Multiculturalism and Intercultural Dialogue in North-East Region (NER) of India∗

Publication Date01 July 2016
Date01 July 2016
AuthorKham Khan Suan Hausing
DOI10.1177/0019556120160305
SubjectArticle
MULTICULTURALISM AND INTERCULTURAL
DIALOGUE IN NORTH-EAST REGION (NER)
OF
INDIA*
KHAM KHAN SUAN HAUSING
This article attempts
to
bridge the missing link in
states
narrative and intercultural dialogue
in
North-East India which
has
for
long been informed respectively by the "law and
order"
approach and monological discourse. It does this by revisiting
the tradition
of
knowing a complex and diverse region, and by
unravelling the post-colonial anxieties not only
of
the Indian
state-nation but also that
of
the diverse tribal communities
in the region in grappling with ethnonational diversities.
It problematises the monological discourse
and
"law
and
order" approach
of
the Indian state-nation building project
and invokes the imperative
of
recognising the multicultural
overtones
of
ethno-nationalist manoeuvres especially that
of
the Nagas and the
Zo.
The article also examines the challenges
and opportunities opened up
by
India s
Look East Policy and
addresses evolving issues like double citizenship and trans-
national citizenship.
INTRODUCTION
INDIA'S
NER
is home to diverse tribes and communities. The ethnocultural
boundaries
of
many
of
these tribes spread across national and international
boundaries. Not surprisingly, the region has witnessed sustained irredentist
movements
of
some trans border tribes, specifically that
of
the Na gas and Zo
(invariably known as "Chin", "Kuki" and "Mizo"/ "Lushai
'I
"Zomi") since
the 1950s and 60s. At the macro level, as their ethnonationalist manoeuvres
*An earlier version was presented at the international symposium on lntercultural Dialogue
between North East India
and
South East Asia jointly organised
by
the Indira Gandhi
Na
ti
on al
Centre for the Arts
(IGNCA)
and
North-East India Studies Programme, Jawaharlal Nehru
University,
New
Delhi (March 17-20, 2010).
400
I
INDIAN
JOURNAL
OF
PUBLIC
ADMINISTRATION
VOL.
LXJJ.
NO.
3.
JULY-SEPTEMBER 2016
run counter to/parallel to Indian state-nation building project, they are
considered
to
be
"anti-national", "insurgency" movement, etc. and are
conveniently treated
as
"law and order" problem. While this approach may
be useful in understanding the ethnonationalist manoeuvres
of
certain tribal
groups
in
NER, it misreads their actual nature. A nuanced understanding
and an "interpretive" reading
of
their manoeuvres would show that the urge
for "equality
of
cultures", a key project
of
multiculturalism,
1
underpins the
demand to recognise their unique history, identities and political situations
(Geertz 1973: 255-310; Hausing 2014, 2016; Kymlicka 1992; Shimray
2004; Xaxa 2005; Zou 2010; Suan 2011; Piang 2013). Also intertwined
with these are fundamental concerns
of
multiculturalism today, viz.,
protection
of
minority rights, identities and culture by according "equality
of
circumstances" to minorities. This article underscores the necessity to
foreground multiculturalism and the tradition
of
knowing the North-East
to better understand its society, culture and politics.
At the micro level such ethnonationalist manoeuvres have taken the
inward and horizontal turn. Inwardly ethnonationalist manoeuvres are
increasingly considered to expose the "multicultural vulnerability"
2
of
minority tribes who feel increasingly insecure about their "unique cultures,
identities, and rights" in their own perceived homelands. Horizontally,
the aspiration to carve out "greater homeland" to sustain the autonomous
"societal culture(s)"
of
some tribal groups, especially the Nagas, signaled
alarm bells across neighbouring societies for whom the "unity, integrity,
and security"
of
their States cannot be compromised. There
is
a crying need
not only
to
make the extant asymmetric federal democratic institutions
under Article
371
A, 371G and the Sixth Schedule
3
more robust which
would help process and accommodate such ethnonationalist demands, but
also a compelling necessity to initiate, broaden and sustain intercultural
dialogue both within and across communities. Such a dialogue must be
informed by inclusive "tradition
of
knowledge"4 which underscores the
interconnectedness
of
cultures and identities in a complex social setting
like India's North-East, Zomia
5
or elsewhere.
This article
is
a modest attempt to bridge the missing link in state's
narrative and intercultural dialogue which have for long been informed
respectively by the "law and order" approach and monological discourse,
by which the author implies the unidimensality
of
political discourse which
precludes
an
alternative and a holistic discourse to emerge. The article
is divided into five sections. Section
II
revisits the tradition
of
knowing
a complex and diverse region like the
NER
by examining the historical
contexts which underpin cultural transformations and "imagined worlds," to
borrow Arjun Appadurai ( 1990),
of
various "imagined" tribal communities

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