ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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A Preface to Racial Discourse in India

North-east and Mainland

Racial ideology in Indian society, though not recognised by the government or academic circles, is experienced on a daily basis by people from the north-east in mainland India. With the deaths of Richard Loitam in Bangalore and Dana Sangma in Gurgaon in April 2012, the accumulation of experiences and the availability of strong informal communication channels catalysed protests for justice and against racism. These articulations need to be strengthened, deepened and sustained through scholarly attention. At the same time, the north-east needs to examine mainland cultures through its own lens, to create fundamental transformations in the relationship between the two.

The author acknowledges the contribution of Dilip Chowdhury in interpreting the massive data contained in the schedules of the Singur Act.

After the mysterious and controversial deaths of Richard Loitam in Bangalore and Dana Sangma in Gurgaon in April 2012, a debate on racism opened up on primetime news channels, social media and traditional news platforms. It gained traction and intensity in May. The debate was a denunciation of racism faced by the north-east in mainland India. The north- east – rarely north-east Indians but often north-east persons or people – is now a popular handle used to describe the 39 million people, according to the 2001 Census, who belong to over 200 ethnic minority groups and originate, live or migrate from the eight states comprising the north-eastern part of India that ­borders China, Myanmar and Bangladesh. Mainland India is the handle used by the north-east to refer to the dominant ­political, social and cultural landscape of India.

One outcome of this debate was that the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) sent a letter to all the states and union territories, asking them to book offenders guilty of atrocities against people from the region under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) (SC/ST) Act since a significant number of persons from the north-east belong to the scheduled tribes (STs). ­According to a report in India Today, the letter stated (Sharma 2012):

A sizeable number of persons belonging to the North-Eastern states are residing in metropolitan cities and in major urban areas of the country for education and employment. It is reported that people originating from these North-Eastern states are facing discrimination as they are addressed with derogatory adjectives or face discrimination in the form of targeted attacks, assault, ­molestation and other atrocities.

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