The helpline for people from the Northeast states living in Gurgaon may have begun well with 30 calls received on the first day but awareness of this facility is still dismal.
The helpline — (0124) 2301559 — was set up by a direct order from the Union Home Ministry in the wake of assault on two youths from Nagaland on October 15. The lines opened last Tuesday but not much has changed in the urban villages of Sikandarpur, Chakkarpur and Nathupur, where people from Northeast stay in large numbers.
The helpline aims to be the point of first contact for those needing help against “racial attacks” or threats to personal security. But, of the more than a dozen people Newsline spoke to, only two knew of it.
“Whenever some problem or violence takes place, we tend to fall back on one another and our community. Though police launched the helpline, we doubt this will make much of a difference,” Mathew Kamei, executive member of the Northeast Support Centre and Helpline, said. “Eventually, these problems occur mainly due of societal issues,” Kamei said.
Kamei’s views are backed by many. Some find it difficult to adjust to a society far removed from their own, where women are “not treated as equals and where their habits attract censure and enmity”. Others find the local language and culture hard to adjust to.
Chiklond Chakma from Arunchal Pradesh — one of the very few aware of the helpline — expressed concern about its efficacy. “More often than not, there is no one to understand English or the accent of people from Northeast,” he said.
“The way the people talk here, especially police, is intimidating. This makes us apprehensive of approaching law enforcement agencies,” Chiklond, who lives with his brother in Chakkarpur, said.
A call by Newsline to the helpline was promptly received by a Hindi-speaking woman and forwarded to a policeman identifying himself as Khan. He said he could speak English.
“Even if we are not fluent (in English), we can help. The caller needs to give us a phone number and their location and the local police will reach them,” Khan said.
“Gurgaon police is well-trained to take calls from the Northeast people, who feel their language is not understood by policemen,” police commissioner Alok Mittal said.
“We post about the helpline on Facebook every day. We will also distribute Gurgaon police cards with the helpline number on them,” he said.
The Northeast support centre is also doing its bit to apprise their people of the helpline. The community members get together for Sundays mass, which Kamei said, will be used for awareness.