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North-Easterner or not, no reason to get assaulted! Students recall harassment

In a recent incident, a research student from the Northeast was abused by an elderly woman in Delhi Metro.

delhi Updated: Apr 26, 2018 18:27 IST
Henna Rakheja
Henna Rakheja
Hindustan Times
North east,Delhi Metro,Delhi University
(Picture for representation purpose only) North-Eastern students in North Campus, Delhi University.(Jasjeet Plaha//HT)

Discriminating against anyone on the grounds of ... well, just about anything, is not cool, not justifiable! C’mon Delhiites, it’s high time we all came together to treat our fellow residents well. You’ll know others’ pain and anger if you, too, get yelled at by a fellow passenger on the Delhi Metro; if you are told: ‘Get out of India. Go to China’. All this for just talking among friends in one’s native language from the a North-Eastern region of India!

The incident
  • On April 15, between 10.20 and 10.35 am, when Delhi Metro’s train no 1505 reached somewhere around the INA Metro Station on Yellow Line; here’s what happened inside compartment No. D2A21: An old lady starts abusing a girl from the Northeast for talking to her friends in their native language. When contacted, the girl, who is a PhD student of Jawaharlal Nehru University, informed that she has been living in Delhi since 2007.Wishing not to be named, she shares, “I have faced several instances of racial slurs and comments but never on this scale. Each time someone made a comment, I fight back and such persons would either keep quiet or get defensive saying that they didn’t mean to insult me, or were not talking to me. This time, it was different. Each time I tried to respond, the abuses got louder and more threatening. One of the young girls said, ‘You are only three of you and the whole compartment is full of Indians.’”Putting this incident aside, the girl agrees that there is “more receptivity” when it comes to North-Easterners now because “people meet and see more people from our region, and not because they have a better understanding of the region, its people, culture, etc.” Stereotyping, however, still continues. “It’s there both inside and outside the college campus, barring a very small section [of people] who are open to learning and meeting new people. The difference is that on the streets, people use crude language while in campus, it is more subtle. Many a times, it could pass off as a casual comment and not discriminatory in nature,” she says.

Off and On Campus

This one was an off-campus incident, but the concern is as valid on campus. Especially, around this time of the year when youngsters from all over the country are aiming to head to Delhi University for higher education. Unfortunately, the existing students from the region at the varsity say it’s not easy for ‘outsiders’ to be accepted in the city.

“Every year you come across news about a Northeast tenant caught having meat or killed on the road or mocked for using native language,” says Raginee Sarmah, a second-year student of English (Hons) at St. Stephen’s College. She agrees that landlords are now a “little less hard” on people from her region, but for selfish reasons. “[It’s] mostly to cater to the requirement of capital that comes mainly from the Northeast students.” She adds, “The truth is that if you walk on the streets of North Campus in wee hours, you will be teased. And, if you are a Northeast girl dressed up in a certain way and walking the same street, then the degree of assault will be heightened. People call us names… The exoticism of the Northeast girls is at another level. Often, all this is hidden under the garb of humour, which is most appalling.”

One would assume that the classrooms are where they feel shielded from the negativity. You’re wrong! “Our teacher is partial towards others. Initially I thought she is unintentionally doing this, but I realised that’s not true. She once asked who is the topper and my friend, who is from Sikkim, stood up. But, the teacher said: ‘No, I am looking for the other person’,” alleges Ruth Chawngthu, a student of BA Political Science from Kamala Nehru College. She adds, “There are many incidents. Some teachers teach in Hindi, without realising that it’s difficult [for some of us] to understand. When I graduate, I think I’ll write to the teachers, requesting them to translate in English, so that everyone in the class can feel included.”

There are some, for whom the environment within college is safe, but not outside. “Just the other day, I was walking in North Campus with a senior and some boys screamed to us: ‘Go back to China’,” recollects Sange Thungon, a final year student of BA Political Science (Hons) at Lady Shri Ram College for Women.

She says that beyond North Campus, the situation is even worse. “I went to a tailor near my college, who while taking measurements started feeling me up. I didn’t know then what to do, and how to react. He is such an old man; what could have I said? But, when I came back to my college and told my friends about the incident, they accompanied me, and we together ensured that the man touched my feet and apologised to me in front of a hundred people,” recalls Thungon, still shaken by the incident.

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First Published: Apr 26, 2018 18:27 IST