By Subhra Priyadarshini

My heart bleeds for Nido Tania and the plight of all those with Mongoloid features living in the increasingly insensitive capital of India. Every time I hear a jibe on their slit eyes, flat nose or spiked hair, a part of me revolts, feeling the pain that those slit-eyes have masked for ages.

Our friends from the north-east had learnt to ‘adjust’ and not speak their mind out in ‘strange accents’. Till Nido Tania died, that is.

Author with a family in North East
The author with a family in Meghalaya

Their pain seems to have reached a never-before crescendo today as Jantar Mantar witnesses the silent protest of hundreds of youngsters from the north east of India. Since tears and sniffles are independent of facial anatomy, their cries are just as impassioned as that of a hurt Odia, Marathi or Kannadiga. The voice of the north-east is rising with students’ organisations and youngsters from all the seven states chanting “Justice for Nido” in unison.

A dear friend from Tripura summed up the increasing racial intolerance on display across this country thus in his Facebook status: “They targeted the turbaned in Delhi in 1984 and the bearded in Gujarat in 2002. They now go for the dark-skinned in Delhi’s Khirkhi Extension and for the Mongoloid in Lajpat Nagar.”

During a heated lunch-table debate on the issue, a well meaning colleague offered, “It is best not to side with anyone. After all, you have to live in Delhi. And you are not even from the north-east. So why get into this?”

A part of me revolted again.

Haven’t we seen this happen to our “idli-dosa” friends from down south? Haven’t we relegated all east Indians to the “maachh-bhaat” club? Haven’t we clubbed Nepalis, Koreans, Japanese, Chinese and north-east people as “chinkys” forever?

Subhra Priyadarshini
Subhra Priyadarshini

No, I don’t belong to the north-east. And yet how much I belong there – I’m Odia by umbilical cord, Naga by birthplace; Indian by nationality, but a product of her north-east by core values. An ambitious global citizen by profession but a happy-go-lucky, spirited soul by virtue of my formative years spent mostly in the hills and rugged terrains of the north-east.

Born in back of beyond Zunheboto, home of the Sumi martial tribe of Nagaland, I grew up in Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and Assam. I kept learning and forgetting languages (what diversity the region has!) as we hopped from one state to the other, thanks to my father’s job in the armed services.

New food habits, new cultures, new customs and new landscapes greeted us wherever we went. But never a sad soul, never a bitter jibe, never ever a racial dig. Yes, some insurgency-hit states continue to have their unique problems but being unkind to people from other states is certainly not one of them.

The fight to get Nido justice is not just the fight of the people of the Seven Sisters. It is a fight of the ‘economic refugees’ who leave homes and families behind to prove their mettle in this country’s metro cities, to get a decent education, a paying job or a comfortable life.

Not to get ridiculed, profiled and killed.

By that token, are all small city people with big dreams, different looks and poor knowledge of local language and cultures potential Nido Tanias?

*Subhra Priyadarshini is a Delhi-based journalist