The abominable ghost of racism, which seems to have rooted deeply in our country’s present fabric, revisited last week, when Nido Taniam, 19, a college student, hailing from Arunachal Pradesh, died of possible internal injuries after being beaten up by shopkeepers at a busy market in South Delhi—an evident hate crime that owes its origin to inherent prejudice against citizens from the country’s north-eastern states. Before the killing of Taniam and the alleged assault on two Manipuri women in Kotla Mubarakpur after being taunted with racist insults recently, the inexplicable death of Loitam Richard in Bengaluru, the killing of Ramchanphy Hongray in New Delhi, the mysterious death of Dana Sangma and other such incidents serve as reminders of the insecure conditions under which people, particularly the young, from the north-east of India have to live within the metros of this country. These killings bring to one’s notice one widespread conclusion—all of these people were from a certain part of the country, had a particular physical appearance, and were seen as outsiders in the places they were insulted or died. Such occurrences have been seen as a symptom of the all-encompassing racial discrimination that people from the region face in metropolitan India. In fact, racism exists in all forms in India and worse than in other countries. We discriminate on the basis of caste, religion, colour and region. What more one needs to prove our prejudices! While all over the West, there are efforts by governments and private organisations to alleviate this enormity, nothing is done in India and is used constantly to score political dividends. So, let’s not be fooled by the politicians into believing that we are angels and all others are devils. Take the case of the midnight raid led by a Delhi minister against African women without any tangible evidence and the verbal abuse as well as accusing them of illegal and immoral trade, which exposed the mindset of our leaders. The worst cultural stereotypes mark such hostilities. The message “Delhi for Delhiites” is clear for all migrants, who seek a life in the metropolitan city. Against this backdrop, it is perturbing to note that the educated people also express their fear of foreign people, sullying their culture and environment. In this regard, it is worth mentioning that a court has rightly pointed out that Delhiites need to be educated of the basic tenet of our nation— “Atithi Devo Bhavah”.
In an enlightened society like ours, racism exists but is hard to prove. The death of Nido Taniam should be treated as a symptom of the pervasive racial discrimination that people from the north-east face, especially in metropolitan India. The present hullabaloo is not just about killing of Nido, it’s an outburst of discontent and humiliation that the north-easterners have been facing on their day-to-day life in the Indian mainland. Starting from matters, which seem to be a petty matter but which, when accumulated and combined with other humiliations, hurts to the innermost feeling, the north-easterners have been victims of racial discrimination. Most of the non-north-easterners think bizarre about the north-east. Such sarcastic smirks of the speaker point to the perception that the north-easterners are hilly, tribal, barbaric, nomadic people of underdeveloped region. As long as such stereotypical perception lingers, racial slurs, racial contempt and sexual as well as non-sexual assault will continue to exist. But here it is worth mentioning that the moment one Indian gets beaten up in Australia or America, there is a lot of publicity. However, these hate crimes by Indians on Indians go relatively unnoticed. That is a shame. Shame on those who call themselves liberal and upholders of democracy, justice and equality! As a society, we are constantly failing on some parameter or the other. These incidents reflect what much of our society thinks and acts and sadly—it is all biased, unjust and idiotic. Before reaching to a conclusion, it would be sensible on our side to analyse as to why such hate crimes take place. Racism is a stark reality, embedded very deep into our social fabric. It is not choosy as it wounds people from any region or background. The architects of such heinous crimes are often afflicted with the lack of understanding and tolerance. No religion or nation preaches intolerance or endorses the view to look down upon anyone. If we feel that looking down on someone, who is not from our background, is justified and flaunt our nationalistic attitude, then we must realise that it is time we retrospect our understanding. In fact, it is high time we reviewed our value system, which is brimming with instances of tolerance towards any other, who is different from us, whether in colour, caste, religion, background or even opinion. On an individual level, we should not fall prey to hypocrisy and live by example.