Sinlung /
15 June 2012

Bridging Or Widening The Cultural Gap?

By Kusum Kanojia

Dare you call a person from the North-East region ‘Chinki’, ‘Chinese’ or ‘Chow mein’. Now, you might land up in jail for doing that!

With growing incidents of alleged racial discrimination and verbal abuse against citizens of the North-East, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has sent a letter to all states and Union Territories, asking them to book offenders guilty of atrocity against people from the region under the SC and ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act since a significant number of persons from the North-East belong to the Scheduled Tribes. Under the law, an offender can end up spending five years in jail and the accused could be denied anticipatory bail.

The Ministry in the letter says, “A sizeable number of persons belonging to the North-Eastern states are residing in metropolitan cities now and in major urban areas of the country for education and employment. It is reported that people originating from 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.”

Metrolife talked to some individuals from the North-Eastern community living in the City about their reaction to the new move and checked out whether it will really help in the long-term. Janet C Munluo, who works as an administrative executive in a private firm in Gurgaon, says the move will infuse a sense of fear among people before they think of ‘teasing’ the North-Easterns.

“These incidents have been in the news for a long time but were not taken seriously. With this new law, people will think twice before making any offensive comments. It will act as a preventive measure,”  she says.
While they commend the effort on part of the government, those living in the City for a long time believe that more than a law there is a need to sensitise the people.

Ashok Wangdi, trustee, Asoka Mission says the government’s directive is appreciable and the new move may help for a while but what is needed is an awareness programme for the common man and authorities. “The government’s directive will definitely help but one law is not enou­gh. Discrimination against the North-Easterns or racial remarks are not a law and order problem. It’s a social problem. Not only North-Easterns but people from other regions are also targeted. Unless people, authorise and police are sensitised, nothing is going to help in the long-term,” says Ashok, who hails from Darjeeling.

A native of Manipur, Hoihnu Hauzel, who has been living in Delhi for around 20 years seconds him. She says the discrimination and racial behaviour with North-Easterns talks of the people’s lack of awareness, their intolerance and ignorance. “It is an extreme move but was requi­r­ed. With such cases coming to the light very often, something like this was needed to control the situation. Once a school girl whispered ‘chinki’ as I was passing by. I didn’t feel insulted but I felt sorry for the state of education that children are getting, which teaches them to judge people by the size of their eyes,” says Hoihnu, a journalist staying in Gurgaon.

According to North-Easterns, the problem arises due to a cultural gap. Sonam Gechen Aola, President, Northeast India Foundation says those who come from this region don’t know about the cities they are going to and vice versa. “The discrimination is taking place because of ignorance. People should be introduced to each other’s culture. Besides, inter-cultural dialogue should take place. I am not happy with the government’s decision because that way the gap will increase,” says Sonam. Like someone wisely said, there is always a flip side to every story.


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