Painting the activities of a few miscreants as racial discrimination and giving a generalized opinion is not justifiable.
Discrimination or Exploitation is not a new phenomenon in human society. Every day one comes across such news. However, what made me write this article right now is that when the entire world is gripping over the pandemic called ‘Coronavirus’, print media or electronic media live no chance of highlighting news like ‘India’s Northeasterners face racial discrimination over Coronavirus scare’, or ‘Corona Virus outbreak has increased racial attacks on the people of Northeast: NGO Report’, which caught my attention.
Before jumping into any conclusion one must understand the genesis of the term ‘race’. Since the advent of the British rule with a motive to implement their “Divide et Impera” policy, numbers of terminology have been intentionally constructed and the word ‘race’ is one of them. The concept of ‘race’ was brought to India by Herbert Hope Risley, a colonial administrator (who was also appointed as a Census Commissioner in India) taking the help of Max Muller’s idea (a colonial administrator who created fantasy tale named Aryan Theory). Thus, physical features gradually became the basis for classification of people as primitive or advanced which is pseudoscientific in nature.
The disappointing part is that even after more than 70 years of independence such narratives are further developed by the native historians and are still continuing among our minds and no one from Academia has tried to break or challenge this colonial perception.
Abbey J.Dubois (A French Catholic Missionary) in Hindu Manners, Customs and Ceremonies wrote, “….to make a new race of the Hindus, one would have to begin by undermining the very foundations of their civilization, religion and polity and by turning them into atheists and barbarians.”
Introduction of ‘North-Eastern culture’ to the other part of India begun using colonial narratives or one can say using ‘Western Lens’. Stereotypically, they were termed as nomads, primitive, barbaric, backward, animist follower, etc. (It is noteworthy that such derogatory words were used for North-Eastern people while having their own kingdom, rich history, culture, traditions, self-governing system, etc.) and implanted racial differences in the minds of the entire people of India. It is precisely these so-called terms that actually encouraged the British people to dominate the land. The disappointing part is that even after more than 70 years of independence such narratives are further developed by the native historians and are still continuing among our minds and no one from Academia has tried to break or challenge this colonial perception.
Racial Discrimination is the practice of treating someone differently, less favorably, or poorly than other people in a similar situation because of their skin color, race descent, national, ethnic origin or immigrant status. It is structural and continuum in nature and cannot be dealt with in isolation. But the incidents reported across the country are isolative in nature and it does not give any societal image. No groups of people or any community is supporting such unfortunate incidents. Further, I would like to mention that there are many instances in our society where stereotypes and prejudices exist within a nation such as North Indian vs Southern People, Biharis, mainland, outsider, insider, etc.
I am an Assistant Professor by profession hailing from Assam and often travel around the country alone. But I do not remember myself being discriminated against just because of my ethnicity. There is no doubt that after Independence no syllabus as such was prepared by the government to include information about the culture of North-Eastern States centrally – thanks to Nehruvian Policy and his agreement with Verrier Elwin (a so-called Tribal Activist who married innocent women for his researches) and keeping North-Eastern states alienated from the rest of India more than a decade.
The policy of exclusion was created long back to delink the connection between hills and valley people and its effect is still visible.
Looks cannot determine someone’s ethnicity or nationality. One can find a number of cases where people from North-Eastern regions getting married to non-NE people and being welcomed with open arms by their in-laws. Besides, India never has a history of illegality on interracial marriages unlike the United States (which was repealed only in 1967). So, painting the activities of a few miscreants as racial discrimination and giving a generalized opinion is not justifiable.
Anti – Social elements or people with non-conformist behavior is present everywhere. Such people often destabilize or destroy the equilibrium of society. And there are procedures to deal with such people such as, in Delhi, if you call a Northeastern a ‘Chinki’ one can be jailed for 5 years.
But here, the matter of discussion is not only about the action taken against those miscreants but the kind of methods adopted while writing about all those issues. The entire matter is shifted to a false racial narrative. I view this kind of mis-propagation is just to undermine the native people and breaking the essence of Indian civilization. The policy of exclusion was created long back to delink the connection between hills and valley people and its effect is still visible. British have left the country long back but their agents (who are brown in skin and white in the heart) still sow the seeds of divisions among us.
Fortunately, there are social organizations that are working to provide help and disseminate true information among people. You will hear about North-east people studying outside their states that are exceedingly doing well and made a great achievement in their respective fields and equally contributing to add glory to the nation. Do you think it is possible with such ‘racial discrimination?’ However, it is a matter to ponder how many journalists have actually made an extensive study on ‘Racism’ before reporting. Therefore, it is my request to my fellow not to fall into this trap again and should look at these incidents in isolation only without giving it a racist colour.
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.
 India’s North-easterners face racial discrimination over coronavirus scare – Mar 23, 2020, Northeast Today
 Coronavirus outbreak has increased racial attacks on people from the Northeast: NGO report – Mar 26, 2020, Deccan Herald