Delhi’s Shameful Behaviour Towards Ne Is Dangerously Sickening
The denizens of Delhi, the capital of India, infected with the virus of racism and discrimination, are slowly but steadily creating hatred that could have alarming political manifestation by their uncouth and brutish behaviour with north-easterners. They think nothing of ogling, passing lewd remarks and haunting women from the north-east (NE). They feel their victims are outsiders thus do not care. Not caring that they are as much Indians as they are. Something is pathologically wrong with them. Such people’s world is confined within Delhi—Dilli dilliwalon ki. This is surprising since Delhi, being capital of India, has a multi-cultural, multi-lingual population drawn from all parts of the country. Why then only people from the north-east are subjected to callous intolerance and to physical violence?
Two recent incidents brought back in focus the virus of regionalism and intolerance that has spread all over Delhi. One was the death of the 19-year-old Nido Taniam, a student from Arunachal Pradesh, and the other was an alleged assault on two Manipuri women in Kotla Mubarakpur after being taunted with racist insults. Another young woman reported that a dog was set upon her and when she kicked and chained it, the dog’s owner and his friends assaulted her and when her friend tried to intervene he was also thrashed. Another lady has written that she was taunted as Chinki, Chinese, and now as Korean and Japanese. A large number of other accounts by students and professionals from the north-east speak of varying degrees of discrimination—landlords refusing accommodation, shopkeepers refusing service, abuses hurled on the streets, a rigid distance maintained by older inhabitants of the city.
People in Delhi seem to live in hermetically sealed isolation and resent any outsider. But why are they especially against people from one of the important regions of the country? In fact, people here seem to be full of prejudices, and utter dislike of the way the north-easterners look and speak. Worse is that while such intolerance has to be dealt with at several levels severely, but in the recent two incidents the police needed nudging from seniors to move fast. But more necessary is to effect changes in social attitudes. One NE student rightly said nowhere in textbooks or seminars NE is seldom mentioned. Even the educated might not know how many states are in NE.
ARE WE A RACIST NATION?
Racism is nothing, but discrimination against others on the ground of birth, caste, creed, religion or colour of the skin. During the war, it has been used a powerful weapon for encouraging hatred or spreading crimes, against the enemies. It is another kind of apartheid, against which Gandhiji fought in South Africa. Despite the claims of many Indians, that we are a tolerant nation and welcome foreigners, the position on the ground is far different. We make a lot of noise against other nations like Australia or the USA (for discrimination against the Sikhs particularly). The World Value Survey, which measured the social attitudes of people in different countries, as reported by the Washington Post, has revealed that the country with the highest proportion of ‘intolerant’ people who wanted neighbours similar to them was Jordan, where 51.4 per cent of the population would refuse to live next to someone of a different race. Next was India with 43.5 per cent. The data of other countries, for intolerance is as per the Survey report is shown in Table A.
India is not a country, but a subcontinent. The national or official languages of our country are Hindi and English. There are 22 official ‘scheduled’ languages, which are Assamese, Bengali, Bodo, Dogri, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Maithili, Malayalam, Marathi, Meitei, Nepali, Oriya, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Santhali, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu.
The number of other Indian languages listed is 452. Of those, 438 are living languages and 14 have no known speakers. Many of these languages have several dialects. There are 28 states and 7 Union Territories. The customs and dress of one state look queer to the others. A 19-year-old student, from Arunachal Pradesh was beaten up by a group of men in south Delhi’s Lajpat Nagar market on January 29, 2014, and he died in sleep next day at his friend’s house. The whole trouble started, when some shopkeepers made fun of his hair style. He, in anger, damaged the glass of the shop and was in turn assaulted by the shopkeepers. Since the boy was from the north-east, many have termed it a hate crime. Regrettably, our Home Ministry has no time to improve the situation, so that such incidents do not occur again. The police and laws play here a vital role.
Although Delhi is the National Capital, and the police comes under the Home Ministry, its position is as bad as that of any other state government. Delhi Police, which is meant for looking after 16.5-million population, has a sanctioned strength of 83,762 personnel, much less than the international standards. Even out of this people deployed are: Police Control Room System–8,558; VIP Security–7,315; Vacancies as of now–About 7,000.
Vacancies occurring due to retirement and other causes every year are more than 3,000. If you divide the balance, available force, for policing duties, into three shifts, there is nothing much to write home about. Apart from the above, the staff attached to the SHOs and above has not been taken into consideration, as it is not sanctioned, and not shown, but is vital for the policing and functioning of the police. It is worthwhile to quote the former Home Minister Chidambram, who summed up the condition of the police all over the country. He observed: “Police system is outdated. Police are ill-trained, ill-equipped and ill-paid… The police constable, who works for 12 to 14 hours a day throughout the year is the most abused” part of the machinery…Everyone believes that he (constable) can be bullied, or cajoled or bribed… he is the most reviled public servant…Self-esteem of average policeman is very low…And this average police constable is a frontline force for the internal security.”
The following Committees and Commissions have been set up since independence, to suggest improvement in the working of the police: The Kerala Police Reorganisation Committee (1959), the West Bengal Police Commission (1960-61), the Punjab Police Commission (1961-62), the Maharashtra Police Commission (1964-65), the Madhya Pradesh Police Commission (1965-66), the Delhi Police Commission (1967-68), the Assam Police Commission (1970-71), the Uttar Pradesh Police Commission (1960-61, 1970-71), the Tamil Nadu Police Commission (1971), the Rajasthan Police Re-organisation Committee (1972-73), the National Police Commission (1977-1981), the Reberio Police Reforms Committee (2001), the Padamnabiaha Committee (2004), the Justice Malimath Committee (2001-2003), and the Soli Sorabjee Committee (2008).
All this has been an exercise in futility with zero result. The upshot is that people get away with the murder, for no reason whatsoever. Coming to hate crime, our laws are so weak and neither the police nor the judiciary has been strengthened, with the result that the situation is going from bad to worse.
It is criminal mentality or outright criminals, who are responsible for the present state of affairs. Incidentally, some girls from the north-east of India have complained of molestation. It is not only they, who have suffered, but many other women of Delhi as the figures of crimes reported in the national capital of India show in Table B.
But the fact remains that all our laws are pro-criminals and are more slanted to let off the criminals than punish them. According to one report, nearly 37 lakh students move from their states to other states in India for better education.
When India makes a noise about racism against Australia, or the UK or the USA (including the recent case of a junior diplomat) or France or other countries, it is time for itself to look within and put its own house in order. Similar complaints have been made by Africans against Indians, In India. India is a mosaic and no right-thinking person would like it to be destroyed. But with the weakest possible system, with the same laws as were drafted by the British in 1863, this problem cannot be solved. Why not for a change put the onus on the criminal to prove that he is not guilty with the provision of no bai? In the first instance, India must declare a policy of “No Compromise With Racism”. We can go on talking about racism and who treated whom badly. But the question is, what is the government, which functions on behalf of all of us, doing or going to do about it? Probably votes and elections winning are more important than dealing with racism, which not only divided India, but the entire world. It is rather overdue to remind the government to sharpen its claws against anything wrong and destructive against the country.
It should show courage in performing its duty, which it has sworn to do and defend the Constitution and rights of every citizen.
By Joginder Singh
A report on a project by the North East Support Centre & Helpline (NESCH) says up to 78 per cent of the 200,000 north-east population living in Delhi is subject to various kinds of humiliations, including sexual harassment, molestation, human trafficking, beating, rape and murder, largely because of their appearance, with the women bearing the brunt of the abuse for the past six years. This began with a heinous crime, the gang-rape of a 19-year-old girl from Mizoram while in a moving car in central Delhi six years ago. The assaults kept getting worse, culminating in the 2009 gang-rape and murder of a 7-year-old girl from Nagaland, the attempted rape and murder of a 19-year-old Manipur girl at Murnika, and in the gang-rape in 2010 of a 30-year-old Mizoram woman. Thus far, some 96 criminal cases against the north-east community have been filed since 2005, according to the NESCH.
What a chronicle of the debasement and deplorable acts all committed by the Delhiites. They have shamed Delhi and India. And they continue to do with abandon. Now, horror of horrors such attitudes are no longer restricted to people from the north-east. African nationals in Khirki Extension, Delhi, recently became the target of a midnight raid, led by Delhi Law Minister Somnath Bharti, and the anger of local residents has started forcing other Africans out of the area. The worst cultural stereotypes mark such hostilities. And it is unfortunate that such incidents continue to occur with no flutter of shame in the police officials or ministers. Of course, nothing is expected from the AAP government, whose Law Minister himself was the leading player in vigilantism against African women and the Chief Minister himself endorsing his minister’s action blamed by the police.
The Central government’s attitude has been of casual concern so far. It has been largely ignoring the inhuman conduct of Delhi people and the damage it would cause to the integrity and cohesion of India. When the disgruntled and angry NE people return to their states and relate first-hand what they endured, the reaction there would be volatile. The political implication could be demand for separation while socially the alienation with the people from here would cause an irreparable division—a dangerous development if all social interaction between people of the same country stops.
These viruses multiply faster in an atmosphere of distrust, which is fraught with locals’ susceptibility to rumours, and deliver deadly results. Children pick up from their seniors and are often seen calling NE people names and Blacks habshi. The oft-asked question is why do students from remote and not-so-remote parts of India flock to Delhi? Obviously, it is in quest of higher education and better job opportunities, which after more than six decades of India becoming a republic is very unevenly spread in the country.
These ‘outsider’ students are fleeced by all—from auto-rickshaw drivers, landlords who rent out shared accommodation, to the local kirana shop-owners. They know the thumb rule—’outsiders’ have no right to protest. Protests invite ethnically derisive cat-calls. Persistent protest could lead to physical violence. Despite benefiting monetarily from the ‘outsiders’, the locals harbour an inexplicable distrust, which turns into animosity when local goons and petty politicians fan apprehension that lifestyle of ‘outsiders’ could corrupt local children. Many feel that girls from NE are morally loose—for they wear blouse and skirts.
There was in the Arunachal Pradesh student’s killing the element of Delhi Law Minister Somnath Bharti’s midnight raid under the glare of TV cameras in Khirki Extension, against foreigners branded as drug peddlers and prostitutes who threatened the locality’s cultural and moral purity. If the Law Minister could do a daredevil rescuer-of-society act to cleanse Khirki Extension of the evil effect of ‘outsiders’ and get away with it, then the local goons of Lajpat Nagar could surely take a leaf out of it to repeat it in an even more violent way. Since hardly anyone from Delhi study in NE or seek employment there the Delhiites do not fear a reprisal. But ironically when it comes to NE dealing with ‘outsiders’ they display a different attitude. The Supreme Court’s rulings in different cases were interpreted by the Arunachal government, which smelled of jingoism.
The Supreme Court in Raghunatharao Ganpatrao vs Union of India [1994 (1) Suppl. SCC 191] had said, “In a country like ours with so many disruptive forces of regionalism, communalism and linguism, it is necessary to emphasise and re-emphasise that the unity and integrity of India can be preserved only by a spirit of brotherhood. India has a common citizenship and every citizen should feel that he is Indian first irrespective of other basis.” In the same year, the SC had again warned in SR Bommai case [1994 (3 ) SCC 1], “Regionalism, linguism and religious fundamentalism have become divisive forces to weaken the unity and integrity of the country. Linguistic chauvinism adding its fuel to keep the people poles apart. Communalism and casteism for narrow political gains are creating foul atmosphere. The secessionist forces are working from within and outside the country threatening national integration.”
Ironically, while the SC in 1994 was dealing with the deadly effect of these regionalism viruses, Arunachal Pradesh Students Union (AAPSU) was threatening Chakma refugees, who had come to India in the 1960s, to quit the state. Neighbouring states had warned the Chakmas against entering their territory, sandwiching the refugees between the frying pan and the fire. The Supreme Court warned that any such conduct of racism and double standards would invite strict action.”Those giving such threats would be liable to be dealt with in accordance with law. The state government must act impartially and carry out its legal obligations to safeguard the life, health and well-being of Chakmas residing in the state without being inhibited by local politics.
This includes raising awareness about such prejudices and increasing the space for different people and communities in textbooks, in the media and in popular culture. Difference cannot become the grounds for exclusion in a national capital that thrives on, and constantly remakes itself through, its diversity.
The discrimination virus against NE people has spread. The mysterious death of Loitam Richard in Bengaluru, the murder of Ramchanphy Hongray in New Delhi, the suicide by Dana Sangma and other such incidents remind and warn 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. The basic question arises, will people from the north-east India would ever be accepted as people from the South and other parts of the country? This would not be possible if the north India wants that NE people give up their culture, lifestyle, values and adopt those in these parts of the country. Nor one supposes the north-east India would accept the mainland India as one of its own. India is a country that has remained cohesive and united with lots of diversity. So if northeasterners are different, why must they be treated differently? Both sides have to accept that. The problem so far has been that racism here in India has never been taken seriously—socially or politically. The response to such incidents is either a concern for 24 hours or complete agreement with it. The fact is racism has been institutionalised. Yengkhom Jilangamba, a Visiting Associate Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi, was quoted as saying, “To recognise that racism exists in this country and that many unintended actions might emanate from racism can be a good place to start fighting the problem.”
Sociologists have suggested that groups like the Lions or Rotary and educational institutions should help raise awareness about such prejudices and help increase the space for different people and communities in textbooks, in the media and in popular culture. Difference cannot become the grounds for exclusion in a national capital that thrives on, and constantly remaking itself through, its diversity. But the government and politicians have ignored the issue. The death of the young 19-year-old student was ignored by the Prime Minister and Sonia Gandhi. Only Narendra Modi mentioned and ridiculed it while criticising AAP government. No move has been initiated to bring in some kind of legislation to curb the menace. Why can’t our lawmakers understand that this racism would be chipping away the link between the eight NE states and rest of India, both politically and socially?
By Vijay Dutt
(The writer is former Director, CBI)