements play minor role in binding a nation compared to security threat from the foreign soil. So do we need some kind of serious external security threat for seeing more tricolors fluttering in the homes and streets of NE states? Certainly not! Let the nationhood spirit grow on its own. After all we are just a six-decade old nation! The bond of unity will be stronger in the country in the coming decades, centuries.
(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on August 15, 2015)