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Jun 06, 2009 at 05:47pm IST

Northeast students question 'racism' in India

Guwahati: With stars in their eyes, hordes of students from India's northeast region head towards various parts of the country during admission season. However, previous episodes of unsavoury treatment meted out to northeastern people is what haunts most of them.

"Media is abuzz with episodes of attacks on Indians in Australia, but many of the incidents of attacks on India's northeastern people in India itself remain shrouded in oblivion. We condemn the attacks on Indians in Australia but we want an end to abuse and beating of northeastern boys and girls, mostly in India's capital city. All the cases are of racial nature," Madhu Chandra, spokesperson of North East Support Centre and Helpline, New Delhi, told IANS on phone.

"As students from northeast India have already started coming to New Delhi, we are in touch with students' associations of all the states of the region in Delhi to help the newcomers to settle down in a new city," added Chandra.

RACISM? Previous episodes of unsavoury treatment is what haunts these students.

The centre also runs a helpline service with phone numbers - 98681 84939, 98183 14146, 98681 57066, and 98105 54901 and e-mail address info@nehelpline.net

The centre was formed on Sep 22, 2007 to address the issue of safety and security of northeastern people in Delhi, as they are often target of "racial attack", according to Chandra.

"Not only Australia, India too is racist," Gyati Talo, a 32-year-old teacher and blogger from Arunachal Pradesh, who did his graduation from a reputed college of New Delhi, told IANS.

"I was being chased and verbally abused by a bunch of youngsters in a Delhi lane. They abused me because of my short stature and mongoloid features. After the incident, I stopped coming out alone at night during my three-year stay in the city," Talo said.

According to the figures available with the centre, around 100 cases of physical and verbal abuse, molestation, rape and beating of boys and girls of the region were reported in Delhi in 2006 and 2007.

"However in 2008, we received only three episodes of attacks on people of northeast India in Delhi. But they were of heinous nature, pertaining to sexual assaults and beating of women," rued Chandra.

This year, till May, the centre had received 12 complaints of harassment, rape, physical and verbal abuse of northeastern people in Delhi.

"It's sad that students from northeast India who go to study in various parts of India have to undergo racial prejudice. My daughter also studied in New Delhi. I was surprised when she told me over phone during her stay in the city that her fellow students in the colleges calls her a 'chinky', because of her mongoloid features and she was depressed," said noted Assamese poet and columnist Samir Tanti.

"Calling someone 'chinky' (referring to small eyes) is racial in nature. I know all the northeastern are known as chinky in Delhi and other parts of India," the poet said.

According to an estimate, every year around 80,000-100,000 students from eight states of the region (Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Manipur, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura) go to various places of India for higher studies.

Favourite study destinations for northeastern students are New Delhi, Bangalore, Pune, Chennai and Hyderabad.

"However, it is New Delhi from which cases of abuse and harassment are very common," said Chandra.

Mahima Gogoi, a resident of Guwahati who scored 85 percent in Class 12 examinations in arts stream, wanted to take admission in one of Delhi's colleges.

"One of my cousins was severely abused in Delhi a few years back when he was a student. My parents do not want to send me to Delhi. Thus I have decided to study in Guwahati," said Gogoi.

However, Arunabh Bharadwaj, who scored 89 percent in his Class XII exams in arts stream, is unfettered.

"I am all set to study in Delhi. I am aware about all the incidents of abuse and harassment of students from northeast in Delhi. But it is my dream to study in Delhi and simultaneously taking coaching classes for Indian civil services (IAS) exams. So, I am taking the risk to fulfill my dreams," said Bharadwaj.

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