The recent horrific death of Nido Taniam from Arunachal Pradesh after being beaten by a gang of shopkeepers in Lajpat Nagar, a bustling market centre in the heart of Delhi has enraged the people of our country. Following this, a fourteen year old girl from Manipur was raped on Saturday by the son of her landlord. These are not isolated attacks since people from the North Eastern states (Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Nagaland, Mizoram, Tripura, Meghalaya and Assam) have been made to feel like aliens in their own country ever since Independence.
In our metros, where thousands of people from the North East come to study and work, why do young North Eastern women have to face comments about their being “loose” and why are all people from the North East flippantly called “chinki”? Is it because the people of our country are narrow-minded and cannot tolerate differences? That would be a very superficial analysis but when we dig deeper we see the subtle propaganda of the so-called democratic state of India at play.
The draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) has been in effect in the North East for years and the armed forces stride the region with impunity and brutality. They have been consistently deployed by the Indian government (under all coalitions and combinations of political parties over the years) to suppress and terrorise the citizens. Women are raped by the armed forces everyday and young men routinely “disappear”. Unemployment, rising prices of essential commodities and declining health and sanitation facilities plague our cities. But to divert the people’s attention from these problems and prevent them from seeing that the real culprit and the real narrow-mindedness lies in our state, the government uses the media and its goons to create a climate of hate.
There are many examples of precedence to this “othering” agenda of the Indian state. In Maharashtra, people from UP and Bihar are constantly marginalized and in the sixties, it was people from the Southern states. The policy of “divide and rule” that our brown sahibs learnt so studiously at the feet of the British is at play here as they pit the people of the country against one another.
India is a land of people belonging to many nationalities and cultures. It is complex and diverse and defies a straight-jacketed profiling across various nations and peoples who reside in India! Our histories show that people in India have never shunned variations but celebrated and imbibed them. But the British came and destroyed our sense of pride with their divisive tactics. This colonial legacy is reflected in the recent attacks. Conscious citizens have already come on the streets to condemn the attacks and demand that the rights of all people from all parts of our country be guaranteed.