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Wednesday, February 6, 2019

/ Published by VIRTHLI
~ Kh.Thang Dailo

Brother Dilip D. Paranjape is very kind to ask me to write my experience with Students Experience in Inter-state Living (SEIL) and My Home is India (MHI) project organized in the year 1966 through which I was one of the students coming to Bombay from Northeast India. I am privileged to be a part of SEIL and MHI, who have taken initiative in reaching out to the Northeast people with the intention of attaining national integration, the very essence of India’s ‘unity in diversity’.  I am now over 70 years of age and much of my memories of important events in my life have vanished and find it difficult to write about them. However, my experience with SEIL and MHI has such an impact in my life that it is an unforgettable event that I am happy to write about.

I am glad to read an article by the famous journalist Shekhar Gupta about Northeast India titled Northeast’s India Problem in INDIA TODAY, July 29, 2015 issue. After more than 50 years, influential writers like Gupta has now began to realize the importance of understanding the Northeast people and the many issues which surrounds them. Still, there are those, before Gupta who have already painstakingly took the initiative in integrating Northeast people with their ‘mainland’ brothers and sisters. Way back in 1966 (almost 50 years ago) SEIL and MHI under the leadership of Brother Padmanabha B Acharya initiated building bridges between ‘mainland’ India and the Northeast by hosting young tribal boys and girls from the Northeast into the homes of families in Mumbai. Through this experience, I have come to realize that emotional integration is essential for national integration.  

Shekhar Gupta has rightfully narrated ways and means to tackle Northeast problems and issues in the socio-political discourse by opining thus: 

As with Kashmir, our commitment to this region was limited to protecting our ownership of its territories. The people didn’t matter so much, so we never really embraced them as our own. The northeast was a national security story and once the treat subsided, the story died………I had raised the same question in the wake of Tadmetla when chiefs of the army and IAF had both made unsolicited declaration that our armed forces can not be involved in a fight against “our own” people and that the Maoist challenge was best left to the police and central paramilitary forces. My point then was not that we unleash the army on our poorest tribals in east-central India, but one of principle: how come we have no such doubts using the same armed forces against our Kashmiri and the northeastern rebels? Are they not fellow Indians, or any less Indian than those on the mainland, like the Maoist?

My experience with SAIL and MHI has broadened my perspective about my homeland India. Its socio-cultural richness and diversity is something I have encountered during my experiential tour of Mumbai and even after almost 50 years of living in different parts of the country, I continue to experience and celebrate this diversity. Also through my experience, as Gupta has pointed out above, embracing one’s own countrymen through disguise in the form of arms is not the solution. Instead, opening your home and embracing one another builds bridges much stronger than one can ever imagine. This will bring forth NOT a national security story BUT a national secured story.

Dilip D Paranjape and Padmanabha B Acharya visiting Manipur in 1966. I am in the 2nd left (standing).
Photo Courtesy: Dilip D Paranjape

During my tour to Mumbai, we were hosted by various families. I will never forget the hospitality of my host, an old Persi lady named M.J.Palkhiwala and her aggressive dog. In the sultry summer Bombay to make me comfortable she would fan me with her hand-fan while taking my meals. What a human-touch she engraved in me. Through this program, we not only developed close relationships with our hosts but also learned so much about the cultures and lifestyles of Mumbaikers. Furthermore, this bonding did not last only throughout our stay but continued even after we returned to the Northeast. This touch of brotherhood was carried out so effectively by SAIL and MHI whereby I can now call Dilip D. Paranjape and Padmanabha B. Acharya (who is now the Governor of Nagaland) brothers. Padmanabha B.Acharya, inspite of his high office and stature never ignore my phone messages and never keep my phone calls unanswered. 

Even today this relationship is continued among those students from the northeast. I am glad that Brother Dilip D.Paranjape continue visiting and contacting the SEIL/ MHI members and make new friends in Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur. Now I am living in Pune, Maharastra to be with my working children. That experience of SEIL/MHI makes me feel at home here in Pune. I found the Maharastrians much cultured and understand the people from different cultural backgrounds.

Lastly, I believe in God who says, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you” (Psalm 32:8). It is He who gave me this life’s experiences that makes life worth-living. My home is India. May God bless India.

July 23,2015

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