Society

Homeland

I had recently watched a Quint video on refugees who have escaped from Imphal, mainly from the Kuki community, presently sheltered in New Delhi. Their tales are heart-rending. A 58-year-old lady has managed to flee with minimal clothing, an elderly mother of 87 years, and a sister with down syndrome and her three children. She says that all her life she has lived in Imphal, and considers it her home. Her 87-year-old mother even now long to go back to her home. 

When my father was ailing and living with me in Faridabad before his final passing he would fervently hope to visit Shillong, the place that possibly he considered as his home. Like most non-tribals, after his retirement, he too moved elsewhere but the cravings for visiting and staying in Shillong did remain till his last days. 

The entire politics of the world and in India too, revolve around the notion of Homeland. A homeland for the Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs...a narrow vision of any Homeland for the natives would exclude the minority, much like the 58-year-old refugee or my father and their ilk. But as technologies have converted the world into a global village, the benefits of technology can be used to bring about a more just and equitable society. 

The concept of a utopic Homeland is a mirage. In real-life, experiences teach us that a few members of a family, and even many couples, can't live in peace and harmony. The advocacy for a Homeland usually comes from a politician often with an ulterior motive. My son who grew up in North India finds himself at ease here, and so the affinity for his own culture, unlike me, is thin. That I would say is the crux of the issue. 

When this country was partitioned and a separate Homeland for Muslims was carved out, did that bring happiness for its citizens in that country? The merging and the breaking of Nation gives rise to newer Homeland for a set of people. Homeland isn't a static concept. But how worthwhile is this fight for one's own Homeland justified since it comes to fruition, if at all, at the expense of great human tragedies? What really stops us from embracing 'Vasudhiva  Kutumbakam' - the whole world is our family.

The partition must have displaced more than half the population in some states like undivided Bengal and erstwhile Punjab from their native land. I as well as my father have never been or have any special attachment for Barisal, a place in Bangladesh where our forefathers had lived in pre-partitioned India. Economic and other compulsion must have forced them to move to Kolkata in the first decade of the twentieth century and thereafter to Shillong for reasons of livelihood. I grew up in Shillong and that place is still a big part of all that I am today.

Sometime back, in a Shillong based site, I read a story by a Bengali lady based in New Delhi now. In that story, she spoke about the tremendous hardship the migrant community faced during Covid walking great distances towards their home. She lamented that even though the struggle was arduous the migrants had a home to go to, while she has none. The lady who had spent her early years in Shillong must have moved out of the place bag and baggage with her family to Mainland India probably because of the political situation that prevailed in the town. 

In the Contemporary world, the developed West is showing maturity by giving recognition to minority voices, and so we have a premier in UK from a community represented by less than 3 percent of the population in that country. Before someone reminds me of Dr. Manmohan Singh and India having done the same I would say that indeed India has shown the path but the next instance may not be happening anytime soon. 

16-Sep-2023

More by :  Subhajit Ghosh

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