Saturday, February 27, 2010

Still Talking

NSCN-IM Cadre at Camp Hebron. Photo@Arijit Sen-All Rights Reserved

On March 2, Thuingaleng Muivah, Chairman of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland is supposed to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Muivah reaches Delhi from Amsterdam tonight ( 11.30 pm IST/27th Feb). What are we expecting? Nothing probably. There have been 50 rounds of talks between the Government of India and the NSCN-IM, in Amsterdam, Paris, Bangkok, Geneva among other locations. So far, no one has been able to achieve anything. The ceasefire between NSCN-IM and Government of India ( signed in 1997) is still on. Everything seems to end there. Asia's oldest insurgency or movement for recognition of the Naga identity still continues in Nagaland. I took this photograph at the NSCN camp in Nagaland, few years back. I will be visiting this place again on Monday ( March 1), just to get an idea what people are thinking not just inside the camp, but also in Nagaland about Muivah meeting the Prime Minister. How much relevance does a Muivah visit still have?

NSCN-Unification Camp/2008. Photo @Arijit Sen. All Rights Reserved

The photograph above was taken at the NSCN-Unification faction camp in Nagaland. It was a faction formed by Azeto Chopy. I visited this camp in 2008--the year of state elections. Lack of unity among different groups is also one reason why the Naga talks have often failed. (NSCN-Khaplang is another prominent group that needs mention.) But lack of unity is of course not the main reason for failure to arrive at a solution. The games played by the Indian government, Intelligence Bureau, Indian Army for votes and making one faction fight another are well known.

Link to an old post when I visited this Camp in 2008

Friday, February 19, 2010

Report Card

A poster of Indian leaders in the classroom with no teachers (classroom pic below)

This classroom has no benches and right now no one introducing these students to the alphabets. There is one teacher. She runs from one classroom to another, taking two classes simultaneously

It is more than learning your name, and going by an all India Educational Survey conducted by Union Ministry of Human Resources Development these children are at the lowest rung of the education ladder. According to the survey, out of nearly 3 lakh school teachers in Northeast, only 45 % teachers are qualified to teach. The India average is 87 %. In this school in Assam with nearly 300 students there is only one qualified teacher out of a staff of four.
Our Education Minister, Harvard-educated Kapil Sibal wants a uniform syllabus across India, Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has directed state education department to include computer science as a compulsory subject. But with schools and classrooms like this, it will require more than computers and a syllabus, for these prayers to be heard.

Our filming began with a retake of the school prayers.

This is my favourite photograph
In this blog all Photo@Arijit Sen-All rights reserved/unless mentioned

ADDENDUM: This is a link to Shailendra Pandey's essay Too Tired To Teach: They travel long hours---On Foot, Carts And Cycles, Leaving Home And Kids. Photographer Shailendra Pandey Tracks The Lives Of Women Teaching In Government Schools in Uttar Pradesh ( View the Slideshow also)

Friday, February 12, 2010

Farewell to arms?

all Photo@Arijit Sen-All Rights reserved

These are the faces that had unleashed a reign of terror in the Karbi Anglong district of Assam for the last 6 years. Four hundred and eight militants of the Karbi Longri National Liberation Front laying down arms hoping to talk about 'self-rule" with the UPA government. Each surrendered militant will get 2 lakh rupees as a one time grant from the state government and will move to designated camps. I met Habe Tokbi the chairman of the outfit. "No one can guarantee. If problems are not solved, then? After independence sixty years is over. But no development in Karbi Anglong", he said. More than 10,000 square kilometres of Karbi Anglong lie trapped in underdevelopment and terror.The Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council is present in pen and paper. Corruption, clashes between Karbis and Dimasas and attacks on Hindi-speaking migrant labourers from Bihar and Nepal have held back any progress. It is also unfortunate that it takes a militant group, a government to legtimise violence and talk development at a so-called arms decommissioing ceremony. Something that takes place often, almost as a routine in some states of northeastern India.