India, racism, campaign, human rights, Bismillah Geelani

The death of a young student from India's north-eastern region in New Delhi has brought a new spotlight to racism in the country.

Hundreds of students and professionals from India’s north-eastern states are marching to the Parliament.

They’re holding pictures of a teenage boy from the state of Arunachal Pradesh.

He was beaten to death in a Delhi market recently.

They also carry posters saying “down with racism” and “stop racial discrimination”.

25-year old Yeshi Wnangchu is one of them.

“The whole incident took place right in front of their eyes and but turned their eyes blind and ears deaf. They were like totally dead to the incident and later on when police came for investigation, no one from the neighbouring houses was there to testify. For humanity’s sake, people! Live with humanity and let others live as human beings.”

According to some witnesses the deceased had gone to shopkeepers in the market seeking help to reach to a local address.

The shopkeepers allegedly mocked his hair style and also abused him.

When he objected to this they mercilessly beat him up.

Many students from India’s north-eastern states come to Delhi and other Metropolitcan cities for higher education.

A majority of them say they face discrimination on daily basis.

23-year old Sunny Thayam is perusing a Master’s degree in Delhi University.

She has been here for more than five years but still doesn’t feel at home.

“I feel like I’m like an alien in my own country. Back home when I walk around I feel like home and I feel like ‘oh these are my people’ but here I can’t have that similar homely feeling. It feels like if somebody stares at you… how would you feel; just ask any female, the feeling is similar. You get those kind of goose bumps, am I doing something wrong? I always have this insecurity, I feel so bad and it hurts me a lot. If they don’t consider us Indian then I don’t know why?”

North-eastern region is home to a number of insurgent armed groups seeking separation from India.

But it’s not only people from this region who feel they are being discriminated against.

The African community has also been subjected to violent physical and verbal attacks in several Indian cities.

The attacks have dramatically increased in recent months.

Sambo Davis Takena is a Nigerian businessman living in India for several years.

“Whatever has happened and whatever language and words used for classifying black Africans is not accepted by me at all because that is totally racist. They call us Negro they call us Kalia I don’t know the meaning of the world but when they say this to me they laugh over it. Don’t use this language to them or their people back there in Africa. We see your people as equal to us. We don’t harass your people we don’t do this to your people.”

But there is reluctance in general in India to label such incidents as racial discrimination particularly in the case of people from the north-eastern states.

Madhu Kishwar is the Editor of the Monthly news magazine Manushi.

“Against blacks the prejudice is deep and strong just as if you happen to be dark-skinned women would find it difficult to get marriage proposals accepted but as far as the north-east is concerned, I think it is more ignorance rather than prejudice, hatred or aggression because that actually is largely the fault f our education system.

But human rights activists like Binalakshmi Nepram disagree.

“If some people in India think that this is not racism it is high time that they wake up. It’s about India where the citizens should not be judged on the basis of their colour, the shape of their nose or the way their eyes look. There is racism, deep rooted racism and all we are saying is confront it and don’t brush it under the carpet.”

The protesters in New Delhi are demanding that the government must acknowledge these incidents as racist and enact a strict law against racism.

They say they will continue their protest until their demands are met.

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