Hate crimes against Northeastern people are treated as isolated cases by law-enforcement agencies and are being ignored by most Indians.
(Illustration: Malay Karmakar)
I face lots of challenges trying to protect human rights. Members of the NESCH support us with money from their own pockets. We do not have pro bono lawyers, but most victims are from poor families and have no money to pay for legal fees. Court procedures are long and tedious; victims frequently have no faith in the system or get discouraged in the process. That’s the reason why 90% of NE victims never get justice. Dealing with the police in Delhi, meanwhile, often requires our team staying awake all night, sometimes without food, to coordinate between officials and victims.
While writing this piece, I am recalling many cases I handled in the past. There was Reingamphi, a young woman from Manipur who was suspected to have been raped and brutally murdered at her rented accommodation in Chirag Delhi in 2013. She was the main breadwinner of the family, her parents being rice cultivators with meagre incomes back in her home state. Then there was Mary Ezung from Nagaland, who was found dead in Delhi’s Safdarjung Enclave. Her post-mortem report clearly stated that she was brutally assaulted and murdered. Julie, a young woman from Mizoram, was murdered in her rented flat nearby in Munirka. One 19-year-old girl from Assam was raped at a guest house where she was working.
It has almost become a daily affair to hear of North-eastern women being subjected to such abuse in Delhi and the rest of the National Capital Region. Other women suffer similarly, but these women from the North-east, hundreds of miles away from home, often face the extra burden of fighting their cases alone. Most of the women are hard working, the backbones of their families both financially and emotionally. Losing their daughters shatters a family’s dreams: it means life will never be the same again.
Stereotyping of North-eastern women continues even after their deaths. Every year, approximately 10 to 15 women from North-east India are found dead in their rented rooms in Delhi-NCR. Unfortunately, for all these cases there is not even a single genuine and proper investigation. Most of these women are not well known and they are not from influential backgrounds, so what does it matter to anyone? Police reports tend to conclude with causes of death like alcohol consumption, suicide, and natural causes.
Had there been no racism in this country, Nido Tania, a 19 year old from Arunachal Pradesh, would not have died because of his hairstyle. Akha Salouni, a 29-year-old man from Manipur, would not have lost his life due to his looks. A student from Arunachal Pradesh would not have been beaten up and forced to lick his landlord’s shoes in Bangalore while the man shouted, “You deserve it only because you are a dirty tribal from the North-east”. Two men from Nagaland would not have been beaten and had their hair chopped off by local attackers in the Sikanderpur area while being told by their attackers, “We want to send a message to all of you in the North-east. If you guys from Manipur or Nagaland come here, we will kill you.”
Hate crimes against North-eastern people are being treated as isolated cases by law enforcement and are being ignored by most Indians, but what I’m recounting here is only the tip of the iceberg. There are hundreds of incidents, many of them unreported. The list goes on and on.
Men and women from the Northeast are routinely attacked. 10 to 15 women are found dead in their rented rooms every year.
Nido Taniam, 19, son of a Congress MLA, was beaten to death by shopkeepers in Delhi’s Lajpat Nagar. Taniam, a first-year BA student, was on his way to a friend’s house when a shopkeeper mocked the colour of his hair. Taniam’s death in the scuffle triggered protests across the city.
Two Manipuri men — Ginkhansuan Naulak, 24, and his cousin Vumsuanmung Naulak, 25 — were hospitalised after being beaten with sticks by a group of youths who called them “chinky” and “Nepali”. The incident took place in south-east Delhi’s Ambekdar Nagar.
Akha Salouni, 29, was beaten to death by a group of drunk men during a traffic dispute. Salouni was returning home late with two friends in south Delhi’s Kotla Mubarakpur when their auto was followed by a car which was repeatedly honking. While his two friends fled to ask for help, Salouni got into a quarrel with the men and was beaten to death.
Bengaluru police arrested an auto rickshaw driver for racially insulting and physically threatening an 18-year-old from Mizoram. The young woman wrote about her ordeal on Facebook, which went viral.
Higio Gungtey, 20, a student from Arunachal Pradesh who was studying in Bengaluru, was beaten by his landlord, who also forced Gungtey to lick his shoes, following a tiff over the usage of water
Dr Alana Golmei is general secretary of North East Support Centre & Helpline, launched in 2007.