Only democratic struggle can sustain India's plurality, says veteran journalist M.S. Prabhakara

The political crisis of north-eastern India needs to be addressed “without running away from the principles of democracy and unity”, said M.S. Prabhakara, well-known journalist and writer.

Speaking at the launch of his book,Looking Back into the Future: Identity and Insurgency and North-east India, published by Routledge India here on Thursday, he said “unity does not mean anything without genuine democracy.”

Mr. Prabhakara argued that while Indian state's “unitary impulse” had led to deep turmoil in States like Assam and Manipur, he was not a votary for narrowly defined and splintered identity politics.

He was opposed to fissiparous tendencies and secessionist ideologies guiding movements and liberation and found many of them neither practical nor necessary. This should not be mistaken as an apology for a statist position, he said, adding that only democratic struggle can sustain India's plurality.

Writer and playwright Girish Karnad, who released the book, said that the writings of Mr. Prabhakara from the North-East brought the region into the consciousness of the country, which was otherwise relegated to the background.

C. Rammanohar Reddy, Editor,Economic and Political Weekly, who led the panel discussion, said Mr. Prabhakara was the first North-East correspondent of a national newspaper and had a “ringside view” of the politics of the region. His writings combined deep reflection and travels in the field, he added. He deeply engages with the questions of geographic boundary, language, identity and their interplay in creating a political atmosphere.

Sanamani Yambem, historian and banker from Imphal, said that Mr. Prabhakara had a “clinical way of looking at the question of homeland”, which is highly valuable in a location deeply divided by the politics of fractured identities like in the North-East.

Jahnavi Barua, physician and writer from Guwahati, now living in Bangalore, also spoke. Parvathi Menon, Chief of Bureau,The Hindu, Bangalore, presided.

The programme was attended by several eminent Bangaloreans.