Demanding inclusion of the history and cultural heritage of the Northeast in the national curriculum, creation of special Northeast commissions in every state and a speedy trial of the Nido Taniam case, several students staged a protest at Azad Maidan on Tuesday against the killing of the 19-year-old in Delhi last week.
“There is an isolation of people from the Northeast by society, flavoured with discrimination in many forms, be it physical assault or verbal intimidation. The recent incident in Delhi clearly highlights these biases. Therefore, the government must initiate stringent laws to counter the perpetrators and protect those from the Northeast,” said S Jonathan Than Kho, a student of the Mumbai University and general secretary of the Naga Students’ Union Mumbai (NSUM).
With banners that read “you may call me Chinese, but I fight the Chinese on your border”, “how should an Indian look like”, “stop racism” and “equality may be a fiction but nonetheless one must accept it as a governing principle”, student representatives from the Arunachal Students’ Union of Mumbai (ASUM), Maharashtra A’chik Youth Association (a Garo students’ group from Meghalaya), NSUM, Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) students’ union, Mumbai University and its affiliated colleges, participated in the peace protest and candlelight vigil called by ASUM.
“We strongly condemn the killing of Nido on the grounds of racial discrimination and call for swift action by the authorities. Our different looks or lifestyle cannot be grounds for discrimination. The problem is lack of awareness about Northeast India. Hence, we are now demanding the inclusion of the culture of the Northeast in the national curriculum,” said John Gangmei, former general secretary of students’ union at TISS and a research scholar at the institute.
The TISS students’ union will also stage a protest march from the institute at Govandi to Diamond Garden, Chembur, and back to the campus on Wednesday.
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“The stereotypical image about tribals, Dalits, ethnic and other minorities has existed parallel to the glitter of the so-called developing India. Students from the Northeast have been the worst victims of this stereotyping. They are often seen as outsiders and humiliated by people. We are Indians, so why are we not treated as one? The bias exists across India, and Mumbai is no exception,” said Deewan Mara, former ASUM president and student of St Xavier’s College.
Jaffer Latief Najar, president of the TISS students’ union, said a memorandum of demands had been prepared, which would soon be submitted to various ministries at the Centre and the state government.
“We have asked for the speedy trial of the Nido murder case. The police personnel involved in the case must be legally prosecuted as they are equally liable for the murder. Inclusion of the Northeast in the syllabus, creation of a special legal cell for people from the Northeast, besides creation of a separate helpline in major cities and special provisions to ensure Northeast women’s safety are other demands. Cases of racial discrimination and racial attacks on Northeast people should be taken up with a special team by the respective state governments,” he said.