The alleged racial discrimination and harassment of delegates from the Northeast at the 22nd National Youth Festival 2018 held in Greater Noida has sparked criticism on social media with news reports on the incident going viral and video clips of the protesting delegates making rounds on WhatsApp.
Participants from Nagaland, Manipur and Assam staged a demonstration after the organisers allegedly discriminated against them and hurled racial slurs.
The topic invited strong reactions on ‘Stop Discriminating People from the North-East India’, a Facebook group with 1,52,000 followers, founded in 2010. In his comment on the news report of the incident, Mondeep Saikia from Assam commented, “After all these many of my brothers and sisters feel proud as an Indian. But the fact is mainland people don’t even consider us as a part of India.”
Yanpvuo Yanfo Kikon, administrator of Nagaland’s popular Facebook page, The Naga Blog, posted a video clip of the protest early Wednesday morning and wrote, “India is a diverse country but a few uncivilised idiots from the mainland further proves that we North East & Nagaland are not a part of this new Indian diversity. We are different, culturally & historically. This incident proves that both sides accept this fact wherein the cultural differences are even mocked at and our young students harassed for being indigenous peoples and culturally different! (sic)”. He further urged people from Nagaland not to attend any such events in the future as “it will only increase social alienation among us & demoralize the new generation of Nagas.”
A few non-Nagas too lent their voices. Culinary historian and author Ashish Chopra, who has travelled extensively in the northeast to documented its culture, cuisines and traditions, termed the incident “shameful and appalling.”
Speaking to indianexpress.com, Pukil Kintso, escorting officer of the Nagaland NYKS team for the festival, said they were denied proper accommodation and made to sleep on the floor in the corridors during the festival. “Many of us had travelled for five days to reach the venue and we hadn’t had proper baths or rest. Not only we were not provided proper rooms and beds, there was also no water for us to bathe or freshen up for the inaugural programme on Friday morning,” Kintso said.. He said he was shocked by racial slurs not just from fellow participants but also volunteers of the organizing committee. “The Director General of NYKS personally came to apologise to us after we demanded the same and tell the gathering that North East is a part of India and we are not from a different country,” he said.
Vikaho Yeptho, a NSS delegate from Nagaland said, “It is not just delegates from Nagaland but also from Manipur and Assam who faced such discrimination.” When contacted, Jackie Ruivah, the director of NYKS Nagaland said that she would comment only after speaking to the delegates on their return and then only take up the issue with the DG NYKS. Ruivah asserted though that she has not come across such an incident in her experience with the NYKS.
Interestingly, the official site of the Ministry of Human Resources Development project – ‘Ek Bharat Shrestha Bharat’ makes special mention of North East. Detailing the concept of the project, the Ministry states that all citizens should feel culturally integrated in all corners of India, adding that “students from the north-east, for example, should not feel like ‘strangers in a strange land’ when they arrive in Delhi.”