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‘Chinky’ No More – Eradicating Racism Against Northeast Indians, One School Lesson at a Time

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In a country as diverse and varied as India, lack of awareness about all cultures and regions is a high possibility. When this ignorance translates into racial discrimination, it can have grave consequences. Now, a private member bill in Parliament hopes to get rid of some of this ignorance by raising awareness about the culture, history, and traditions of Northeast India.

Recently, a student from Arunachal Pradesh in Bengaluru, Higio Gungtey, faced a racial attack by his landlord. The accused landlord assaulted him for over 90 minutes and made racial remarks. In 2014, Nido Tania, a student from Arunachal Pradesh, was murdered in Delhi in a racial brawl. Racial discrimination is a major issue faced by people from Northeast India when they live in other parts of the country. This kind of discrimination has its roots in isolation and a lack of awareness about the Northeast culture in the rest of India.

Thus, the Private Member Bill ‘The Compulsory teaching of North-East culture in Educational Institutions’, introduced by the Member of Parliament from Arunachal Pradesh, Ninong Ering, is a big step towards overcoming the issues of exclusivity and racial discrimination by introducing the study of Northeast culture at the school level.

The death of Tania started a debate over racial discrimination against people from the Northeast in the rest of India. Soon after, the government set up a Committee under M.P. Bezbaruah. The Bezbaruah Committee report raised concerns about discrimination faced by people from the eight Northeast states, i.e., Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Tripura, Sikkim, Nagaland, Meghalaya, and Mizoram, living in other states of the country.

The report estimated that over 2 lakh people from the Northeast migrated to Delhi between 2005 and 2013, and that about 86% of them have faced discrimination. Also, it found that Delhi is the worst offender among metro cities when it comes to racial discrimination against people from the Northeast. As per the report, there exists a sense of insecurity and vulnerability due to a lack of awareness and mis-perceptions about the culture of the Northeast.

When people from the Northeastern states go to different cities, especially metropolitan ones such as Delhi, Mumbai, and Bengaluru for work and studies, they are stigmatized and face racial abuse and violent attacks.

A man from Nagaland’s Angami Tribe. Ignorance about the Northeast’s culture leads to racial discrimination. (Source: By Yves Picq (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons)
Thus, the private member bill envisages creating awareness about the Northeast’s culture from a nascent age. It talks about incorporating lessons on Northeast education as part of the curriculum in schools. Northeast Education includes imparting knowledge and understanding of history, ethos, and culture of Northeast India, and imparting it in a way that sensitizes people from other parts of India.

Further, the bill aims to set up an advisory council, which includes experts with special knowledge or practical experience of the history and culture of Northeast India. The council will be responsible for effective implementation of the provisions of the bill, including designing of syllabus, training teachers, etc.

This would help bridge the persistent gap and overcome the prejudices and stereotypes that are prevalent about people from the Northeast. Further, educating people from the rest of India about the Northeast’s culture helps in overcoming the isolation of the Northeastern states, and also facilitates bringing people from the Northeast into mainstream development at a greater pace. Therefore, the bill aims to make education on North-East culture compulsory in all primary and secondary educational institutions, making it a part of the school curriculum.

Though the possibility of the Private member bill becoming an act is low, if this bill gets implemented, it will be a major step towards overcoming the persistent racial discrimination against the Northeast’s people in India.

Thus, it is important that this Bill becomes an Act and all of its provisions are implemented.

For representational purpose only.

The Northeast is an important part of our country’s rich heritage and culture. Imparting knowledge about its culture in educational institutions is a resilient way of celebrating cultural diversity, which will pave the way for creating a safer environment for the people of the Northeast in other states.

About the author: Rajat Kumar is a Researcher.

To read the full text of the ‘The Compulsory teaching of North-East culture in Educational Institutions’ Bill, click here.

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