|Nido Tania’s sister Ajek sits by his portrait. On the wall is a recent group photo of his parents with Sonia Gandhi, a picture of his grandparents and his idol Vivekananda; Ajek and mother Marina in the midst of election work at their home in Itanagar. Pictures by Nishit Dholabhai
Itanagar, April 2: Nido Tania had once told his mother Marina that he wanted his name to outlast him.
As election fever grips his native Arunachal Pradesh a little over two months after he was lynched in Delhi’s Lajpat Nagar market for allegedly objecting to a racial comment, a paradox over his name is coming alive.
The student’s parents are loath to let his name be “used” to get his MLA-father Nido Pavitra or the Congress votes. But Tania’s name already symbolises the fight against assaults on people from the Northeast, so none seems game to let go of an opportunity.
The first words of Narendra Modi, the BJP’s Prime Minister candidate, at a recent rally here were on Tania. Likewise, Congress leaders have been focusing on the need for a law against racial discrimination.
“My tears are still not dry, my voice hasn’t returned, but we are a political family and life has to go on. I have stopped people in my party from talking about Tania. The elections are a different story,” Marina told The Telegraph today.
“Just in case people say the parents are using the son’s name to win,” she continued, as she instructed volunteers in her husband’s campaign team.
Pavitra is an MLA from Raga Assembly seat that straddles Upper Subansiri and Lower Subansiri districts. Arunachal votes on April 9 for both the Assembly and Parliament elections.
Inside Pavitra’s official bungalow nestled in the mountains, a large framed picture of Tania sits on a table. It is flanked by a Christian saying and a picture of Swami Vivekananda — with the line “Strength is life, weakness is death” — in line with the boy’s faith and beliefs.
“We will be doing our duty as a political family but we are not going to politicise Tania’s case,” Marina iterated. But the fight for a law against racism will resume after a new government is installed in Delhi, she added.
As she spoke, an aide worked on Pavitra’s face, weather-beaten after days of campaigning. A group of youngsters played cards in the garage. Some came in from time to time to collect “expenses” to return to Raga, a difficult eight-hour road trip from Itanagar.
In the run-up to the election, Tania and the fight for an anti-racism law are certain to get bigger. Political parties have made safety of the Northeast people an issue in their poll manifestos.
In Meerut in February, Modi had referred to Tania at a rally. Again, in a recent rally in Arunachal, he said he had come with a “heavy heart” as he was reminded of the boy.
The Congress, too, appears unwilling to keep silent on the racism debate Tania’s death has stirred. Union minister of state for minorities Ninong Ering, who is contesting from the Arunachal (East) parliamentary seat, said issues like infrastructure and governance were overtaken by the question of the safety of the people from the Northeast.
“The main issue is this: I have promised that if voted back I will make sure the anti-racism law is passed in Parliament,” Ering said from Pasighat.
Neither the Congress nor the BJP is making a big deal about China, the other pet issue in Arunachal, despite the recent leak of a secret report on the India-China war.