An Open Letter to Indian Citizens: Kerala Needs Relief. So Does Nagaland

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An Open Letter to Indian Citizens: Kerala Needs Relief. So Does Nagaland

Illustration: Akshita Monga

Dear Citizens of India,I

t’s your countrymen from the Northeast speaking. Remember us? The ones from that confusing, faraway bit on the national map that always cost you 10 marks in your geography exams?

Probably not. It’s okay – we thought we’d try and make our presence known anyway. The last time any of you thought about the Northeast was when you were eating momos (originally Tibetan, by the way), when you watched Sunil Chhetri carry the Indian football team to glory (sorry folks, he’s from Secunderabad). But now, the Northeast needs your attention, beyond planning a trip to the Meghalaya edition of NH7 Weekender.

Yet again rains have battered Assam and Nagaland. Over 50 people have died, and thousands of people are currently displaced, with their homes and lands destroyed. And this is only the beginning: as we saw in Kerala where 12 people have lost their lives because of post-deluge leptospirosis, for the Northeast the aftermath of the disaster will involve repairing our broken lives, and warding off waterborne illnesses. Meanwhile, the Brahmaputra River, which runs through Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Sikkim, Assam, and Meghalaya, is at its highest levels in 50 years, according to a report by China – which also released water into their side of the border-crossing river last week, threatening everyone who lives along its banks.

Nagaland needs around ₹800 crore for restoration. But what are the chances, considering her more famous sister Assam has not received any funding from the Centre since 2014, because of an accounting error? This despite the fact that floods are an annual phenomenon there.   

It’s hard to convince ourselves that the Northeast gets treated the same way as other states. Each year, Assam applies for thousands of crores of disaster relief funding to the Centre, only to receive nothing in return. Imagine falling behind on your EMIs because your employer refuses to release your paycheque. Now amplify that EMI to a state’s infrastructure and disaster relief bill and you’ve got an idea of Assam’s situation. While the accounting error is set to be fixed by next year, what happens to Assamese citizens while they wait?

Naturally, someone will find a way to blame the floods on us because we eat pork. Despite the hurdles (and barring the assholes who insisted people not donate to Kerala because Malayalis eat beef), it would be nice to receive the same compassion and love that Kerala received earlier this month, when over ₹1,000 cr for flood relief was raised. Expecting national leaders to pay us visits or the media to give us front-page coverage, would be a bit much.

So, just for the record: We don’t live in “jungles” and “trees”, but in houses that we’ve had to leave behind. We have jobs and livelihoods that have been swept away, and cities whose streets are flooded. Our far-flung villages have lost their crops, and are in danger of losing much more if they don’t get the supplies they need, stat.

Nagaland needs around ₹800 crore for restoration. But what are the chances, considering her more famous sister Assam has not received any funding from the Centre since 2014, because of an accounting error?

The months ahead will be a struggle. That’s why we’ll only get by with a little help from our friends. After all, if you can open your hearts to a bunch of “Madrasis”, why not for us “Nepalis” too? We’ll even make you a sweet deal: Bail us out now, and we’ll never again ask which states are bunched under the Seven Sisters label. (Yes, we know that you made the name up just so you wouldn’t have to keep track.)

Love and kisses from,
Your Overlooked Stepsister States

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