By Sakshi Ranjan
In the year 2008, I was living in one of the most beautiful cities in the north-eastern part of India; Shillong, the capital of the state of ‘abode of clouds’ AKA Meghalaya.
This beautiful city has given me some beautiful and some not so beautiful memories. One of these incidents that I will never forget for the rest of my life is when my family and I got into an accident. This was the day I had a first-hand experience of how the locals of the state really feel about our country’s defence force.
In the month of January, after I had finished my half-yearly exams, my family and I decided to drive down to the Kaziranga National Park for the weekend to get away from the city life.
The fact that my father was getting transferred out of Shillong only added to the urgency to try and absorb as much experience as we could in the limited time we had left. The national park is around 252 km away from the city and an approximate of 5-hour drive. The stay and the experience were beautiful and very educational. But that is not what this piece is about.
The story starts when we were driving back from the location, back to Shillong. The drive, till the time we hit the city, was smooth without any traffic. But the moment we hit the city, the momentum of the traffic changed.
Now the thing you should know about Shillong is that the city is plagued with bad traffic due to various factors like really narrow roads, diversity of traffic, buildings constructed too close to each other etc. The car would barely be moving at a speed of 1km per hour.
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We had a small car back then, a Hyundai Santro Zip Plus. In front of us was a TATA Safari with a huge spare tyre or stepney hung at its back. Due to the bad traffic, the cars were literally moving in a bumper to bumper style.
While we were still moving the car in front of us backed which resulted in our cars colliding and the bonnet/ hood of our car folding like a flimsy cloth and only a small dent in the stepney cover of the Safari.
This is where the situation started to take a bad turn. The family that owned the Safari demanded Rs. 50,000 as a compensation for the damage to his car and refused to take any responsibility for what they had done to our car.
The situation got even more heated when they realised that our car was registered at New Delhi. It is safe to say that the locals do not like the north Indians which is fair as they have faced a lot of discrimination here as well. After lots of discussions which led to angry arguments, we decide to approach the police.
Things did not improve even then.
Occupations of the parties involved were asked and when my father disclosed that he was an Army Officer who has just been posted out of the station and is leaving for the line of control in Jammu & Kashmir, we had to hear a lot about how the army has come to the northeast and ruined their lives and exploited the locals.
The situation then went from bad to worse. When my mother told them to at least speak with a little more respect – what with my father being in the defence – and to have a little more regard for what he and people like him have sacrificed for the country, they shot back that they did not care for what he had done and that this is what the defence personnel do, they come here exploit the locals and get money out of it. There was a lot of anger directed toward us and a lot of hurtful things were said.
In the end, we had to pay them Rs. 20,000 and the police was not supportive at all in this entire scenario.
During that time I was really angry with how my father was treated and how this entire situation was handled, but now when I look back at the incident I realise that the people from the northeast can’t help but feel resentment towards the defence forces and Central Government, and rightly so.
They have been heavily discriminated in “mainland India” and there have been reports of various human rights violation by the defence forces ranging from allegedly raping women to misuse of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Acts.
For the view of the people there to change and the relation to improve between the Army and the local, steps will have to be taken by the government to better the situation in North-east and to curb the Human Rights violation in the region.
When there is discontent among the public to such an extent there is usually a larger issue at play which can only be solved if the said situation is handled with more sensitivity.
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