New Delhi, Feb. 1: A young Arunachali former student leader seized a microphone and shouted to an orderly but angry, crowd: “Mera chipta naak hai (I have a flat nose), so what?”
The young and restless from all the eight states of the Northeast, including Sikkim, gathered outside Lajpatnagar police station shouting slogans against the police. They protested not just the lynching of the 19-year-old Nido Tania on Wednesday by a group of shopkeepers but also the racist bias that they consistently face in the national capital.
“Every time a citizen from the Northeast approaches someone, he will be asked if he is from China or Nepal. So what if I have a flat nose?” the man asked, making a spirited speech and disappearing into the crowd, leaving behind cheering crowds.
A posse of policemen, dressed to control a riot, was virtually locked inside the police station here. No less than 100 students waited at the grille gate outside the police station sloganeering against the police: “Delhi police chor hai, gunda hai — Delhi police haai haai”.
The president of Arunachal Students Union Delhi, Yeshi Wangchu, said though they could meet some police officers, no assurances came forth. “They did not even give us a copy of the FIR,” he said.
Tania, the son of Congress MLA Nido Pavitra and a student of Lovely Professional University, Jalandhar, was visiting his sister in New Delhi on a holiday.
He was looking for directions to a friend’s place when shopkeepers laughed at his hairstyle and allegedly made racist comments. The student complained to the police who orchestrated a “compromise” but was mercilessly beaten after the police left him alone with the mob.
The body was flown to Arunachal Pradesh this morning.
Democratic Youth Federation of India leader, Prabhu Singh Khampa said when questions are not asked about attire of other nationalities of India, why are remarks so common against northeasterners? Joint commissioner of police in charge of co-ordinating problems on the Northeast, Robin Hibu, said he understood the anger of the students.
“The police must take action where there is a crime and a mistake but should we be held responsible for the mindset of the mainstream?” he asked.
Angry students blamed the political leadership from the state for not being ready to accept that the crime was result of a racist bias.
On target were deputy minister for minority affairs, Ninong Ering, who belongs to Arunachal Pradesh and senior Congress leader, Mukut Mithi. “They are trying to show it as a law and order problem,” said Wangchu.
Former Naga Students Union Delhi leader, Chumbemo M. Patton said when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was lifted up by people of the Northeast, what did he give in return.
Crimes against young people from Northeast are not uncommon in Delhi, conceded BJP’s Rajya Sabha MP, Tarun Vijay, who accompanied the students to the Delhi police commissioner yesterday. Vijay was the only politician seen at the Lajpatnagar market this afternoon. “Delhi is not a place for nice people,” he said.
Vijay said he had spoken to Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde on the issue and expected steps from the government.
The All-Arunachal Pradesh Student Union took out a rally in Itanagar, 400km from Guwahati, this morning, seeking justice for Nido Tania. Carrying placards and banners, the protesters shouted slogans against Delhi police and sought an end to discrimination against people from the Northeast in New Delhi.
Shopkeepers downed shutters in solidarity.
The president of the students’ union, Kamta Lapung, told The Telegraph that it strongly condemned the incident and said if the government failed to provide justice, they would stage protests all over India where students from the Northeast are studying.
Khiren Rijiju, the BJP national vice-president, said he would protest against the incident through the Northeast Sampark Cell of the party within two days.
He said Delhi police have failed to protect people from the Northeast despite having a separate wing under a deputy commissioner of police.
Arunachal Pradesh governor Nirbhay Sharma condoled Tania’s demise and directed the state director-general of police to take up the matter with his counterpart in New Delhi to expedite the probe into the case and to apprehend the culprits.
The ministry of home affairs has also asked Delhi police to submit a report at the earliest.
CMO sources said Tania’s body would be taken to his native Raga for last rites. Raga constituency is represented by Tania’s father, parliamentary secretary Nido Pavitra.
The North East Students Organisation (Neso) today condemned Tania’s killing and the failure of the Delhi police to register Nido’s complaint of racial slur against the shopkeepers.
Sinam Prakash, the secretary general of the apex body of student organisations of the region, in a statement in Imphal today urged the Centre, Union home ministry and Delhi government to prevent such incidents in future and to protect northeastern people.
The BJP’s Manipur unit also condemned the incident and urged the Delhi government to bring the culprits to book. The party today held a condolence meeting to pray for the departed soul.
The Neso and Arunachal Students’ Union, Shillong, have also condemned the incident. “This very act of targeting Nido Tania was not an isolated case, but the reason behind the intensity of the assault, which resulted to his death was only because he was from the Northeast,” Neso chairman Samuel B. Jyrwa said in a statement in Shillong.
“Such incidents have shown that people in mainland India have refused to integrate people of the Northeast in their hearts and minds,” he added. “What is more shocking is the insensitivity of the Delhi police. The Centre and the Delhi government also failed to live up to the expectations of the people of the Northeast by not acting promptly against the culprits,” Jyrwa said.
The organisation urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal to take adequate measures to prevent such incidents, to ensure safety and safeguard of Northeast students in other parts of the country and to ensure punishment to all the culprits.
“Lack of development and stepmotherly treatment of the Centre towards the Northeast has already alienated people of the region and failure on the part of the governments to check racial discrimination will alienate them further. It is high time people in the mainland India and government authorities understand and respect the northeastern people,” he added.
The Arunachal Students’ Union, Shillong will organise a peace rally in Shillong tomorrow from 10am onwards. The rally will start from ITBP Headquarters, near Anjalee Petrol Pump, and culminate at Arunachal Bhavan in Cleve Colony. The rally is being supported by the Khasi Students’ Union, Mizo Students’ Union, Naga Students’ Union, All Assam Students’ Union and others.
Additional reporting by Pranab Kumar Das in Tezpur, Khelen Thokchom in Imphal and Andrew W. Lyngdoh in Shillong