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“I Am Not Wanted Even In My Nation”: A North East Indian Calls Out Our Rampant Racism

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By Ningreikhan Wungkhai:

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Racial discrimination against North Easterners in metropolitan cities is not at all a new occurrence, and neither is it seldom. Why should I be a pigeonholed unsolicited citizen despite carrying an Indian passport? The Japanese, the Americans, the Latinos, don’t see in me an Indian until I proudly wave my papers in the air even though AFSPA has fettered my liberty.

You might not know me from heart but I too am a law abiding Indian citizen and don’t deserve to be treated disrespectfully. Where do I owe my allegiance when I am not wanted even in my nation? When we are not provided electricity and basic infrastructure but only the utter negligence of government for over half a century breeding little else but discrimination?

Have you ever wondered that you might be responsible for the growing insurgency in North East India? Or, were you too naïve to consider how enduring it is for the epicanthic fold when you discriminated, humiliated, and desecrated belief and dignity with no sign of regret? May I educate you before another slanted eye can be pitied? Humiliation could last forever while bruises last only days.

Everywhere racism is rampant, from Australia to India and from Delhi to Manipur. It does not bother those who discriminate, but it is a question of inevitable shame to the victims. To answer such a question is to invite discomfort and shame to one’s cognizance. What happened in Australia rendered a substantial example of the wrath of racism. Many Indians face discrimination in Australia, America, and even in England just because of the colour of their skin and eating habits. Indians overseas working in foreign firms experience the wrath of racism almost every day.

What is happening in Australia is something we don’t want to talk about, but there’s no escaping from kitchen talks, campus, media, or even the parliament. The vast Indian community living in Australia varies from IT profession to taxi drivers, academicians to shopkeepers, business runners to kitchen keepers – all exposed to the same pandemonium. Millions of people in India have been pushing for immediate prevention of racism in Australia. Other nations also advocate that such humiliation is beyond the tolerance of one’s dignity and thus ought to be obsolete.

When India faces external aggression, we all take part in defending the nation. The Sikhs and the Christians together wage war against the same enemies, as do the Muslims and the Hindus. But what happens when minorities are mistreated and injured within India?

India is the largest democratic nation in the world. It is shameful when communal incongruity is practiced in our state. Why are those who appear different and whose eyes appear slanted, called Chinese with sarcasm? We all know that India is a land of diversity. We have even studied so in schools and colleges. After all who dare forgets the essential lesson of ‘unity in diversity’ taught so piously in this Gandhian nation? The person who you call Chinese in obnoxious tones is no less Indian than you are.

We cannot forget the unparalleled dedication of the brave Gorkha regiments during the Kargil War in 1997; giving up so much for the nation while defending its territories from foreign aggressors. Yet you want to think of them as delivery boys and ridicule them by calling them “momo steamers” with such impertinence.

Stop Hate Crimes

I am hurt to learn about the February 27th, 2016 Mumbai incident when a girl from Manipur was allegedly thrashed and kicked on her abdomen in a crowded market because she confronted a man who had spat on her. The accused Vijay Jadhav continuously slapped her and dragged her by her hair as she fell on the road. No one came to her rescue. She was spat on, thrashed, humiliated, and molested in broad daylight until she managed to call the police! And what’s more ghastly is that the police treated her complaints as a non-cognisable offence until the media intervened. “He spat on my sister. When she gave him a look, he started kicking her. He pulled her hair and slapped her repeatedly. Nobody helped my sister,” narrated the victim’s sister to the media.

Sometime back in June 2015, a friend of mine (also a UPSC aspirant from Manipur) was brutally bashed up in north Delhi and landed in the hospital with a broken skull and injured limbs. I have known him since we were in college. Despite being a cultured man he still saw the worst of Delhi. He was assaulted because he spoke against someone who spat on his foot.

Students from northeast India hold placards during a protest in New Delhi February 14, 2014. Hundreds of students on Friday protested against the attacks on people from the northeastern states and demanding justice for Nido Tania, a student from the northeast's Arunachal Pradesh who was alleged to have been beaten by shopkeepers, in New Delhi following a row over his appearance and clothing, local media reported. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi (INDIA - Tags: CIVIL UNREST EDUCATION) - RTX18TBS
Image source: REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

In 2009, when the then Prime Minister of Australia Kevin Rudd woke up to the alleged assaults of Indian students and promised prevention of racially motivated hate crimes, thousands of Indian communities were already protesting against the government for being insensitive towards racial minorities. A multitude protested against the violence in New Delhi outside the Australian embassy. Former Indian High Commissioner to Australia, Sujatha Singh, also expressed her concerns over such discrimination in her brief meeting with John Brumby towards the end of May 2009 in Melbourne.

Despite the mass protest over the hate crime in 2009, an Australian teenager stabbed an Indian student to death in Jan 2010.

We are aware of these misdemeanors yet we discriminate against one another in India. How many North Easterners endure physical and verbal abuse in Bangalore for not speaking Kannada? Even the auto drivers and the rickshaw pullers double their fare if the passenger happens to be a North Easterner.

To retaliate against such impertinence, some disgruntled North Easterners also discriminate against ‘mainlanders’ while doing business in the region. The ethical intolerance within the vast diversity somewhere lies in the phrase ‘fragmentation of state and reverse racism’. Ethnic intolerance and racism can lead to communal warlike situations and internal tension in India. One example of ethnic war is the Yugoslav war, which later resulted in the fragmentation of Yugoslavia in 1999.

Deficiency in the feeling of oneness is also a factor that leads to communal conflicts in India. Many are oblivious that there are 8 states in the North Eastern stretches of their country. Most don’t know where Manipur is.

The word racial discrimination might refresh fond reminiscences from the past. Now let me narrate a short allegory of how altruistic India was in the past. In 1952, India in conjunction with other Asian states raised the question of apartheid at the UN and established that the practice of racial discrimination does not only comprise a flagrant violation to human rights, but also amounts to deterioration of world peace. India played its role in the freedom of Zimbabwe and Namibia from white dominion. India struggled against social discrimination in Fiji. This novelty of India’s policy against racial discrimination is commendable and a notable contribution to the world. Let’s continue to uphold this spirit so that God’s dream of bringing heaven on India’s soil can indeed come true.

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  1. Proud Indian

    Good article, education is key I am from the North East as well and to be honest North east is much more racist than the mainlanders and I have met many north easterners who wouldn’t want to hang out with the mainlanders they stick together! How can you expect to know about a culture unless and until you open yourself to it. While on the streets of Guwahati and Imphal there is rampant racism as well, just go to Dimapur and see how badly the Bengali Muslims are treated, I hope you mention about that as well, and its getting to a point where North Easterners will be immune from verbal abuse and physical assaults and if they are attacked it will be given a racial connotation. Recently a North eastern girl was killed by her harayanvi boyfriend and most of the North Eastern newspapers called it a racist attack, how can they jump to conclusions or is it that if a North Eastern is attacked should we just blindly call it ‘racial’.

    1. Sagar Aronaisa

      You don’t sound like a native Northeastern.

  2. Manohar Machu


    “1) Indians know how the indian map looks like but they do not know each and every state. Many of us in the south do not know how many hindi speaking states are in india. Similarly, the hindi people, they do not understand the difference between tamil or telugu. Though none of these people complain to the other about their ignorance. So when the smart asses from NE talk about being lone victims… i’d like to say, whatever love, whatever.

    2) Indians do not visit the NE because they know the people in that region do not like them. When the region erupted into militancy, the indian govt did not change demographics or applied similar strategies. We put an ass load of precious money into the region that never made any money. A region that fought among itself – tribal warfare, the GoI annexed it and sent lakhs of indian soldiers to guard its borders which if not would have been gobbled up myannmar, BD and china. GoI never glorified indian culture into the region because it was not the right thing to do. Within a few decades 3 of the 7 states turned into bible nuts with 95%+ christians and asked for autonomous councils to run the region as per christian norms defeating the entire purpose of the indian constitution of a secular democracy. Why do i say this? Why is this related? The NE should be far more thankful about the level of hospitality it gets with other indians considering the shit GoI has to go through to keep the region in normalcy. Look at the hospitality given to kashmiris in other parts of india.

    3) Indians control the foreign policy of kashmir and NE even when it puts a heavy cost. GoI does not wish to annex these territories for other indians. Most indians are in-a-way restricted from travelling or settling in these territories. Indians do not know about the people in these regions because they do not travel there. GoI still keeps the regions isolated to preserve the local culture of the region. It has just been a recent phenomenon that NE people have started coming to mainland india looking for jobs and education.

    4) I understand asking a NE whether he is a nepali of a chinese annoys them. I would be annoyed too if someone from UK asked me if i was a pakistani. But it does happen. Though you do not see indians making long blog posts b!tching about it.

    Seriously, why do you make a mountain out of a mole? The indians in mainland do not wish harm. The north indians always have an issue with the south indians but do you see them making it a core issue like the NE are making it? /Quote

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