By Radhika Ghosh:
And even if the North-South divide can be explained as a language divide ( which I strongly condemn as I firmly believe there can be no excuse for the sentiments and barriers that this divide fuels), how does one explain what is happening to the students from the North East?
Over the past month and a half, the mainstream and social media, have been petitioning the cases of Loitam Richard and Dana Sangma – two students who died tragically in the month of April, one a victim of an alleged murder and the other a victim of suicide (allegedly abetted by the university’s consistent harassment on account of her Meghalayan identity.) A recent article in the Hindu, carries the accusation that “Mainland Indians” are culpable of racism towards our fellow “North East Indians”.
Where did this term “Mainland Indians” come from? Again highlighting the fragmented Indian society, I now feel ashamed to even remember how proud I was of India’s diversity. These two students suffered not only as a direct result of the “trigger holders” but as a result of the flawed system.
The details of both cases have been discussed widely including through social networks, campaigns and online petitions – so I shall only touch upon them. Loitam Richard, was beaten to death by a senior at Acharya Institute of Management, located outside Bangalore when he and his fellow roommates got into a squabble over the remote control while watching an IPL game. The hostel apparently had a night warden tours the dorms repeatedly during the nights but who was conspicuously absent from his duty on the night of April 18th when Loitam Richard bled to death overnight. Had the warden done his duty, Loitam Richard may have been alive today.
The college made many allegations on how “people from this culture” are heavy drug users, and how the cause of death was not the beating – later proved false as medical reports proved that there were no signs of drugs or any other substance in the victim’s blood stream.
Dana Sangma committed suicide allegedly as a result of a conspiracy created by some of the faculty in Amity Business School, Gurgaon who tried to frame her for cheating from a mobile phone (while sitting in the front row) during an exam. They hid evidence from the police, didn’t report the incident to her parents and made several attempts to cover up their role in her death. She was the niece of the Chief Minister of Meghalaya, Dr. Mukul Sangma, whose daughter told him that Dana was repeatedly harassed and discriminated against because of her ethnicity.
These incidents prove that discrimination exists even in academic institutions, a sphere where every child is meant to feel that they are made welcome. Irrespective of who they are and where they come from. These incidents are not stray or few, as crimes against North East Indian girls are on the rise in the capital city and its environs as these girls “look different and are appealing” to “Mainland boys”.
In a debate with Sagarika Ghose on Face the Nation: “How Can the North East be brought into the Main Stream”, Binalakshmi Nepram, founder of Manipur Women Gun Survivors Network, and an internationally recognised spokesperson on North East Indian affairs, highlighted how the other students in the Mainland are unaware of the 40 million people living in the North Eastern states. She stressed that it is the responsibility of the Centre to include the history and culture of the region into the textbooks in schools, so that the rest of India learn about the North East. She raised the pertinent question that if the children of the North East learn about the rest of India, why can’t the rest of India learn about the North East?
Many of us are beyond the school-going age, and why should we wait for the Centre to take action on uniting the people of India? If any change has to happen, it will only happen when “We the People” implement and feel the need to change. Let’s stop living as a divided Nation, and hear the wounded cries of our fellow Indians. We have so much to learn and teach each other, Let us weave our different identities, by celebrating all of them, under the blanket that is India.
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