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NE students stare at prejudice in Delhi
Published on 9 Jul. 2010 12:03 AM IST
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Thousands of northeastern students join Delhi University every year. But the joy of securing admission is often cut short by the difficulties they face in the Indian capital, be it racial discrimination, the language barrier, sexual harassment or trouble in finding accommodation.
The varsity is set to open July 15. But the first roadblock comes up right at the time when admissions begin. The difference in marking criteria between the central and state boards reduces their chances.
According to the students, colleges in Delhi don’t consider the marks scored in some regional languages, bringing their percentage down.
“Despite getting good marks in Assamese, only my marks in alternative English were included. This reduced my percentage to some extent,” Jyoti Das, a student from Cotton College in Guwahati, told IANS.
The language barrier and cultural differences at times lead to racial discrimination, leaving them helpless amid strangers.
“There is a racial approach. We are considered outsiders because of our looks and language,” says Kahimthoilue Gangmei from Manipur.
“In Delhi, there’s a trend of calling northeast students ‘chinkis’. Local people usually behave very rudely,” she adds.
With cases of molestation and sexual harassment involving girls from the northeast reported regularly - the most recent being the molestation of a Manipuri girl in south Delhi’s Munirka area - students as well as parents are concerned.
“Delhi is not such a safe city, especially for girls from our region. I’m quite concerned about my daughter’s safety as she has never stayed this far from us. Every now and then I hear lots of cases happening with girls,” said Hiranya Das, father of Suhansika from Meghalaya.
Looking at the magnitude of the problem, a group of human rights activists, along with experts from various fields, started a helpline to handle the grievances of these students. The helpline named North East Support Centre and Helpline helps students in cases related to harassment or racial discrimination.
“We have been functioning for the last five years and have handled several cases of discrimination and grievances of students,” said Madhu Chandra, spokesperson of the helpline.
“In cases of harassment, we tell them which police station to contact and what to do. Ours is a group of various human rights activists, social workers and lawyers who organise various programmes for students regarding how to keep themselves safe here,” she said. Chandra, however, alleges that most cases are not even registered by police. “We are not really happy with the way the police act. Since 2005, only 20 cases have been registered while 70-75 incidents happened. They usually avoid registering cases when it comes to youth from the northeast. Police must know their duties and work in that way,” she says.
The language barrier comes across as the biggest problem for many as it makes the locals treat them like outsiders.
“Local shopkeepers, rickshaw-wallas and others fool us because we can’t speak Hindi. A few days back I was going to the university’s North Campus and a rickshaw puller charged me Rs.20 from the Metro station, which is not the usual amount,” says Maharshi Goswami from Assam.
Seeking accommodation is also difficult. “I’m from Mizoram and my name is there in the first cut off list. I want to apply for the college hostel. But as the Commonwealth Games are approaching, they will provide seats only after October. Now I am finding it difficult to get accommodation,” Mompi, one of the applicants, told IANS. “It is difficult to get a room on rent as most people have apprehensions against northeast students,” she added.
Established in 1922, Delhi University is a premier varsity of India. It has 14 faculties, 86 academic departments and 79 colleges with over 200,000 students from within and outside the country, many of who, like from the northeast, flock here because of paucity of higher educational opportunities in their region.

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