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“When Will We Be Accepted As Indian?” Why A Girl From Arunachal Has To Ask This In New Delhi.



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Discrimination against North Eastern people is not new in New Delhi. According to News report it has happened again on Wednesday. Niyang Patin, a girl from Arunachal Pradesh, claimed that men at Gate No. 7 of Jama Masjid asked them to pay Rs.300/- each to carry their phones inside while others around her openly took their cell phones inside without anyone blinking an eye. She was with some of her friends when the incident took place. It is reported that Union Minister of State for Home Affairs, Kiren Rijiju, retweeted the video in which the girl narrated her experience and assured Niyang that he will personally follow the incident “Despite Home Ministry taking various steps to stop discrimination against the North East people this still happened! I will follow it up” Rijiju tweeted.

“I don’t know when the time will come when we will not be asked to prove our nationality and accepted as Indian?” the girl from Arunachal Pradesh asked. Later she wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to brng the issue to his attention and urged him to take action against such incidents of bias.

This is a shameful incident. Every Indians should be ashamed of discrimination against their own people. Such prejudice against North East people is prevalent elsewhere in India too. It is true that Home Ministry has taken various steps to solve this recurring problem. But, why the bias continues? It is because no one has ever tried to get to the bottom of the issue. Solution will elude if proper diagnosis is not made, resolution won’t be possible by beating around the bush. It is necessary to bring awareness, understanding and tolerance among the vast diversity of Indian population. There must not be any harassment, coercion or violence anyone anywhere in the name of cast, creed, religion and region. Mutual respect between different segments of people needs to be ensured. Unless steps are taken in that direction, these reprehensible incidents would take place again and again. Thorough investigation is necessary – general anesthesia cannot be a cure. Reading between the lines of the following paragraphs could be an eye opener and a prelude to the elusive solution.

Decoding Alienation Of NorthEast & Its People

Years ago, there was a news item in a national daily that a Minister from Nagaland was asked for his passport when he was checking-in at a five star hotel in Mumbai (then Bombay). The receptionist, accustomed to greet guests from foreign countries like Switzerland, New Zealand etc, thought that Nagaland is just another foreign country and hence asked for the passport. Naturally, the Minister was shocked and quite offended. The confusion finally ended at the intervention of the hotel management.

In another incident, an Assamese gentleman had mentioned that he was from Shillong (the capital of Meghalaya) while checking in with his family at a hotel in Chennai (then Madras) sometime in mid eighties. It was late in the evening when he retired at the allotted room only to be called back by the police from the hotel lobby for questioning. Later on, it came to light that the police was informed by the hotel receptionist who mistook Shillong for Ceylon. That was the period when anyone from Sri Lanka (erstwhile Ceylon) was a suspect LTTE rebel and report had been lodged to the police authorities as per their standing instructions to all hotels. The gentleman from Shillong had a lot of explaining to do to clear the air.

More recently, on the 9th July, 2016 to be precise, a lady from Manipur was subjected to racial harassment at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport. She was on her way to Seoul for a conference. An immigration official looking at her passport remarked, “Indian toh nahi lagti ho” (you don’t look Indian). He then allegedly grinned at her and subjected her to redundant questioning to confirm her Indian nationality. On being told that she hails from Manipur, the officer allegedly harassed her further with some silly questions. Such was the mocking attitude of the officer that a lady official at the adjacent counter could not stop giggling.

In the aftermath of the riot between indigenous Bodos and Bengali speaking Muslims in Kokrajhar (Assam) during July – August, 2012, there was a widespread repercussion in other parts of India targeting people from Northeast. Some Manipuris were attacked in Pune. There was a protest organized in Mumbai which turned violent after some protesters displayed “provocative photos” of the Assam violence. Two laborers from Northeast were attacked in Andhra Pradesh while traveling on Ernakulam Express. One of them sustained severe injuries and later died. Nearly 30,000 people from Northeast region had fled Bangalore after threats of attack. Messages were circulated warning people of Northeastern States to leave Bangalore.

On 2014 January Nido Tania, a 20-year-old student from Arunachal Pradesh was murdered in Lajpat Nagar area in New Delhi. This brutal attack was made by a crowd in a busy market. His resultant death had shocked the country and shamed the national capital. In October, 2014, three Manipuris were brutally beaten up by a mob at Bangalore “for not speaking in Kannada”. In the same month in another incident at Gurgaon, two people from Nagaland were taken captive, detained for more than 3 hours and tortured. The thugs issued death threats to the “native” of Northeast in general.

These are just few instances of harassment being faced by the people of Northeast from time to time. The case of Niyang Patin of Arunachal and her friends is just the latest addition to these disgraceful incidents. The caustic comments and nasty words like “chinki” that they have to tolerate for their looks are quite common. While the first two cases demonstrate general ignorance of the people of mainstream India, the second one indicates contempt. However, the subsequent examples bring out the racist hatred against the people of Northeast. Taken as a whole, there seems to be a strong prejudice prevailing in a section of Indian society against the natives of Northeast. The nation which boasts of unity in diversity must not tolerate such narrow-mindedness. However, this discrimination is not one sided. There is an even disturbing picture on the other side as well.

In Assam, “Bongal Kheda” refers to an organized brutal campaign of ethnic cleansing of Bengalis. Widespread looting, rioting and arson are its common features. Even unarmed children and women are not spared from the cruelty. It originated in the Brahmaputra Valley of Assam during 1960s and 1970s and spread over to 1980s – the period of Assam agitation. The brutality of these campaigns can be gauged from a six-hour long gruesome bloodbath known as Nellie Massacre. The infamous carnage that took place in the morning of 18 February 1983 in central Assam claimed the lives of 2,191 people – mostly very poor Bengali Muslim women and children. The unofficial figures run at more than 10,000. These innocent victims were butchered in a broad daylight but till today, no one is punished for the heinous crime!

In Meghalaya, since inception of the State in January 1972, there were three major riots in 1979, 1978 and 1992. Its capital Shillong had to bear the maximum burnt. Similar to Assam – looting, rioting and arson are the common features of the riots. The government and state institutions have reportedly ganged up to see that outsiders are prevented from settling here. The situation is such that even the non-tribal populations who have settled there for several generations are being forced to leave the State. These riots have broken the backbone of the remaining few who are still living in Meghalaya. The resultant exodus that started in 1979 is still continuing and persecution of those staying is still going on. In November 2013, miscreants set ablaze a non-tribal trader inside his shop after pouring petrol over him in broad day light at Bishnupur, Shillong, is a case in point.

There is a long list of unrest elsewhere in Northeast too. In the 1990s, thousands of Riang tribals who rejected conversion were expelled from Christian-dominated Mizoram. They are now languishing in the neighboring State of Tripura. Manipur has witnessed mass departure of settlers from the State. Settlement of “outsiders” is already restricted in Nagaland, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh through introduction of Inner Line Permit (ILP) which restricts Indian citizens to enter or stay in these States. Demands for IPL are also being raised from Manipur and Meghalaya. Nevertheless, pestering of “outsiders” who are staying there for Government service or for small business purpose is still prevalent everywhere.

It is more frequent at a small town of Dimapur in Nagaland which is not covered under ILP. In one shocking incident, a mob of about 4,000 people broke into Dimapur Central Jail on March 5, 2015, dragged out an alleged rapist hailing from the neighboring State of Assam, stripped the person, paraded him naked on the main roads for hours, pelted stones and then lynched him in full public gaze. The police remained a mute spectator. All in not well in Tripura as well. The recent clash between activists of the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT) and local Bengali residents at capital Agartala on 23rd August, 2016 where at least 17 people were injured reveal the undercurrent of discontent among the natives.

Influx of Bengali migrants in Assam and its adjoining States has an ugly origin. To the myopic Assamese leaders, the adjacent Hindu majority Sylhet District of undivided India (now in Bangladesh) was a hurdle to the emergence of a unilingual State of Assam and hence they wanted to get rid of Sylhet. As a result of their treacherous role in the “Referendum” of 1947, India had lost a major portion of that prosperous district to Pakistan through rigging of votes. Ironically, it did not fulfill the evil design of the Assamese politicians but just the opposite had happened – it opened the floodgate of refugees. The Bengali Hindus who are being systematically driven out by the fanatic Muslim from East Pakistan / Bangladesh have no alternative but to take shelter in the neighboring State of Assam. The selfish politicians of Assam are responsible for the “Cobra Effect”.

This dark chapter of referendum has been buried in the history book, the present generation Indians are probably not aware of the transgression of their past leaders and so, no one points a finger to the real culprits when the question of influx into Northeast comes up. The helpless immigrants are being unnecessarily blamed for the entire mess. Regrettably, these migrants are being uprooted again from their new homes under the continuing ethnic cleansing drives in Northeast forcing them to scatter all over India. Faulty approach of a section of selfish politicians at the time of independence is responsible not only for this mass human tragedy of the Hindu immigrants but it is also the root cause of the ongoing headaches to the natives of Northeast.

The seven States of Northeast are fondly called “The Seven Sisters”. They are inaccessible to the rest of India except through a slender corridor of width of just about 20 to 40 Km at Siliguri in West Bengal known as the “Chicken’s Neck”, squeezed between Nepal and Bangladesh. Assam is the gateway through which the States are connected to the mainland India. This geographical bottleneck coupled with lack of infrastructure in Northeast is hindering to and fro movement of people. Moreover, introduction of Inner Line Permit in three States and unfriendly terrain of the entire region are also coming in the way of necessary inter-mingling between the fellow citizens. Like every one else, population of Seven Sisters are also averse to unnecessary competition from outsiders. They feel that their separate ethnic identity is threatened in their own homeland by influx from Bangladesh and by settlement of outsiders.

It is common knowledge that Tripuris have been reduced to a minority due to large scale migration of Bengali in their own homeland Tripura since it joined India in 1949. From a majority of 80% in 1901 their number came down to just 30% in 2001. Now, this instance is being highlighted time and again by some narrow minded groups to instill fear psychosis among the indigenous people of Northeast. As a result, the Centre’s initiatives for infrastructural developments of the region are being thwarted by the locals. For example, Indian Railway’s plan to extend railway link up to Burnihut, barely 70KM from Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya, in the later part of 1980s was obstructed by the natives. Similarly, State Bank of India’s effort in setting up its Head Office at Shillong in the early 1980s was also opposed by them. Without such paranoia, today Shillong could have become an IT hub like Bangalore and Northeast would have been on the World’s Tourist Map akin to Goa!

Yet, Seven Sisters are feeling neglected and deprived by the successive Governments in New Delhi. While some of these grievances are quite genuine, certain political and religious leaders have been taking advantage of this resentment and coming in the way of developmental initiatives of New Delhi. These leaders have been instigating the natives against the Centre with a view to fulfill their own selfish agenda. The sense of neglect has been sown so deep in mind of the natives that at times certain people show reluctance to stand up as a mark of respect to the National Anthem when it is being played. That there is no mention of Seven Sisters in its lyrics is their ridiculous justification! Besides, at the national level, some unsavory utterance and undesired actions by few religious fanatics and fringe elements of the ruling BJP are adding insult to injury. The hype that media creates for increasing their TRP with undue focus on these stray developments is further vitiating the atmosphere. These are the backgrounds of hostility against the outsiders that is prevailing in Northeast.

“No man is an island”. Today, India has opened up to the world. Northeast will continue to miss the bus if it chooses to remain isolated The Nation is now mature at 70. Its citizens are now grown up enough to be able to take decision about their own future. For the people of Northeast, there is the dilemma of preserving separate ethnic identity on one hand and on the other hand there is the issue of joining the national mainstream. There has to be some compromise. The famous quote of Harry Browne says “Everything you want in life has a price connected to it. There’s a price to pay if you want to make things better, a price to pay just for leaving things as they are, a price for everything.” Individual Sisters of Northeast should make a choice for themselves – independent of the vested interests of politicians and priests.

Nevertheless, there must not be any harassment, coercion or violence anywhere. Knowledge and understanding of each other’s compulsion, limitation and point of view will bring in tolerance. Harmony between different segments of people and mutual respect can grow only through tolerance. There is no room for derogatory words like “chinki” in India. Similarly, there should not be any space for words like ‘dkhars’ in Meghalaya, ‘mayangs’ in Manipur, ‘plain mannu’ in Nagaland, ‘bhais’ in Mizoram or “k*la Bongal” in Assam. The literal sense of these words might be different but it carries the same pain and agony to the people at its receiving end – everywhere in India. It means – “You are not one of us and so you are not welcome here!”

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