Toward the end of last year, Arunachal Pradesh’s first Indian Police Service officer Robin Hibu was appointed Additional Director General of Police, Delhi Police and also took charge as Special Commissioner. For a person who has probably done more for Northeasterners working and studying in Delhi, this was yet another feather in the cap.
Hailing from Apatani tribe, Hibu has not only done remarkable work in battling racism and xenophobia but also bridge the gap between mainlanders and Northeasterners.
The son of a farmer and woodcutter in the remote village of Hong in Arunachal Pradesh, who had to walk 10 km to reach his school, Robin Hibu’s struggle was real. Going by his life story, it’s no surprise that he ended up becoming a decorated officer who has battled racism in the national capital. At a recent talk in November 2018, he spoke of the first time he came to Delhi, boarding the Brahmaputra Mail on a second class reserved ticket.
“When I came to Delhi via train on the Brahmaputra Mail on a second class reserved ticket, a few people from the uniformed services told me, ‘Bahadur (a derogatory term for people from Nepal) don’t sit here, sit there.’ They just threw my luggage [towards the seats] near the bathroom. I fought back and said I have a reserved ticket. They didn’t listen. It was a very painful experience,” said the 1993-batch AGMUT (Arunachal Pradesh-Goa-Mizoram-Union Territories excluding Andaman and Nicobar Islands) cadre officer.
Wondering if those people were mistreating him because he looked different, Hibu controlled the urge to fight back and told himself to be something in life so that such a thing never happens again.
“I reached Delhi with that pain in my heart, sitting the whole night near the bathroom. When I landed in Delhi, one pot-bellied policeman asked me ‘Bahadur, where do you want to go’? When I enquired about which bus to take to reach Chanakyapuri, Arunachal Bhavan, he looked at me from top to bottom and said, ‘Where are you from? Just check there’,” he added. (Source: Josh Talks)
This experience spurred him to earn a first class Master’s Degree in Sociology from JNU, followed by a storied career in the IPS, where he received the President’s Medal twice, and a whole host of national and international accolades.
He served as a nodal officer in the Delhi Police’s Special Unit which was set up to assist more than 12 lakh people from the Northeast. And during the service, he helped set up the special emergency helpline number ‘1093’, facilitated the recruitment of people from the region into the Delhi Police, ensured timely and affordable medical treatment for the grievously ill patients from the area, gave their families succour and even offered free transportation of mortal remains and burial.
To make up the shortfall in funding, particularly for poor patients in need of emergency care, he reached out to the corporate social responsibility arm of many corporations. In total, he reached out to 51 private hospitals.
“One day I received a call from Dr Naresh Trehan who said the CSR request had touched his heart. The brief chat ended in a commitment of 20 per cent discount on all kinds of treatment for the people from the region (except govt. servants) at Medanta Hospital and its associated clinics. Dr Trehan also assured me that all his ambulances would be available for the needy free of cost,” he recalls, in a conversation with the Imphal Free Press.
Back in 2014, he even put his mobile number across social media platforms for Northeasterners who faced racism, police-related issues or come across inflammatory and abusive content online.
Of course, he can’t do it all on his own and performs his task to the best of his abilities. “We often forget those who need our care, warmth, and support regularly,” says Hibu referring to girls, women, children, and the elderly from the Northeast living in Delhi.
There were even instances of Hibu collecting money and performing the final rites for those Northeasterners abandoned by their families in the national capital.
However, it was his work following the racially-motivated murder of an Arunachal student Nido Tania in 2014, where Hibu really came into his own. Aside from assisting the Bezbaruah Committee, set up by the Ministry of Home Affairs to suggest remedial measures for the problems faced by people from the Northeastern states, he took the lead in leveraging social media, particularly WhatsApp, to set up online community support groups where Northeasterners could raise their grievances and get them redressed.
Aside from suggesting amendments to the Indian Penal Code to address racist slurs and attacks, it also recommended the formation of a Special Unit for the North Eastern Region (SPUNER) within the Delhi Police. Acting upon this recommendation, such a unit was set up with its office complex and 400 recruits from the region. Under Hibu’s leadership, it started many successful initiatives toward ensuring the safety of NE people living in Delhi.
Meanwhile, in 2016, he founded a non-profit called ‘Helping Hands’, to address distress calls from young men and women from the region suffering exploitation at the hands of employers and middlemen. It includes a network of professionals like lawyers, chartered accountants, from government services and ordinary citizens.
While life may not be perfect for Northeasterners in the national capital, it’s been made a lot better because of the work reputed police officers like Robin Hibu have done.
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)