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Monday, July 16, 2007

Delhi Don'ts for North Easterners

I hail from one of the states that form what is referred to as North-East India, a cluster of states which 'mainland India' cannot or doesn't want to distinguish from one another, I live in Delhi and I would like a copy of the booklet - Security Tips for Northeast Students/Visitors in Delhi. I too want to know firsthand how 'others' want me to act like.

While the booklet might have been issued in good spirit, but it ends up sending the wrong message and gives further credence to the unfounded presumptions about people from the far eastern regions of the country that many in 'mainland India' harbour. The officer behind this initiative, Robin Hibu, is himself a north easterner and an IPS officer from the Arunachal Pradesh cadre.

I too had my share of experience of being an unknown Indian, but being a Bengali by ethnicity and the fact that I don't look like a 'chinky' (it is a derogatory and racist term) I'm spared many of the asperities that others have to face.

Since I'm yet to read the actual booklet and am basing my observations on media reports, I wouldn't like to comment much. But here are some excerpts from what appeared in the papers:

* A proud father sent his only daughter in Delhi to make her IAS/IPS but she returned back as drug addict, promising boy landed into police case for drunken brawl, late night parties with loud music landed six youngsters into police case, revealing dressed up parties lass was molested and thrown out from moving vehicle badly bruised after being outraged…

* Dress code: When in rooms do as Roman does (sic)

* Revealing dress be (sic) avoided. Avoid lonely road/bylane when dressed scantily. Dress according to sensitivity of the local populace

* Bamboo shoot, Akhuni and other smelly dishes should be prepared without creating ruckus in neighbourhood.

Anyone with a dress sense will agree to the fact that north easterners do know how to dress well (especially the females) and the connection between dressing and sexual harassment is something which The Blank Noise Project is trying to disprove.

Food is a personal choice as well as a cultural one. I savour the 'smelly food' and on my flight from home last night, a quarter of my luggage was occupied by the 'smelly' stuff. I don't like anyone else to dictate my food habits and would like it to remain that way.

The interesting observation that emerges from this controversy is that most of the time efforts are being made to assimilate the North East with the 'mainstream.' Why isn't there anything visible which strives towards making the 'mainstream' understand the North East better? Cultural hegemony...


thalassa_mikra said...

This is awful, condescending, and the fact that it comes from a North-eastern police officer shows how far all these despicable attitudes have been internalized by people from the North-east as well.

What I'd like to know is - what business does the Delhi Police have to police parties and loud music? Because lord knows we just don't have enough crime in Delhi and they are sitting around twaddling their thumbs.

If girls from the North-east are being asked to do in "room" as Romans do, then what's the problem with wearing the sort of westernized clothes that half the young college girls in Delhi wear anyway?

As for Akhuni and bamboo shoot, guess which Indian foodstuff gets called the nastiest smelling thing by my non-Indian friends - it's none other than "mainland" India's beloved hing.

educatedunemployed said...

I don't live in Delhi so don't know much about the local media there. I have also never come across such hand books or conduct ethics being published. That you mention them in your blog, I would not contest their existence.

I would how ever like to be educated about the prevalence of such rules of conduct,to whom do they get handed out.What class of society dishes out such prejudices and racist behaviour?

I have been a part of culture that has always been all encompassing, hence such an allegation seems a bit harsh and unreal.

guru dorjee said...

Well if the Indians dont like the North Easteners to spoil their shining morality by dressing differently, behaving differently and eating and thinking differently why dont they just detach them from India and give them independence?
After all many of them died fighting the Indians for gaining independence for 5o years.This way the North Easterners would not come any more to pollute the Great Aryan Civilization of the North, righto?

dwaipayan said...

this kind of crappy behavior of the rest of the country causes the violence in some parts of india.

in school we all used to learn " india: unity in diversity". but in real life people are trying to kill the diversities. why don't they understand that all these diverse culture makes india rich.

as for as the dressing sense of the north easterns are concerned, i think they can teach that to the whole india. just see any college, and you'll find them among the most trendy people.
and I do agree with guru dorjee.

thalassa_mikra said...

Guru, I don't know how feasible an option independence is at this point.

Realistically, even if the North-east does separate from India, the region would not be independent in any meaningful sense.

In all probability, it would
turn into another Burma - governments heavily controlled by the Chinese regime.

My own (biased) viewpoint is that it is better to be under Indian economic and political dominance than Chinese economic and political dominance. Why -

1. Greater cultural freedom (one word: Tibet). From your name, I assume you are a Bhutia Buddhist. What do you think would have happened to Sikkim's monasteries if Sikkim had joined China instead of India?

2. Greater political freedom

3. Less chances of an environmental disaster (you should read up about China's environmental havoc)

All this is not to say that the Indians outside the Northeast hold loathsome prejudices against the people from the region.

It has to be said though that in my opinion, the women from India's North-east are the most beautiful and chic in all of India. Dwaipayan, you're right, more Indian women should learn how to dress from North-eastern girls.

Soumyadip said...

I agree with Thalassa Mikra on the observation that many of these prejudices have indeed become internalised even amongst those who hail from that region.

EducatedUnemployed We all like to live in societies that is all encompassing but in the process many identities are smoothened out. To accept people who are different from us is the difficult part, it is easier to make someone like you and then start linking them.

Guru I would again be on similar frequency with TM on the issue of secession from India. Practically speaking there's hardly any future for all the 'homelands' which people want to carve out from the map of India. It might not be the right way to put it, but for all those with secessionist tendencies India is a 'necessary evil' that many might fail to recognise and those who do are also making the best out of it. The complexities of the region makes it difficult to shade things in black and white. A far fetched vision is needed to rid the region of its woes and the 'mainland' of its prejudices. But it is still missing. A politician goes to a tribal village and gets some photos clicked in the traditional attire, that's the beginning and the end of assimilation.

Even the popular culture, be it films or television, has done nothing for the cause. Tribals are just mumbo jumbo and jingalala hoo.

Dwaipayan Violence often begins with a cause and ends up becoming an excuse. That is what is happening in most of the North Eastern states. A deliberate misunderstanding of the phenomenon keeps the vested interests on both sides of the chicken neck happy.

guru dorjee said...

Point 1: Where have I asked for independence?? I had said--if the Indians are so afraid of being contaminated by the different 'morality' of North Easterners why dont they get rid of them permanently? Not the same.

Point2: The name Guru Dorjee can be found from Karakorum to Kunming across multiple countries and several Indian states too.
I responded out of human interest not out of ethnic affinity.

Tasneem said...

Indians are basically racist people. It is ingrained in us. We all the time look for differences in others, color, race, religion, caste, gotra, region, state name it and we are ready to make it a point of discrimination. Phrases like "amchee mumbai" "Punjab da Puttar" and many more, reek of racism and yet are used blatantly by one and all and quite proudly if I may say so. Look at the reality shows...Shilpa is getting so much of attention because Britishers, at least the oifficials feel guilty about what happend to her. (They are conferring her with a Doctorate. That I must say is going over board). But look at any Indian program and you will find judges blatantly showing their regionalism. Quite recently in one of Sa re ga ma pa episode, a judge speaks to a contestant in Gujarati showing his affinity and thereby bias, and later selecting her despite dissent. When election of the President is based on biases, what can we expect from the country. We all the time think, speak and behave in a very very racist manner. Its apity that even after 60 years of democracy and education we have not been able to shirk off our biases.