New Delhi, Feb. 15: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said recurring incidents of violence like the killing of Nido Tania relate to “intolerance and prejudice” but stopped short of terming it racial discrimination.
Tania’s death last month triggered widespread protests for enactment of an anti-racial discrimination legislation. The Centre is seen to be under pressure from the 39 Northeast MPs to enact such legislation and activists insist that the Prime Minister should not shy away from saying the “R-word”.
The Arunachal Pradesh student’s case was mentioned as a red flag among three major internal security issues he spoke of today, including militancy and assaults against women.
“The third issue relates to recurring incidents of intolerance and prejudice in some parts of the country against people who have come from other states to live there,” the Prime Minister said, adding that the capital had witnessed the student losing his life to “senseless violence”. Singh was speaking at a conference of state governors today.
Incidents of regional bias have been recorded in the past not just in Delhi but in other states as well. In developed Mumbai Raj Thackeray’s vitriol against people from Bihar and the massacre of Hindi-speaking people in the Northeast are instances of what the Prime Minister termed “intolerance”.
Such incidents cannot be tolerated in any civilised society and those who are responsible for them should be dealt with firmly, the Prime Minister said. He said it was imperative that we work collectively towards ensuring that all our citizens, irrespective of where they belong, feel safe, secure and welcome in all parts of the country.
Activists like Binalakshmi Nepram, however, insist that the Prime Minister should not shy away from saying that “racial discrimination” exists. Minister of state for minority affairs Ninong Ering had drawn flak for not terming the Tania case as one of racial bias.
For the UPA government, there is some help from the Opposition. BJP leader Sushma Swaraj had told a visiting delegation of students and activists that IPC provisions were adequate to address the issue.
Students said they were told not to press for a separate legislation. Tania’s mother Marina said she would take up the issue again with the government. “I will speak again on the need for such a law,” she told The Telegraph, on the sidelines of an all-faith prayer meeting held for Tania at Jantar Mantar today.
The meeting, Tania’s father Nido Pavitra said, was also a means to create awareness on people of the Northeast. Students carried banners and posters with Tania’s photographs and slogans against racism.
“On the specific issue of the problems being faced by our brothers and sisters from the Northeast, our government has recently constituted a committee which will look into the issue and suggest remedial measures,” the Prime Minister said. He was referring to the six-member committee that was set up by the home ministry after the uproar over Tania’s death.
Activists are, however, insisting on an anti-racial discrimination law that would stop not only people from the Northeast from being discriminated against but people from any region from being discriminated in any other region in the country.
Arguing against Swaraj’s stand, Arunachal Pradesh (West) MP Takam Sanjoy said the anti-racism law would not only help people from the Northeast but also people elsewhere. “It is not just about us, it is also about discrimination of people from north in south and vice-versa,” he said.
The debate over differential treatment to the Northeast comes against the backdrop of tall plans. The Prime Minister today spoke of the North Eastern Region (NER) Vision 2020 and admitted that greater efforts were required to enhance project management capacities in the region. Innovative solutions are needed to address the specific constraints prevailing in the region, he said.