-Dev Ankur Wadhawan
Is the attitude of Indians laden with hypocrisy when it comes to the issue of racism? When an elderly Sikh staying in America was assaulted in Chicago and called ‘terrorist’ and ‘Bin Laden’, it was pointed out that there exists a racial bias against Indians in parts of Western countries. When it comes to hate crimes of racial nature against Indians living in either USA or UK or other developed countries, many of us are quick to point out how these countries have prejudiced view of Indians or blacks or those who are at variance with its citizens in terms of their skin colour, attire, culture, regional background, language or other aspects.
But what happens when there is an unabashed display of deep – rooted bias against Indians by Indians themselves? When a Manipuri girl recently alleged that she had to face harassment and racial prejudice at the Delhi Airport, being told that she does not look Indian, I am sure several of us in North India would have considered that as routine or par for the course. There have been repeated cases of North Eastern men and women being at the receiving end of racial slurs or attacks, some of which have been serious in nature. In December last year, some men had brutally attacked a man from Manipur in Gurgaon. Prior to that, a 19 year old boy from North East, Nido Taniam, died after being badly beaten up in Lajpat Nagar area of Delhi. There have been attacks on North Eastern students in Karnataka as well, including for their inability to speak in Kannada. There are numerous other cases when the hateful side of these deep rooted prejudices has surfaced amongst Indians against their fellow citizens.
One wonders whether India as a country is more racial than some of the Western countries where attacks have taken place, especially after the 9 / 11 attacks in the USA.
Indeed, many of the Indians from the North Eastern part of the country, studying, working or simply living in Delhi, Bengaluru, or other parts of India outside of North East, racial barbs and slurs have become a part of their daily lives. Consider these. Being called by all kinds of names, such as Chinky, Chinese, Nepalese, Chowmein, Momos continues to be a routine occurence! Girls from North East while walking even in areas being considered as relatively safer, like DU Campus, and being asked what their rate is for a night, or if they are free and available enough for a ride. Harassment of sexual nature is pretty rampant although it often goes unreported or is under reported for the fear of further ordeal at the hands of insensitive and callous cops.
How can anyone be okay with such treatment meted out to fellow country people? Do they have any less rights in a democratic nation where people unfailingly boast about its unity in diversity? Are they any less citizens simply because their eyes are of different shape or their eating habits, customs, and culture and tradition is at variance with what some in North Indian states consider ‘acceptable’?
And its not just the mindset of the fellow citizens that has made so many people in this country suffer a sense of alienation. The Governments in the past are to be blamed when it comes to discriminating with North Eastern states, neglecting development of those places, while according preferential treatment to the states that are considered politically more significant.
The North Eastern region has given several heroes to the nation. Olympic medalist Mary Kom, boxer Sarita Devi, footballers Baichung Bhutia, all of them belong to the region and are proud of their origins. People from the North East are known to be passionate about football, several of them can play atleast one instrument and are generally considered to be hardworking. India is culturally, geographically, language and custom wise an extremely diverse country. It is upon its people to celebrate this diversity rather than hold it against one another.