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Call to ban ‘chinky’ in racism fight

New Delhi, Feb. 6: The Centre today signalled legislative changes to ban words like “chinky” in the face of a backlash over the death of Arunachal student Nido Tania, who was beaten up by some Delhi shopkeepers after he protested against such taunts.

“The use of words like ‘chinky’ should not be allowed,” said junior Union minority affairs minister Ninong Ering, a Lok Sabha MP from Arunachal.

Activists have long protested the derogatory use of the expression against people with Mongoloid features. People from India’s Northeast often encounter such taunts outside the region, especially in Delhi.

The proposal will be examined by a six-member committee announced by the Centre this week to look into the alleged harassment of northeasterners, following a suggestion by Rahul Gandhi when he visited students protesting Tania’s alleged lynching.

Today, the Union home ministry issued the notification for the panel, to be headed by former Assam chief secretary M.P. Bezbaruah.

Ministry officials said the committee would examine the protesters’ demand for an anti-racial discrimination law on the lines of those in the West. A report is expected within two months.

The protesters have rejected the committee, insisting on a panel headed by a retired Supreme Court judge. Ministry officials have suggested that the current move would be enough, saying the Bezbaruah panel’s terms of reference cover all key aspects of the issue.Ering said a delegation of MPs from the Northeast met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today and was assured that no option would be unexplored.

“As per my knowledge, the government has decided to make amendments to existing laws to address the racism problem. If we don’t listen to the children, they won’t spare us,” Ering said.

Ering had initially drawn fire from the protesters, who thought he hadn’t made a strong enough statement on the circumstances leading to Tania’s death.

Rahul too met the team of MPs from the region today and later discussed measures to fight the problem with home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde.

Former Arunachal MP Khiren Rijiju said that students from the Northeast were often the butt of malicious jokes peppered with words like “chinky”. “The US has anti-racism laws. We also need the danda (stick) to fight this ill,” Rijiju said.

India has a Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, which prohibits humiliation of, and “indignities” to, these sections. However, this is the first time an anti-bias legislation is being demanded on the basis of a group’s facial features.

The government has been struggling, in the middle of the ongoing Parliament session, to contain the backlash against the circumstances of Tania’s death.

This afternoon, some of the protesters tried to march to Parliament but were stopped and detained. Ering and a few other MPs from the Northeast reached Parliament Street police station and facilitated their release.

“We are nearing justice,” said Taba Doni, general secretary of Arunachal Students Union Delhi, which is spearheading the demonstrations.

A city court has denied bail to six accused arrested in connection with Tania’s death.