India's Racial Hatred Kills Nido Taniam In Delhi
By Richard Kamei *
Racism, violence and sexual violence against people from north east region of India are not new. North eastern people are at the receiving end of this perpetual hate crime in almost all the cities and other places in India . The main premise of this approach towards north eastern people is on the basis of how they look different from the rest and also in having distinct cultures and traditions.
It is widely known that India is ranked top spot as the least racial tolerant country in the world in a report released by Washington Post. The fabric of India thrives by the unified diversity of people irrespective of their social position. Racism is a tool to create division filled with hatred- one being superior and the other being inferior. It begins with stereotyping from the assumption people make.
The othering of people from north east India is predominant in all the cases of racism in India . They are always perceived as 'other' remarked with various racial slurs like 'chinki', 'chowmein', 'Chinese', 'Nepalese', 'bahadur', 'jinga la la' etc. The racial approach towards north eastern people stems from ignorance by people from mainland, and then distinct cultures of northeastern region are seen as a threat to culture of mainland people. Instead of filling in the gap with tolerance, respect and acceptance- hatred comes to the fore. Moreover with language gap and the notion that north eastern people are incapable of doing nothing against the mainland people, makes mainland people feel that they can will their imagined racial supremacy upon northeastern people through various forms of racial discrimination. In short, racism arises from an intersection of powerful and less powerful with a hatred for the other. (The racism within north east India also needs to be taken into account at the same time, though there is some space of tolerant level in our region- nevertheless, any form of racism needs to be condemned. Fighting fire with fire will yield only fire.)
The death of Nido Taniam in the capital of India- New Delhi is not shocking going by how New Delhi treats people from the northeast India and to others including the recent case of racial profiling of black people in Khirki Village, New Delhi where racism is being excused on moral and political grounds. The number of crimes against north eastern people reported every year; especially in New Delhi is a testimony of the racial discrimination against north eastern people. The way how Nido Taniam died shows the inefficiency of authorities in dealing with the case of Nido and more importantly it affirms how racial hatred can lead to such crime. Aligning to this, the brutal murder of Richard Loitam in Bangalore is still awaiting justice. The sentiments of people echoed that they do not want any such cases to drag on for long keeping justice in abeyance.
There are arguments coming in from a section of people that the case of Nido is not related to racism. Isn't ignoring racism is also a form of racism? As someone from north east India, it is easy to identify the connotation of racial remarks when people make a comment on the hair style, dressing manner, food habits, etc of people from north east India. For instance, it is very rare of incidents where people from Uttar Pradesh making fun of the appearance of people from Odisha. One Delhi based social scientist argued through her tweets that people should learn to accept mild teasing and be tolerant to it. There is nothing like mild racism; racism is racism and its various forms should be condemned. Similar counter argument came in, stating that when there is acceptance for ‘Bong', ‘Gujju', ‘Mallu', ‘Bhaiya' etc people from north east India should accept racial slurs like ‘chinki' or ‘Nepali'. How is that being justified? First it is a racial slur when it is directed at north east people or to Chinese and secondly people from north east India are not from either China or Nepal . Trivialisation of racism is equally condemnable as it will allow and make racism grows.
In the recent study conducted by Jamia Millia Islamia's Centre for North East Studies and Policy Research with National Commission for Women (NCW) found that 60% of women from North East India, who have moved to major cities in India , are reported to face harassment and discrimination. City wise- New Delhi is reported to be most intolerant city towards women from north east India at a staggering rate of 81 per cent of women respondents facing racial discrimination. Racism is not only inherent among people; it is also practised by the state authorities in the form of racial profiling of people from north east India . Women from north east India remains more vulnerable to racial discrimination and sexual violence. The recent account of how two Manipuris girls and their friend were beaten on 25 January 2014 , by local people at Kotla Mubarakpur, New Delhi affirmed the regular plight of women from north east India . The police first refused to register their FIR and harassed them to narrate the incident in ‘Hindi'.
Another account of (covert) racism in literary circle witnessed on 2nd February 2014 , at the Mumbai chapter of “Cultures of Peace: Festival of the Northeast: Building Bridges” was held as a part of the “Kala Ghoda Arts Festival” where many people attended. During the session, the moderator of the event- an editor of one prominent newspaper for Mumbai edition had the audacity to ask the panelists, “Did you face any racial discrimination?” Two panelists out of four answered in one line that they did not face any racial discrimination despite being from north east India . The moderator is very much aware about the instances of racism from New Delhi to Assam and he openly claimed that he hailed from Meghalaya. When enough evidences are available about racial discrimination against north eastern people; it is illogical to inquire people from north east India if they face racial discrimination.
How many times an assertion has to be made about the existence of racial discrimination? The panelists, who denied facing racial discrimination, didn't explain why they didn't face any of such nor did they explain why the rest of the people from north east India with mongoloid features are vulnerable to racial discrimination. When that inquiry ended, the moderator went on to ask, “Are you comfortable with your Indian identity?” and surprisingly the panelists went on to answer that question. If one re-read that question and the context, will that question not amount to receive brickbats if put it across to mainland Indians. Coming to the context of racism, the question on Indian identity is suggestive of the fact that the panelists were being asked because they are all from north east India . So, when racial discriminations are happening against north eastern people; the identity of being Indian comes under spotlight. Or is the moderator being wary that north eastern people will start a revolution? This is similar to how rape victims were questioned about what dress they were wearing at the time of incident instead of putting an onus on the accused.
Racism should be dealt with strictly and should not be tolerated at any cost. Otherwise how many Loitams, Reingamphys, Sangmas etc can we afford to become a victim of racism. It is high time that people in India should acknowledge the malice of racism and address it collectively. Racism is very inherent in our society we belong to, and addressing racism can be done through acceptance, and being tolerant of differences among people irrespective of caste, colour, class, religion etc. Standing up against racism which is faced by others in our day to day life, is another aspect that needs a due importance.
* Richard Kamei is M. Phil Student at Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai