28 Aug - 03 Sept, 2012
small world
A Strange Day in Ranchi

RANCHI ~ The capital of Jharkhand saw unusual protests on Friday, 10 August. More than 100 youths in skull caps took to the roads after evening prayers at a local mosque. They were protesting against the alleged genocide of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. The demonstration baffled local authorities because the protests were directed against neither the state government nor the Centre. To make things worse, the group turned violent—attacking shops as well as civilians, women and street vendors.

At the same time, another group—comprising girls from local colleges and schools—was holding a demonstration at the town square. One of their placards read, ‘Humaare kapde nahi, apni soch badlo (Change your thinking, not our clothes).’ They were protesting against the Jharkhand Mukti Sangh, a local right-wing group that had warned girls of acid attacks if they wore jeans and tops. However, when these girls saw the rampaging crowd advance towards the square, they quit their protest and were gone in seconds.

It was only then that the local police came into action and restored peace. By the time it all ended, three people— including a police officer—had been injured. Later, an unapologetic member of the Myanmar protest group told a newspaper that they took to the streets—smashing cars and breaking shop windows—only after they were told not to conduct their march.

“Most of these hooligans were in their 20s and wouldn’t know the correct spelling of Myanmar. Even fewer would know that the name of the country has changed from Burma to Myanmar. Their placards said ‘Burma’. Someone must have instigated them. Thank God a tragedy was averted,” says Sandeep Chhawchharia, a local who has witnessed several communal riots in the city.

That very evening, however, the town square transformed into a place of festivity. Thousands turned up to celebrate Janmashtami.

The violence a couple of hours ago and Muslims of Myanmar were forgotten.

Take Two
The Exodus Explained

In the last few days, the country witnessed one of the largest exoduses of Indian citizens in independent India. Thousands of individuals from the country’s Northeast region fled from various Indian cities. Many reasons are being cited. These include Pakistan for trying to create a communal divide, and social networking and the media for fuelling the panic.

However valid these arguments might be, the crucial point is not being addressed—that mainland India continues to be racist and discriminates against individuals from the Northeast. So even if there were anonymous mobile messages, their veracity wasn’t in doubt.

Whenever Indians are told that they are racist, they ignore or reject the notion. Many Indians feel racism exists only in the West. This was seen earlier this year, when the term ‘chinki’ was classified as racist. Everyone seemed aghast that a person voicing such a term could be jailed for five years. According to most, the term was at best a stereotype. ‘Chinki’, however, is a deeply racist slur that identifies those with small and slant-eyes—chink-eyed is a commonly used phrase. It is believed to have originated in India as a reference to people from China.

Racial profiling in India is deeply institutionalised. Earlier this year in New Delhi, during the run-up to the BRICS summit, when the police sought to put under preventive detention protesting Tibetans, a large number of those rounded up were from the Northeast. The Delhi High Court, in fact, had to intervene and direct the police not to harass them. In 2007, Delhi Police had come out with a booklet titled Security Tips for North East Students, where North-eastern women were asked, among other things, not to wear ‘revealing dresses’ and to live without ‘creating ruckus in the neighbourhood’.

Racial profiling occurs in educational institutions too. Last year, University of Hyderabad launched an ‘initiative’ to curb drinking and drug use on campus by working only with students from the Northeast.

India also remains ignorant of its Northeast. When Mary Kom won a medal at the Olympics, Amitabh Bachchan tweeted that she was from Assam, while she is from Manipur. He later apologised for his error.

India needs to investigate all aspects of the shameful exodus. But India also needs to introspect and acknowledge its own flawed ways.

Civil Rights
Look Who Came for the Police Meeting

IG of Police Tomin J Thachankary’s presence at a regional conference of National Investigation Agency (NIA) officers held in Thiruvananthapuram recently stunned many. No technicality prevents him from participating in an NIA meeting, but the question is on what moral ground was he even invited to the meeting? Thachankary, under the scanner for suspected terror links being probed by the NIA itself in 2010, was suspended from service for travelling abroad without the government’s permission. The NIA also probed an allegation that he had met people with a ‘suspicious background’ in Qatar. He was taken back into service by the UDF government a few months ago and was posted at the police headquarters as IG for Civil Rights Protection. Such is life in India.