Northeastern youth protests in Delhi - opportunity to bridge the gap

Last week,  witnessed a large turnout of youth from northeastern  - comprising eight states - to protest against the attack on the people from the region following the death of 19-year old Nido Tania, a student from .

Son of an Arunachal Pradesh legislator, Nido Tania succumbed to his injury on Jan 30, after a fight broke out at a shop in south Delhi when Nido reacted for being mocked at his hairstyle by some local men.
Subsequently Nido was taken to the police station, where he paid a sum of Rs.10,000 as a settlement for damage of window panes. Later, according to the complaint, he was sent back to the same spot, where Nido was again mobbed by a group of about 7-8 men.
He was declared dead at AIIMS.
The recent years saw several reports of alleged physical, sexual assault and murder of young men and women from the northeast living in Delhi and other metro cities of India. In Delhi, a centre for support and helpline set up in 2005 recorded 10 sexual harassment cases in that year alone. In the period between 2007 and 2009, there were 23 cases reported to the helpline, out of which 80 percent were of sexual assault. It may be also recalled that in mid-2012 thousands of northeast youth fled Bangalore, Pune and Mumbai after they received threats via social media.
The Delhi outburst and solidarity over the death of the young Arunachalee is a tipping point of the sense of feeling alienated and discriminated in their own country. They feel these are hate crimes meted out to them for looking different, being different culturally and traditionally.
Emotions, sentiments and anger ran high as these youths feel they were treated as "non-Indians". Provocations arise mainly from mockery, as in Nido's case, or remarks, comments such as "chinky". In the case of young women, in most cases they are considered easy-going and available.
A large number of youths, with minimal, middle to higher education, throng the metro cities for better opportunities and jobs. In fact, the emerging economy of Indian cities provides employment, ranging from lower to middle level management to collar jobs in both private and public sectors/government offices. Most of them were employed in the hospitality sectors, retail sectors and Business Process Outsourcing centres.
A study by the Centre for North East Study and Policy Research, Jamia Millia Islamia, 2013, found that about 200,000 youths from the northeast reside in Delhi alone, while over 414,850 have migrated out of northeastern states into various metro cities during 2005-2010.
In the city, they encounter unfriendly public transport to house owners. Another major issue is the misunderstanding, or rather misconceptions of life styles, culture and social ethics. Due to this perception and patriarchal mindset, deeply entrenched in the Indian mainstream society, young northeast men and women were even more vulnerable, as they work in shopping malls, bars and night shift duties.
In a metro like Delhi, the majority population comprises mainly migrants. In such a situation of anonymity, where nobody knows who lives next door, it also provides fertile ground for anti-social activities.
This outpouring from youth also comes from the apathy of the security agencies, the police to be specific. The police's unwillingness to file an FIR is the first and foremost grievance. For instance, a young girl form Manipur was found dead in her room in Chirag Dilli, south Delhi, in May 2013. The Malaviya Nagar police immediately registered a case of suicide. After two consecutive days of demonstrations and intervention of then Delhi minister Kiran Walia, the police registered a case under IPC section 302 and 304.
Northeast support centre founder member Madhu Chandra once told this writer that unless the media takes up the story, there is no action by the police or political leaders.
Another area is the long-drawn judicial process in India. None of the cases related to northeast people have been disposed of, except in one gang rape case in 2005 where the charge-sheet was filed after six years.
A feeling of victimization and a sense of being discriminated against them also come from the historical-political background of the northeastern states.
Crossing the Brahmaputra and attempting to overcome the barriers, youth were moving out from the region today. And here, the northeast populations were caught between indifference and prejudice coupled with poor governance, administration and monitoring of state apparatus of the metro cities in India.
This recent protest is an opportunity for review, reflections in the establishments and its implementations, along with proactive interventions out of the existing mechanisms and find new ways for a humane approach such as people-to-people (northeast populace with the locals); people-to-police interactions, and, most importantly, involvement of Resident Welfare Associations.
IANS  Febraury 14,2014

Mission Accomplished

 Phaitong village in Manipur’s Churachandpur district saw the light of the Gospel  for the first time when Thangvang Guite returned home after completing his study in a missionary school in the Lushai Hills (now Mizoram) in 1913.  Guite was one of the first converts after Welsh Calvinistic missionary Watkin Roberts set foot in Manipur in 1910 with his medical team.  
Thangvang was one of the greatgrandsons of Pu Mangsum Guite, who established Phaitong village in 1824, and one of the grandsons of Raja Goukhothang, a powerful Guite chief whose dominion and prowess so shook the then Meitei maharajas in the erstwhile Manipur kingdom, that he was conferred the “Raja” title by the rulers of Manipur valley. Raja Goukhothang was held captive by Maharaja Chandrakriti and died in prison in 1873. Later his son Sumkam Guite made peace with Maharaja Chandrakriti under the Treaty of  Sanjenthong.

Village chiefs of the then Guite Kual (region ruled by the Guite clan) in the hills of India and Myanmar border area were constantly at war/loggerheads with its neighboring rulers, the Meitei Maharajas, in particular. 
Though the then Phaitong village chief Pu Kamkhothang Guite ( who died in 1956) was unwilling to convert, he did not oppose the “new belief “, rather he allowed Thangvang to carry on his “teachings”. It is said that the chief gave his people the freedom to decide, declaring “whoever wants to belief (convert) is free to do so”.
Until the arrivalof missionaries, the practice and belief in this region were known as “Pusa,” some of which are still prevalent in the form of custom, tradition and culture, simultaneously followed and observed along with the ‘‘new belief” and religion. This fusion, a complex one perhaps, faced no major conflict but helped  society to progress.
Thangvung started his missionary work in the form of an informal school, teaching basic alphabets, reading and writing to children and adults. This was followed by establishment of the Phaitong mission primary school in March 1914 and later, the first formal church was institutionalised in 1916.
More than the missionary work, it was education that brought transformation to the people in south Manipur. It is worth recall that in 1910 when missionaries arrived at Senvon village, the first thing its chief Pu Kamkholun Singson did was to negotiate for education. In his own words, as written by scholars and writers, the chief was said to have asked the missionaries to teach him and his subjects about the biblical pamphlets on seeing some of them. Had it not been for “education”, the Christian missionaries would not have their way. Probably  Thangvang,  being the near kin/clan of the village chief, had the advantage and no one opposed him. Earlier attempts by missionaries to establish in south Manipur had failed.  William Pettigrew, a Baptist missionary, was not allowed to enter the village during in the early 1890s. He moved on to north and north-west Manipur.
It all started with Sunday school where children were taught biblical literature, songs and hymns. Then came missionary schools which became the key factor in the upliftment of society and the people. Even today most villages have only missionary schools as the main educational centres and they are doing better than government schools.
Simultaneously came the growth of church and its organisations. The first church in south Manipur was christened Thadou Kuki Pioneer Mission by Watkin Roberts in 1913 with its headquarters at Senvon. It was renamed the North East India General Mission in 1924. Roberts left India in 1929.
Coming of Christianity thus paved the way for a strong basis of perspective in people’s outlook, in every spheres of socio-cultural and political life. Its influence therefore cannot be ruled out in the development and transformation process of Churachandpur district today.   
 In the history of North-east India at large, accounts of Christian mission and missionaries figured as prominent turn of events, in transformation among the people of the region, particularly in the tribal dominated areas. As such Christianity and missionary education played an important role in the scripting and understanding of history in the region. A deeper search into the process and progress of the institutions of the Church, its eventual growth, reach and influence could well give an enlighten perspective of the contemporary North-east and its socio-political discourse. 

Phaitong Khua as Christian village celebrated its centenary year on 1-2 February.  Relatives, kins of the villagers and anyone associated with the village, including church and social leaders and politicians, converged at the village to commemorate the occasion. Besides memorial inscriptions, there was the  symbolic march with the centenary torch, and most importantly, remembrance of evangelist Thangvang Guite, a name that will go down in history as the harbinger of education.

The writer is  Delhi-based freelance contributor 
The Statesman ( NE page) February 3, 2014