Nitin Gokhale’s piece is tone-deaf to an amazing degree, especially for someone who has lived in the Northeast (We Are All Xenophobes, May 14). When ‘Mallus’ and ‘Bongs’ and ‘Punjus’ trade barbs, no one ever doubts the Indianness of the other.
Sankaran Krishna, London
Terms like ‘Bong’ or ‘Mallu’ do not compare in intensity to the prejudice contained in pejoratives directed at Northeasterners.
The harassment of people from the Northeast in Delhi and elsewhere is a reality that, in the national interest, we all need to acknowledge and do something about. Perhaps Aamir can address the issue in a future edition of Satyamev Jayate.
Manish Anand, Delhi
Not so long ago, the government and media made a big fuss about racism in Australia. It’s time to clean up our own backyard first before pointing fingers.
Rajesh Katathila, Sydney
And to S.S.NAGARAJ. Loitam Richard was a Hindu boy. It says a lot about how ignorant even seemingly educated person like you can be. That Manipuri boy who was slained belongs to a Meetei community who follows Hinduism.
That Gokhale spent considerable time in the North-East is to be seen with is understanding of the chasm between various ethnic groups within the region. But it is hard to grasp any points to take home here. Is he suggesting that people from the region to bear it and patiently wait for things to change? It is patronizing and preposterous to suggest that we are succumbing to the notion of victimhood. Seriously? Is it that hard to recount the days when the national media (including Outlook) made a hue and cry about instances of hate crimes against Indians in Australia? Were we succumbing to the notion of victimhood then?
You seem to have laughed at the wrong place. No offence bhai, but MB was parodying our stereotypes regarding ethnic specializations. You took him literally. Right Manish?
A nice article but it is flawed with an idea that Indians have a mentality of discriminating people based on looks, dress and eating styles. If it were, then India could not have been ruled by Mongolian origin Mughals and British and India could not have been a home to all the religions of the world.
Indians greatness is their ability to absorb any type of difference as long as those "aliens " have family values, and do not try to change "Indian" way of living or in short "social hierarchy or social structure”. Muslims did not rule this country with a sword in hand and British did not with a pistol in hand sitting on a horse back.
Swami Vivekananda gave an interview to Times London newspaper. The reporter finally asked "Mr. Vivekananda do not you consider Indians as a bit uncivilized?"
Swami answered “I was standing one day at a road side (in London). I was nearly mobbed just because I was wearing a different dress; now you tell me who is uncivilized? "
I am not commenting upon UPSC selection system but there is very high number of IAS officers from North-East. Everyone knows this.
I talked to one sales man in a Tata show when I went there for a test drive of Tata Aria. I liked the manners of the sales man and so I asked his name. His name was different and difficult to pronounce. When asked about his state, he told me he was from Nagaland. He dryly spoke about lack of development there, too many hilly roads, no petrol bunks and so on, when I told about my adventurous idea of going to Nagaland on a motorbike.
A few years ago, I had never seen so many north-east region girls in Hyderabad, but now a days seeing them is a very common site even near my flat. India is developing indeed and the benefits of liberalization must reach them.
But first of all, they should get rid of this "victim hood" mentality and seeing themselves as different.
The Northeasterners are generally accepted all over India, except in Delhi. In the National Capital, they are jeered at, insulted as being 'Nepali', and their women are considered as 'generally available' for all the wrong reasons. Most crimes against the people from the Northeast happen in Delhi.
Very nice article, with an elevated message. The reality in India is that people from the North East are accepted, and they will be even more as the degree of familiarity with them increases. The media, particularly the international media, likes to play up everything. In day-to-day, life, things are different, more nuanced, essentially( with exceptions, of course) civil.
@Ayekpam - Just an observation. Where as it is not uncommon to find 'Hindu' names for Chritians (like the ones you have quoted), one rarely finds 'christian' names for Hindus or Muslims. What could be the reason for such 'cross religious' names ?
"Taken aback, they packed up & went to Bangalore to write softwares or went to Harvard , Cornell or Princeton to teach economics."
What a wonderful self-congratulatory statement! You talk as if hordes of Bengalis are teaching in Harvard and Cornell and other such places. That just made me laugh.
Why do you have to drag religion in everything? Are you completely out of your mind or what? Have some shame.
@ S.S. Nagraj - What's in name? Richard belonged to the Meitei community of Manipur which follows Hinduism. Of course I've got friends from Bangalore with names like 'Prem' , 'Mithun' etc and they are Christians..
And by the sensitive', I do not mean the death of Richard Loitam...I rather meant your mention of communalism in this regard by bringing out the Christians and Hindus....an excerpt from what you wrote in your earlier post is seen below...
"If this Manipuri had been a Hindu,instead of being a Christian,there would have been no protests at all.All the big noise is from Christian groups in Bangalore......"
Now this is sensitive statement... :)
@ AKshay- 14 D::"The grievances of the people of North-east unfortunately belong to the latter category (i.e.these are real). It is not enough to give them gratuitous advice about "not internalising their grievances .""
You have hit the nail on the head, Akshay. I hope this pointless article's author, Nitin Gokhale, will sit up and listen up.
@Ayekpam 10D-With a name like Richard,Loitam was Hindu?Was he given a Christian burial or a Hindu cremation?Unfortunate death of an young man is sad,but to call it a sensitive issue is uncalled for.
>> "The fact is, across India, we are all labelled and discriminated against one way or the other based on our surnames. A Bong, a Mallu, a Tant (a typical army term for a Marathi), a Punju, a Bihari.... the pejoratives are many; their usage commonplace."
Such labelling is often seen in this forum too, and nobody says anything about it. Such labelling is not as harmless or benign as we may think. We should not tolerate it.
Many people in this country have grievances. Some of these are imagined and some real. The grievances of people from the northeast unfortunately belong to the latter category. It is not enough to give them gratuitous advice about 'not internalising their grievances'. It must be a terrible feeling to be made to feel like a foreigner in your own country.
Bongs, Mallus , Madrasis, Paajis - bit of a half joking inoffensive banter in the hostel , classroom or in the office. The real pejoritves were patented by the Bongs. They would snigger at the Odia cook as ude , the Bihari craftesmen maruas. The Pillais are no good at anything but stenography.
But the Bongs were taken by surprise when suddenly they saw all of police big bosses are Singhs or Misras. The secretaries - not the stenographer kind - are all Krishnans or Pillais. Singhs & Pillais are the ones who are giving the orders. Taken aback, they packed up & went to Bangalore to write softwares or went to Harvard , Cornell or Princeton to teach economics.
But then the Gokhales , Gaitondes & the Godboles are no mean practtioners of this art. Ask the Pillais , Ramans , Krishnans of Mumbai or better still ask a Thakre.
The case of the Chings ( no offence meant , just a manner of speaking ) got really bad in Delhi & then in Bangalore. The muscular crude culture of Delhi thought the Meity or Mizo girls are easy pray. Its really bad. In Bangalore its different . All of the waiters in retaurants -big or small - are from North East. On the streets every mongolian looking person is taken for a waiter & so treated.
Surprisingly in streets of Calcutta I see the boys & girls from North-East are most easy going. Hordes of young boys & girls - most of them students in thir teens - in their don't care sorts & in noodle-strap tops moving around freely in every locality holding hands , occassionally stealing a hug . No one bothers them nor do they bother.
The harassment of the young people from the North-east by the uneducated or poorly educated types in Delhi and elsewhere in the country is a reality which, in the national interest , we all need to acknowledge and do something about. Unfortunately, just as with many of our other national problems, we've been taking the easy way out on this one as well, doing nothing.
So, I hope that film star Aamir Khan will soon address this serious issue in a future edition of his newly launched SATYAMEV JAYATE show so that more Indians, including Nitin Gokhale the author of this piece, give up their attitudes of denial, complacency and wishful thinking that the problem will resolve itself over time and nobody needs to do anything about it.These attithdes are the recipe for the mess the country is in today on so many fronts.
"In a country where "Fair = Lovely" and "Fair = Handsome" racism is obviously an endemic problem"
To put the record straight, NE are quite fair in color. It is just that whereever any group (not necessarily NE) is in a small number, they stand out by their appearance,color,language, etc. I fully endorse Narayan's view that such victimhood must be shunned. Instead of building camaraderie, it only aggravates the sense of alienisation. Hate mongers (like Kancha Iliah for BC) revel in driving a wedge between sections of society. There were not many from the NE in south India till recently. Now we see an increasing number of them in jobs and education. Let time do the rest.
@ SS Nagraj, Bangalore - Richard Loitam was a Hindu and not a Christain. Please get your facts right before commenting on such sensitive issues.
"The Northeast must not internalise victimhood even as it fights racism"
"The Northeast must not internalise victimhood even as it fights racism"
Not just the Northeasterners, no citizen of India must internalise victimhood, be they women, religious or ethnic minorities, Dalits, tribals or OBDc's. When a Babasaheb Ambedkar was able to overcome insuperable odds over a century ago, there is absolutely no justification for the assumption of victimhood by any group nursing a sense of grievance.
The way forward is by becoming a part of the mainstream. By mainstream I do not mean donning a cultural mask, I mean subordinating one's sub-identity into a larger identity as an Indian. Sachin Dev Burman and Danny Denzongpa are 2 such examples of people from the Northeast who made it big. Or J.M.Lyngdoh (the best President we have never had) who chose to settle in Hyderabad after retirement.
This piece is tone-deaf to an amazing degree, especially for someone who has lived in the northeast for a considerable period of time. When Mallus and Bongs and Punjs trade barbs and stereotypes, no one ever doubts the Indian-ness of the other. 65 years after independence, people from the northeast are still not seen as Indian by most of the rest of us. They - especially their women- are seen as easy game in ways that no woman from outside the region (well, except perhaps the Anglo-Indians) is viewed. And the example of the Marathi singer that is extolled reveals the mindset of the author: assimilation is always only one-way -into the majority of the cow-belt 'bharatvarsha.' How about the rest of us learning something about the music, culture and norms of the northeast?
Akshay .... all the Government needs to do is ensure "rule of law" works. We have pathetic "rule of law" at best and we keep inventing laws after laws which are either not implemented or aren't implementable.
I am not sure how these deaths have become about the NE. This is just bullying and bullies bully those they can get away with and usually are the actual weaker party but try to project strength and hence aggression is confused with strength. My son recently went thru this in school - should I think it is about us from the North in South - should I make him think that and feel like a victim. It would be stupid of me. Those who bully are bullies ... they are found everywhere, in every community.
The author is correct. We have too many people with intense sense of victimhood and hence we live with "million mutinies" everyday. Hope the folks from NE in other parts of the country don't develop this. He is also correct the NE has lots of it's own "tribal" issues.
If this Manipuri had been a Hindu,instead of being a Christian,there would have been no protests at all.All the big noise is from Christian groups in Bangalore.Why did not these protesters do anything,when Manipur was choked for 90 long days,two times,depriving even life saving medicines to the children there?Why are there no protests when Hindu labourers get killed in Nagaland or Meghalaya?Christians are making big noise to capitalise even in a case like that of Richard Loitam's death in a purely personal personal attack from his friends for his bashing up their scooter.All this big noise is not because loitam is from the north-east,but because he is a Christian.
In a country where "Fair = Lovely" and "Fair = Handsome" racism is obviously an endemic problem. And if you have slit eyes to boot then heaven help you.
[Decades ago, the legendary Marathi singer and composer took a couple of boys from Arunachal Pradesh under his wing in Pune, educated them and—without fuss—assimilated them into Marathi culture, its music and language.]
How about respecting their difference and their different way of being authentically Indian?
Until you stop seeing North Easterners as outside the Indian 'norm', they have a valid point about discrimination, no matter how good your intentions.
No one said making a nation out of a sub continent would be an easy or a simple endeavour but sixty five years on, one would reckon the glass is well over three quarters full.
Terms like 'Bong' or 'Mallu' do not compare in the intensity of prejudice contained in pejoratives directed at people from the north east. The government should take serious steps to address the security concerns of students from the north east and should invoke the SC ST act if necessary
Not long, the Indian Government and media made a big fuss about racism in Australia. Lack of actions by Indian Police and Politicians in dealing with racism and casteism speaks volume about our hypocracy and double standard despite numerous incidents across the country. It is time to act and clean own backyard before pointing finger at other countries.
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