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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Chp 182. CNN IBN and the Nepali syndrome

Watching CNN IBN last night rudely shocked me. It was a special edition entitled “Domestic Danger (How safe are we?)” and concentrated around the rising crime rate committed by domestic help in Delhi NCR.

For most of the report, CNN IBN did a good job of playing the role of a responsible media house: Precautionary measures we can take like verifying that the servant we are employing is trustworthy, a look across various metros and comparing the domestic crime rate over there with that of Delhi, the housing society stepping in to ensure that all servants are verified, registering the servants with the police etc etc.

Looking at the rising crime rate was truly shocking. But what really knocked me off my bean-bag was the part when CNN IBN showed a quick recap of all the previous crimes committed by servants in the past few months.

[Some of the dates and victims may be inaccurate, because I cannot type as fast as I can read news bulletin]

Feb 27: An old couple robbed by servant after being poisoned.
Mar 18: Servant poisoned husband, wife and daughter.
May 10: Family poisoned by servant and made off with jewelries.
May 13: Woman stabbed to death by servant.
May 24: Two women poisoned by their domestic help.
June 5: Family of four poisoned by their Nepali servant.
June 8: An elderly grandmother robbed by servant of many years.

Tell me which news bulletin is the odd one out?

See it?

Yes, all the crimes above were committed by servants, except for one which was committed by a NEPALI servant.

I could literally feel my stomach wrench and my throat tightening when I read that particular bulletin flashing. Seriously, CNN IBN? I expected so much better from you guys.

Was there any need to mention that the servant was in particular a Nepali? Most of us watch the news everyday and we all know he was a Nepali. But when you aggregate all the previous crimes committed in the past and put them together in one single list, was it really necessary to highlight his specific ethnicity?

He may be a Nepali but he’s also a criminal and I seriously hope he’s caught soon. He’s just as bad as the other servants who poisoned/robbed their employers. Why then is there an obvious segregation?

I’m just wondering what CNN IBN was trying to prove with that? Were they giving out a subtle warning to the viewers that Nepalese cannot be trusted? If not, then why include that extra “Nepali” tag before the servant when none of the other servants were segregated according to their regionality? Was it because he was a “foreigner”?

Why does this “minor” misnomer bother me so much? Because here in India it is a known fact that anything done by a Nepali reflects back upon the entire Northeastern community (and vice-versa). People cannot differentiate us and most of the people still think everybody with mongoloid features are all the same, belonging to the same community, speaking the same language, having the same culture and tradition etc etc.

Hardly a year ago, a couple of Mizos were beaten up badly by a crowd at Humayanpur, Delhi. This was no ordinary racial attack that Northeastern people in Delhi had grown accustomed to. It was a case of intentional mistaken identity.

Some Mizo guys were walking home a few Mizo women who had just finished recording/practicing a song for an upcoming Christian fellowship programme. Since it was quite late, around 10pm, the guys volunteered to walk the girls back to their PG which was nearby.

Suddenly, they came across a small mob chasing a guy who the mob later said was a Nepali. He was caught by the residents trying to steal the tyre of a car. As the thief ran past the group of Mizos, the anger of the mob suddenly changed its course towards those Mizos! Not just the guys, even the women were severely beaten up and sexually assaulted.

Some of the girls managed to send an SOS, and Rueben the drummer of Delhi based popular death-metal band
IIIrd Sovereign and one of India’s best drummer according to RSJ, and Isaac the vocalist of a popular Mizo band “Rave Vox”, along with a few other Mizos and even a lawyer rushed immediately from Safdarjung enclave to Humayanpur. They too were thrashed the moment they reached.

When the cops finally arrived, they just dispersed the mob amidst the continuous verbal abuses, heavily reprimanded the bleeding Mizos for being there at that time of the night and then drove away!

The mob wasn’t your average uneducated jobless roadside romeos. It comprised of the highly educated intelligentsia of posh Safdarjung/Humayanpur residential area. And everybody could see so clearly that those Mizo men and women had nothing to do with the guy who just ran past them many feet away.

And the same people question why we stick together in our own group. Duh! Obviously because many of us feel much safer among our “own” kind. We don’t create that group out of our own free will; other people force us to build such comfort zones.

That is why I now watch the ongoing Gorkhaland issue with heightened interest and tension. Anything unwise done by those people will definitely rebound back at the entire NE community. Whenever ULFA commits an inhumane crime, a group of Naga students or a Mizo girl traveling on a train is assaulted in the name of retaliation. The media must hence try its best not to sensationalize a particular community when it comes to such crimes.

Likewise, the report by CNN IBN clearly does not help at all. Sure if there was a full complete report about that particular ghastly incident of a servant poisoning his employers, then mentioning about his Nepal background is the truth - That is absolutely normal and digestible. But when you list out all the crimes committed in the past by everybody and make a special mention only about the one committed by a Nepali, even highlighting it prominently as if it is more heinous than other crimes committed by Indians, then I am sad to say CNN IBN is moving towards a very uncertain dark future.

The most ironic twist to this whole edition was when Anjana Bose made a short coverage in that same special edition about the plight of Nepali domestic servants in Delhi. It was an attempt to emphasize the way Nepalis are now labeled as criminals among the Indian society. She interviewed Mahesh, a Nepalese migrant living in a slum in South Delhi, and he spoke about his problems like how difficult it is for him to find a job as a domestic help because of the prejudice. Kudos to Anjana for that eye-opening report. That is good journalism, whereas singling out a crime committed by a particular ethnic group is not.

CNN IBN definitely did try to speak out for the Nepali community. They seemed to ask why the entire community was targeted. One look at the way they themselves gave the report definitely churned out an immediate answer.

I don’t think the Network did this on purpose and maybe they didn’t even notice it, but from the perspective of somebody who’s always been at the receiving end of racial discrimination, this incident definitely stands out and is highly condemnable.


Lucy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lucy said...

Thank you, Bello, for the post. If not for someone like you who stand up and fight we may not be here today.

Reason for deletion: Wrong punctuation! :D

illusionaire said...

:-) lolz lucy.

There was a slight change I had to make regarding the incident mentioned above. Ben, Isaac and those other girls were thrashed at Humayanpur, and not Safdarjung Enclave as earlier stated. Apologies to the good people of Safdarjung.

luliana said...

Another thought provoking post!! Nice one bro..I really wish these kind of post could be publicized on a much larger scale..

mesjay said...

Excellent journalism, illusionaire! i ask you again, have you sent this to print media? TOI, Indian Express, Hindustan Times, whatever. Please do.

noni said...

strong post....good site..

illusionaire said...

@ luliana: I wish too. But sadly its not the kind of post most people are interested in reading :(

@ mesjay: I have no idea how to send it about to such concerned people... plus there's too much of a "personal experience" mentioned in it which is not a newspaper material...

@ noni: thank you! please do visit again :)

Anonymous said...

I found your blog browsing the internet. I am not from the Northeast and I am just appalled that anyone would behave like that. Perhaps the time is ripe for an anti-racism initiative, along the lines of the Blanknoise Project? Although I don't live in India anymore, please know that you and your efforts against racism have my wholehearted moral support. This sort of treatment of fellow Indians is just unacceptable.

Anonymous said...

Excellent article. We need more people like you in this world:-) Skimi

noni said...

read your some other writings also...
...and there is other perspective u bring to light (may be i never thought of how much pain there)..unveil another kind of racial discrimination...
me also a north eastner...and know well all socio-economic discrimination toward north well as a stranger/alien type of outlook...

tag u to my blog.....

still c said...

U came
U saw
U wrote. Another mind blowing post... ur a messiah against the discrimination thing... A writer wit lotta guts n enthusiasm. Keep writin... Wish these insights r publicised 2 d
Nation.Oh how i wish n pray fo a day when i
can walk freely under tis sky , when my looks n colour are no longer an issue in this walk of life.
Better Dayz

Anonymous said...

Hi, Please check your mails for matter related to Mutiny.IN
-an editor

VaiVa said...

Again U showed ur inner beauty! Nice report and thought provoking. Its worth watching a blurred CRT monitor instead of downloading. Its kinda 'can't no longer wait' article. Good Post and be there at the front among us Bloggers!

illusionaire said...

@ Sharmishtha: Thanx for the comment and support. Racism is ugly and I vow to fight againt any of its form. Even though the least I may be able to do is write about it, that is what I indeed to do as long as I live.

@ u Shahnaz Kimi: TY for the kind words pi Kim. But there's no point in people like me being around if people like you don't stand by our sides :)

@ noni: Thanx for the tag and going green along with Jean :). I don't have much free time these days but try to make the best our of it during my free time. By the way, where are u from in the North east?

@ still c: That is the wish of every human being who is a minority, and I too pray it becomes a reality one day. Thanx for dropping by!

@ sanjukta: Thanx for the mail. I have replied to Jacob and will definitely register at

@ vaiva: If you promise you will be always by my side during this struggle, I promise I will always be there to fight for injustice and discrimination.

Banno said...

A strong post. I can understand your view point and your anger. I just spent about a fortnight in the North East, Assam, Meghalaya and Nagaland. And found myself feeling a bit ashamed of how little I had known before of these places and people, and of course, how little I know even now. The branding of minorities, regional groups is almost unconscious on our parts, the minute we see someone we start tagging them. And it's good to hear voices like yours, with your own experiences speaking out against such mindless tagging.

illusionaire said...

Thanx for your comment banno. Well, I believe there is nothing wrong in tagging a particular person based on his race and region because even many notable psychologists (John Dovidio, Joshua Correll, John Stossel and Kristina Kendall) have proven that all of us do that. What is important, is to keep those thoughts in our head and prevent our actions from acting upon it. That is what distinguishes a person when it comes to racism.

toy soldier said...

Again,good post,but whenever i read your post,the first thing that always struck me is how well you put them out...:)

illusionaire said...

Ah.... thank you :) You visit is much appreciated and always welcomed.

Anonymous said...

Dude, what concerns me more is people like you going across to object the profiling of Nepalis as foreigners ..
If you look at it in the proper light it just says tht the servant was a Nepali .. ( and then ppl like you join whatever dots you want to make a conclusion that the NE will be affected due to this )

illusionaire said...

Hi anonymous, thank you for your comment.

If you look at my post carefully, tell me frankly who is connecting the dots here, is it "people like me" or those people who thrashed the Mizos just because a Nepali tried to steal the tyre of a car?

Anyway, I was just highlighting that incident because that was one of the effects it can have on people from the NE if the media continues to sensationalize every crime committed by a Nepali.

Whether it will reflect back on Northeastern people or not, I object the "singularization" of any individual's ethnic background. For example, last night the media reported that Krishna had confessed about his role in the Aarushi-Hemraj murder case, and that five other Nepali servants in the locality are missing since that day. Now all that report is about what they did etc and there is nothing wrong in mentioning that they are Nepalis.

But when the media lists out all the previous crimes in one shot, is it really necessary to give the "Nepali" tag to one of them? Seriously, is there such a thing as "only just mentioning he was a Nepali".

If you feel that is indeed good journalism and there's nothing wrong in "just mentioning", then I sure hope and pray the rest of the people are like you who do not see such racial distinction in situations like this, who will not stereotype anyone based on their color, race or sex, who will not vent out their anger at a particular religious group just because people from that group did something to people from his group many miles away, who will not massacre a particular community just because two people from that community assassinated a PM, etc etc

That is my prayer.

Anonymous said...

I think you have a point! Rather sad that we haven't integrated better where people have a better understanding of our diverse population.

To some extent similar profiling exists in the form of 'Madrasis', Bihari Bhaiyas', etc. Again, forms of generalization. However, I must say, this phenomenon is not restricted to India.

illusionaire said...

You're right shantanu. It is not restricted to India alone. But being such a diversed culture, I think we Indians take that extra mile when profiling such people... :)

p&b said...

we live in the biggest secular democracy of the world. this is a bloody farce! we just want to externalize the murderers of these Delhites, in the same way we, Mizos, use Burmese workers as scapegoats. why? because it is the easy way of viewing these problems. plus, committing an act of violence against a particular ethnic minority affirms a mis-educated sense of belonging in the mainstream majority.

the Mizos that were attacked in Safdarjung by an "educated" mob. academic education in this country amounts to nothing, if it does not create tolerance and concern for one another. i've met several boys studying their masters to secure higher dowry when they get married.