Racist India reared its ugly head again on Wednesday afternoon when, days after the nation celebrated multiculturalism and plurality on Republic Day, a teenager from Arunachal Pradesh fell prey to racism in Delhi, exposing once more the xenophobic undertones of the capital.
Nineteen-year-old Nido Taniam, son of an Arunachal Pradesh MLA, was thrashed by local people in Lajpat Nagar in southeast Delhi, for protesting against racial comments and taunts mocking his hair colour and looks.
The youth was attacked twice in the course of a couple of hours. Taniam, a first year BSc student of Lovely Professional University, was in Lajpat Nagar around 1.30pm, seeking information on the exact location of a friend’s address.
Taniam was not alone when he walked into the Rajasthan Paneer Shop in A block of Lajpat Nagar-1, seeking directions. But shopkeepers Farhan and Akram were of a different blend. They allegedly mocked Taniam’s hairstyle.
“Taniam was enraged; he smashed the shop’s glass counter and the duo pounced on him. There was a brawl. Taniam was beaten up severely by the shopkeepers,” said an eyewitness, even as some people called up the Police Control Room.
The police arrived at the spot and broke up the one-sided fight though probably Taniam and his “friend” gave as much as they got. The police rounded up both parties and took them to the police station, where a “compromise” was worked out and Taniam was asked to pay Rs10,000 for breaking the glass. His family claims he paid the settlement money.
It’s from that time on that things got murkier. Taniam’s relatives have alleged that the police dropped him and his friend back at the very same spot where he was beaten up earlier in the afternoon. Getting a second chance, the shopkeepers gave Taniam another round of thrashing, this time with iron roads and lathis.
The police were called in again and it was back to the police station, where a written compromise was signed, and Taniam returned to his Green Park Extension home. He slept late in the night on January 29, and woke up late on January 30, complaining of severe pain. He was taken to the AIIMS, where he was declared brought dead. A post-mortem has been conducted, and his body has been kept at the AIIMS mortuary.
“We are investigating the matter. We are waiting for the report to take further action,” a senior police officer said. Taniam’s family has alleged that he died of internal injuries he sustained.
Taniam’s father, Nido Pavitra, was unavailable for comment. The police have registered a case under section 302 of the IPC and have detained Farhan, 23. Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, whose cabinet colleague Somnath Bharti was recently in the dock for alleged racist behaviour, demanded a magisterial inquiry, raising questions on the functioning of the Delhi police, which he reiterated should be under his government’s control.
People from the northeast community and human rights groups in the capital have raised security concerns. “Racial attacks on Northeast people in Delhi have increased. In addition to the provisions of the Indian Penal Code, the Delhi police must invoke the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act against the murderers and also aginast Delhi policemen who failed to protect Taniam,” Suhas Chakma, ACHR director, told dna.
Pradyot Bikram Manikya Deb Barma, general secretary of the Tripura Pradesh Congress and editor of The Northeast Today Magazine, said the incident was “not shocking” at all. “This brand of racial profiling has been happening for a while. Ever since the Ugandan episode, there have been various unreported cases of so-called vigilantes harassing northeastern people for wearing ‘revealing clothes’ and allegedly using drugs,” he said. “Police did not kill the boy, the people of Lajpat Nagar killed him. The chief minister of Delhi should not just condemn the police, he should condemn the people of Lajpat Nagar as well.”