“Racial discrimination, comments and violence are an ugly everyday reality for us. We don’t feel secure, and we don’t have any confidence in the Delhi Police. Such an environment of insecurity, racism and police victimization of victims needs to be changed immediately. We cannot stay scared anymore, we have to come out” – these were the words of Alka, a Ramjas College student who addressed a gathering of hundreds of protesting students who were at one with her words and emotions. This protest was organized by AISA in Delhi University where around 300 students participated; for three hours the DU north campus reverberated with one slogan ‘We are all Nido Taniam, Stop the racism’.
The tragic death of Nido, a young 18-year old student from Arunachal Pradesh, after being brutally beaten up by shopkeepers, has seen massive protests across Delhi – at Lajpat Nagar where the public lynching took place, at Jantar Mantar, in the Jawaharlal Nehru University organised by the AISA-led JNUSU and in the Delhi University. In the aftermath of this latest incident of racist violence, democratic voices are pointing out that the racism is not just deeply embedded in our society, but it requires a principled and effective response from the powers-that-be.
This tragic death might once more exposed the terrible consequences of racism, but the fact remains that racism is often only recognised when such incidents take place. It is often not sufficiently recognised, and not highlighted, when derogatory comments are made on physical features, dress, culture and cuisine; when breathtaking generalisations questioning life style and ‘morality’ pass off as ‘aam’ common sense. It is not recognised when people from the north east and other marginalised ‘others’ find it specially difficult to rent rooms, to file complaints, to travel in public transport. It is this brand of seemingly innocuous ‘everyday’ othering, profiling and racism that ultimately leads to the tragic mob lynching of a young boy doing something as normal as walking and shopping in a South Delhi market. Nido Tania was subject to racist taunts on his looks and the colour of the hair. He was beaten up by a mob, not just once, but twice. Even after his death, it took sustained protests to get an FIR filed by the Delhi Police.
At the AISA protest in DU, another student Brian, from Dayal Singh College said, “The students from north east regions are considered to be people from outside India. The derogatory and enraging taunt ‘chinki’ reminds us all the time that our own neighbours, landlords, people in the government and most of all our police, think that we are from China. We are the ones paying the price of claiming that we are Indians and deserve rights of Indian citizens.”
AISA has been actively involved in the recent movement on the streets of Delhi against racism, participating in the protests at Jantar Mantar and Lajpat Nagar, organising protest marches in JNU and Delhi University, and resolving to address racism in every form – not just horrific racist violence, but also the everyday alienation and discrimination that routinely takes place. As Rahul, an AISA activist at the DU protest pointed out: “The fact remains that racism is not an issue of individuals and circumstances but is structural and is institutionalized into the very fabric of our society.”