I read an article in ''The Shillong Times'' where the author Patricia Mukhim, who is also the editor of this newspaper, came down heavily on the elites of tribal societies in Meghalaya saying that they too should be paying the elusive Income Tax. The divide between haves and have nots among the tribal societies have widened, she contends exacerbating social tensions. Nothing is 'black money' for them as nothing is taxed. She mentions the names of some politicians as examples of such illustrious venality and notoreity.
This is a truthful comment on the kind of yawning gap which exists in the tribal societies of North East India. This has led to student movements, call for a transparent Lokyukta, NGOs championing civil rights and of course militarism.
The point of the matter is when societies are divided into haves and have nots sharply the forces of self determinism come into existence. Their main discontent is against the irascibility and corruption within, but the outward manifestation could take the shape of ethnicity or an ostensible grouse against 'outsiders'. And of course there are people to take advantage of this.
This is the crux in North East India, discontent from within is giving rise to malcontents, who want equitable distribution of money, resources, and the funds which keep pouring in. The political class is the target, because their wealth is in open display, or the wealth of the people they are in cahoots with. And this then becomes symptomatic of a grouse against the majority, or the immediate minority which is perceived as part of the larger majority constituting the country. The minority, part of the larger majority also does little to bridge hiatus, and contributes too, to the severance of societies. Thus the 'us' and 'them' syndrome come into existence and is irreparable. But the basis is the fragmentation of these societies into 'haves' and 'have nots' , unbridled corruption in a region, remote controlled by New Delhi, which believes in distributing largesse which is lapped up by a chosen few, or the blue eyed boys of the ruling dispensation. In a region where industrial opportunities are little, if not infinitesimal, where the states are landlocked, and where little is done to promote artisanship or indigeneous production, the elite and wealthy weigh heavily on the poor.
Recently as per reports, the tea tribes of Assam are demanding Scheduled Tribe status and there are apprehensions of Maoist influences there. Moreover the Paresh Barua faction of the ULFA have also been reported to have struck a chord with the Maosists. The tea tribes of Assam have their origins in areas like Jharkhand, but the tea tribes of Tripura have also been accorded Scheduled Tribe status.
Patricia Mukhim's article is a pointer towards a regression in tribal societies, because of an upper crust deriving all the wealth fair or/ and foul. The general disenchantment is towards the 'outsider' or the land grabbing immigrant but the symptoms are deeper within the fissures of society leading to social and economic crisis. The scapegoat is the 'outsider' a belief propagated from within, by the wealthy and the supposed elite.Her article is poignant truth telling, from where inferences can be drawn where exploitatio is by both the non tribal and the tribal, in common fellowship with the wily politician. Non tribals can also illegally possess land in false transactions, she asserts by using tribal names. Hence the conflict is basically of class, not 'caste '!