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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Chp 165. Chinky: Confused Nationality.

I think one of the most confused unsung communities here in India these days are the Arunachalis.

At one side, there is that situation of the big bad bully China flexing its muscles and claiming many parts of Arunachal Pradesh to be a part of its territory, while India tries its diplomatic best to convince the rest of India (and the World) that Arunachal Pradesh is indeed a part of India. And thus follows a volley of hard hitting tirades by experts, politicians, diplomats, patriots, journalists and bloggers, condemning China and promising never to let go of Arunachal Pradesh.

Feb 8, 2008: Arunachal is ours, PM can go there: India to China

And then at the other side, the average Arunachali comes to this part of the Country, Delhi, the Nation’s proud Capital, maybe to meet all those people who have warmly supported him and vowed to protect him from the Chinese aggression. And what does he find here? People openly mocking him because of his “strange foreign looks”, racially abusing him as “chinky” and rudely telling him to “go back to China”.

Feb 17, 2008: Arunachal students beaten up and told to go back to China

Just how do you think that person would feel? When he goes back to Arunachal Pradesh, what do you think he will be telling his family, his friends, his neighbors, his village panchayat raj, who are all eager to listen to the tales of his journey to Delhi that they cannot afford? What will be their general mindset about the rest of India then?

You can’t blame him for creating a generalization based on that unfortunate incident alone, because to him, that’s what affects him the most and that’s what lingers in his memory the deepest. He already felt alienated enough to be so “different” in Delhi, now he’s being discriminated because of that difference, with nobody else from the “other side” stepping up to assure him that that’s not the attitude of every other Indians. Can you picture the image of Delhi he’ll be painting to the others back home? What will their reaction be?

Frankly, I won’t be surprised if they turn against India. And when they do, they will be branded as terrorists, hunted out like dogs and silenced forever with nobody ever questioning why he took that path in the first place. I mean, who cares, right? After all, we’re talking about the North-East and he was attacking the Indian Constitution and the integrity of our proud Indian Nation, right? To the rest of India, this incident will just be another brick on the troubled NE wall.

Feb 16, 2008. MID-DAY reports:
5 N-E students assaulted after racial abuse
"We were preparing for the celebrations on February 20. Our friends went to the market to get their cell phone recharged when the shopkeepers racially abused them by calling them 'chinkies'. After an altercation, the local shopkeepers stabbed one of the students. They also used knife, iron rods and bamboo sticks to beat up the students. Chanakyapuri is considered to be a high security zone and even then, an incident like this has happened," Tabataka said.
The Hindu, on the other hand, downplayed the entire incident.
Eleven shopkeepers have been arrested by the Chanakyapuri police here on charges of assaulting some students from Arunachal Pradesh on Friday night. The police said the students had gathered at Aruchanal Bhawan for the State Day celebrations on February 20. They had gone to the local market for shopping around 9 p.m. As some shopkeepers passed objectionable comments on them, a brawl ensued in which the students were assaulted. Some of them were taken to RML Hospital.
On certain occasions, toning down sensitive incidents is a wise thing to do, especially when the incident is communal in nature. That’s where you draw the thin red line between serious journalism and sensational journalism. But in this case, do you think it is really necessary to muffle down the incident? Anyone reading “The Hindu” would wonder, what could be the “objectionable comment” that was uttered. Probably “maa ki”, à la Harbhajan Singh, without ever knowing how much the word “chinky” hurts us, that to be jeered a “chinky” when we are silently minding our own business is nothing but racism.

Racism begets racism.

Take it from experience and observation. In Mizoram, most of the older folks, around the age group of 50+ are still skeptical of every non-Mizo because the memories of the Indian Army “aggression” during the early 60’s are still fresh in their minds. Bombs raining down continuously on innocent towns and villages, day in and day out, gory tales of rape and murder, inhumane treatment at the makeshift prisons, all of which started because of the hungry little bamboo rat.

Refer previous post: Chp 148. Mizoram: The Truth.

And then comes the next generation. And the next. Such generations are supposed to heal the scars inflicted through the passage of time. After all, the past is the past. There is no point in hating somebody for what one’s ancestors did to another’s ancestors a long time ago.

And so these new generations of Mizos travel around to other parts of the Country. Their Country, according to their history and geography books. The Central Government seems to welcome such an initiative, encouraging more exoduses of people, mainly in the name of education. The 7 and a half percent reservation for ST in the educational and central services makes it even smoother for Mizos and other people from the North-east to assimilate with the Mainstream population.

But once they get here, things aren’t always peaches and pie. Most people just expect them to let go of their respective cultures, traditions and heritages and practice only the traditions followed by the majority. And when the North-east students find it difficult to let go of their traditions (would you let go of yours if someone asks you to?), then they are labeled as “trying to be different” and branded as outcasts.

So, almost everywhere, northeast students find it easier to bond with other northeast students, regardless of whether they are from Mizoram, Arunachal or Nagaland (which many people STILL think is one entity) rather than bond with Mainstream Indians because of the way they are treated.

I love being in a multi-ethnic group. We once got into a pub-brawl a long time ago, when one drunken jerk came over to our table and insulted two of our south-Indian friends as “bloody pandis”. Just like that, with no reason of any provocation from our side. So we simply retaliated. Ah we were young, hot-blooded and united, those juvenile years.

But then, one outgrows that fist-fight stage as one matures. What I have observed now whenever I am in a single-ethnic group and some asshole shouts at us in public “chinky” or “ching chong, go back to China” or sometimes “go back to Chinkistan” (what the heck does “Chinkistan” mean? Chinky + Hindustan???), I have never had any support from the others around me. Most of them just stare at me (ME! Not the freaking guy who said that and is laughing his ass out), while some of them giggle and walk on.

The only time somebody ever helped me (and I remember this so well because it was the ONLY time) was in Mumbai when a nice middle-aged aunty with a curly bob-cut (the kind of stereotype Catholic Goan aunty that we see in our Hindi movies with names like Mrs. D’Costa, Mrs. D’Cruz or Mrs. D’Souza, who is full of compassion and grace) shouted at those four guys making fun of me in a very rebuking tone: “EXCUZE ME!!!” and they ran away before she could say anything else. Then she looked at me and I looked at her and nodded a thank you and both of us walked on. Life goes on.

The MNS has been heavily criticized by the Nation for beating up non-Maharashtrians and forcing them to go back to their respective “homes”. And so those “immigrants” flee back to UP, Bihar, Orissa and other Indian States. But when other Indians beat up people from North-east India and tell us to go back to China, oh please, do tell me, how can we do that? We are NOT from China, we don’t speak the same language, most of us don’t even follow the same religion (Mizoram, Nagaland and Meghalaya are Christian majority states).

Just like how people tell Muslims to go back to Pakistan, taunting a person from the North-east to go back to China is equally absurd. If the Government is really interested in creating a better relationship between people from the North-east and Mainland India, it first needs to revise its educational system at the root. And it needs to inform its crooked Delhi cops to stop victimizing people from the North-east, especially women from the North-east (please, don’t get me started on this one).

Until then, I will continue fighting for the rights of the North-eastern people. Maybe something similar to the Blank Noise Project can be initiated, which deals with the plight of the North-east student in your city. You have the power to make the difference, my friend. The next time you see a North-east girl/guy being racially abused in public, step up. And when that victim sees somebody from the “other side” coming to his/her aid, the preconceived notion borne by most north-east students is bound to change.

Whether you’re from Tamilnadu or Haryana or Maharashtra or Karnataka or Jammu & Kashmir, I beseech you not to be a mute spectator the next time you see somebody from the North-east being treated appallingly. I always get involve when I see injustice of any form or just to help an old lady cross the street regardless whether they belong to this community or that community, not just because of mere good intentions alone, but also because I believe in karma, so that somewhere out there, someone is returning the favor to somebody from the North-east.

I have to go to Court now, for I’ve just received news of yet another rape attempt by a group of students from Haryana, this time on a Manipuri girl, after her brother was beaten up and locked up in his room. Just another normal day for me. Sigh.

Ps. I’m not a lawyer. I’m just going to Court to meet my lawyer friends for more information regarding this incident.

Pps. North-East Support Centre website has not yet updated these two incidents about the Arunachal guys and Manipuri girl yet, because they are grossly understaffed as of the moment. You might not be able to get through to most of the numbers listed on the Support helpline, as most of them are volunteers (students) who have other important things to do too, like exams and assignments. Your understanding will be much appreciated. Thank you.