New Delhi, July 16: The panel formed in the aftermath of Arunachal student Nido Tania’s January lynching in Delhi has suggested more debate on a separate anti-racism law but favoured amendments in existing laws to check bias against Northeasterners.
The panel, headed by former Assam chief secretary M.P. Bezbaruah, has proposed a series of legal and other measures (see chart) to ensure the safety of migrants from the region and fight prejudice against them.
A key suggestion is to set up a “North East Centre” as an “umbrella organisation” to bridge what the panel described as a yawning gap between the region and the rest of India. Its location has not been finalised, nor its composition, but it is likely to function as a multi-faceted body that among other things will maintain a database on Northeasterners living outside the region.
“In the long run, the need for a comprehensive umbrella organisation that goes beyond all partial initiatives was strongly felt,” the panel said in its report submitted last week to junior home minister and Arunchal MP Kiren Rijiju.
On demands for a new anti-racism law, the committee said: “We felt that within the broad framework of our Constitution, the legal, strategic and philosophical aspects of the demand for an anti-racial law should be debated.”
The Centre had viewed the calls for a new law, made by protesters after Nido’s death, with caution, fearing it could spark demands from people in other regions.
However, in the short term, amendments to the IPC aimed at fighting such bias could be moved, the panel said.
Tania died after being beaten up by shopkeepers in Delhi’s Lajpat Nagar following a fracas allegedly triggered by their racial taunts at him.
The legal steps suggested by the panel include providing the migrants with “booklets” explaining how to lodge cases and whom to approach in emergencies.
It has also stressed the need to sensitise police in various states to the Northeasterners. Delhi cops were accused by Nido’s family of not doing enough to save the 19-year-old when he was being thrashed by the shopkeepers.
A key component in the safety plan will be “North East Centre”, providing facilities for voluntary registration of migrants and creating a basic profile of them, the panel said. “The database should be immediately started by DoNER (department of northeast affairs at the Centre) within the existing facilities,” the panel said.
The Centre should be linked to law-enforcement wings in states, including the Northeast cell of Delhi police.
The concept of the centre emerged out of the meetings the panel members, most of them retired IAS officers from the Northeast, had with people from the region living in various cities.
If the government agrees, the body could be an autonomous institution set up in the public-private partnership model. “North East Centre” is tentative manner of describing the proposed body, the panel said, adding the Centre could choose a new name “evocative of the rich culture and tradition” of the region.
Besides maintaining a database on the migrants, the Centre will counsel victims of violence and bias. Also planned is a cultural wing that will organise cultural events in various cities.