New Delhi, May 20 : The Union home ministry on Friday asked states to adopt a 'zero tolerance' policy against 'racial profiling and discrimination faced by Indian citizens of Northeastern states'.
In an advisory sent to all states and UTs, the MHA has suggested stringent measures, including action against police officers if they fail to act on a complaint or any information received from a citizen hailing from the Northeast, regarding a cognizable offence.
The move follows deaths of two Northeastern students, Dana Sangma and Richard Loitam in Gurgaon and Bengaluru in April, amid allegations that they fell victim to racial bias.
The MHA has said, “Where a complaint or if any information is received from a citizen hailing from the Northeast, regarding a cognizable offence and no follow-up action is taken, then a serious view should be taken against the police officer concerned and also against the officer-in-charge of the police station.”
It says if the complainant is a member of the Scheduled Tribe, then the provisions of Section 4 of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act should be invoked. This section prescribes imprisonment between six months to one year for a public servant who is not a member of the SC or ST communities and wilfully neglects his duties under the Act.
Toll-free helplines should be made available, where services of any officer or any operator conversant with English must be provided, since it is possible that the complainants may not be able to communicate in the local languages, says the home ministry.
The letter points to reports that people originating from the North Eastern states are facing discrimination 'as they are addressed with derogatory adjectives or face discrimination in the form of targeted attacks, assault, molestation and other atrocities'. This has caused considerable anguish and distress in the minds of the people from the North east, it says.
The home ministry says, "Quick action by the police would restore confidence not only of the victim but also of the community and send a clear message to the accused that such behaviour would not be tolerated.”
It says when complaints are received from a person belonging to the North-East, particularly from women, the 'level of sensitivity and response should be of an even higher level'.’
The states have also been asked to arrange outreach programmes , under supervision of DCPs or district SPs , in areas of northeast congregation to meet community leaders of such groups and address their concerns.