Meghalaya protests 'racial bias'

Delhi club says it has apologised to member, regrets 'political overtones'

By Andrew W. Lyngdoh in Shilong
  • Published 28.06.17
Tailin in a jainsem

Shillong, June 27: The Meghalaya government today urged the Centre to take cognisance of the alleged discrimination meted out to a Khasi woman at Delhi Golf Club on Sunday. She was reportedly asked to leave the dining hall because her traditional attire appeared to be a maid's uniform.

It also requested the Centre to register a suo motu case and adopt all legal action so that it served as a "strong deterrent".

Tailin Lyngdoh, who hails from Meghalaya's West Khasi Hills, had gone to the club on Sunday with Nivedita Barthakur, an entrepreneur and honorary adviser to the Assam health department. Tailin is governess to Barthakur's son.

A club member had invited Barthakur, Tailin and a few others to lunch there.

Later, two employees of the club asked Tailin to leave, saying maids were not allowed.

The employees apparently judged her from the traditional attire that she wore, the jainsem. Tailin was also told that she looked like a Nepali.

The club, in a press statement issued today, did not deny the incident, but refuted the charge that Tailin was asked to leave the club.

"An item in national dailies and social media relating to the alleged mistreatment of a guest of a Delhi Golf Club member, where the club had apparently objected to the violation of the dress code by the guest, has been brought to the notice of the management. The incident occurred on Sunday afternoon . The management immediately investigated the incident and it has emerged that the incident could have been handled in a much better way by the staff member. It was also confirmed that the guests were not asked to leave the premises," the statement said.

It stated that an apology had been made to the member of the club who brought the guest, and that the apology has been "unconditionally accepted". It also noted that an explanation of the staff was sought and "disciplinary action was in process.

The statement said it was "unfortunate and regrettable that an undesirable attempt is being made to give this incident a political and cultural overtone".

Barthakur said, "The apology should be made to Tailin . The charge that there is an attempt to make the incident a political or cultural issue is quite pathetic."

On the club's claim that Tailin had not been asked to leave the club premises, she said, "She was asked to leave the table and the dining room. What would a self-respecting group of people do when one of its members is evicted and effectively told she was not welcome because of her appearance and profession? This is trying to cover up their deed with fig leaves."

On the issue of dress code, she asked, "A national attire can be worn. If a saree or salwar can be worn, why not a jainsem? How many excuses will they give?"

Barthakur said chief minister Mukul Sangma had spoken to her over phone . "I received a call from the chief minister and he said he was very sorry that Tailin had to go through the incident. He said he would take up the matter with the Centre," she said. He also termed the incident as "unacceptable, distasteful and racial behaviour".

The chairperson of the Meghalaya State Commission for Women, Theilin Phanbuh, said the issue should be taken up with the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes.

"We cannot accept what had happened, and we strongly condemn the incident. The government also needs to take action on this matter," Phanbuh said. She lauded Barthakur for standing up for Tailin .

The chief minister also urged the Union minister of state for home affairs, Kiren Rijiju, to take cognisance of this "unacceptable racial behaviour" and atrocities against a Scheduled Tribe woman. He demanded to have a suo motu case registered and all legal options available.

Sangma said racial discrimination has been happening in a number of places and this was not an isolated instance. He stated that all legal options according to the Scheduled Tribe Prevention of Atrocities Act, 1989 and Fundamental Rights with its relevant articles would be explored so that such behaviour is not repeated.

Rijiju today described the incident as a "clear case of racial discrimination". He asked Delhi police commissioner Amulya Patnaik to take appropriate action on the incident, which, he said, also reflected an "elitist mindset".

"I will also speak to the urban development ministry on how such privileges can be given to people with such mindsets," he said about the club, which occupies prime land in the heart of Delhi. Rijiju told reporters no one had the right to judge a person by attire. "Such an elitist mindset of some people will destroy the social fabric of the country," he said, terming the incident "unfortunate and condemnable".

The club must accept it was wrong and act accordingly, he added.