It took Ramchanphy Hongray's brutal murder last month to wake up the government to regular instances of violence and misbehaviour with women from the north-east (NE) in metros.The government has decided to provide extra safety in areas where people from the NE reside.
Women and child development minister (WCD) Krishna Tirath has said that special police kiosks are being set up in areas of metro cities that have a high concentration of people from the NE. Women and plainclothes police officers will manage these kiosks and keep an eye on eve-teasers and molesters. The minister said the police would take complaints by NE girls on a priority basis and launch a special sensitisation programme for both the police and public "to help them understand the NE culture."
"The status of women in NE society is comparatively better than that of many in other states, particularly north India which is more patriarchal and where women are not given due respect. Often, casual greetings and friendly demeanour (by women from the northeast) is misconstrued and taken as an invitation to intimacy. The offender is unable to judge... and erroneously assumes that more can be read into a mere formal relationship.
If their assumptions are not pampered, these male offenders get enraged and either forcibly try to subjugate these women or plan revenge to punish them. The recent murder of the Naga girl was one such case," Tirath said.
According to North East Support Centre and Helpline, an NGO that helps the distressed NE population in cities, Delhi reports the maximum number of complaints of crime against NE people (both men and women). Bangalore, Chennai, Pune and Mumbai are some other cities where NE people face problems.
"No doubt, racial discrimination is highest in Delhi but in other cities, too, NE students are victims of crime, name-calling and discrimination. Unfortunately, the attitude of the police is very discouraging. The offenders need to be arrested and punished so that a strong message goes to society that nobody can get away with such behaviour. But the police never take our problems seriously," said Madhu Chandra of North East Support Centre and Helpline.
The NGO's survey found that 86% of NE Indians face discrimination in Delhi and surrounding areas. Words like "chinkies", "Nepalis, "free culture" and "strangers" are hurled at them, alienating them in their own country.
Among those who face discrimination, 22.5% reported physical attacks, 3.75% sexual assault and 35% complained of vulgar remarks. There were also cases of beating by locals and harassment by landlords, police and employers.
Meanwhile, the government said it was undertaking campaigns to create awareness about the culture and traditions of NE in all metro cities "so that people understand them better." Besides, helplines are being set up, especially for women.
In cities, rooms identified under the 'bread and breakfast scheme' to accommodate tourists will be encouraged to keep NE girls as paying guests. "Some of these safe homes will be identified for working girls from the NE," Tirath said.
Educational institution or colleges where students from NE study need to designate a faculty member to be the liaison officer for all such students. Women protection officers designated in districts have been asked to take cases of NE girls on priority.