As part of a weekly series that seeks answers to some of the most pertinent questions you have about the city and its underlying issues, Team mid-day speaks to representatives of the North-Eastern student community in Pune about their equation with the city, challenges faced by them, and the efforts they are making to change how they are perceived here
mid-day spoke to Rock Lungleng, president of North-East Community Organisation Pune (NECOP), Rudolf Marak, president of Meghalaya Youth Association Pune, Anthony Moirangthem, president, Manipur Students’ Association Pune, Micky Paul Kamsi, president of Arunachal Students’ Welfare Association Pune, and R P Daida Sahamai, secretary, Naga Students Union Pune, as well as a few other students, who represent over 10,000 students in the city.
mid-day: There have been several challenges for the North-Eastern (NE) community, including incidents of racial aggression in the past – how has this made you feel about the city?
Rock: I have been in this city for nine years, and Pune is the model city for all North-East students. We have been perceived as victims in the past, but right now, it’s not important how we feel about that. We have come this far, and the challenge in front of us is how to bridge the gap between the local population and our community. I don’t want people to know us only as party-going students. We should be known for our excellence in studies, sports and our connect with the local citizens.
mid-day: How do you find Pune’s night life?
Rock: Nightlife in Pune was better six years ago. Most of the NE girls participate in cultural and social events more commonly than in other programmes and parties. In the recent past, the cops have been very strict at nights, and there are regular checks on all roads. So, most students avoid late night parties.
mid-day: Is it hard for NE students to find accommodation in the city?
Rudolf: Prices of flats and rent rates are shooting up every year, and finding affordable accommodation is a problem. This year, we met a few college principals and requested them to help academically sound students in finding hostel rooms. We don’t want any quota, but in the case of the University (Savitribai Phule Pune University or SPPU) hostel, we requested them to reserve some accommodation for NE students.
mid-day: What is the status of the new hostel that was proposed by the North Eastern Council a year ago?
Deri, Meghalaya: So far, no hostel facility has been provided by the government body. We had a meeting regarding this, but there has been no progress.
mid-day: How is the connectivity between Pune and the North-Eastern states?
Anthony: All the trains from Pune or other cities go up to Kolkata, from where we have to board another train to reach our states and cities. We have put forward a demand for a direct Pune-Guwahati train, as Guwahati is the heart of North-East India, and this will help connect the city better with our home states.
mid-day: What are your favourite hangout spots?
Rock: Lonavla, Lavasa, Sinhagad fort, Pabe ghat and Rajgad fort are some places we all love to hang out at.
Rudolf: Sinhagad fort is reminiscent of some parts of Meghalaya, especially during the monsoon and winter season, and has an important place in my heart.
mid-day: The North-East is known for its scenic hills, rivers and diverse flora and fauna, while Pune’s Mula-Mutha river is polluted, and its hills are encroached. What do you think about it?
Ankur Haloi, Assam: Certain areas in the city are dirty, but overall, Pune is cleaner than other cities. Brahmaputra river is also polluted like the Mutha river. When someone throws garbage in the Mula-Mutha rivers, it’s like a big punch to my heart. The Government can’t do everything, and we have to realise that we need to do something too. Change will be slow, but will happen when we start it.
mid-day: Have you been organising initiatives to promote the North-Eastern culture here?
Micky: We had recently organised cultural programmes at Symbiosis college. Similarly, we are arranging a socio-cultural cum academic brainstorming event in association with SPPU, and another one with Arihant college. We also had a meeting recently with the traffic DCP and extended our support, so we can contribute to the city’s welfare.
mid-day: Do you celebrate festivals like Ganeshotsav, Diwali in Pune?
Sahamai: While we are in Pune, we do enjoy these festivals, but in our home states our tribes normally don’t perform pooja or celebrate Diwali. In Nagaland, we have the Hornbill festival, which has now become an international festival. In some states, like Arunachal Pradesh, Diwali is celebrated, while in other states Christmas is celebrated more frequently.
mid-day: What do you think about politics in Maharashtra and who is your favourite politician?
Inato S Yeptho, Nagaland: We like politicians like Raj Thackeray or Sharad Pawar, who have done something, or are speaking for fellow Maharashtrians. Many people criticize them for not doing enough for the state, but they have certainly worked for their constituencies and people. Post elections, we hope to see a stable government in the state.
(Salil Urunkar, Niranjan Medhekar, Anuj Ismail, Kartiki Lawate, Juili Eklahare and Shashank Sane were part of the mid-day panel)