A group of 60 engineering students from Arunachal Pradesh were pushed, threatened and “treated like stray animals” while trying to find a bus to Nainital. A 23-year-old Delhi University student from Tripura was intimidated into paying more than twice the amount for a ticket to Dehradun.
Delhi Police have been tracking these and a rising number of other complaints from people of the Northeast who say they are targeted by staff of various bus service operators at the ISBT in East Delhi’s Anand Vihar. “We see a gradual increase in crime of this nature because a lot of people are coming forward to report it,” Robin Hibu, Inspector General of Police and Nodal Officer for North East People (Delhi), told IndianExpress.com.
And it is not just Anand Vihar, Hibu said the police have received “several calls and complaints” over the last five months from other ISBTs in the capital, too. One of them was from the Arunachal students, including 33 women, who were traveling to Ramnagar near Nainital as part of their industrial training in June. “We were pushed, threatened, and forced to board a particular bus. But we didn’t do anything because we know what happened with Nido Tania and it always stays in the back of our minds,” said a 23-year-old student who was part of that group, referring to the brutal killing of Tania, from Arunachal, in South Delhi two years ago.
“We were forced to board a bus by a group of six men who didn’t allow us to move if we didn’t agree. They didn’t even allow us to cross the road. I requested them to leave us alone, but they didn’t budge. They blocked us there for more than two hours. We tried to look for a police officer but couldn’t find one at the time so we got really worried. We were new to Delhi, we had no idea about the city, and these people clearly saw us as others,” said the student, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“When we agreed to board their bus, they made us walk over 1 km to reach the vehicle, which was in a very poor condition. Many of us had no seats to sit so we took turns. They treated us like stray animals but we didn’t complain because we feared something would happen to us,” he said.
Rattled by their “ordeal” at Anand Vihar, the students approached the police and their college administration, and were provided with a government-approved bus service on their way back a month later.
The DU student from Tripura, meanwhile, said she was duped and forced to pay Rs 1,200 by a private bus conductor for a ticket to Dehradun two months ago. “The conductor told me he was going to charge Rs 560 but later, he asked me to pay Rs 1,200. I tried to reason with him but being a woman and that, too, from the Northeast, I thought I was better off paying him more than get into any trouble and regret it later,” said student, who is pursuing an MA in English Literature.
IGP Hibu said police are now advising people from the Northeast to travel only on authorised government buses and if possible, in groups. “These thugs think the vulnerability of people from the Northeast is very high, and that they don’t have anyone to help them. They think that people from the Northeast don’t know Hindi and can be easily fooled. People from the lower strata of society don’t even know that Arunachal Pradesh and Assam are two different states, they see people of Northeast as Chinese,” said Hibu.
Asked about what can be done to prevent such incidents, the senior officer said that the government should recruit more people from the Northeast in public service institutions such as DTC, Delhi Police, etc. “We should make the city more cosmopolitan. Other than depicting them as people who dance around a fire with spears and sword, they should recruit for people from Northeast and other parts of the country so that they become a familiar face on the streets in Delhi,” said Hibu, adding that this was one of the suggestions made in the Bezbaruah Committee Report that was submitted after the murder of Tania.
According to Delhi Police records, with more people coming forward to register complaints, crimes against people from the Northeast have recorded a sharp rise – from 89 in 2013 to 280 in 2014 and 296 in 2015.