The killing of Nido Tania, a 19-year-old student from Arunachal Pradesh, in Delhi has led to widespread outrage across India. There have been spontaneous protests against his untimely death and politicians have talked about ways to stop such racist incidents in future: while the Delhi chief minister, Arvind Kejriwal, wants capital punishment for the accused so that an appropriate message could be sent out against such acts, his cabinet colleague, Manish Sisodia, wants to include the history of Northeast India in the syllabus of Delhi government schools so that “children know the history of every part of India” and “do not treat people from different parts of the country as aliens”.
Student groups and some politicians have demanded an anti-racism law and a National Commission for Minorities-type body to ensure the safety of the people from the Northeast. Discrimination against the people of the Northeast is not new. Ask any Northeasterner who stays in Delhi or for that matter anywhere else in India and you will get a clear picture of her grim experiences: from unkind comments (including stereotyping) to physical abuse, they endure humiliation on a regular basis.
Four days before Tania’s death, two young women from Manipur were thrashed in full public view by goons. When they went to a local police station, the police refused to register an FIR till members of a Northeast association called up a senior official.
India never misses a chance to publicise its rich diversity but the truth is that Indians are parochial: a large segment of people feel secure to live in their little worlds and protect its borders from any ‘external influence’. Remember the Shiv Sena’s aggressive stand against the people from the south as well as the north?
While there was an economic angle to the Sena’s stand against non-Maharashtrians (though the violence it unleashed on non-Maharashtrians cannot be justified on any grounds), in the case of Northeasterners even that narrow economic logic will fall flat.
Tania was killed in Lajpat Nagar, a middle-class colony in south Delhi, but racial attacks happen on a regular basis even inside the best of the educational institutions. And since the youth from the Northeast usually bear the brunt of such racist attacks, it is up to the youngsters from other parts of India to redress the situation.
They need to stand up and speak out against such racial attacks. Such violence cannot be looked at only as a law and order problem but as a result of ignorance and certainly as an attitude problem. And who better to change such an attitude but the young people of the country?