A Demand of Recognition from a fellow Indian: Plight of North Eastern students in Delhi

"Coming from the ‘north-east’ part of India, there are many questions and prying eyes that we have to face every day to prove to the North Indian populace that yes, we are also a part of the Indian nation."

Image Source: Youth Ki Awaaz

‘What language do you speak?

“Why do you wear the kind of clothing that you do? Don’t you think it is too unlike Indian standards and kind of exhibiting?

‘It is so funny how you pronounce “bhaiya jee. Welcome to a parochial nitty-witty world once again where the eastern wing (oh I mean the north eastern wing of the country) is once again bestowed the needful to do the job of reminding our beloved country that Indian independence that took place on the 15th of August 1947 did cluster us in the group of identified national segment.

North-East is a beautiful land of people living in a fabricated anonymity of unknowns, under the ‘mainstream’ bandwidth of Indian nation. A cumbersome failure of logistics has still made me think and rethink of possible reasons bearing some responsibility to the threat and classification that north easterners are subjected to in everyday affairs.

With a major segment of people flowing into the capital city each day, for better education purposes, we have discerned that even though education and mindset building is what the place promises, yet a sub-standardized clad in ignorance amid a learned populace characterizes us with mongoloid features for Chinese (Oh what do they call? Chinkies).

A realization that around 45 million of people from this race (if there is anything like Race at all) is living here in the country and that such inference can be very misleading. The poor geographical knowledge has a tad bit of role to play. But what geography are we talking about? Maybe, a better explanation is that the seven sisters only work for them in books and not in reality. An attack on the sanctity of the sisters is straightway high on alert, but we can proceed with other reasons.

Are migrants into the capital city an issue here? Let’s explore in perspective-

Now to put this blatant racism of our ‘fellow countrymen’ for us into perspectives and the logics behind it:

·        Easily recognizable: With smaller eyes, white faces and descriptive facial features, discrimination is easy. It is not easy for a ‘normal’ IQ guy to actually sit and compare a Punjabi from a ‘Haryanvi Jat’ and then judge them. But why judgment at all? And what calls for differential treatment if small eyes and fair skin are the only causes? Let’s go for eye surgeries?

·        Too far to melt together: It is easier for a Tripuri to mingle with an Assamese or a Bengali, not so much with an American. Neighboring cultures often have many common things. Delhi is far away and there is practically less common thread that can bind these people.
This is especially true for perception of women. The Hills have never been theaters of war, men and women have worked peacefully with women often outworking them. Many tribes are strongly     matrilineal       and           matriarchal.
Delhi has been a trophy for all invaders to come. Women were kidnapped, raped and forced into harems or slavery as spoils of war. Hence, women became a thing to be protected. Women's contribution were seen as water from a well, available till it lasts. Her childbearing abilities became synonymous with fertility of the land; harvests must be reaped while the source is protected. This difference is actually a major bone of contention without anyone realizing. But are we justifying? Not a bit

·        Escalation problems: North-easterners roam around in a group like oil droplets on water is one accusation that we have registered. Problem is that the animal brain we have beside the logic faculties readily sees this as a threat; they are ganging up, most probably not to our best interest. This underlying fear often makes them more targeted, without their knowledge.
South Indians (though have their own set of struggles to face), especiallyTelegu and Tamil youths too roam around in groups but their advantage is that almost all of them have some or the other mutual friend in the lot of others. This makes the reptilian brain not see threats in the group.

One of the fundamental issues that prevent Indians from other states from accepting North easterners as such is because of a huge disconnect in shared history. India has one of the most richest and ancient history in this world. We share a lot of common aspects in terms of culture, legends, mythology, rituals etc. across the country. We unite in terms of our shared past, the myths, the heroes, the literature from north to south, east to west. But a very peculiar aspect to be realized is that while the average Indian knows rudimentary historical developments in the North and Southern India, in west (even current day Pakistan) to Bengal (and Bangladesh), we know nothing much about the northeastern states - the people, their culture, their languages, any history associated with that region. 

 We learnt about Kalinga as being a very strong kingdom that challenged King Ashoka, we have read about the brilliant architecture in Orissa - the Sun temple of Konark, we know about the mighty empires of the South - Chola, Pallava, Vijayanagar empires etc,  we have read about the history of Bengal during the reign of the British, the legends of Bengal - RabindranathTagore, Swami Vivekananda,  the Maratha hero Shivaji's valor and courage in facing the Mughals, separation of East Bengal from India, split of Pakistan in the west etc. 
However, in all of the history taught to us, we have never read much about what was happening in the north-eastern region all this while. What was happening there when Indus Valley was prospering, what kind of kingdoms ruled those places, what type of heroes are popular there, how was the society functioning. It's like a blank page with just one line after added the consolidation of Indian states - a small paragraph about the names of the north eastern states and their capitals. That's it. 
This appalling lack of knowledge, ignorance makes it harder to associate them with the history of our country and consider them as an integral element of Indian society. But I still question the gruesome nature of targeting a group which has no responsibility to bear for the history.

The average Indian has no sense of what's happening in the north east, the political situation, separatist movements and insurgency issues. We have no clue. The media doesn't cover it. The regional media is totally not interested in covering even events of natural disasters in those regions. An occasional art film would crop up with sketchy elements of Naxal and insurgent activities but we don't know anything about the real heroes - people who are battling enormous struggle, people who could achieve small victories despite the utter lack of support from the government. 
There is absolute zero awareness in the mainstream film industry. Tourism is not promoted as much though people can’t stop gushing about the seven states if they happen to take a tour out there.

All this results in an uninformed mass like in Delhi University where racism is very vulgarly present, the brunt of which is faced by students from north-east everyday.

But the larger question that remains is –despite the far stretchiness of these states, despite the immodest outreach of bigger events here and despite a not so rich documented history, do people who are a part of the country deserve the discrimination that has been seen more than a thousand times when we see a northeastern woman looking wondrous in a pair of jeans and the same casual t-shirt that probably you might not have taken much into serious engagement for any other woman who is ‘normal’ and ‘Indianish’. Why is it that a bad pronunciation of Hindi wriggles your surfaces out and almost makes you dismiss what the easterner is saying?? Why in the wildest dreams is it that you can’t lend out a decent conversation to any woman from the area who goes up to you asking a genuine question out of need?

Can we revise our knowledge and understand linguistic differences of a diverse land? Can we see everyone through an eye that is more egalitarian and less attacking? Can we think they are as much Indian as we are?


Qwingkl, A north-easterner