MAKUCHUNG PALMEI, Bangalore
I belong to the Rongmei tribe from Imphal, Manipur. I studied in Chennai and now work in Bangalore. I have been away from home for almost 14 years now and I am fluent in both Tamil and Kannada. Yet, I feel people still consider me different because of my looks. They still call me “chinki”, “Nepali”, “small eyes” knowing I belong to India.
Recently, I had gone to the police station to file a FIR about a credit card fraud. Somebody had hacked into my account and was using my card details to make transaction. But it took me three days because the sub-inspector treated me with indifference. The constable even made fun of me in Kannada: “The small-eye guy must have stolen something.” He did not realise that I understood.
Though I feel safe in other parts of the country, south India is far better than the north as people here are friendly and helpful. But the situation is becoming worse by the day and that is because we do not raise our voice. People forget that the Indian National Army that revolted against the British rule was started in Manipur by Subhas Chandra Bose.
Whom do we blame for this mess? When will the government wake up and take up this issue seriously? I would like to suggest some solutions to these problems:
A lesson about the northeastern states and people should be included in school textbooks.
Helplines dedicated specifically to our community should be available in all cities.
There should be more programmes or articles in the media regarding the people, culture and the natural beauty of the northeastern states.
Police personnel should be sensitised about our community and on dealing with us.
The Communal Violence Bill should be passed as soon as possible.
NALINI BHUTIA, Mumbai
I’m from Darjeeling and both my grandfathers and my uncle were officers in the Indian Army. But I cannot purchase a sim card without being asked for my passport. I’ve had to answer questions like “Do you eat dogs and cats?”; listen to comments like “Aaj toh Chinese khaaneka man hai” (I feel like eating Chinese today), been accused of not belonging to India; hear that we need to be thrown out, argue that I am not a Nepali. I am tired of having to be extra cautious because I am a woman and more so because I look different! Even if something happens to me, people’s judgement and perceptions are always different from what it is for a woman from the mainland in the same situation.
JAMMU THAPA, Chennai
I’m from Darjeeling and have been living here for seven years now. My friends and I are a close-knit group. We use public transport to go shopping and for late-night shows. We have never faced any problems. I know a few people who live on the other side of the city but have not heard of any issues. I work in a reputed parlour but have not come across remarks that would hurt our sentiments. I feel Chennai is safe for all of us; people respect us for who we are and don’t really care about how we look or where we hail from. Even my family feels secure enough about the city to leave me here to work.
(As told to Madhumitha Srinivasan and Archana Subramanian)