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UN council in Geneva hears rights cry

- Manipur activist takes up Nido Tania’s lynching and army act during debate

Imphal, March 24: Manipur’s rights activist Babloo Loitongbam today raised the issue of increasing racist attacks on people from the Northeast in New Delhi and other cities of the country, before the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Participating in the general debate of the 25th regular session of the council, Loitongbam — the executive director of Human Rights Alert, Manipur — also raised the issue of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act.

“On January 29, 2014, Mr Nido Tania, a young student from Arunachal Pradesh studying in New Delhi, was beaten up by some shopkeepers when he angrily responded to their mocking of his peculiar hair style. Delhi police picked him up, forced him to pay Rs 10,000 for the damages caused during the scuffle and then dropped him back in the same area. The beatings resumed and Nido Tania succumbed to his injuries the next day,” Loitongbam told the council.

He said Tania’s story is not an isolated incident but the manifestation of a deep-rooted racial prejudice toward the racially and culturally distinct people of the Northeast.

In the summer of 2012, racist threats resulted in the exodus of thousands of northeastern people from cities like Bangalore, Pune and Hyderabad, he added.

He alleged that there was a “total absence” of any protective mechanism for the “national or ethnic minority” within the legislative and constitutional framework of the country, in contrast to those enjoyed by their brethren belonging to the “religious and linguistic minorities”.

“And yet, it is the territories inhabited by these national or ethnic minorities that are chronically militarised under discriminatory laws like the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, granting impunity to the armed forces to perpetuate extra-judicial killings and rapes,” he said.

Loitongbam expressed his happiness at the constitution of a committee by the Centre to look into various concerns of the northeastern people living in different parts of the country and to suggest suitable measures to be taken up by the government.

He also urged the council to remind the government of India of its obligations under the International Convention on Elimination of Racial Discrimination and to promptly repeal laws such as the army act.