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Racism probe plea in SC

New Delhi, Feb. 12: The Supreme Court will hear on Friday a PIL seeking a special investigation team (SIT) to probe alleged racial attacks on people from the Northeast recently in Delhi and elsewhere.

The PIL, the second such plea in the court, was filed today by a group of people from the region, and alleges racial taunts and attacks because of “physical appearances”.

“Most of the people from the region who return to their states have one or two tales of horrid, unspeakable and unimaginable proportions where they have been discriminated, taunted, molested, raped and even murdered, all because of their outward appearances,” says the petition.

Karma Dorjee of Sikkim, Gainilung Panmei of Manipur and others also highlighted in their plea how people from the region who leave home for better opportunities are subjected to racial taunts and violence because of physical appearances “at the hands of their own countrymen”.

A bench of Chief Justice P. Sathasivam and Justices Ranjana Prakash Desai and Ranjan Gogoi asked for the plea to be listed for hearing on Friday after Mukul Rohtagi, the senior counsel representing the petitioners, mentioned the matter today.

The PIL said the attacks violated Article 19(1)(d) and Article 19 (1)(e) of the Constitution, which guarantees freedom to reside or to settle in any part of India, and alleged the Centre and states had not taken any concrete measures to curb the menace.

Such violence also undermined rights under Article 14 of the Constitution, guaranteeing equality before law, and Article 15 which prohibits discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth. The provisions are “put to litmus test on daily basis when it comes to the people of the Northeast”, the PIL said.

The petition also brought up some perceived double standards in the way the problem is viewed and addressed. It said that when Indians are targeted on racial grounds in other countries such as Australia and the West, the whole country unites to condemn such incidents but when it comes to similar attacks on people from the Northeast, it is treated casually.

The PILs come in the wake of a series of attacks on northeasterners, including one blamed for the death of Nido Tania, 19, son of an Arunchal Pradesh MLA, in Delhi. The January 29 assault in Lajpat Nagar followed his protests against taunts about his hairstyle.

Four days later, two women from Manipur were molested in another Delhi neighbourhood and one of their assailants let loose a pet dog during the attack.

The other PIL in the Supreme Court, filed last week by advocate D.K. Garg, focuses on the two Delhi cases as well as other incidents.

These include the suspicious death of a student from Manipur, Loitam Richard, in Bangalore and the suicide of another person from the region in Noida, both in 2012.

The plea describes the incidents as “grim reminders of India’s very own problem of racial relations”.