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Cry of aam aadmi prejudice

New Delhi, Feb. 1: A young man from Arunachal Pradesh grabbed the microphone and shouted to an orderly but angry crowd: “Mera chipta naak hai (I have a flat nose); so what?”

About 100 Northeast students had gathered outside Lajpat Nagar police station — a grille gate separating them from the cops in riot gear inside — shouting: “Delhi police are a band of thieves and thugs.”

They were protesting the death of Nido Tania, 19, a student from Arunachal who was thrashed by a mob in the local market on Wednesday, and condemning the racial bias they regularly face in the capital.

“Every time a citizen from the Northeast approaches someone, they are asked if they are from China or Nepal. So what if I have a flat nose?” said the speaker.

The students were asking why only three people had been arrested when about a dozen had attacked Tania, a Congress MLA’s son who studied in Jalandhar and was visiting his sister in Delhi.

Tania had complained to the police after a shopkeeper’s racial taunt had provoked a fracas, during which he allegedly smashed a shop window.

But the cops refused to lodge a complaint, forced him to pay Rs 10,000 to the shopkeeper, vaguely mentioned a “compromise” and left, following which he was beaten mercilessly. His body was flown home this morning.

Nido Tania

Yeshi Wangchu, head of Arunachal Students Union Delhi, said the police had given no assurances on further arrests or action against the errant cops. “They did not even give us a copy of the FIR.”

Joint commissioner Robin Hibu, a northeasterner and the police’s point man to deal with the problems faced by students from the region, said he understood the protesters’ anger.

“The police must act after a crime,” he told The Telegraph, but added: “Should we be blamed for the mindset of the ‘mainstream’?”

Many of the protesters felt there was not enough about the Northeast in the country’s school textbooks.

Young people from the Northeast have been victims of serial violence, murder, rapes and racial jibes in Delhi — where the region’s women are often seen as “loose” and easy prey — one of the latest being the murder of a girl from Manipur last year. Even some of the police’s actions have reeked of bigotry.

In 2007, the Delhi police had issued a booklet advising northeastern youngsters to eschew “revealing” clothes that might hurt “the sensitivity of the local populace”, and avoid “smelly dishes” that could create “a ruckus in the neighbourhood” — indirectly acknowledging local race prejudice.

The protesters today slammed two Delhi-based politicians from Arunachal, junior Union minister for minority affairs Ninong Ering and Congress MP Mukut Mithi, accusing them of not being ready to accept that Tania was the victim of a hate crime.

“They are trying to pass it off as a law-and-order problem,” Wangchu said.

BJP Rajya Sabha member Tarun Vijay, who had accompanied the students to the police commissioner yesterday, acknowledged that Northeast students faced discrimination in the city. “Delhi is not a place for nice people,” he said.

Chumbemo M. Patton, a former leader of the Naga Students Union Delhi, asked what the Prime Minister, a Rajya Sabha member from Assam, had given to the region’s people for sending him to Parliament.

In Guwahati, the North East Students’ Organisation said Manmohan Singh had written to it in 2010 promising security measures for the region’s students in Delhi, and claimed the assurance now sounded hollow.

Various students’ bodies in the Northeast condemned the attack on Tania. Some of them will hold a joint peace march in Shillong tomorrow.