|In conversation with president of the Manipuri Student Union Alam M K (extreme right), Thotrinchan Hungyo, Chuingampam P H, Raiping Vashum and Mathan Ragui at the Cantonment police station
On Wednesday, when a student from one of the Seven Sisters of the North East was attacked on the streets of Pune, also called the Oxford of the East, it opened a Pandora’s box. This was not the first time that the student community from the region was facing harassment in the city.
Not willing to take it lying down anymore, student bodies representing all the seven states came together to collectively approach Commissioner of Police Gulabrao Pol on Thursday.
On his advice, on Friday, five students who have faced persecution for their regional identity came forward to lodge complaints with the Cantonment and Kondhwa police stations.
Premananda Khomdram (17) lodged a complaint against eight unknown suspects who beat him up near Poona College in Camp on Wednesday afternoon.
Taking inspiration from him and emboldened by the assurances given by Pol, four others — Thotrinchan Hungyo (20), Chuingampam P H (17), Raiping Vashum (20), Mathan Ragui (19) approached two police stations with their independent complaints of being attacked in the past one month. Dirwangfun Newmair (19) also wishes to lodge a complaint.
The stories of the other five boys are very similar to what Khomdram went through on Wednesday. Ragui came to the city on July 21. He is pursuing his first year of B.Sc. “I was going to my college in Camp, when a group of youth intercepted me and asked me where I hailed from.
I told them that I was from Nagaland and without any intimation, they beat me up. They slapped me a few times without any reason. The incident completely frightened me,” he said.
Hungyo, a resident of Kondhwa, in his second year of graduation, has been in the city for the past two years. “I have never been abused on the city’s streets before. But on Thursday afternoon a few boys chased me and started abusing me when I was walking towards Poona College to fill my exam form,” he said.
The boys, about 15 of them he recalled, started beating him without reason. “A security guard from the college rushed towards me and took me inside the security cabin. He then took me to another gate and hailed an auto for me,” he narrated.
Vashum’s case was no different. Again in the Camp area, some strangers passing him on the street, first abused him as a “Chinki” and then returned to beat him up.
Rock Lungleng, a post graduate student of ILS Law College and ex-president of the Naga Students’ Union, who resides in Camp, told Mirror that all the students came together in the area to lodge complaints. “This is a peaceful city and we want to live here peacefully without any humiliation,” he said adding that all the students from North East are banding together to underscore their solidarity.
He pointed out that the students are here to study and are striving to do well in their academic pursuits. “We do not wish to spread the wrong message by lodging complaints against locals, but things have gotten out of hand lately,” he explained.
Most of the students from these states come from economically backward backgrounds. In the city to pursue higher studies, these students work as salesmen or do other odd jobs to fund their education.
“We do not want to be humiliated in society, as we too are part of this country,” urged Alam M K, president of the Manipuri Student Union. The general refrain is still that Puneites have been more welcoming than denizens of Delhi and Bangalore.
Deputy Commissioner of Police (Zone II) Ramnath Pokale told Mirror that all the students from the North East are frightened but police are consoling them.
“We will file all the cases and they will be investigated on a priority basis because many students have faced trouble. We as a law enforcing agency will not tolerate such offences, where a student is questioned first and then attacked,” he said.
► We will file all the cases and they will be investigated on a priority basis because many students have faced trouble
- Ramnath Pokale Deputy Commissioner of Police (Zone II)
I think people take liberties going by our features
I moved to Pune from Nagaland 12 years ago to study at the Union Biblical Seminary, Bibwewadi. Back then, the city was very friendly towards outsiders, but the scenario has changed now. I think the general population has forgotten that the North East is also a part of India. It’s high time people are sensitised towards our culture and region because the city has so much to offer.
Parents and school authorities can start by educating school children.
There have been many instances when school kids have called us ‘chinki’ or even
Chinese. The children of course act out of ignorance, but this is how the germ of
hatred is born.
I often come across students who tell me how they face problems when they go out to visit their friends. When parking people randomly shout at them very rudely, asking them to move their vehicles aside.
Recently, when my brother was helping some people to move into a flat at Koregaon Park, a stranger started to abuse him for no apparent reason. I think people take liberties, going by our features.
The situation is worse in Delhi. You hear of so many atrocities against Northeasterners, but nothing is done to solve the issues. Despite the
directive from the Ministry of Home
Affairs to book anyone who refers to a Northeasterner as ‘chinki’, the racial slurs have not stopped. And yet, Pune, compared to other cities, has been
relatively easy for us to adjust to.
People are educated here; many of them understand our problems.