Putting an End to Racial Profiling: Equality for Northeast Indians
India is often hailed as one of the world’s most culturally rich countries, with the cuisine, dialect and clothing changing every few kilometers. So while remaining politically stable and giving equal representation to all communities is certainly a challenge, the discrimination of Indians from the North East is unacceptable.
Some recent headliners including the Nido Tania case, in which a 20 year old student from Arunachal Pradesh was murdered in the Lajpat Nagar area of New Delhi; cases of sexual harassment against young north east women – particularly the rape of a Manipuri girl in New Delhi show how North Easterners are segregated, treated as strangers and forced to fight for their right in their own country. Recently, Mary Kom, India’s eminent female boxing champion, broke down at a public event where she claimed that selectors were biased against her as she was North Eastern and Haryana’s Pinky Jangra was favored.
Migration and Racial Attacks
Many studies have been conducted on the push and pull factors of migration when it came to North East youths and the causes for racial attacks faced by them. One paper on social profiling by Madhu Chandra mentions the various push factors for migration of North Easterners to different parts of the country such as lack of educational and employment opportunities and infrastructure in their home territories.
As the area is geographically and politically unsuitable for industries, it remains underdeveloped and is often starved of investment by corporates and private companies. Metropolises such as Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore seem attractive as globalization has led to the rapid development of these cities. English-speaking youths can often get a job at a BPO or as salespersons.
However, people hailing from the seven sisters usually belong to a scheduled caste or tribe and have mongoloid features. Researches have often cited their vulnerability, the stark difference in appearance as compared to other Indians and India’s attitude towards backward classes as reasons for violence. Consequently, this means that North East residents now have no place to go: Political instability in their home region and fear of discrimination in mega cities.
Failure to Resolve This Issue
Even after reports of brutal sexual harassment, cities (NCR in particular) remain unsafe. The various programs and helplines launched after the horrific Nirbhaya case have done very little to improve the situation. Police officers on duty tend to be unhelpful and often people want to avoid getting into a legal hassle, so the matter is “settled” at the scene of the crime (this may involve some money exchanging hands). Even if one takes the effort to take the case to court, the delays in justice ensure that no compensation is given.
Just like India loses thousands of bright minds each year to better educational institutions abroad, the North East also needs to be able to retain its youth in order to reduce regional disparities. Thus, it is imperative for the government to set up and maintain schools and colleges and invest in human resource development in these areas.
Law enforcing agencies need to be diversified, so that there are police officers, lawyers and judges belonging to the North East as they will be more responsive in cases of violence. Awareness and orientation programs should be conducted for people from the North East to help them adjust to life in mega cities, inform them of legal procedures that they can take, how they can seek help, etc. And for victims, there need to be rehabilitation centers to provide a safe haven.
Despite having represented our country on the international front and bringing home plenty of accolades, residents of the North East are still denied fundamental rights and face discrimination on an everyday basis, whether it’s racial slurs or outright physical abuse. It is incredibly disheartening to see hardworking and deserving individuals such as MC Mary Kom being held back in life simply because of prejudices. It is imperative that we preach tolerance and respect in order to become a truly developed nation.[Image Attribute: David Mark]