The recent death of Nido Tainam after being beaten up by a shopkeeper in Lajpat Nagar over his hair and clothes, the North Eatern community’s age long problems because of racism are being paid some attention to. It is time we step up and make them like one of us- Indians.

It is in the fun that is made of their simply ‘different’ sounding names. It is in the jokes about their ‘closed’ eyes. It is in the stereotyped ‘sexual availability’ of girls from the North east. It is in the anger about the university quota.

anti racism posterjpg The North Eastern Community in India

A Few of the Many

Nido Taniam was a 19 year old boy with dreams to study in the national capital. He wasn’t unlike millions of others. Unfortunately, for some, he was. He was from the North east and that made all the difference in the world to the shopkeepers in Lajpat Nagar. He was beaten to death after reacting to a racial slur. This incident shocked the capital known for it’s discrimination against those from the north east.

At the beginning of the year, two young women from Mizoram were beaten up in front of the public. Then there was the murder of young Ramchanpy Hongray by her neighbour, whose sexual advances she rejected. He couldn’t have her, so no one else could. Another 30 year old girl from Manipal was raped and murdered in the capital last year. In another shocking incident, a girl from Mizoram was gang-raped after being held at gunpoint. Afterwards, she was taunted about the horrific ordeal. She finally quit the city. These are just a few of the many cases of discrimination, sexual harassment and murder of those from the North-East in Delhi.

An Everyday Reality

It is these overt forms of racism that makes the headlines, but they originate from the more covert forms of racism. They originate from the mindset that believes that the North Eastern community in Delhi is different from the rest of the people of the National Capital. They are often discriminated against on the basis of their Mongoloid features. Racial slurs are a popular form of discrimination just as how Nido Taniam’s blonde hair and red jeans were made fun of. Northeastern girls are considered ‘loose’ and ‘easy’. Their discrimination is double fold; they face gender discrimination as well as racial discrimination. From it being hard to find accommodation to rent because they don’t look ‘Indian’ to being asked whether they would like to go to Majnu Ka Tila, which is a Tibetan refugee colony, by autowallahs. The most baffling fact is that we in India don’t believe that we practice racism at all. According to us, only the Westerners are guilty of it. But the way our brethren from the northeast get treated in Delhi is racist and nothing but.

The North East Support Center and Helpline (NESCH) states that up to a staggering 78 % of the North East community in Delhi faces racial discrimination, such as racial slurs, discrimination in getting jobs and sexual harassment among others. Jamia Milia Islamia’s Centre for North East Studies and Policy Research with the National Commission for Women found out that the National Capital discriminates against north east women the most, with 81% having been the victims of racial discrimination.

Not just illiterate shopkeepers and autowallahs

Though there is a law that states that if you call someone from the North East  a ‘chinki‘, one of the many racial slurs used, you can be jailed for up to 5 years- it does not seem to have made much of a difference. In the year 2011, Hyderabad University launched an initiative to reduce the intake and use of alcohol as well as drugs on campus. To do this, they attempted to work with students of the North East. This is another case in which they were stereotyped as drug addicts and alcoholics, in need of “help”. Another instance in which an attempt was made to “help” the North east community was when the Delhi Police came up with a booklet for those from the North east titled Security Tips for North Eastern Students. This particular booklet warned girls against wearing “revealing” attire, and gave tips on how to cook bamboo shoot, and “other smelly dishes” without causing a furor in the neighborhood. The booklet was just another example of victim-blaming. During the BRICS summit in New Delhi, North Eastern individuals travelling in public transport, in restaurants and out on the road were forced to show their identification cards in order to prove that they were not Tibetan refugees.

One of the demands of the North East community in the National Capital today is that their history and their culture be made a part of the NCERT and CBSE curriculum, so that their unique culture may also be recognized and celebrated, instead of being seen as alien and made fun of. This will help in them being seen as ‘Indian’ and as much a part of this country as anyone else. It is high time we make amends to our brothers and sisters from the North East. This discrimination has to stop. This racism has to end.

By Aarushi Maheshwari

Also See:
Australia’s Racist Shame: A Real Story
Depreciating Freedom of Indian People

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