The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Right intentions, wrong message
- Delhi police accused of dividing India into ‘mainland’ & ‘Northeast’

New Delhi, July 11: Delhi police’s advisory to youths from the Northeast studying in the capital is being seen by most as segregating the region from the so-called mainland.

The minister for development of the northeastern region (DoNER), Mani Shankar Aiyar, had only recently discouraged the use of this syntax. “There is no mainland, you are the mainland,” he had told a reporter in Shillong.

Aiyar was unavailable for comment on the booklet released by Delhi police, but those who responded seemed to cringe at the thought of someone advising students from the region to change their food habits, customs and manner of dressing to assimilate into the “mainstream”.

Dipankar Gupta, professor of sociology at Jawaharlal Nehru University, said the police’s advice not to create a “ruckus in the neighbourhood” by cooking “smelly dishes” and dress decently was gratuitous, to say the least.

“The police come up with these advisories, but there is no implementation. There should be a departmental memo of some sort that if a person from the Northeast is harmed, punishment will be stringent,” Gupta said.

Moses Kharbithi, who is doing his MPhil at JNU, said the advisory was tantamount to undermining the ability of Northeast students in New Delhi to assimilate. “I wonder if they have given such booklets to students from the South,” he said.

Kharbithi said the fact that the booklet was well-intentioned could not mask the sense of discrimination.

Asom Gana Parishad MP Arun Kumar Sarma and his Congress colleague Kirip Chaliha said there was no denying the need to spruce up security for students from the region in view of some incidents in the recent past. But commenting on food habits and clothing was unfair, the duo said.

“How can one tell somebody what to eat and how to dress'” Sarma asked.

Chaliha said he would take up the issue with the authorities.

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