Millennium Post

North East is in India, right?

We in India proudly parrot the ‘unity in diversity’ line ever so often. Nothing puts it to shame more than the shocking way the young from the north east region are treated in our mega cities. The jury is still out in the April case of suicide in Gurgaon by Dana Silva Sangma, the 21-year-old niece of Meghalaya chief minister Mukul Sangma and the death of Richard Loitam, a student of architecture in Bangalore. Both deaths in a span of a fortnight have again turned the spotlight on atrocities and sexual violence against boys and girls from Manipur, Assam, Mizoram and other north east states as they travel out of their home towns looking for greener pastures their vast country offers.

It is time to look deep and long into the psyche of people who do not appreciate the myriad colours of India and its people. Why is it difficult for people to accept and embrace those who do not look like them, dress like them or behave like them? The main reason for rising crime against youngsters from the north east in cities like Delhi, Gurgaon, Noida and other metros is because they are not accepted as fellow Indians. They are not considered one of 'us' because they have different facial features, different social norms, different cultural practices and speak a different language. It is not only the 'difference' that alienates them from the rest. It is something more worrisome. People from the north east region of India have been stereotyped and profiled in accordance with certain assumptions made by a typical north Indian patriarchal mindset.

Regretfully one has to admit that most people consider boys and girls from the north east as promiscuous strangers who can be abused and humiliated. Since they are far from home without support of any sort they make soft targets. The notion that the girls from the north east are 'easy game' stems from the lack of understanding of their cultural practices and way of life which run contrary to the rules of a male dominated society of north India which still largely sees women as sexual objects. The boys from the north east are viewed as 'inferior' and 'strange'.

The challenge of dealing with discrimination and violence against people from the north east is going to become greater in the coming years because of the manifold increase in migration from the region. Going by the current trend some 50,00,000 youngsters from here are expected to move to mega cities looking for better education, job opportunities and central government jobs. In the last five years there has been a 12 times increase in the number of boys and girls leaving their homes in the States called the seven sisters for education and employment in the big cities. Migration from the north east is because of socio-political unrest, lack of educational infrastructure, weak economy and lack of employment opportunities.

Most of them are compelled to work and study in conditions far from good. Those employed in the unorganised private sector are often exploited. Students are under pressure to perform well and they wilt under it more so because they find themselves in an unfriendly environment without any family support. Most live alone, often on a shoe string budget which makes them easy prey for exploiters. They come to the big city unaware of its dark side and completely unprepared to meet the challenges and keep themselves safe from lurking dangers.   

It does not need the Meghalaya CM to point out alleged 'discrimination' against students from the north east in institutions across the country, though it has to still be proved as the reason for Dana’s suicide. Statistics compiled by the North East Support Centre and Helpline are telling enough. NESC&H keeps records of 'racial discrimination' and crimes arising out of it against people from north east living in Delhi and NCR from mid 2005. The gang rape of a girl in a moving car in Dhaula Kuan of south Delhi on 8 May 2005 was the first recognition that India’s capital city was unsafe, more so for women from the northeast. The problem was further acknowledged with the murder of a 19-year-old Naga girl in her Murnika (south Delhi) flat by an IIT Ph D scholar.

Girls and boys from the north east have been victims of rape, molestation, physical assault, misbehaviour, teasing, being called 'chinkies' and being targets of vulgar remarks. A 2009 pilot study conducted by NESC&H reveals that 86 per cent of northeast communities living in Delhi and NCR face racial discrimination and are seen as easy targets by anti-social elements in Delhi, Gurgaon and Noida. The study was conducted by selecting samples of northeasterners living in north Delhi, south Delhi and Gurgaon. The study reveals that the longer they stay in Delhi and the NCR they are likely to face racial discrimination. Given below is a year wise record (2005 - 2009) of crime against people from the northeast provided by the NESC&H.

Cases (Total, FIR, No FIR)
Molestation (25, 13, 12)
Rape (3, 3, 0)
Beating Girls (5, 3, 2)
Beating Boys (20, 4, 16)
Murder (4, 4, 0)
Attempt Rape (1, 0, 1)
Misbehaved (3, 0, 3)
Non Payment (6, 0, 6)
Rent Non Refund (2, 0, 2)
Media (1, 0, 1)
Total (70, 27, 43)

2011-2012 has so far shown that things are getting no better. In 2011, a girl from Mizoram working at a BPO was gangraped in a car. She left Delhi after being ostracised by neighbours, friends and colleagues. In January 2012, a 20-year-old from Manipur was waiting for a bus at Gurgaon after her work hours in a Spa. She was offered a lift, raped in the car and left to die. Just a month back a 25-year-old woman from Manipur was walking with her husband after shopping when she was molested by some men. Her husband raised an alarm and with the help of passers by was able to chase away the molesters. Another girl from Manipur working as a sales girl in a mall complained that she was being repeatedly molested by her neighbour.    

Madhu Chandra, spokesperson for the NESC&H alleges that the situation has become worse because of the apathy of the Delhi police in dealing with the complaints by victims from the northeast communities. According to Chandra only 38.60 per cent cases are filed in police stations. Statistics complied by Chandra’s NGO suggest that nearly half the women harassed sexually in the capital are from the north east.
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