The continuous harassments of the North-East youths in Delhi, which range from verbal taunting to sexual molestation, have understandably resulted into a widespread hue and cry. And indeed the government should take a well-planned and carefully chalked out step to address the issue.
Personally I feel that the government should go for a two-pronged plan, with both a short term as well as a long term approach. First it should immediately take some steps to curb or at least lessen the problem. At the same time it should go for a long term approach aimed at complete uprooting of the problem.
As far as the short term approach focused on immediate result is concerned, the Delhi Police should set up a special cell exclusively meant for the North-East youths. There is no need to have a huge manpower or high level infrastructure for the same, as that is not required. It is only that the police force needs a dedicated arm for handling the problem. And it must be very strong in the execution of its duty, showing a stern and ruthless face while countering and handling the offenders. And every strong step that the team will take against an offender must be highly publicized in the media, with the names, pictures and family details of the offenders being highlighted. This will generate strong fear in the mind of the scoundrels who are indulging into these nasty activities.
Now let’s focus on the long term plan. This should entail an honest effort to understand the root cause of the problem, and addressing the same.
The government (not only the Delhi or Central government, but all relevant government entities) must start educating the so-called mainstream Indians that the North-East people are not aliens from the Mars, but are our own brothers and sisters from a certain part of our motherland which is geographically just a little isolated from the rest of India (Or is it really isolated? I have been to so many places in North-East, and I do not think so). There should be an all round and continuous effort to allay misconceptions about the North-East region and its inhabitants. And such efforts should not be confined merely within holding occasional exhibitions of North-East handicrafts or dishes. Rather there should be dissemination of information, through various channels of communication, about the rich culture of the region (like colourful folk dances of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh), interesting events (like elephant race in Assam during Brahmaputra Beach Festival at the time of Bhogali Bihu), fascinating folklore of Nagaland, literary legacy of Tripura, the rich Buddhist heritage of Arunachal Pradesh, the interesting practice of Jhoom cultivation in Mizoram, and so on.
And while educating people about North-East, government should have a special focus on highlighting this issue that North-East is not a primitive land dominated by age-old tribal customs, but a perfectly modern place inhabited by people with modern outlook. (In fact, it is thanks to this modern outlook that some North-East women wear so-called revealing dresses, which actually make some Delhi scoundrels to perceive them as “cheap”). While the tourism ministries of the Central as well North-East governments always highlight the jungles, mountains and rich and colourful tribal life of this region, there should also be efforts to highlight the modern urban life that is present here. The “mainstream Indians” must know that in North-East there lie both beautiful and modern towns like Shillong, Guwahati, Imphal, etc. People should be told about things like the oil refinery in Assam’s Digboi (Asia’s first oil refinery). This will make people realize about the economic significance of this region.
In fact, the idea about North-East is so poor in Delhi that a huge number of people here feel that the North-East people eat cockroach and snake in their lunch and dinner. But these people do not even know that the three North-East states of Meghalaya, Nagaland and Mizoram are the only three Indian states where English is an official language. These people also do not know that Arunachal Pradesh is the only non-North Indian state where Hindi serves as the lingua franca among the various tribes speaking different languages.
My paternal aunt (obviously a Bengali) married a gentleman (my dear Paban Uncle) from the Karbi tribe of Assam. A well-educated, intelligent and cultured bureaucrat (IAS), Paban Uncle was one of my childhood heroes. It was he who taught me to realize, appreciate and love the rich culture of North-East, a region that India is so fortunate to have within its boundary. Today both of his daughters (my dear cousin sisters) are well-educated and well-established (one of them is a bureaucrat like her father). And they have given me a nephew and a niece who are the apples of my eyes. (Though I have not met my niece yet, but of course I love her).
I am grateful to the picturesque North-East for having such a beautiful uncle and cousins, who have had such a strong influence on my life.
Apart from the family, I have also come across a number of North-East people in my professional and social life, and I must say that I have found all of them to be genuinely intelligent, well-read and hardworking. Yes, I mean it.
Grow up, “mainstream India”. Learn to respect your own brothers and sisters. Stop nurturing wrong perceptions about them, and stop harassing them for what they are. If we keep harassing the North-East youths in Delhi simply for the “offence” of being a bit culturally different, then how are we different from the scoundrels of Australia who are unabashedly harassing the Indian youths settled there? What the North-East friends are facing in Delhi is “domestic racism”, and it is the responsibility of us, the responsible Delhites, to prove that we are not that bad.