As I sit down to pen my thoughts, I can't help but reflect on the issues I've seen and experienced as a person from Northeast India living in the heart of this vast and diverse nation. India, often acclaimed as a melting pot of cultures, religions, and traditions, is indeed a land of incredible diversity. However, it is also a place where diversity sometimes breeds discrimination, and it is high time we acknowledge the discrimination that people from the Northeast face in various parts of the country.
I come from one of the beautiful states of Northeast India, a region teeming with breathtaking landscapes and diverse cultures. Growing up there was an enriching experience, and it instilled in me a deep sense of pride in my roots. However, when I moved to a different part of India for higher education, I encountered another facet of the country—a side I had heard about but never truly comprehended until I lived through it.
One of the most common forms of discrimination Northeasterners face in India is racial profiling. Our distinct facial features and Mongolian ancestry often make us the subject of stares, stereotypes, and derogatory comments. I have lost count of the times people have mimicked our accents or made insensitive remarks about our physical appearances. Though I ignored many of the comments or acted like I didn't hear them, I couldn't throw out those words from my mind and kept disturbing myself mentally. These seemingly harmless actions may not be overt acts of discrimination, but they are a constant reminder that we are 'different' in the eyes of many.
The discrimination extends beyond casual racism, though. It seeps into our everyday lives. It's disheartening to think that in a country that prides itself on unity in diversity, we are sometimes deemed undesirable tenants solely because of our ethnicity.
Discrimination against Northeasterners is not limited to this aspect only. In recent years, we have witnessed hate crimes, ranging from physical attacks to more insidious forms of harassment. The perpetrators often view us as 'foreigners,' and this sense of 'otherness' makes us vulnerable targets. We often question our identity because of the "otherness" invoked in us. Are we truly Indian? or "Are there requirements based on race, facial, or religion to be an Indian?"
It is essential to recognize that discrimination against people from the Northeast is not a regional issue but a national one. It's a problem that reflects a broader need for more awareness and education about our rich cultures and histories. Many Indians know little about the Northeast beyond a vague idea of 'Seven Sisters' and the stereotypes the media perpetuates. Our contributions to the nation often go unnoticed.
To combat this discrimination, first, we must start with education. Educational institutions must include the histories and cultures of the Northeast in their curricula. This will help foster a sense of belonging among Northeastern students and promote cultural understanding among their peers.
Additionally, media and popular culture have a significant role in shaping public perception. More inclusive representation of Northeasterners in mainstream media can go a long way in breaking down stereotypes.
As a Northeasterner living in India, I hope for a day when I can proudly call myself an Indian without having to justify my identity constantly. Discrimination against Northeasterners is a stain on India's diversity, and it is time to erase it, one act of kindness and understanding at a time.
Note: This write-up is based on my experience and some of the things I heard or shared with me by my fellow friends who went through such issues of discrimination while studying in the mainstream states of India.