The BJP’s vision document for the Delhi assembly election has stirred up a controversy by referring to people from North East India in the national capital as ‘immigrants’. Although the BJP has apologised for its ‘clerical error’ and made the requisite changes, the issue stirred protests in Assam. Political parties like the Congress and BJP’s erstwhile ally the Asom Gana Parishad have said that the statement has hurt the sentiments of people from the Northeast.
The word ‘immigrant’ is used to describe people, who have moved from one country to another. The BJP’s inadvertent mistake has yet again created a sense of uneasiness in people from the North East. The mistake, however, is inexcusable, considering that the BJP runs the current dispensation at the Centre, besides the fact that a large number of Northeasterners live, work and study in the national capital. The national capital has witnessed a spate of racial attacks and discrimination against people from north east in the recent past. Nido Taniam, son of an Arunachal MLA, died after being badly beaten by shopkeepers at a Lajpat Nagar market here. Taniam was a victim of racial profiling and xenophobia.
On a daily basis, the word ‘Chinky’ is used to denigrate individuals with mongoloid features from the seven sisters to Ladakh. The term ‘Chinky’ has a historical precedence, where during the 1962 Indo-China war in north India, anyone who looked Chinese was called a ‘Chinky’. It is clearly a pejorative term with explicit racial overtones. Women have it worse, with constant questions asked about their ‘morality’, due to the seemingly liberal lifestyles they lead.
The recent spate of sexual assaults against women from the North Eeast is also another manifestation of such racist and xenophobic attitudes. Besides sheer ignorance, a deep sense of hierarchy in mainland Indian society, as a result of caste considerations, have accentuated such racial and xenophobic attitudes. When they witness someone with vastly different features from a seemingly alien culture, the sense of hierarchy and consequently ignorance is accentuated. No one is accusing the BJP of racism. The BJP, however, could have done a much better job of vetting its vision document. For crying out loud, they have a Union Cabinet minister from Arunachal Pradesh.