While the crowds were milling around Rahul Dravid and sociologist Ashis Nandi handled the controversy end of the proceedings, the serious session was Highway to Nowhere. Journalists Sudeep Chakravarti, Neelesh Misra and Rahul Pandita talked about people fighting the states in various parts of India.
“It is ironical that in order to assimilate the people of the north eastern states to mainland India, the states response was to kill them,” he said. In his book, Highway 39: Journeys Through a Fractured Land, Chakravarti travels through the road that connects five states stayed in north east India, especially Manipur and writes about the alienation of the people from the rest if the country. “New Delhi was a name that suggested much evil and that now suggests unlimited funds for development that is managed in a very corrupt manner,” he says.
Pandita and Misra are co-authors of Absent State, a book that looks at development in insurgency prone areas. The book started as an RTI application on the utilisation of development funds in these areas. “Truth is, insurgency is an excuse to not bring any development in these places,” Misra said. The stories of these people aren’t interesting to the large middle class population whose sole focus is paying their EMIs.
While Pandita talked about the inability of mainstream journalists to get to the real stories in these area, all questions to him focused on the opening remark he made. As a Kashmiri Pandit who had been displaced from the state, he said, his work comes from his own sense of homelessness.
“Isn’t it pseudo secularism,”a lady in the audience thundered, “that we talk about the Gujarat riots, but never the story of what happened to Kashmiri Pandits?”