For students from northeastern states, the time spent in the city is like a vicious ragging session extended over three years — all because they have distinct features that are not exactly “local”. Things are especially bad for women students who complain of harassment.
These students tackle innumerable hurdles, minus any kind of support from the university. Houses are not available on rent and college staff also sometimes make things difficult, they say. “One feels hurt and then angry. It is the same land, same people, but…” said Alice Haokip, a first-year student from Manipur.
Haokip has done the last two years of her schooling from Delhi and names like ‘Chinky’ and ‘Basanti’ have become a part of her existence, but the sense of insecurity is something she is yet to get over. “Walking on the streets, I am worried that something might happen as I clearly look different,” said Haokip.
She says back home, Delhi is perceived to be an unsafe place for girls from the northeast. “Before coming to Delhi, people warned me about discrimination and harassment. But then we have to study,” she explained. Lolia, a post-graduate student from Nagaland, agrees.
“Our parents feel good that their children study in Delhi University. But they also feel extremely anxious about our safety. Delhi is the best in terms of educational opportunities, so a lot of students from northeastern states come here. But everybody from the vegetable vendor to the landlord try to dupe us as we have a language barrier and look different,” she said.
Lolia said students from the northeast often find themselves sidelined and the university staff (administrative) was especially discriminative. University dean students’ welfare SK Vij admitted no separate support structure existed for students from the northeastern states.
“They have their own community networks,” he said. Lolia feels that the “westernization” of women from the region was blown out of proportion and they were represented as “loose”. Almost everybody has heard stories of rape and molestation, of men trying to break down doors at night — which is why students often pay up to Rs 5,000-Rs 6,000 for a single room with a shared kitchen and toilet.