Racism, like charity, begins at home and racists are the surrogate children of society. Being from Northeast, we are often subjected to racial slurs and actions in the so-called mainland India.
We often complain that the mainlanders are oblivious to the rich culture and heritage of the Northeast and that we are laughed at on our looks and other social habits.
However, to be abused racially is not just a matter of concern for the people of Northeast, as to a large extent, we are racists too!
When one is outside Assam, it is very common to hear things like Assam is a jungle, and ‘Asamee’ are ‘chinkis’. And to add on to these, several untoward incidents are reported as well.
Yes, it is racism. People of mainland India find people of Northeast ‘junglee’ it is a fact, though the scene is improving day by day.
In most of the cases, it is more of a joke or sheer ignorance rather than being a case of hatred. But the question, however, here is- how different are we?
Majority of the states of the Northeast are tribal-dominated and in most of these states, anyone including an Assamese is seldom treated in a polite way.
Let us take an example where you hit a car or get hit by a car on the street of a city which is in say is in Arunachal Pradesh or Nagaland. You cannot escape without paying a big price and every time it is not just about money, remember!
Now, let us consider the different tribes who reside in each (tribal) state. Some of them think that they are superior and mightier because (maybe) the length of their traditional ‘Dao’ (knife) which they carry is more than that of a second tribe.
And in such a situation, a guy coming from the tribe having a smaller length ‘dao’ will have to face similar problems that an ‘outsider’ faces.
The story in Assam is not much different either. Don’t we take pride when we thrash someone from Bihar and boast around about it?
“Thrashing a guy of Bihari origin, who earns his bread and butter by doing petty things (like that of a barber and a cobbler), is a matter of immense pride," often says a friend.
"We boast about it and we don’t even shy away from referring the guy as Bihari in a derogatory sense," he adds on.
"We claim of doing this in the interests of the greater Assamese cause. We say that we did it to protect our ‘jaati, ‘maati’ and ‘bheti’," he adds on quickly, trying to highlight the undercurrent of racism that is existent in our society.
Yes, when it comes to Assam and when we have to talk about the greater Assamese society, we are actually hypocrites!
Until and unless it is a debate and we have to prove our point and win at ‘any cost’ against the ‘outsiders’, the non-tribal Assamese seldom considers the tribal-Assamese as a part of the same big umbrella.
Well, in this case, the reverse is also true, i.e. the tribal-Assamese seldom identify themselves as Assamese and considers them as a part of the same big umbrella.
When the two youths from Assam were lynched in Karbi Anglong on June 8, 2018, the otherwise friendly and brother-like Karbi people became our enemies.
The social media filled in with hate comments against the Karbi community. Until the sad incident took place, this very community was considered as the ‘Bhumiputro’ (sons of the soil) of Assam.
And it all changed in a spur of the moment! Why? A mob has no identity, this is the point we need to understand.
Hate comments not just remained confined against the Karbi people. A number of Karbi youths also vented anger against the non-Karbis and said things like ‘stay safe in your Assam and don’t come to our Karbi Anglong’.
The term ‘your Assam’ really scared me as I don’t about which Assam were these youths talking about? We all have equal right over this land.
Racism is not just a thing of the west, but it is something which runs through our veins.
We are a single Northeast when someone from Assam or Manipur is assaulted in Delhi or Bangalore. But when someone from Assam visits Manipur or a Manipuri guy goes to Nagaland, they become foreigners and the concept of ‘one northeast’ disappears in thin air.
Leave inter-state racial anger, we are racists even within the same district, same city, and same street. Our individual identity always takes command of our unified identity.
It is time for us to stand and stay united and stop being racists ourselves to fight against racism.