Bharatiya Janata Party’s Sushma Swaraj inadvertently insulted people from India’s North East when she spiritedly defended them in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday with an inexcusable racial slur.
Swaraj who rose to speak about the death of Nido Taniam, a youth from Arunachal Pradesh, who was beaten to death in Delhi in a suspected racial attack, said ‘people with flat noses are as much Indians as those with sharp ones.’
The Nido Taniam incident is the latest opportunity for political leaders to join the blame game. Most have made a mad dash to get on the political bandwagon after the death generated anger, hurt and disillusionment in the streets and in the media after Nido’s tragic death.
As if being referred to by derogatory names and made fun of in their adopted cities wasn’t enough, Swaraj just casually established the very stereotyping the people from India’s northeast are trying to break. The ‘flat nose’ reference was not only unnecessary, but also in very poor taste, considering that Swaraj and her party wanted to be seen sympathizing with people from the North East. It’s as unforgivable as calling someone dark skinned even to defend them.
Even when she raised the issue in the Lok Sabha, Swaraj’s aggression was mainly aimed at political rivals than at those who lead racist mobs against innocent people or the policemen who refuse to take action against the perpetrators.
“Congress Vice President, Delhi CM are sitting on a dharna instead of ensuring people’s safety,” Swaraj said. “Arunachal Pradesh is also a part of India and children of the Northeast are as Indian as anyone else,” she said going on to suggest setting up of hostels where North East students could stay with people from other parts of India.
Ninong Ering Ninong Ering, the Union Minister for Minority Affairs and an MP from Arunachal Pradesh, asked leaders not to politicise the death of Nido Taniam. It doesn’t look like that is going to happen.
With Lok Sabha polls looming over the horizon like a large blimp, leaders will inevitably try to gain as much mileage as possible from incidents such as these. Don’t let them fool you into thinking that the concern stems out of a personal investment in important issues that affect the common man.
Rapes and attacks on people from the North East happened in the past. A 30-year old BPO employee from Manipur was gang raped by five drunken men in a moving vehicle in 2010. In 2009, A young woman pursuing Masters in Jamia Milia Islamia was waylaid and molested by a group of school boys while she was returning home after college. The international Business Times lists some more such incidents here.
But it took an election year for Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi and Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejrwal, who is also Delhi’s Chief Minister, to visit the venue of protests and promise action. Will the politicians ever get the fact that there is an urgent need to sensitize the common man, including the police forces that often choose to ignore complaints of racial abuse?
Swaraj owes an apology to the community for adding insult to their long festering injury.