Pakistan’s top security establishment must have decided to considerably scale down the country’s defence outlay after learning that it does not really need its ever-growing nuclear arsenal and missiles to deal with its traditional enemy! It has discovered a new, much more deadly, weapon. A few SMSs and MMSs are sufficient to sow panic and chaos in the giant eastern neighbour, a message that came through loud clear from the developments in the last few days.

The Chinese, next door, must have seen the events with glee and as a reconfirmation of what it has always known — that this blundering, bungling nation is “soft’ and need not be taken seriously.

Probably, the next weapon fired from cell phones or through the social media by Islamabad or any force inimical to India may well send the Prime Minister and the entire Cabinet to underground shelters to save themselves from an imaginary nuclear strike.

To ensure that the message goes home, they just have to remember to alert the 24x7 news channels.

Seeing hordes of people from the northeast fleeing cities as far apart as Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Chennai from imagined genocide was shameful.

The State governments and the Centre, instead of giving assurances and confidence to the panic-stricken people and persuading them to return to their places of stay and work, obligingly provided special trains to facilitate the exodus. And the media had a field day covering the unfolding drama at the railway stations in different cities.

If Pakistan indeed was the culprit behind these events, it would not be long before the lunatic and fringe elements within the country use similar ploys for their xenophobic ends. For leaders like the Thackerays, the devastating impact of SMSs and the social media would be something to be kept in mind for future use.

The mass exodus of the northeasterners from the rest of the country is especially unfortunate as it has come at a time when they were increasingly realising that India extends far beyond the scenic, rolling hills of their region and that they have a stake in the jobs and economic opportunities outside their States.

National integration

For someone like me, who had greatly enjoyed covering the region for over six years and had come to know the people, be it Assamese, the Khasis and Garos of Meghalaya or the various tribes and sub-tribes inhabiting Nagaland, Mizoram, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim, their decision to venture out and live and work in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and elsewhere was one of the best examples of national integration.

For a people, who used to say that they were “going to India” while travelling to Kolkata from their region, this was indeed a giant step forward in understanding their country and their rights as citizen to live and work anywhere in the country.

It is unfortunate that this movement from the northeast to the rest of the country has been abruptly reversed by those inimical to the nation. That such elements would work constantly and concertedly towards that end should not come as a surprise. What should surprise Indians everywhere is that the authorities, be it at the Centre or in the States, failed miserably to reassure the panic-stricken people that their lives and properties were safe in any part of the country.

And that leaves an uneasy question. After 65 years of Independence, is the structure of the Indian state so weak that that some SMSs are enough to rip it apart?

(The writer is a senior journalist and Head of the Department of Amrita School of Communication, Coimbatore. Email is jayaramp_@hotmail.com)

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