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Stay connected to fight crime

A young Manipuri woman working at a restaurant in Connaught Place recently being attacked and molested allegedly by her co-worker is yet another instance of people, especially women, from North-East India being victims of racial discrimination in the Capital. Earlier there was the instance of two sisters being allegedly molested by a group of boys in Gandhi Vihar two years ago and another of a teenaged girl from Manipur being murdered allegedly by an Indian Institute of Technology student in October last.

According to the North-East Support Centre and Helpline, crime against people from the North-East saw a sudden spurt last year with as many as 39 incidents being reported. It included three incidents of murder and eight of molestation. However, not all cases were reported to the police. The extent of the problem is further brought out by a study conducted by the Centre last year revealing that 86 per cent of people from the North-East face racial discrimination of various forms like sexual abuse, physical attacks and economic exploitation.

“I strongly believe that it is the social profiling of people from the North-East, based on their appearance, geographical background and culture, which makes them vulnerable. Once a community is socially profiled, the economic, social, educational and professional status of an individual belonging to it becomes irrelevant and he is treated like fellow community members. People from the North-East are treated as strangers and people think that they can do anything to them and get away with it. Even the attitude of the local police towards them is influenced by the social profiling,” argues Madhu Chandra, a human rights activist.

Still worse, instead of sympathising with the victims those in the authority often seem to blame them for inviting trouble because of their lifestyle. In fact, the authorities continued to deny racial discrimination against people from the North-East until the murder of the teenaged Manipuri girl by the IIT scholar hit the headlines. “Following the incident, a special programme was organised to sensitise those attending helpline numbers and PCR calls on how to deal with individuals from the North-East. Regular patrolling is now being carried out in North Delhi and North-West Delhi areas inhabited by the people from the North-East and the beat constables have been directed to interact with their community leaders. Also nodal officers have been appointed and directed to send minutes of their meetings to Joint Commissioners of Police,” said a senior police officer.

Though Mr. Chandra acknowledges a change in the attitude of the police of late, he feels that more needs to be done. “Earlier people from the North-East found it difficult to even get a case registered. That has now changed. But the sad part is that these cases are not handled sincerely as the cases of other victims. Mere registration of cases is not enough, it should be followed up with concrete action. A culprit being punished is the only deterrent,” said Mr. Chandra.

“The best solution to fight the crime lies in standing up when it happens to the person next to you, irrespective of race, religion and region. One should make it a point to protest if one is being harassed and file a complaint Also, it could help to stay connected with student bodies, community leaders and churches, as most of the North-East communities have their own churches in Delhi,” summed up Mr. Chandra.

Ashok Kumar

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