It is not the physical abuse but the verbal humiliation that is rife, say many about the discrimination they face
“Why are we singled out? Is it because we look different?” asks Sonam, a student from Nagaland, much like her counterparts from the other North-Eastern States. Women are on the receiving end, agrees Bipin, a student from Manipur at the University of Hyderabad, and a participant of the event organised at UoH as part of a nation-wide campaign for ‘Justice for Richard Loitam'.
“We believed he was killed. There are cases of racial discrimination. I went through harassment in Delhi University. Colleges are relatively safe in Hyderabad but you cannot say the same about other cities like Bangalore and Delhi,” he says.
Campuses in the various universities across the city have a sizeable number of students from the North-East and an equally impressive number of employees from the region who have been working with IT, ITeS, MNC firms and Central Government offices here.
There are about 500 members registered with each of the various region-based communities that support families hailing from Nagaland, Mizoram, Manipur and Assam. The associations often meet on weekends.
“New students coming into the city get enrolled with us. We keep a track of their welfare. We also brief them on local culture,” says a member of the Hyderabad Mizo Association. Similarly, the Hyderabad Manipuri Society (HYMS) brings together students in the city under its cover.
Workplaces do offer conducive atmosphere here, which is one of the main reasons why most stay back despite issues they face in public places. But finding accommodation tops the list of worries in the twin cities.
“People refuse to give us apartments on rent. You have food restrictions as well. There is a misconception that people from the North-East are into drug and alcohol abuse, which is not true,” says a student from Dimapur. An electrical engineer from Assam working in the city agrees, “I was travelling in a bus when the lady conductor started talking derogatorily. And then she and the driver went on to talk ill about my State which was unacceptable.”
It is not the physical abuse but the verbal humiliation that is rife, says Vivian Lepcha from Darjeeling, associated with the F&B industry in the city. “People come up to us and ask us if we can speak English or whether we hail from Japan, Burma or China.” He, however, notices fewer issues of discrimination now when compared to more than a decade ago when he came to the city. “Name calling used to be rampant then,” he recollects.
“Change in the perception about North-East won't happen overnight. One has to bring about awareness about the region. My classmates did not even know the name of the seven North-Eastern States, leave alone their capitals,” says Sonam.
The need of the hour then is to bridge the divide. “Including history of these States in the text books will go a long way to bring about awareness about the place, people and culture. The choir group from Shillong and Indian Idol winner from Tawang have shown that people there have talent too. Please don't treat them as second-class citizens in other States,” says Bipin.