OUTSIDERS IN OUR HOMELAND – Reconstructing the ‘North East identity’: Fighting prejudices and biases.
By- Ninong Ering and Abhishek Ranjan
To be culturally diverse and socially accepting is the ideal that nations are built on. Unfortunately, India still has a long way to go. This reminder comes to us every once in a while, when a student like Nido Tania is mocked and killed for his appearance, or when it is reported that over 200 cases of crime against North East Indians are registered each year in Delhi alone. Even the recent cases of discrimination against former Miss India Chum Darang, and few JNU students have also come into picture which makes us feel very sad and isolated. The situation is grim and we need to take concrete action against those who are insistent on dividing our nation and harming our people.
The Indian state has a clear duty towards its citizens: to ensure respectful and unbiased treatment of each citizen. Though there are some provisions in place such as the Schedule Caste and Schedule Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act of 1989 and the other fundamental rights which uphold the tenants of equality, yet it seems that the state can do a lot more to protect and honour the citizens of this country. The MP Bezbaruah Committee appointed by the government has called for a new law against discrimination that makes racial discrimination a cognizable and non-bailable offence. It also recommends time-bound investigation of FIRs and fast-tracked trials to increase trust in the law enforcement machinery, which is abysmally low at the moment.
“It is time to worry when the institutions of law-governed societies themselves become places where racism occurs,” notes the Committee. Sensitization campaigns through in-service training must be made compulsory for police personnel stationed in localities with big North East populations. Such training should ideally be organised by people working with the North East migrants or who understand their fears and inhibitions.
The Committee has also recommended improving social ties between communities. When persons from the North East migrate in search for better employment or educational opportunities, they often find themselves isolated and cornered in cities where people are often hostile and judgemental. Students are singled out while professionals fight to work with dignity.
This alienation can be lethal and the state must find an antidote to it. A tried and tested formula for ensuring inclusion is the creation of platforms and forums where communities can mingle and engage with each other. Educational institutions, state bhavans, resident welfare associations, religious institutions and not for profits working in the space of human rights can play a big role here. From food festivals to sporting events, all such endeavours can help fight targeted discrimination and violence.
The government also needs to work harder to inculcate the ideas of acceptance, diversity and tolerance, and an extremely effective way of doing this is by engaging with the youth. Social media campaigns are a rather effective way of reaching out to this target audience. Campaigns like “Let’s Talk about Racism” conducted by a leading newspaper of the country got people from all walks of life to speak up about deep rooted prejudices and discrimination in India. The reach was massive and the response positively overwhelming. A campaign on the same lines can be undertaken by the government.
Today there is an urgent need to connect with those who live in fear and instil in them the confidence to speak up and fight against all forms of domination, majoritarian and discrimination. We urge you to join us in this effort.
( unedited article )
Ninong Ering is currently a Member of Parliament, Arunachal East Constituency while Abhishek Ranjan is a Policy Analyst working. Authors can be reached at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org