Much Ado

The much-hyped Union home ministry affairs-constituted Bezbaruah Committee to look into the security concerns of citizens from the North-east living in Delhi and other metropolitan cities and recommend measures to tackle these has not yielded results.

Set up in February last year in the aftermath of the death of Arunachal Pradesh student Nido Tania and numerous cases of assault against people from the region in metro cities, the report was submitted in July.The ministry reportedly accepted the committee’s recommendations. At a meeting in February chaired by Union minister of state for home Kiren Rijiju and attended by representatives of various ministries concerned, the Delhi Police and NE state Bhawans, it was stated that the judicial division of the ministry had informed the legislative department of law and justice to incorporate an amendment in IPC Sections 153C and 509A in the draft of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill 2015 and introduce it in the recentlyconcluded Parliament session.This, though, did not take place.

With regard to the recommendation for legal assistance, the Delhi legal services authority was directed to constitute a panel of seven lawyers, including five women, exclusively to assist people from the North-east states.While this is yet to materialise, many cases are pending. The long drawn out legal process has forced many to give up. Last year alone there had been numerous cases of assault, including the rape of a 14-year-old Manipuri girl and the murder of a Naga youth.

Special police initiatives,exclusively for Northeastern people, were also recommended and there had been suggestions for a special recruitment drive. But till date there has been no report of such recruitment. The only initiative taken up was the formation of a list of state-wise “representatives” to assist the police.Their main job is to receive calls and be a “contact point” for any issue arising and report cases to the police/ police stations. These “representatives” are not employed staff. Nor was it recommended by the Bezbaruah Committee or the Union home ministry; it was done purely on a philanthropic basis under the “special cell” of the Delhi Police. They are not officially recognized though they carry identity cards as “representatives”.

Instead of catering to an emergency, the police helpline, 1093, has drawn bizarre responses. According to an IANS report in March this year, the helpline received unrelated and ridiculous calls. The report says that since its operation from October till March, the helpline got 27 telephone calls,mostly unrelated to North-east issues or problems. 

The only action taken so far is on festivals and events. Upon recommendation of the Bezbaruah Committee, the home ministry has asked several ministries and institutions, such as the Union Information and Broadcasting, Culture and Sports ministries, the University Grants Commission, the National Council for Educational Research and Training, etc, to take up publicity and programmes to showcase the North-east and hold interactive sessions. As far as publicity, cultural and festival extravaganzas are concerned,many events have been organised.

Educational institutions are holding conferences/ lectures on the North-east. Scholarships for students of the region in graduate and postgraduate courses have been announced. The UGC and NCERT have plans to introduce chapters and revise their subjects to include in the text-books pertaining to the history, geography and socio-culture of North-east India. The Sangeet Natak Academy and Lalit Kala Academy are preparing an action plan to conduct cultural activities.

The Bezbaruah Committee is said to have suggested amendment of rent laws. But the Centre proposed construction of a hostel and effective use of the existing one, such as the working womens’ hostel, constructed in 2012 at Jasola. On the payment of salaries, the ministry has suggested North-east youths to approach the Labour Department.

In a rather impractical move, as per recommendation of the Bezbaruah Committee, the Union home ministry has asked the resident commissioners of each of the North-east states in Delhi to provide detail data of students, professionals, businessmen, workers/labourers from the North-east to the Delhi Police joint commissioner. While there are more than 200,000 North-easterns in Delhi alone (as per the estimate by the Centre for North-east Study and Policy Research, JMI 2013), such data would be practically impossible to compile. Moreover, there has never been a “data compilation” of people who move from their region/state to another within the country. This is rather ridiculous. The North-east population comprises internal migrants, unlike people moving from one country to another.

While migration is a universal phenomenon, is the movement of the North-east people within their own country something that is unique or extraordinary? The issue/problem of the North-east population in metro cities is about crime and violence and should be tackled as such, and not be treated as something extraordinary or complex lest it unwittingly and unfortunately facilitate an exclusion rather than an inclusion.

The Statesman ( NE page) 
April 20, 2015


A taste of North East

Food can be the window to a culture and instantly provide deep insights into the everyday life of the people. It is also a wonderful tool of soft diplomacy, as it effortlessly builds bridges across regions, religions, castes and class lines. These factors, and the reality that not much is either known or been written about the rich cuisine from Northeast India compelled journalist and author Hoihnu Hauzel, who hails from Manipur, to pen ‘The Essential North-East Cookbook’, which offers a variety of wonderful flavours from the region. She has recently brought out the second edition of this guide to “exotic delicacies that are not a part of mainstream Indian fare”. In this one-on-one, Hauzel talks about her passion for food and how it’s just a matter of time before northeast food becomes widely popular. In addition, the author shares two of her favourite recipes.

Q: You’ve been a long-time journalist and columnist. How did your journey as a food writer begin?
A: I developed an interest in exploring and talking about food from the Northeast quite early. I was once asked to give a talk on our regional cuisine on the occasion of International Women’s Day by the All India Radio in Manipur and that led me to go deeper into researching on local foods and food habits. That is when I realised that not only is there very little known about our cuisine but, more importantly, there is no written information available. It sparked off an interest within me and I began to write regularly on our delicacies.

Q: What’s your food philosophy?
A: I see food as a means to bond and also to bridge the regional divide. For me, food is what keeps my relationships and friendships going. I reach out to my friends, who are not from the Northeast, through food. I love to invite them over and cook special meals. I even share ingredients from back home with them. What I have observed over the years is that there is a keen interest to learn more about our food. In fact, I truly believe that food is the most effortless way to understand a people and their culture. When someone is familiar with the food of a particular community, s/he is naturally inclined to gain deeper insights into their life and respect their traditions.

Q: So what is food from the Northeast all about?
A: The dishes from the Northeast are not heavy on oil and spices and yet are delicious. They are perfect for health freaks and weight watchers. We use several locally grown aromatic herbs which makes them exotic. They are light, healthy and easy to prepare. Simplicity, in fact, is the hallmark of the cuisine. The basic components of a meal are steamed or boiled rice, accompanied by a gravy-based meat or fish dish, chutney and washed down with a soup of boiled vegetables.

Yet, while the basics are similar there are differences in the foods consumed and the methods of preparation, based on religion and culture. For instance, the tribes that are not influenced by Hinduism relish meat, while Hindu communities like the Asomiyas of Assam eat fish and mutton, and the Meiteis of Manipur eat fish at the very most. People from the predominantly Christian states of Nagaland, Mizoram, Meghalaya, and about 40 per cent of the Manipuris do not have any religious restrictions in their diet.

GALHO (Nagaland)
Rice with vegetable
*     Half cup rice
*     Leaves of one medium-sized cabbage (washed and torn into 1” pieces by hand)
*     5 French beans (trimmed and broken into small pieces by hand)
*     1 tomato (chop)
*     5 large mustard leaves (washed and shredded by hand)
*     1 tbsp ginger (chopped)
*     1 medium-sized onion (chopped)
*     1 tbsp garlic (chopped)
*     3 green chillies (chopped)
Salt to taste
Serves: 7
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes
1.     Wash rice and drain.
2.     Place two-and-a-half cups of water in a pan and bring to boil over high heat.
2.     Add rice, bring to boil again, lower heat, cover pan and simmer till rice is fluffy and soft.
4.     Mix in remaining ingredients, and continue simmering over low heat, stirring occasionally till the vegetables are done.
Serve hot or cold.
Variation: Add either chicken or pork shredded into pieces into the mixture.
(Note: The dish is usually served in the afternoon as a snack. In the old days, it was taken to the fields for lunch by the cultivators. Today, Galho is served as a delicacy in most restaurants in Nagaland)

DOHNEILONG (Meghalaya)
Khasi pork dish cooked with black sesame seeds
*     1 kg pork
*     4 medium sized onions, sliced
*     2 tbsp garlic paste
*     2 tbsp black sesame seeds
*     A pinch of turmeric powder
*     1 tbsp salt
1.     Wash pork, drain thoroughly and cut into three-inch pieces
2.     Place pork in a cooker over low heat and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring constantly till the fat oozes out.
3.     Remove meat from the cooker and set aside.
4.     Add the remaining ingredients and cook, stirring frequently till the fat separates.
5.     Add the pork and cook for about 5 minutes.
6.     Pour in two cups of water, close the cooker and cook under pressure for 15 minutes.
    Serve hot.  

March 2015