A Taste of North-East India in Coimbatore

For the first time ever in any Literary Festival in India, a panel discussion on North-East Bharat was one of the most awaited and unique sessions. The recently concluded two-day long Western Ghats Literary Festival organised by The Verandah Club in the city of Coimbatore hosted a session titled ‘Look North-East’ that saw author of the best-selling series Saffron Swords Manoshi Sinha, a Bishnupriya Manipuri victim of exodus in conversation with North-East India expert Dr. Ankita Dutta.

Born and brought up in the once insurgency-ravaged Tinsukia district of Assam, Manoshi Sinha opened the panel with several references to North-East India and its people, her experiences of being a ‘North-Easterner’ in the National Capital of India, and certain stereotypes about the region and its people in other parts of the country. The conversation was taken over from here by Dr. Ankita Dutta who aptly narrated the reasons behind the misinformation surrounding the North-East as a region.

Dr. Ankita Dutta spoke in detail about the continuous neglect of the North-East by the successive Governments at the Centre after Independence, the tacit support provided to the religious proselytisation activities of the Christian missionaries by the Central Government post-1947, and the subsequent rise of several armed insurgencies in the region, instigated by many non-state actors. She also clearly explained the reasons behind a negative portrayal of the North-East in the Indian media and by the Left academia.

Most importantly, Dr. Ankita brought to light the cultural genocide of the Hindu civilization in the North-East. The impact of a Western culture upon the people of this region has changed their sense of identity and belongingness, especially the youth. With various inputs from her decade-long experience of working in the field since her days as a PhD student, she enlightened the audience through several examples of how Hindus have been systematically annihilated from the North-East.

Manoshi Sinha beautifully narrated the history of the Bishnupriya Manipuris with reference to the brutal Burmese invasions of the 17th-18th centuries that led to the exodus of the Meiteis and Bishnupriyas to different parts of the North-East and even neighbouring countries such as Bangladesh. A touch of emotion was added by her in the speech when she spoke about the several dying languages of North-East India, specifically mentioning in this context her own mother-tongue, the Bishnupriya Manipuri language.

Both the speakers referred to the ongoing crisis in Manipur during the discussion. Dr. Ankita dissected the causes of this conflict, the civilizational struggle of the Hindus in Manipur to survive amidst the changing demography of their state, and the larger agenda of the anti-India forces to destabilise Manipur at a time when many vital infrastructure projects are almost on the verge of their completion. The panel wrapped up with Dr. Ankita talking about Assam’s Majuli in the context of religious conversions.

Both Manoshi Sinha and Dr. Ankita Dutta referred to their upcoming book titled ‘The Manipur Conundrum: History. Exodus. Conversion’, co-authored with social activist Vladimir Adityanath, while talking about the Manipur conflict. Wonderfully curated by noted Pune-based writer and social media influencer Shefali Vaidya, the Second Edition of the Western Ghats Literary Festival saw 11 book launches. Top authors, journalists, and people from various professional backgrounds graced the event.

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