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Saturday, March 28, 2009

An Ode for a Paradise

Book: Writing on the Wall: Reflections on the North-East
Writer: Sanjoy Hazarika
Type: Non-fiction
Pages: 161
Price: Rs 225
Publisher: Penguin Books India

“At the end of every dark night, there is a dawn, however delayed. And for every day, there is a dawn, whether we see it or not.”

These words by Sanjoy Hazarika seem so true once we are done with this book. “Writing on the Wall” is the latest offering by Sanjoy Hazarika in his writings on the North-East of India. Hazarika, who is hailed by some as the greatest journalist from Assam, touches some topics which dearly concern the region but are seldom given any attention. Hazarika, who has earlier given us classics like “Strangers in the Mist,” once again shows the unabashed beauty of the North-East which is under threat from the various problems it faces today.

This book is a collection of 15 essays by the author which provide an insider’s take on the wide-ranging issues affecting the region. These issues range from the Brahmaputra and the use of natural resources to the peace talks in Nagaland, from the centre’s failure to repeal the much hated Armed Forces Special Powers Act, threats to the environment, corruption in government and extortion by armed groups to New Delhi’s policies which treat the region on a subservient level than the rest of India.

Yet, as one reads these essays, one thing gets clear in the mind. It is that hope, though distant, is not lost. Restoring governance through people-driven development programmes, peace-building through civil society initiatives, assuring the pre-eminence of local communities and most importantly, the simple economic interventions through appropriate technologies hold the solution to the web of violence, poverty and marginalisation. Thus we have references to innovative health clinics like Akha, community mobilization in the form of organisations like the North-Eastern Region Community Resource Management Project (NERCORMP) and various micro-credit initiatives in the region. The author also talks of environmental issues like the preservation of the river dolphin and geopolitical issues like the sharing of the waters of the Brahmaputra among the states.

“Writing on the Wall” is a passionate call to all the stakeholders in the North-East to embrace dialogue and use the platforms for peace, to go beyond the politics of intolerance to that of mutual respect. The spirit of this book can be best summed up in the lyrics of this song by the great Bhupen Hazarika, which find special mention in this book.

If man wouldn’t think for man
With a little sympathy
Tell me who will- comrade?
If we repeat history
If we try to buy
Or sell humanity
Won’t we be wrong- comrade?
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