Mixed response to ‘tribal’ Bharat Mata plan

SHILLONG: The BJP-led NDA government’s plan to portray “Bharat Mata” in traditional attire in the North East has evoked mixed reactions among political and social circles here.
Cabinet minister and Congress spokesperson Ronnie V. Lyngdoh has ridiculed the idea, saying it smacks of a hidden agenda and is “for short-term benefit” of BJP.
“The intentions of BJP have always been suspicious. I think there is a hidden agenda, a hidden interest. What is the need for such a move now? To take an example, Mahatma Gandhi is best portrayed in his original attire (dhoti). Why would you want to portray him in tribal attire?” Ronnie said.
Asked whether the move was intended to woo votes of indigenous communities given that three northeastern states of Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram go to the hustings next year, former home minister RG Lyngdoh said, “If you look at the bigger picture, elections or not, having Bharat Mata draped in traditional attire of any state of the country is very good. It makes the people take ownership of India. It makes us feel one.”
“Even Sonia Gandhi wears the dhara (traditional Khasi dress) whenever she comes here,” he added.
Manipur Governor Najma Heptullah too had been seen wearing the traditional Manipuri dress on occasions.
The Shillong Times had reported on December 1 on the BJP-led NDA government contemplating giving the traditional ‘Bharat Mata’ a tribal look.
“Portraits of Bharat Mata in traditional tribal attire will be alongside her portraits in her usual sari, especially in areas inhabited by indigenous communities. This is driven by the idea of integration,” Tripura state BJP chief Biplab Deb had said.
On his take on the idea, VGK Kynta, senior advocate of the High Court of Meghalaya, said, “Bharat Mata in tribal gear as conceptualised by BJP is perhaps in poor taste and will further alienate us tribals from mainstream India. Draping Bharat Mata either in a sari or any other attire will not change the fact that India is multi-cultural with countless religious groups and beliefs.”
“The BJP government is already creating a divide by controlling the food habits of the people not to speak about  rowdies in the guise of gau rakshaks (cow vigilantes). My personal view is that BJP should stop this nonsense and instead bring true development to this part of the country and allow us, the tribals, to live our way of life. We are all Indians and our concept is national integration not the policy of divide,” he added.
Asked about her opinion, educationist and former principal of Shillong College, MPR Lyngdoh, said, “While I would not like to comment on anything political, my opinion is that India is unity in diversity and we should respect all traditions. I travel to other parts of the country frequently and normally wear jainsem. People ask me, madam, you don’t wear sari?… and I ask them, is there any dress code in the country?… I tell them that this is just like a sari… you wear it differently and I wear it differently.”
State BJP president Shibun Lyngdoh, however, could not be contacted while other leaders of the party here refused to comment.