New Delhi, Feb 19 : Delhi’s Munirka village is once again in the spotlight, for the wrong reasons. According to reports on social media, a ‘panchayat’ in Munirka held a meeting on Sunday where it was decided that tenants from northeast India would be asked to leave the area. The news caused outrage with many viewing this as a "diktat by a khap panchayat". Munirka is also the same area where a 14-year-old Manipuri girl was recently raped by her landlord’s son.
“The first panchayat meeting took place on 9th February after the 14 year-old from Manipur was raped. Thanks to media pressure, the rapist was caught. That was a first.
At the first meeting, some of the people said that the people from northeast are ‘gandey log’ (dirty people). Then another meeting was held on Sunday, where they said they wanted to rid of all ‘gandey log’.
This is similar to the Khirki incident, and they have said that Northeast girls are loose and of bad character,” says Binalakshmi Nepram, an activist and founder of Manipur Women Gun Survivors Network. Nepram was also one of the first people who tweeted about the incident.
Located in South West Delhi, Munirka is a popular place to stay for students from northeastern states given it’s proximity to the Jawaharlal University. Other than JNU, the village is also a mere twenty minutes away from the posh DLF Promenade and Emporio malls in Vasant Kunj. For a south-Delhi location, real estate is also quite conveniently priced. One of the gates into the Munirka village.
Why people flock to Munirka
According to a property dealer, a one bedroom flat (with space for a kitchen) is available for as low as Rs 7,500 if one is looking for a slightly newer apartment with a western toilet.
A two-bedroom flat is available between Rs 13,000-14,000. Buildings with older constructions and Indian toilets are even cheaper and apartment rents start at around Rs 5,000.
In fact, the most prominent boards you will notice in Munirka are those of property dealers. The narrow bylanes are filled with four and five-storey houses, some which are relatively new and are modelled on the more fancy constructions that dot upper-class residential areas in Delhi.
While some might consider Munirka a congested area, it is a favourite with students and youths from the northeast states for cheap homes available there. People from the northeast states form a majority of the tenants in the area.
It’s not just students but also families originally from the northeast who live in the area. 'Not against persons from northeast, just drunken, trouble mongers' Munrika’s Residents Welfare Committees, however, deny such a diktat was ever issued. Bharat Singh Rathi, general secretary of RWA, told Firstpost,
“This is a rumour. We only want to make sure that outsiders don’t come, get drunk and create a ruckus.” When asked to define 'outsiders', he says he meant people who don't hail originally from Munirka. "We don’t know who is coming here at night. We wrote to the police about this as well," he added. Other residents also deny that such a decision was ever taken.
"The issue was never about getting rid of people from the northeast. There are some students from northeast and some from our own community who stay out on the roads at night, get drunk and fight at ‘chowks’.
We want to make sure that all shops are shut post 11 pm and that there are CCTV cameras to keep a track of who comes and who goes," Ravi Kumar, a resident of Munirka, said. But Nepram says that the panic had already spread thanks to the panchayat’s decision. "If we hadn’t gone to the police and stood there for 11 hours, the RWAs and panchayat would have done what they wanted. I stand by my tweet. There was already panic among the people from the northeast community.
We sorted it out with the SHO and RWAs and got an assurance that no one would be evicted," she says. Akbar Chawdhary, JNUSU president, says that it was only intervention of the police that stopped the panic from spreading.
"In Munirka, the panchayat tends to take all the decisions. We called a meeting with the SHO because we were worried that this diktat will be used to discriminate against the people from the northeast.
Rumours like this caused massive trouble in Bangalore," Akbar said. History of atrocities While Munirka offers residents cheap accomodation, it has never exactly been safe for people from northeast.
Nepram says that the measures being taken on the pretext of boosting safety in the area were meant to target and drive out people from the northeast states. "Harassment is an everyday concern here for the girls.
Let’s not forget that in 2009, 19-year-old Ramchanphy Hongray was killed in Munirka," she said. In September 2009, a girl from a northeast state was molested and beaten up by her neighbours in Munirka.
Another TOI report from 2011 also highlighted the kind of harassment that many girls from northeast have faced while living in the area - some of them even had to resist attempts at rape. "Who will decide who is behaving in a drunk and disorderly way? The fear is that this deadline, safety argument will be used against people from Northeast as the police and local residents have a certain mindset when it comes to them,” Akbar said.
And where attitudes are concerned, some assumptions about residents from the northeast do exist among those renting out property. “60 percent of these Assamese people are bad. The good ones go to work in the morning, but some of them get drunk and create trouble for everyone else,” declared a landlord, who did not wish to be named.