E-Pao! Opinion - Do's and Dont's for NE People at Delhi

Do's and Dont's for NE People at Delhi

By: Febroneous Silkam Sangma *

** See newer Addition on 19th July below ***

As you are aware, recently there was a booklet titled "Security Tips for Northeast Students/ Visitors in Delhi" released by a senior IPS officer in Delhi relating to the Do's and Dont's that people hailing from North East India should adhere to.
( Read News on this here & here )

A Delhi Police booklet suggesting a code of conduct for students and visitors from the northeast has sparked outrage among people from the region, with an MP planning to take up the issue with the Union Home Ministry.

The booklet advises girls from the region to avoid wearing any "revealing dress" and has suggestions about cooking "smelly" food without creating a "ruckus" in the neighbourhood.
The issue is as follows :

When Indians are in "Utopia" do like the utopians do - make sure you do not urinate in public, make sure you bathe in perfume before making public appearances, make sure you do not cook spicy food that may disturb the nasal cavities of the other citizens, make sure you do not wear the Dhoti as it is indecent (we can see the hairy legs) nor a short blouse with the sari as we can see the "skin" and "flesh" on the waist which may be termed as sexually provocative.

Indian women should not visit lonely places... for the police are not responsible for what may happen to her there, etc...

The worst part is Indians would be foreigners in "Utopia". People from the NE are Indians, even then they are being subjected to regional and racial profiling. Their liberties are being curbed.

There should be a different Constitution for them or a clause in the Chapter of fundamental rights that says - The following chapter is not applicable to indigenous people hailing from, residing in or domiciled in North East India.

Hello!!! Is this our country? Are we not safe even within the country? Can we not live in dignity? Must we fight? Why are we termed citizens then?

They are being blamed for all the racism and regionalism wantonly heaped on them.

"They raped her because she was wearing clothes that provoked them". "They could see her ankles and calves and so they were provoked into raping her or sexually abusing her."

"They beat him up because he was cooking smelly food ( which under no circumstances smell worse than the garbage they throw outside their door, a common practice of people in Delhi. I can safely vouch for that. )

( many people find the spices that are used to cook North Indian food not very pleasing to the nasal cavities - put a ban on it? )" To beat him/her up they forcefully entered his/her residence. The landlord kicked him out because of so and so...The examples are countless.

These are all specific crimes under the Indian Penal Code, but the booklet has legitimzed all these as normal acts arising from the fact of NE people being as they are.

And that, my friends is indigestible to me. It stinks worse than rotting flesh

And if the police refuse to lodge an FIR, the people from NE and other parts of India should know that they can file a complaint with a Magistrate under Section 190 CrPC. Empower yourselves.

The elected representatives of North Eastern India must rise to the occasion when circumstances call on them to stand and protect not only the people they represent but also the Constitution that empowers them to sit in their offices.

We must remember that New Delhi is the capital of the Indian Union. It is as much ours as it is anybody elses. We have every right to live with dignity in it; with our head held high, without fear in our mind...

More Addition on 19 July 2007

This mail pertains to the issue of the booklet issued by a senior IPS officer for students hailing from North East India .

It is said that the student leaders in New Delhi of some states from the North East met Mr. Robin Hibu, the author of the infamous booklet that has ruffled so many feathers. News reports also say that he had authored the book in good intention and was apologetic for causing so much discomfort.

The Delhi Police also washed their hands off the matter understanding the grave nature of the mis-statements in the booklet. The All India Students Association had even taken up the cudgels and asked the booklet to be recalled.

What is strange is that the news report says the apology was accepted and the students leaders of some North Eastern States agreed to have the booklet guide them! Unchanged! No talk of removing the extremely insulting sections on dress code, places to visit or food habits.

That is extremely surprising to an individual of limited intelligence like myself.

It is not disputed that the author had all the good intentions. It is not disputed that some of the suggestions may be sound.

However, it cannot be disputed either that some of the statements are not only in bad taste but, have done the image of people from the North East irreparable harm.

1) For the common man, who has no idea about what law is, a booklet circulated by a senior IPS officer relating to dress code, food habits and places to visit is equivalent to a stricture passed.

2) It is conceding or rather insinuating that all/most girls from North East India wear skimpy/revealing clothes ( girls from all walks of life, from all the different parts of the country wear the same kind of clothes so there was no need to stress on that specifically thereby implying that girls from the North East wear such clothes intentionally knowing that they will be viewed as sexual objects. In fact girls of the North East are a minority in New Delhi ) ;

Reference to food that gives out displeasing smell that may cause a ruckus in the society is again insinuating that all/most people from the North East eat such horrible smelling food or that food of the North East are foul smelling ( here the freedom and liberty of a person has been breached.

Ours is a multicultural society. Each region has different cuisine. People from one part of the country may not like what people from the other part find a delicacy) ( a more diplomatic language could have been used to make a point);

Regarding the point on places to visit - here again the specific mention of the places insinuates that couples from the North East are often found in such places ( in fact if you visit the places mentioned you may be shocked to find couples from everywhere but the North East there)

3) It is no secret that people from the North East do face discrimination in the National Capital. The situation is no doubt better now. Nevertheless, it does exist. The incidents cited by students of the North East in the National Capita cannot be counted.

I have personally been subjected to it so many times that I have lost count. I have also seen other victims and many a time had to go to their rescue. It had almost become a part of everyday life. The discrimination is often not committed by educated people but stray incidents have been reported even from that section of society.

4) The mention of not wearing revealing dresses smacks of parochialism at the highest. It insinuates that eveteasing and sexual assaults are to be partly if not largely blamed on the victim. This in fact is the Police screaming helplessness to maintain law and order.

Soon, I believe they would "suggest" all women wear burkhas and gloves. There is an interesting incident in the movie "Bawandar" where a girl runs home because a man made sexually advances on her.

Whe she complained to the mother, the mother slapped her and said, "What were you doing there?" It should also be noted that this has been the classic defence in cases of rape in the Indian Courts - to malign the character of the woman conveniently forgetting that this has nothing to do with proving the commission of the offence of rape. In other words, reduce the responsibility of the perpetrator of the crime by putting the blame on the victim.

5) Similarly, there have been cases where locals have committed the crime of criminal tresspass, battery and causing grevious hurt on boys who have had the misfortune to cook their delicacies and caused a "ruckus" in the society. Is the author trying to absolve the law enforcing agencies of all responsibilities?

As a preventive measure? Well and good. Then it should bring out booklets to educate the local residents on the meaning of crime and decent behaviour. Teach them the meaning of request.

Bottom line, apart from the apology, the booklet should be immediately recalled and all the offensive sections removed before it is let loose on the public. No one is interested in an apology. We know the author had the best intentions in mind.

It grieves me that our learned student leaders fail to understand the finer points of diplomacy.

Related Article on NE Dress & Behaviour

* Febroneous Silkam Sangma, LLM (Final Year), University of Delhi, contributes to for the first time. You can contact this writer at f_s_sangma(at)yahoo(dot)com . This article was webcasted on July 17th, 2007.

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