Seventy one years may not be a long time in the history of a nation, but for a region teeming with militancy and celebrating India's 72nd Independence Day with fervour and enthusiasm is definitely note-worthy.
A little more than a decade back, celebrating any of India's national days in the Northeast was synonymous with bandhs and shutdowns at the behest of a plethora of organisations, a kinda virtual public curfew where only a few dared to venture out from their homes. The Independence Day or Republic Day was largely meant for government functionaries. But not anymore.
Barring perhaps in Manipur and Nagaland, people of the region have come a long way today. They now come out in large numbers defying calls for boycott and hartals by militant outfits to celebrate both the Independence Day and Republic Day. And the 72nd Independence Day on Wednesday once again epitomised this new spirit of the region.
Since the past few days in the run-up to the Independence Day, the public enthusiasm for celebration was all too discernible. There was a virtual festive spirit as shops sprung up overnight in most urban areas of the region, especially Guwahati, selling the tricolour and other national symbols as people made a beeline in most of them to buy these items.
While there were official functions on the occasion, the streets wore a festive look as these were crowded with people. Cars and bikes, cycle, rickshaws and even hand-carts proudly displayed the national flag. To further celebrate the occasion, car and bike rallies were organised in many parts of the region. And a small village in Assam's Baksa district even made a record of sorts by stitching a 3.50-km-long flag and taking out a public rally.
So, what has brought this transformation?
According to senior journalist Rupam Barua, the people of the Northeast were always patriots, but their spirit of patriotism was somehow suppressed for long. "Now, they have overcome the fear of militants largely due to the initiatives of some citizens, besides changes in the overall socio-economic and political landscape of the region," he explained.
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