BENGALURU: A viral post and video uploaded on Facebook describes the unfortunate and unpleasant circumstances a Christ University student found herself in on the night of May 18. Disha Miuli from Arunachal Pradesh, who has been living in the city for three years, was out shopping with her younger brother for her convocation the next day at Vega City Mall on Bannerghatta Road.
She booked an Ola auto to her PG in the same area, and on reaching close by, the driver demanded extra money by saying it’s past 10 pm and that she needed to pay one-and-a-half times the meter. The driver refused to drop her to her exact location. Instead, he started abusing her, and claiming that because of her nativity, she doesn’t know how to read Google maps or communicate properly.
“Things took an ugly turn when the Ola driver took off his slipper to hit my 16-year-old brother and I. He said, ‘Ganda jaat pata nahin kahaan se aa jaate hain’, and many other discriminatory things, along with abuses and threats. I called the Hulimavu police station, and after lots of effort, two officers came. They asked me to get into the same auto and go home, and when I said I was afraid to travel with him again, they said we people come here and always create problems for them. If I can’t rely on the police either, what am I supposed to do?,”Disha asks.
She adds that this incident happened near a Kebab Magic outlet, and a few others got involved, asking her why she was attacking the auto driver. One woman in particular tried to hit her, and even threw her phone down when Disha started recording what was going on. “The policemen were there seeing this woman verbally and physically abusing me, but they didn’t do anything about it.
The policeman said that since it was women, he couldn’t intervene. Another man started telling us to get out of Karnataka, said that India isn’t our home. When they caught my little brother to hit him, we had to run away from there. I’ve been called names like ‘chinky’ before, but this was too traumatising,” says Disha. She has filed a complaint at the Puttanahalli Police Station, and has received an acknowledgement.
‘No right to question state matters’
In another recent incident, Miatson (20), from Roing, Arunachal Pradesh, was abused when she was interning at a media house and was out for an election-related assignment. “I have lived here for two almost years. This summer, I was doing an internship with a newspaper. When I was sent to do a survey during the elections, a woman near Vasanth Nagar bus stop threatened me saying that people might hit me because I’m from Northeast India, and that I have no right to ask about their state matters,” says the Mount Carmel College student.
‘Told we are bringing ‘dirty culture’ here’
Getting houses on rent is also proving to be an issue for those youngsters from Northeast India in the city. “A year ago, I shifted to Bengaluru along with two of my friends. For the first few days, the owner of the house we were renting in RT Nagar had no issues with us, but later, he started judging us for the clothes we wear.
Every time we crossed him, he would shout at us in front of our neighbours, saying that us Northeast Indian people are bringing our ‘dirty culture’ to Karnataka, and are also a bad influence on others. After one point we couldn’t bare him anymore, so we were forced to shift. I don’t understand what makes people like him have so much negativity towards us. My parents sent me here to study thinking it’s a safe place,” says 19-year-old Tenzing (name changed) from Assam.
‘Bonding activities should start early’
Nagasimha G Rao, director of Childs Rights Trust (CRT), says that he works with a lot Northeast Indian students, and that bonding/ice-breaking exercises at the school level is essential to make them feel welcomed by their peers. “For Northeast students coming here to study, it is the responsibility of the parents and schools to ensure that they gel with the locals. There are no ice-breaking activities, and these children don’t end up making friends.
Often they are not included in teams for extra-curricular activities and sports either, which doesn’t give them the chance to show off their talents or creative expression. The number of Northeast Indian students coming to study here is increasing, and efforts should be made to make them feel like they aren’t strangers in their own country,” he says, adding that the quality of education, climate and better options are the reasons why there is an influx of Northeast Indian students in the city.
‘Awareness needed to dispel myths about NE’
“We, as an association, want to dispel all the misconceptions people have about Northeast Indian people. As of 2018, around 15-20 cases have been reported within our community. To increase awareness among our community, we organise seminars and conferences to get them to vent about the problems they are facing.
There are also many myths regarding the region, and these must be broken. Myths create a bizarre image in the minds of people in Karnataka and other states. Only when we break myths, can we help educate the rest of the populace about our culture, literature and history. Most problems we face can be resolved with awareness,” says Vezokho Resu, president, North-East Welfare Association Karnataka (NEWAK). - With inputs from Neetimoni Gogoi, Pragya Dwivedi, Madhespriya K and Abraham George.