The ignorance of North Eastern states and its people among the general public in “mainland” India needs no introduction. The scenario was worst in the last decade. Mr Swaraj Kaushal, who was governor of Mizoram from 8 February 1990 to 9 February 1993, during a Rajya Sabha (Upper House of Indian Parliament) debate on 17 May 2000 made the following statement -
"Much has been said about the ignorance of the North-East. I remember when I was the Governor I used to visit Delhi. I am very sorry to share with this House that some of the Ministers used to ask me--I was the Governor of Mizoram--"how was Mr.Gegon Apang?", little realising that Mr. Gegong Apang was the Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh. Sometimes, I was told that I was staying at a beautiful place called Shillong. Shillong is the capital of Meghalaya and I was the Governor of Mizoram."After a decade has there been any improvement in the knowledge about the North Eastern states? No doubt that there has been.
But, from a report appearing in India’s one of the most credible newspapers, The Hindu on 19 April 2010, I am once again startled.
Was it a human error, or an error of knowledge? Certainly, ignorance cannot be a human error and the inability to identify Lalthanhawla from D D Lapang cannot be an excuse for The Hindu, which is known for its impeccable reporting of the truth. Just imagine, Nitish Kumar is identitied as Ashok Chavan. However, given The Hindu's record I am willing to believe that it was an error.
Nonetheless I am very angry. Even if a mistake, it has been committed by an intellectual community concerning a renown personality like Mr Lalthanhawla. Only a day earlier, The Economic Times (18 April 2010) had boasted about Lalthanhawla's image. Introducing Mizoram's Chief Minister The Economic Times stated-
“When Lal Thanhawla seeks an appointment with an Union minister in New Delhi, no one disappoints him despite the fact that he is the chief minister of one of the small, far-flung North-East states. After all, he first became Mizoram’s CM when Indira Gandhi was the Prime Minister.”(http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/features/the-sunday-et/policy--you/I-wish-we-had-larger-number-of-MPs-Lal-Thanhawla/articleshow/5827094.cms )
My anguish over the ignorance about the NE region can be measured from this. A few months ago, a Hindi daily published the picture of Sharmila Tagore in the news piece that reported the arrest of Manipur’s iron lady, Irom Sharmila by the police! (I have been trying to trace that news clipping , but unfortunately I lost it)