Outlook|July 27, 2020
A north Indian friend once remarked jovially, yet bluntly: “Catch a dog, kill it, roast it and eat it, and what you have is a Northeast delicacy.” I did not take that as an offence because I forgave his ignorance. What that friend and many others in the country do not know is that food from the Northeast is much more than just the imagined dog meat. Little do they know that food from the Northeast boasts exotic delicacies that are not a part of mainstream fare. But that ignorance does not grant one the legitimacy or the right to ridicule and conclude that whatever people in the Northeast eat be called “weird, strange”, or “unacceptable”. It is a shame that many in mainland India have never really tried to know or understand that the region, loosely termed as ‘Northeast’, is actually made up of eight states and each is unique and distinct in its own way.
The recent uproar over a ban on dog meat in Nagaland—which followed a similar order in Mizoram—is, to my mind, just one of the many examples of misconception and misunderstanding. The ban must be seen and examined strategically through the eyes of animal rights activists, who hailed it as a victory and a turning point and, through the eyes of Nagas, whose cultural practice is questioned by this decision. But what needs to be cleared first is that not all Nagas eat dog meat. Or, not all people from the Northeast eat dog meat. And for those who do, it is their prerogative and a personal choice. Naturally, some sections of Naga society frowned upon the decision, calling it an infringement on their personal space and belief.
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July 27, 2020