People from the north-east are outraged over the death of Nido Tania, a student from Arunachal Pradesh, following an alleged racist attack in Delhi and want the rest of the country to change its mindset towards the region to prevent a recurrence of such incidents.

The North-East Students’ Organisation (NESO) Adviser Samujjal Kumar Bhattacharyya charged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with going back on his written commitment to NESO on preventing attacks on youth from the region. “When we shout in north-east to solve our problem, people from the rest of India tell us to join the mainstream. Now our boys and girls have gone to study, work in other parts of India but only to be harassed. Is this the mainstream they are asking us to join? About Rs 300 crore fly out of the region every year for students pursuing higher education outside the region. If the political parties are really concerned about the attacks on students and youth from northeast then they should pass an anti-racial law in the ongoing session of the parliament. ‘Mainland’ India must change its attitude and understand that country has a part beyond Kolkata” he added.

A number of youth from Assam, Manipur and Nagaland, some of them working and some going in search of jobs, waiting to board a train to New Delhi on Wednesday morning at Guwahati railway station, said they were aware of the incident in Delhi but were prepared for the challenges of working in the national capital as there were no local opportunities.

“My brother and sister are also studying in Delhi. I have asked them to be careful. They have gone there for quality education which is not possible in my hometown. We know the situation and we are prepared to face it,” said Ms Tejeli, 31, a school teacher from Dimapur in Nagaland, before she boarded the train with her mother and another relative.

Ms Biak from Churachandpur in Manipur also boarded the same train, returning to her job in a BPO. “About five years back, the situation was much worse when I had come to stay with my relatives in Delhi. Local people would ask all kinds weird questions – wanting to know if the people from the north-east hail from Myanmar, Korea, Japan or China. They would look at people from the region as if they were foreigners. When I returned to Delhi for my job, I felt that the situation has changed for the better and was not as bad as it used to be five years ago. Nido Tania’s death has shown that some people in Delhi have not changed their outlook towards us which is very unfortunate,” she said.

However, not all the travelers were aware of the attack. A group of Bodo youth from villages near Bhalukpung area on the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border were on their first trip to Delhi but were unaware of either Nido Tania’s death or the situation which the people of northeast have to face. “We have not heard anything. We do not have television at home. We are going to work in Delhi. Some other youths from our villages, who are working in Delhi told us that we will be able to work in factories to earn some money,” said Dharmendra Khaklari, a father of two children.

Educationist and women right activist Rosemary Dzuvichu, who teaches English in Nagaland University in Kohima, said unless the mindset of the people of the rest of India changed, mere laws would not be able prevent the “racial attacks” on the people of the northeast.

“The people of ‘mainland’ India must change their mindset, attitude towards northeast. ‘Mainland’ India must understand the problems of the north-east. As an Indian citizen, why do you have to keep on stressing that you are an Indian citizen in your own country? When boys from the north-east have to face such a situation, then definitely the girls have to face much more problems,” added Ms Dzuvichu, who is also the adviser to the Naga Mothers Association (NMA).