New Delhi, Feb. 5: Sushma Swaraj today referred to people with “flat noses” to underline the country’s diversity, but the spirit of her speech made up for the faux pas as the Lok Sabha condemned the suspected lynching of Northeast teen Nido Tania.
“The entire House condemns the death of the young boy. A clear message should go to the entire country that Parliament wants that all people and children from the Northeast are protected,” Speaker Meira Kumar said after the matter was raised during zero hour.
Leaders cutting across party lines urged the government to come up with tough measures to stop harassment of people from the region.
The issue, however, did not figure in the Rajya Sabha. None of the MPs from the Northeast in the upper House brought up the matter as Telangana dominated proceedings, with members from Andhra Pradesh protesting against the state’s planned division.
In the Lok Sabha, Sushma, the leader of the Opposition, raised Nido’s death. “A child came from Arunachal Pradesh and they made fun of his hairstyle. We need to understand the diversity of this country, that a teekhi naakwala (person with a sharp nose) and chaptee naakwala (person with a flat nose) all belong to India,” Sushma said.
The House overlooked what appeared to be a gaffe because what Sushma was implying was unity. “If Ganga and Yamuna are part of India, then so is Brahmaputra…. The child belonged to Arunachal Pradesh, a state whose every resident has stood as a soldier against China,” the BJP veteran said.
Nido, 19, son of an Arunachal legislator, died after allegedly being beaten up by shopkeepers last week following an altercation sparked by barbs at his hairstyle.
Sushma said the eight Northeast states (including Sikkim) were like eight sisters of the country and it was everyone’s responsibility to protect children from the region. “Northeast ke bachche Hindustan ke bachche hain (Northeast children are children of the country),” she said to applause.
The BJP leader also used the opportunity to take a dig at political opponents Congress and the AAP. Without naming either Rahul Gandhi or Arvind Kejriwal, she said those responsible for protecting people from the region were sitting on dharna, alluding to their presence at rallies to protest the attack on the student.
Minister of state for minority affairs Nino Ering called for a “strong law” to stop harassment of people from the Northeast and said the region’s history and culture should be introduced in NCERT textbooks to sensitise people.
“Even after 65 years of Independence racial discrimination is a serious matter. There should be a strong law to prevent such attacks and harassment,” he said, stressing the need for unity in the country’s interest.
CPM MP Basudeb Acharia said Nido’s death was a result of “racial discrimination” that has been continuing for years. “It is nothing but racial discrimination. It’s continuing for many years despite assurances of the government,” Acharia said.
Janata Dal (United) leader Sharad Yadav demanded that the entire House condemn the incident and said the government should take strong action against those responsible for killing the teenager.
Anti-Telangana slogans, however, disrupted proceedings soon as MPs from Andhra Pradesh protested in the well of the House.
The protests forced the House to be adjourned for the day just after noon.