Hindi made his life, and took it too


Killer of ethnic amity in Northeast IndiaHINDI, INDIA’S national language or Rashtrabhasha, isn’t just the lingua franca in a state inhabited by more than 140 disparate ethnic groups and sub-groups. Speaking it well is the average Arunachalee’s way of telling Beijing that they are emotionally integrated with India.

China wants some 90,000 sq km of Indian territory including the Northeast Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh.

The urge to let China – the rest of the world too – know where Arunachal Pradesh belongs despite online map-tampering makes the frontier state’s government lure Hindi teachers from the “mainland” Cow Belt with perhaps the best pay package in the Northeast. J.K. Mishra from village Patharwa in UP’s Kushinagar district was one such teacher.

UP expands to Uttar Pradesh, a state in northern India.

Mishra, 45, taught Hindi at the JT Government Secondary School at Seijosa, a small town in Arunachal Pradesh’s East Kameng district. Seijosa, dominated by Nyishi tribal people, adjoins the 861 sq km Pakhui Tiger Reserve and is 247 km northeast of Guwahati.

One of some 200 teachers in the town, Mishra carried a disability – an accident had claimed his right leg. That, as local fellow-teacher Nabum Tage said, did not prevent him from going out of his way to teach Hindi since he landed the job in 1991.

Hindi, thus, made Mishra’s life. Hindi took it too on Monday when rebels of the outlawed National Democratic Front of Boroland dragged him out of a bus and shot him point-blank along with seven other non-locals. Of the other killed, A.K. Gupta was from UP, Narayan Jana and S.B. Roy from West Bengal and B.S. Razak from Bihar. 

Militants in the Northeast often target Hindi speakers. Their logic: those who speak Hindi are representatives of “colonial India” and killing them ensures New Delhi’s attention to their armed struggle for sovereignty.

“Only cold-blooded killers could snuff out the life of a disabled person,” Tage said while consoling Mishra’s widow and three daughters, the eldest 14 years old. Fellow teachers A.K. Mishra and G.K Singh, also from UP, were there too.

“We have nothing to fear in Arunachal Pradesh, but we have to pass through Assam to go to our native places,” said Singh. Assam government’s assurance of safety seems so hollow, he added.

Arunachal Pradesh is considered an island of peace. So are Mizoram and Tripura. But people in these lanndlocked Northeast Indian states often have to face the music for travelling through trouble-torn and shudtdown-prone Assam (not everyone can fly out for work or business).

According to Tage, Mishra and fellow-teacher Gupta had gone to Tezpur (nearest major town in Assam 65 km southwest) to buy stuff for Chhath Puja later this week. “The two were cremated on the banks of the Pakke River (flowing past Seijosa), close to the spot where a small community of Hindi speakers here celebrate Chhath,” he said.

Chhath is a Hindu festival scheduled six days after fireworks-heavy Diwali. People of Bihar and adjoining areas of UP, Madhya Pradesh and Jharkhand states celebrate it.

(This report appeared in Hindustan Times)

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About rahconteur

A mid-career journalist who's worked horizontally across India - from Arunachal Pradesh to Gujarat
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