It was just another regular Sunday. I took an auto from my hostel to the Hauz Khas metro station where I met my friends who had boarded the metro at the Chattarpur metro station. As I boarded the metro, I was telling my friends how I couldn’t get an auto for some time, and how I had to find another auto and share it with someone.
A lady (she must be in her mid-thirties) who was in the same compartment, asked us if we were talking about ‘Indian’ and told us to translate whatever we were saying about being ‘Indian’ in either English or Hindi. She wanted to know why we were using the term. I had heard her, but since we weren’t talking about anything ‘Indian’, I ignored her, assuming that she must be talking about something else.
My friends and I resumed chatting among ourselves, and this time, the same lady, shouted at us, asking us to translate whatever we were saying. I turned to her and told her that we were not saying anything thing offensive to her, and even if we were, that it was none of her business.
She started shouting and hurling abuses at us. In the most disgusting way, she told us to get out of the train and out of the country, again repeating that we were talking about ‘something Indian’ in a foreign language. I lost it this time. I told her that I am an Indian and that she has no right to talk to me like this. My friend also responded to her and told her that we were talking about normal things only. She shouted and screamed at the top of her voice, and told us that we should go back to our country. True to the nature of people in Delhi, no one else spoke in our favour.
My friend and I got back to talking, trying our best to ignore her. We told ourselves, somewhat sarcastically, that we shouldn’t get angry as we were going to church and thought that we shall go and pray for her too. Then, we started discussing some issues that were going on in the student union, wherein we used the terms ‘Nagaland Nagas’ and ‘Nagas from Manipur’. The lady started screaming again, demanding that we tell her which state we belonged to. I later realized that if she was able to identify that we were from north-east India by the terms ‘Nagaland Nagas’ and ‘Nagas from Manipur’, she must be an educated woman.
Still, we refused to answer her questions and ignored her. However, she continued screaming, saying that she would send the CBI to find us and kick us out of the country. She also asked us if we wanted to go to China or Japan. I kept quiet because by then, I had given up. My friend was also too shocked to argue back and froze. She didn’t say a word.
I was shaking with anger and humiliation. I tried my best to compose myself. Soon enough, she de-boarded the train. After that, my friends and I tried to take stock of what had just happened. What is with the term ‘Indian’? We wondered – what was it about the term, that could be so bad or fragile that it made the other person feel so insecure or threatened that we might be talking about it.
Sadly, our ordeal didn’t end here. Two young girls then told us again to not use the term ‘Indian’, as hearing the term from us, made them feel bad. I told them that we are trying to make sense of what had just happened to us, even as they looked on. I told them that they should understand and be empathetic towards us, but instead, they were telling us to not have a conversation between ourselves!
They looked like college students to me, so I tried to reason with them. I told them that they looked like educated people and that we expect educated people to be reasonable. But they too, behaved like the previous lady. However, they did tell us that they knew that the lady was wrong, and that was the reason they didn’t support her.
I tried explaining that there was no fight, that the other lady was abusing us and that everyone including us, can talk about whatever we want to and no one has the right to stop us. Then came the threat. One of the girls threatened us saying that there were only three of us, while the rest of the compartment was filled with ‘Indians’ and that everyone would support them.
I shuddered with shame and disbelief, not because I felt threatened. But because people could stoop so low to abuse someone and take pride in it. Again, the whole compartment looked on, and not a single person tried to reason or intervene. I sat there for some time clueless about what to do.
It took me some time to get back to my senses. I told my friend that we needed to file a complaint. She said that the cameras installed in the train should have the recordings. I went towards the front side of the compartment to check for the train number. I found the compartment number, but not the train number.
Someone who was behind me suggested that I ask the train driver for the details. I thanked her. She came forward and told me that I should just ignore such people. She apologized for not intervening as she did not see the event from the beginning.
I came back to where my friends were sitting, and one of my friends told me that the two girls who threatened us were saying that they were lawyers. I told my friends that we need to calm down and not pay attention to them. We got down at Civil Lines. I asked the driver for the details, which he happily provided. He even asked me if anything was wrong, and I told him our ordeal.
He expressed regret and said that we should have used the emergency speaker to complain, and there would have been assistance at the next station. I asked him if the camera installed in the train was working, and if so, would the recording be enough proof. He told us that the camera would have the footage, but no sound. He told us that we could file a case but it was very likely that the case would not be taken seriously, as the audio was not available.
I gave up the idea of filing a case after this. But I am writing this for two reasons:
1) For the people who believe that no one should be targeted or discriminated on the basis of their look, language or anything – It is not alright to just look on. It’s important that you stand up against such incidents. Use your rights to protect the rights of others. I know many people in the compartment would have felt that something wrong was being done to us but still chose to stay away. I know it’s easy to stay away (I have done so myself many times) but it is not right. It could happen to anyone. The sooner we start addressing this issue, the better it is for all.
2) To people who face/have faced discrimination: Be alert and familiarize yourself with the remedial measures/provisions available. I was so shocked that it didn’t occur to me to use the emergency speaker installed in every compartment of the train.
I am also sharing the details of the incident in-case anyone wants to verify it or do something about it:
Train No. 1505
Compartment No. D2A21
Between 10:20-10:35 AM
Huda City Centre-Samaypur Badli Line
15th April, 2018.