You’ll find yourself behind bars the next time you use racist epithets like chinki. The north-east community is breathing a sigh of relief after the government’s new ruling against racial discrimination of people from the north-east states, and activists say it was long overdue.
In the wake of the many cases of racial slurs against the community, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) sent a letter to all states asking them to book offenders under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. The punishment — up to five years of imprisonment and denial of anticipatory bail.
A young girl protests against racial harassment.
“Dare anyone call me chowmein again ... it is a positive move and a reassurance from the government, but implementing it is the real challenge. I have, though, seen a difference in the attitude of people over the past 12 years of my stay in Delhi. They have become more sensitive and maybe with this law, awareness will reach a larger section,” says Makepeace Sitlhou, 24, from Manipur.
Kel Sang, 24, a PR executive who hails from Sikkim, says, “Maybe after this law, the police will help us when we go to them. Initially, when I had come to the city, the situation was very bad. Guys would follow us everywhere, and harass us.”
Apurva Lama, 20, a student of IP University who comes from Darjeeling, adds, “With this law, at least we will feel much safer in the city.”
Human rights groups, too, are positive. “We have been trying to get such a law in place for long. This will definitely help bring to book offenders who’d go scot-free earlier. We hope the law is implemented widely and properly to make life better for people from the north-east,” says Madhu Chandra of North East Support Centre.
Bringing slur to book in bollywood
Shah Rukh Khan starrer Chak De India (2007) highlighted the issue of racial slur when two characters, shown to be from the north-east states, were verbally abused by boys outside a fast-food joint and the rest of the hockey team fought back. One of the girls also lashed back, “Aapko apne hi desh mein koi mehmaan kahe to aapko kaisa lagega?”
Political support for the cause
Minister of State for rural development and the youngest cabinet minister, Agatha Sangma has also spoken against the discrimination suffered by people from the north-east states. She had said that people from North East face discrimination in Delhi and other metro cities, which should be condemned. Sangma, 31, had insisted that strict action be taken when such cases come up.
Here's what people are saying on microblogging website Twitter about this:
Samar Halarnkar tweeted, “ Five years for calling someone chinki. I guess racist india needed extremepunishment.”
L Pachuau tweeted, “Think 2wce b4 u cal som1 Chinky.”
Mark Doray tweeted, “It’s about time this came in.”
Banananana Batmaann tweeted, “ If we go to jail for calling north eastern people chinki, then all northIndians must go to jail for calling south Indians Madrasis.”