“Hey you chinky fellow! Why are you here? Go back to China!”
“Do you eat cats? Which are the animals that you guys eat?”
“Tumhe Hindi nahi aati? I do not like people who do not speak Hindi! You are not Indian!”
In January 2014, large scale protests were held in various parts of the country due to the death of nineteen year old Nido Taniam (son of the Arunachal Pradesh MLA, Nido Pavitra) in South Delhi. In February 2014, two Manipuri women were hurled with racist abuses and assaulted by men in South Delhi. In May 2014, a female law student from Nagaland, studying in Delhi University, was molested by another lawyer at a metro station. When she went to court with her friends to take action against him, all of them were beaten up by a gang of lawyers, who threated her to not pursue the case. In July 2014, a couple from the North-East were attacked in Gurgaon. In October 2014, two youth from Nagaland were assaulted by seven people in a town near Gurgaon. They were told, “Tell your north-east people to leave Sikanderpur”. In the same month, a twenty six year old engineering student from Manipur, who studied in Bangalore, was physically abused as he did not speak Kannada.
These are some of the things that people from the North-Eastern part of India hear and face regularly when they live away from home in different parts of India. These incidents are neither rare nor uncommon. Apart from being subjected to abuse, insults and racial discrimination, the violence meted out to them only adds to the list of problems that exist.
Hate crimes against them remains the most serious issue among all. Hate crime is a usually violent, prejudice motivated crime that occurs when a perpetrator targets a victim because of his or her perceived membership in a certain social group such as ethnicity, gender identity, language, nationality, physical appearance, religion, or sexual orientation, amongst a few things.
Due to their physical appearance, culture, language and the rampant ignorance that exists with most Indians regarding the people from the North-East, they are made the target of many acts of hate crimes. They are immediately labelled as “Chinky”, in a blatant reference to being called Chinese. They are abused because many of them do not speak Hindi or other languages in other states of India. Many are mistreated because they get into educational institutes and Universities through reservation quotas that exist. In the mind sets of most people, they are not Indians. This is the epitome of ignorance and the implications of such a social thought process is disastrous to the social structure of the Indian society.
The people of the North-East have been going through a lot of disturbances. Insurgency, violence, tribal conflict, the attitude of the Central Government towards them, the acts committed by people of the Indian Army under AFSPA, separatist movements and much more, has created a deep negative impact in their lives. And these “hate” crimes against them are only reinforcing discrimination, hatred and hindering all attempts at incorporating them into the mainstream Indian society and giving them their due rights and respect.
The political implications of these crimes remain hidden to most people. It is hypocritical on its face. On one hand, we get upset when we hear that China has taken over parts of our North-Eastern territory in Arunachal Pradesh because we believe that it is an integral part of India. But on the other hand, we do not even recognise the people from that very territory as Indians itself! These crimes just add fuel to the separatist movement that has been going on in the north-east for decades and instil anti-national feelings within people.
The Central Government and many other State Governments have carried a lax attitude in dealing with these crimes. The mental bias that exists with people prevent the proper implementation of laws that is needed for justice to be met. In the case of Nido Tania, the Delhi High Court issued interim orders to protect north-eastern people from discrimination. Apart from giving directions to set up fast track courts to deal with these issues, increasing police presence in areas where these communities are in majority and increasing access to the Delhi Legal Services Authority to people from the north-east, it also asked the Centre, the Delhi Government and the police to set up new laws that deal with the prevention of hate crimes. The Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1995 and the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 do not mention remedies to such situations in particular.
The people of the North-East live under constant fear of discrimination, violence and abuse. Such issues can spark off a whole new cycle of racism and discrimination. K. Lalliansangi, a student in Pune, says, “A victim of racism usually becomes a racist.” Most of the North-Eastern people living in various parts of India are students. They face inhuman treatment from the localites. Emily Tasha Pyrbot, a student from Shillong currently studying in Pune says, “If we are still standing up and singing the Indian national anthem, then why can’t we be accepted as Indians as everyone else?”.
Girls from the North-East are extremely vulnerable to sexual violence and abuse. Living far away from home, having no support system in a new city, and in many cases, being so young and being discriminated against on a massive scale makes them a relatively easy target and also reduces chances of them getting justice. Another student from the North-East currently studying in Bangalore, in her response to increased sexual abuse towards girls from her community, said, “When we protest about the situation, the response we get is- You guys asked for it. You got what you wanted.” They come to cities looking for education and better opportunities, but are only pushed more into the holes of suppression, discrimination, neglect, ignorance and violence and then end up leading life under the blanket of fear. Is this the price they pay for being Indian?
The Government and people must work towards eliminating the sense of fear that the north-eastern people have and also towards rebuilding faith and trust in what India stands for. Building that confidence, creating awareness, ensuring that they are aware of their legal rights and remedies, as well as providing them legal aid, must be of utmost priority. Outreach programmes and all other government initiatives will get teeth only when the society changes its mind set and attitude. These acts not only hinder the social balance in the country, but also negatively affect equitable economic and political development. It is a moral and social responsibility of every Indian to ensure that socio-cultural diversity remains the country’s strength and that it is not looked upon as a cause of problems.
About the Author:
A ferocious dreamer, a confident speaker, a propagandist of rational thought, a determined debater, an incandescent poet and a voracious reader; she is a student of Symbiosis Law School, Pune. She takes keen interest in International Law and Human Rights and wishes to pursue the same in the future. She hopes that her intricate eye for detail and innate ability to analyse will enable her in getting more out of new experiences in life. She also enjoys sarcasm, political humor, convoluted characters in novels, good music and a cup of hot black coffee during rains.