Guwahati, April 7: The demand for an anti-racism law has grown louder among people from the Northeast after the recent attack on African students in Greater Noida.
"Racial attacks like these have become a regular feature not only for African nationals but also for people from our Northeast. Those who look different, dress differently and differ in food habits are often taunted on the streets, harassed in colleges and offices and often attacked in case of any protest," alleged Romen Arambam of Manipur, who relived the horror of an attack on him as he watched the television visuals of Nigerian students being beaten up in Noida last week.
Arambam, 29, from Tulihal in Imphal East district, was allegedly punched by four bouncers and two seniors in the private company he worked for at Udyog Vihar in Gurgaon on January 13.
"I was falsely charged with data theft by the boss of the company, which I had joined barely 45 days ago. I was the only staff from the Northeast in the office and they wanted to sack me with a false allegation. When I objected, I was beaten up, stripped inside the office and videographed. A case of physical assault was registered but police told me that they could not help me on my charge of racial discrimination as there is no such law," he told The Telegraph today over phone from New Delhi.
"Unless we have a law and special police team, similar attacks will keep happening, be it what happened with me or the students from Africa," he added.
Binalakshmi Nepram, the founder of Control Arms Foundation of India, an NGO which is leading a campaign against racial attacks, said instead of taking up strict measures against discrimination and racial attacks, the government was denying the presence of racism.
"Denial of the existence of racism is in itself racism. Racism occurs not just when a person of African origin or of the Northeast is attacked. It is also when one cracks Santa-Banta jokes against the Sikh community. Racism is also when a person from non-Northeast origin is attacked in the Northeast. Racism is also when ethnic groups clash against one another. India had signed the historic UN Convention on Ending Racial Discrimination in 1967. It's time to convert it into an anti-racism law and form a national diversity policy," Nepram, who hails from Manipur and is now based in New Delhi, said.
The demand for a stringent anti-racism law grew after Nido Tania, a student from Arunachal Pradesh, died in a racial attack in New Delhi in 2014. The outcry the incident triggered prompted the Centre to constitute a committee headed by M.P. Bezbaruah.
The committee recommended suitable legal/legislative measures, quick, strong and fair action by law enforcement agencies, guidance, help and counselling to people from the Northeast and creating awareness among people of the county.
A special police unit, set up under Delhi police in 2014 to help people from the Northeast, has since registered more than 500 cases of rape, molestation, eve-teasing and harassment at workplace and by landlords, most of whom have been attributed to racial discrimination. Robin Hibu, inspector-general of Delhi police who served as nodal officer of the unit, today said full implementation of the Bezbaruah committee's recommendations would help.
More than seven lakh people from the Northeast live in New Delhi for study and work. According to a study in 2009, nearly 10,000 youths leave Northeast every year for studies or work. According to another study conducted in 2009-10, 86 per cent of people from the region living in the metros said they faced racial discrimination.