Bangalore International Centre had arranged a talk on “Peace and National Integration through Education in Nrth East India” by Col. Christopher John Rego on Wednesday, 9th April, 2014 at 6.30 PM.Lt. Gen. A Natarajan (Retd) chaired and moderated the discussion.
In his detailed presentation, Col. Regohighlighted that much of India’s North East has been plagued by insurgency for decades resulting in loss of thousands of lives. The insurrection is fed by a sense of alienation from the so called “mainland” and perceived neglect and underdevelopment of this part of the country. Much of the disaffection is due to cultural and ethnic differences and often physical features, language and religion. While Mizoram has returned to peace and Nagaland appears to be following, the insurgency is still raging across Manipur. A host of so called “Liberation Armies” continue to wage war against the country in Assam, Tripura and Meghalaya. The impaired security environment and rampant extortion is inhibiting business, preventing development and drastically affecting normal life in many areas of this region.
Col. Chris Rego in his presentation explained about his exercises he is undertaking to make a difference, and how he has embarked on a journey of WHAM (Winning Hearts and Minds) in insurgency affected areas of the North East, particularly in Manipur and Nagaland. Ever since his posting with the Assam Rifles at Mizoram in 2003, Col Rego and his wife Myrna have made it their life mission to foster friendship between people in the North East and their countrymen in other parts of India. Starting with supporting a single youngster in 2004 with their own modest means, their extended group now sponsors close to 200 children. By bringing together people in the “mainland” and their countrymen in affected areas of the NE, they hope to bridge the cross cultural divide while helping educate the neediest.
Today, among the alumni of their informal North East Education scheme are an MD in Medicine, a graduate of the National Law School of India, an Army Officer in the special forces of the Indian Army, an MBA graduate (who now sponsors another student), two air hostesses and a host of youngsters in other fields.
In the past year, Col Rego and his group have ventured into building small schools, hostels and other basic infrastructure in some of the remotest areas to provide access to education. Their holistic approach aims at bringing about rural livelihood security, employment and environment sustainability. In all their endeavours, they maintain a healthy respect for the dignity of their local partners.
During his presentation, Col Regotouched upon the aspects of the current environment in North East India, especially in Manipur, the concept of Peace and National Integration through Education, Strategy of his informal group, Impact of their intervention and their Vision for the future
Lt. Gen. Natarajan moderated the Q& A session after the talk and was informative and interesting.