Prime Minister Manmohan Singh meets family members of Nido Tania at his residence in New Delhi on Friday. (PTI)
New Delhi, Feb. 14: “I am India,” Nido Tania had once told his mother Marina Nido.
This 19-year-old student from Arunachal Pradesh, who was seemingly inspired by Swami Vivekananda, was lynched by a group of no less than eight people in a crowded Lajpat Nagar market on January 29. All he wanted to do was get the address of his friend Laskar Doye who was unwell and was to be moved to hospital in an ambulance, said Marina.
“Humko na mummy ne peeta hai na papa ne, pehli baar jhagra kiya hai (Neither my mother nor my father have beaten me, I have quarrelled for the first time), he had told his friends before dying,” Marina said, describing her son’s friendly nature.
“When he was four years and eight months old, Tania went to Ramakrishna Mission School (at Narottam Nagar in Tirap district of Arunachal Pradesh). He used to bring little memorabilia and books of Vivekananada and tell us, I am India,” Marina told The Telegraph while talking about her son’s pluralistic traits.
Tania studied at Ramakrishna Mission till class X. The first-year sociology student from Lovely Professional University in Jalandhar had initially wanted to pursue computer science but later switched focus to humanities and had insisted on studying sociology.
Proud of her son’s eclectic mindset, Marina said Tania never agreed to get baptised and followed his grandparents’ faith, Donyi-Polo, which is the indigenous faith of many ethnic groups in Arunachal Pradesh. Marina and her legislator husband, Nido Pavitra, are practising Christians.
They are holding an all-faith memorial service for Tania at Jantar Mantar tomorrow.
Recalling his deeply entrenched values, Marina appeared to hold a deep faith that her son was born for a cause. “Tania held a secret, he told me he wanted to do something big. But he was simple, even a little miserly, helping friends with his pocket money,” she recalled fondly.
“Tania even used to tell his father, ‘Be like a man, you can drink apong (local brew) and even smoke. It does not make you bad’,” said Marina. She feels Tania was a quiet rebel.
On discrimination, Marina said she herself had been a victim of racial discrimination in several cities across India — the worst being Delhi. She found Calcutta the best, where she was not discriminated against during the family’s visits on Durga Puja. She said India is one of the most racist countries and discrimination is most common in Delhi.
“I was also teased. Had I objected strongly then, probably my son would have been alive. It is racial discrimination and it is a wrong perception of our Indian people,” she said.
Some years ago, Marina and her friend were teased at a local market in Delhi for “looking like Chinese and speaking Hindi”. They threw utensils at the shopkeeper and scooted. “Calcutta police were good and we were not teased there,” said Marina, smiling as her friend quipped: “Voh to communist hai na.”
Protests by Northeast students in Delhi following Tania’s death had also carried a strong tenor of “We are Indians, yet discriminated” although some others debate it. Some activists, like a student leader from Manipur, said the underlying message was against a different system of “institutional attitude” and patriotism should not define such protests.
Taking on the Delhi police, Marina suggested that even their intimidating khaki uniforms should be changed, as they were helpless against miscreants. “Even their looks are terrible and how can weak policemen protect citizens?” she asked.
Marina said it was accepted that the police could not help and she would carry a knife on the streets of Delhi, hereafter. She alleged that Delhi police had dithered before arresting six people till political pressure built up from the very top.
“I told Soniaji and Rahulji that if I don’t get justice, I will create problems,” Marina said.
She said Tania’s case was about the entire Northeast.
Marina said she would launch a countrywide campaign to generate awareness about the Northeast.