What Taniam faced in the national capital isn't new and it is a national disgrace continuing over years. But his death might pen a decisive turn in an otherwise familiar and predictable story of racism and national shame. The continuing protest by students and political leaders from northeast in New Delhi is a welcome development. The country doesn't get to see such scenarios often.
The ill-treatment of the people of northeast is not new. A few years ago, several thousands of northeastern residents fled the southern city of Bangalore after a rumour spread that they would be targetted. What the Government of India could do at best was to ban bulk short messaging services for some time. After the Taniam episode, the demand is for an anti-racist legislation.
Law alone can't stop these crimes
No law can ever stop these kinds of crime. The agitation by the opposition and the promises by the government to save the day doesn't deliver any good result. The problem continues to haunt the nation.
But what is positive this time is that the Indian State has been forced to engage itself with the death of the student in the national capital.
The problems pertaining to northeast India seem to have no solution because the Indian State and the society tend to ignore its sentiments. This is not a one-day development. The British rulers did not intervene much into the socialistic patterns of the northeast and the Indian State after the independence did not also take an accommodative approach towards the region in terms of nation-building.
Dana Sangma, Richard Loitam, Nido Taniam... the list is growing longer
The Indian State system does not fit in the northeastern region as a result and it looks more an extension of southeast Asia than south Asia. The failure to accommodate has led to a mental block and we have never tried to mend our ways to welcome people from those parts with a number of disadvantages to be a part of India's success story. News of attacks and assaults on these people make the headlines time and again but they disappear even faster. Even the death of the niece of Meghalaya chief minister Dana Sangma couldn't make much of an impact. Neither did Richard Loitam's death in Bangalore.
Nido's death has seen some positive consequences
Nido's death has created some impact. Heavyweight politicians (Rahul, Modi and Kejriwal) have been found meeting the northeastern people in the wake of the student's murder. May be the upcoming elections have diverted more attention to the episode. The Aam Aadmi Party-led government even said that the history of northeast will be included in the school syllabus, which is a welcome move. The students and politicians of the northeast, thanks to a powerful media glare, have put up a strong and organised protest seeking justice for Nido. These are positive signs.
Why it takes a death every time for us to spare some thought for NE?
The prime minister of India said such violence can shake the nation's base but the question is: Why do we take up the matter only when there is a death? Why don't we try to bring the northeast closer to our hearts mentally and ensure that our fellow-citizens from that part of the nation get equal honour and justice? The people from northeast are known for their educated and hard-working nature. It is only that they have lesser economic opportunities which pushes them out of home. But that doesn't mean they would be humiliated and ill-treated.
Taniam's death has given an opportunity. A resurgent India which is looking for decisive changes in various walks of life should also make use of this opportunity.