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An Insight Into the Northeast

BANGALORE: Paulami Duttagupta’s Ri - Homeland of Uncertainty is based on one of those events about which the majority of Indians have little awareness or  understanding . This book is based on a film directed by Pradip Kurbah which was adjudged the best Khasi film in the 61st National Film Awards held earlier this year. The film dealt with the problem of militancy and how the youth in the north eastern state of Meghalaya were attracted to a separatist ideology and the idea of an independent nation.
A true account of the incidents that took place in early 2000, the book just like the film  focuses on the problem of arms dealers in Bangladesh and how militants smuggle arms through the porous Indian border and how the state police deal with the problem. The story ends on a positive note with the protagonist, Manbha shunning violence and armed combat and finally surrendering to the police, convinced by the arguments of Emika, a journalist. The author who has written the film script has penned this book to bring out the problems of militancy in a state that was once known more for its cosmopolitan nature and salubrious weather.
Duttagupta has written the book in an effort to reach out to more people across the country. The northeastern states have often been plagued by stereotypes which belie the fact that each state in the region has its own rich language, tradition and folklore. Meghalaya, with its unique matrilineal society and its finesse in education, could be anybody’s dream home. The book elaborates on how a bunch of misguided youth take up arms and start targeting ‘foreigners’ in the state especially the petty non-Khasi trading community. However, this path soon turns into a nightmare for the people of the state as many locals initially supporting the separatist movement are fed up with violence, curfews and trade blockades and feel that they cannot live isolated from the rest of India.
The story revolves around Manbha who calls himself a freedom fighter and vows to free Meghalaya from India. Leading a terror outfit, Manbha has to listen to people sitting in Bangladesh and directing the operations of killing the police, the CRPF, the BSF and spreading violence across the state. However, in an armed operation, one of his operatives, George betrays them and becomes a police informer. Hunted by the police, Manbha hides in the house of a journalist Emika. It is here that his transformation begins and he shuns the path of violence after Emika convinces him that terror is not a solution and a small state like Meghalaya cannot survive on its own. The author stresses on the fact that guns won’t solve the problems and people should follow the path of Mahatma Gandhi and also exercise their rights through democratic means. Ri is an interesting non-fiction book but written in the fiction style and everyone should make it a point to read to know more this state and its problems.