Racial Discrimination Against North East Indians: Causes And The Way Forward

Posted on February 28, 2014 in Education, Society

By Nupur Das:

The death of Nido Tania recently in Delhi has triggered protests and calls for the draft of anti racism laws. His death was no lesser or bigger than Nirbhaya’s death, after all a life is a life. Little change did we see in the attitudes of people and assault on women cases even after newer laws came into existence after the infamous 16 December incident. This makes one thing clear, that no legislation can bring a change in the mindsets of people. It has to be imbibed into the minds of people and that change, for good, has to come from the deeper roots of human psyche. But at the same time, we should not for a moment consider that we needn’t have stronger anti racist laws as it will help to keep the lumpen elements away from committing such heinous acts.


Delhi has been home to various communities of people since its inception and has set a good example of a capital city for a multicultural country. There has been mass immigration of people and thus leading to demographic changes in Delhi. It is a well known and accepted fact that the region of north east comprising of seven states, now eight, have different cultures and histories which are very much different from the other parts of the country. Starting from the food habits to dressing sense, the lifestyle has been poles apart from rest of the region of the Indian society. When the migration of the people from these eight states which, within themselves, have various differences on the basis of language, religion and so on takes place, they at times find difficult to mingle with other sections of the population of “mainland” India. Maybe because of the communication gap that has been existing since many years now, or maybe the conflicts that have been taking place in most places of north east and thus developing a common stereotype amongst the people of the rest parts of the country that every part of the north eastern region is “dangerous” and still living in the stone age era. The migration to places like Delhi and other cities has been primarily because of the war like situation that has been prevalent in almost the entire region, thanks to the Indian state and its biased policies and the deeds of various insurgent/extremist groups of the region.

However, Delhi is not the only place where people of the north east region face discrimination. In Places like Bangalore, down to the southern corner of the country, are also some of the many places where discrimination exists (though the magnitude of discrimination is not as much as it is in Delhi). On the flip-side, one should not presume that discrimination does not exists in the states of north east which are basically inhabited by tribes. A north Indian travelling to north east will be tagged as a ‘bihari’ (in a negative sense) even though he/she belongs to other ethnicity. Or the assumption that everyone coming from south India is a ‘Madrasi’ ignoring the fact that there exist various other ethnic groups and languages. The sole purpose of pointing out these nicknames that have been existing is that we have forgotten and ignored the differences that exists and went on generalizing.

An individual/family brought up in a milieu where one spends many hours of the day in engaging with stupid superstitious believes, lesser exposure and irrational thinking mostly swayed by emotions, rather ignorant about others, finds difficulty in accepting someone who according to them does not follow the “bharatiya Sanskriti”. Hair style and dressing generally make the conservative lot of people to develop an opinion that they are “bad” people. While drinking wine in North Indian territory has mostly been  a sin, drinking traditional wine/beer in some parts of the North Eastern region has been a culture and tradition.

Candle light vigils, going out in the streets, taking out protests marches from Jantar Mantar to Parliament, organizing debates seminars and intellectual discourses won’t solve these problems and change the psyche of the people in general. Problems will start declining only when we spread the ideas of our discourses from class rooms and seminar rooms to the fields, into the society, where such developments take place. Simply condemning the racists won’t help solve the problem. One has to see how one is educated to perceive the world around him/her so that it can be made into a better place to live in.

Problems will be solved only when people start recognizing differences and become tolerant. Recognition is vital for human existence, which otherwise leads to social exclusion of any group/community of people. When the message will be sent to the masses about various unknown differences that already exists in the country, people will start realizing the beauty of a diverse society. A great initiative to end this disjuncture of knowledge would be by introducing more information about the North Eastern region or the southern region, or any other regions which have been ignored since years, into the curriculum of state education boards and other central educational boards, especially NCERT books. Let us not only confine Indian history to the Mughal’s history. And the government (both state and center) should be more inclusive while coming up and implementing policies which do not create a sense of hatred and alienation of the people. On a closing note, I remember Mandela’s words “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” and hence, I say, I still have faith in the human race.