India’s North East is a hilly regions, rocky states and magnificently rich with enthralling valleys and verdant forests. It is inhabited by clans with distinct culture, religion and languages. The East zone comprises of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura (the 7 sisters) and Sikkim (brother). The people have a mongoloid features and have an Asian looks which makes them highly distinct from the whole parts of the other zones in India. Hence, they became termed as ‘chinky’ for their facial features.
They have often been discriminated by their Indian peers and experience high mockery for their looks. The word ‘foreigners’ is nothing new to them as they have come across these words on their daily lives. According to Wouters and Subba, the settlers of the North East states remains misidentified or recognized as instigating from other Asian countries like China, Nepal, Thailand, Japan and do not possess the resemblance from their Indian peers and thus, were considered as an outcast from their own country. The Indian look and variances in ethics and culture made them stood out and delimit from ‘Citizenship of India‘.
We have witnessed oodles of incidents in regards to discrimination or racism against the North East migrants to metropolitan cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata. Some migrated to other states in search for better job opportunities, educational institution, job placement and for fulfilling their aspirations. Eventually, it may be interrogative to the precise purpose for migrating to another state and require a valid reasonable answer to it. We can link up several reasons to provide evidences for these points.
- Job opportunities: Liberalisation of the economy has arrived much rapider in the metropolitan cities which revealed changes in the Indian economy, resulting in setting up of shopping malls and call centres. It created job opportunities for the North-East youth migrants and there is a huge demand from the company to employ these youth for these jobs. It enhances job opportunities for the young lads who came to the city to earn their livelihood since job opportunities are limited in North-east region.
- Infrastructure facilities: The infrastructure development in North East is backward in comparisons to the other zones. Developments are unable to function smoothly like it should be due to a certain number of insurgency groups present in the areas. There is frequent occurrence of clashes between the state government and the insurgency groups and this lead to economic imbalances. Thus, as infrastructure developments are unable to proceed like it should be, the youths migrated to the cities for attaining better facilities in education and achieving their dreams.
- Financial constraints: Maximum of the settlers consists of daily workers and they are unable to meet their needs. As cities offered a better opportunity for their livelihood, they are forced or maybe prefer to (in some cases) work outside the states and earn income for their family. The funds meant for the poor people have been corrupted and it barely reaches to the rightful owner. In this way, funding barely arrives at their door steps.
Hardships faced by the Students
Youth in today’s world are faced with vast challenges, regarding family issues, education, community resources, crime, peer pressure, identity, sexuality and love, to name a few. Similarly, youths from North East faced certain kinds of problems which are no different from those experienced in the world. They allocate themselves to study in big cities with better infrastructure and approached with high hopes and big dreams.
As the North East region is unable to cope up all the students in their availability of institutions, they often have to make the decision to come out of their states and study elsewhere but at the cost of what? Being called names and seen as anything but Indians.
One issue which can be explored is the practices of racism in their own country performed by their so called ‘same citizens’. Though they have lived in the same country as the other citizens, they have been categorized as ‘Chinese’ and are deliberately looked down due to their features. Racism in simple term refers to the pre-judication or discrimination based upon race or ethnicity.
“Are you from China?”or “Are you Chinese?” are some of the most commonly asked questions, and what is worst is the sense of ‘rejection’ from the mainland which in return hurt them the most. Women were often seen as ‘prostitutes’, ‘easy going’ and have been targeted as the weaker gender. The food choices of the North East people particularly on ‘fermented food’ hold a stigma to be despised by others. They have frequently been enquired for ‘identity proof’ to take their stand as the citizens of India. This shows the narrow-mindedness of the people and the environment in which they’re brought up can be well assumed.
With the on-going pandemic, they have been targeted as the perpetrator behind the spreading of corona virus, resulting in racial discriminations and insults, with numerous news coming into light, where a ‘Manipuri women have been spat on’ and called “Corona” by a middle aged man, some even encountered an insult “Go back Corona” from the passer-by and the list goes on. This can often lead the victim of racism to have an impact on their mental health which not everyone might show but it can leave a long-lasting effect of having a drawback syndrome or their inferiority complex might take its toll on them.
Languages: Language barriers, predominantly are faced at the time of shopping for vegetables or going for a ride. The sellers and the taxi drivers often increase the fare if they notice the look differences and come to know they are new into the city. This is one of the obstacles faced by the people for they are unable to understand and form a communication with people they come across. This can lead to isolation and loneliness, which makes difficult for them to cope up with the lifestyles of the city.
Shelter: When the institutions fail to provide them with adequate hostels for the migrants, they are forced to rent a place or stay in Paying Guest (Pg.). The rental prices are high and it is hard for them to pay the fees regularly. Poverty and money deficit doesn’t allow them to continue to maintain a balance with their studies.
Hence it is safe to say that Racism is something which every North-eastern residing outside faces on a daily basis. We’ve read multiple articles or news regarding the hardships suffered by them too but the question remains as to why there has been no progress in finding the solution to end this so far.
“All we ask is to be treated the same, we don’t want special treatments from anyone, but being treated equally as the rest of the Indian citizens should be our right, not a privilege .We can’t change the mind-set of the world overnight, but let’s start with YOU, educate yourself and educate others for the same, maybe that could bring about a change? Maybe, just a small ‘maybe’ but we’re ready to go all in. “
Students settling in distinct states other than their own origins, would face certain amount of hardships. Perseverance can be the key to adapt well in their new environment. However, raising your voices when you feel like your rights have been implicated should be well practicable. And yes, the government has set up certain North East help centers to account in their plight against any form of criticism and discrimination. This can act as the safeguard to stop any illegal activities, however, a voice has to be heard all across the states and makes people know that North East is a ‘Part of India’.