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How does India treat the north-easterners?

July 27, 2007

Although India is a good example of a country having within itself a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic society, there are certain parts of India who feel alienated from the ‘mainstream’. The north-east is a prime example.

Maybe I did not think too deeply of this earlier because I was insulated from the reality. I did not ever feel that north-easterners were any different from us…or at least not more different than those from another Indian state. Having had an army upbringing I have always had the good luck of being able to mingle with people from all religions and all communities. Not just that, I lived in the north-east, and we have family friends from the region. However this subject of them feeling different, or alienated from the rest of India never came up. I don’t know why…

But lately I have been thinking more about this. It was the news report about a booklet suggesting a code of conduct for students and visitors from the northeast published by Delhi police that made me almost write a post on it. There were a lot of protests from students about this booklet which basically asked north-easterners to ‘behave differently’…more in keeping with Delhi norms…in terms of dress, attitude, food etc. Something on the lines of do in Rome what the Romans do. This was indeed a strange suggestion because it was treating the north-easterners as if they were foreign visitors. You cannot ask people to change their culture in their own country.

This incident simply underlined the divide between north easterners and the ‘mainlanders’ as many call us.

But what really shocked me was this this post. It talks of widespread discrimination against people of north eastern origin in Delhi. There are certain commercial establishments which don’t let them in! This is what the writer says:

Everyone from the region has his or her own stories and experiences, which have been rather silently buried. I know such vocal attacks have, on many occasions, resulted in violent anger, arguments and fights between the so-called “mainstream” people and the people from the North East.

What this post said was disturbing:

They (north-eastern girls) are seen as ‘fast’ or ‘of easy virtue’. This perception exposes girls from the Northeast to the worst sorts of sexual harassment, both within campuses and without. Diana, a Mizo student at Indraprastha college, said, “Delhi men believe that north-eastern girls are easily available. They look at us with only one thing in mind: sex. If we protest, they warn us to clam up, because we are alone and there is no one we can turn to for protection.”

I want to believe that the rest of India is not like this, that this is simply a Delhi phenomena, but I don’t know. I talked to some college students here in Mumbai and they said they don’t discriminate against north-easterners…but don’t mix with them either. There is a language barrier they insist and the north-easterners also tend to keep to themselves. None of them could deny that north-easterners are considered ‘different.’

The question is: Why do the majority of Indians think of north-easterners as ‘different’?

Is it because they look different?
Is it a language barrier?
Is it because they are geographically far far east?
Is it because their regions are economically not as vibrant as the rest of India?
Is it because they are culturally different?
Is it because they themselves feel different and keep away?

I’ll try to answer these questions.
If we are honest with ourselves we have to admit that even though in India all of us different kinds of people live together, not many of us actually MIX with each other at a deeper level. How often will you find a traditional Gujarati girl hanging out with a traditional Tamilian? Or a religious Hindu boy hanging out with a religious Muslim boy? Or a a conservative Sindhi family going on a holiday with a family of Kashmiris? Or a group of traditional Sikhs who are best friends with a group of say….Assamese….or another group of north-easterners…?

In all these cases I have used words like traditional, conservative and religious…because I believe the modern Indian is different. Specially the young modern Indian. So, if there is some sort of mixing with the ‘other’ it happens more with the younger generation. Those who have some sort of pan Indian identity. Naturally we are talking only urban here…but even the modern Indian discriminates. People who are westernized and speak English fluently do not like to hang around with those whom they call ‘vernacs’ or ‘behenjis’ or ‘ghatis’ and it is the other way round too. The ‘ghati’ crowd looks down on the westernized crowd, thinking of them as somehow immoral and un-Indian. So if a north-easterner (or in fact any other Indian) is not as fluent in English or well up on the western music scene, books or films, he is unlikely to have anything in common with this group.

But I have deviated from my point about racism. Other groups may not suffer the same sort of treatment that north-easterners do. Why? Is it simply because they can merge with the mainstream because of their looks? There are people who call north-easterners Chinki and this is offensive to them. Its become a derogatory term. Can I dare suggest that north-easterners should instead wear it as a badge of pride? What is wrong in being Chinki? I think north-easterners are beautiful – slim, agile and delicate looking. But ofcourse if this term refers to them as Chinese, its wrong and can be offensive as it implies that they are foreigners.

Then there is the cultural difference…but this should not be the basis of any discrimination on any significant level as all Indians are culturally different from each other. North-easterners couldn’t be discriminated against solely because of the language problem either because there are plenty of Indians good at neither Hindi or English.

It can’t be westernization at any significant level because every community in India has westernized people. People who are racist towards north-easterners will not reject those from their own community who are westernized.

Besides, the Parsis as a community are westernized but they are accepted better. If anything, the Parsees themselves were known to to keep a distance from the rest of India, and tried their best to marry only amongst their own community. Yet this attitude that they had towards the rest of India did not go against them, if anything it made them more respected. Was it their white skin? Was it the fact that they were economically a very successful community? True, the Parsees did adopt Gujarati as their mother-tongue but that was because they had no home land. They had come from Iran and they never wanted to go back.

The north-easterners have a home…in India. They cannot be expected to change their language or their habits to suit some group in India! That’s ludicrous.

I wish I had the answers to this mess…but I really don’t. Basically I feel that the discrimination is due to a little of all the reasons mentioned above. There are probably more reasons which I have not outlined and I will be glad if a reader provides insight into this problem.

But I don’t feel the situation is hopeless. The north-easterners can be brought into the mainstream. I feel India needs to starts more industries there, and open up the more of the best educational institutions in that part of the country. They have to feel that they belong…

Update: I would like to bring everyone’s attention to the fact that there is an ongoing controversy in Tripura over the language issue. Their native language is Kok Borok but as the Left Front govt. is ruling, they have imposed the Bengali script on them! Kok Borok apparently did have it’s own script once but it’s dead. Today they do not have their own script but sadly, this is the third time the script has been changed!! Whenever the local parties come to power they change the script to Roman (the way English is written). As a result the school kids suffer. On TV I heard that the local govt. is promising that if they come back to power, they will get the Roman script back. Another change for the kids.
For more information on Tripura’s language issue, the following links can be accessed.
Indiatogether article

Related Reading: The north south linguistic divide
The multi-ethnic and multi-cultural India
Will English become the mother tongue of Indians in another 50 years?
‘Outsiders’ resented in Mumbai.

For Articles on the North-East click here.

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190 Comments leave one →
  1. July 27, 2007 8:38 am

    I think we have already established that I am not good at offering input on solutions, it just really is not my forte. So with that in mind, I wonder if the discrimination issues that seem to be at the forefront of discussion right now find their genesis in the historical class structure of India. I am working off of a very flawed memory of my Hindu studies, so please correct me if I am wrong on any of this (and odds are I will be). Doesn’t Yachti (did I spell that correctly?), as a fundamental aspect of Hinduism, validate the concept of discrimination in modern Indian culture? I mean, if one believes that it is morally right to cleave a society into the castes, then are other forms of discrimination a huge stretch?

    I guess what I am saying is, given the principle of Yachti, discrimination in India is not surprising. Should it be? And if Yachti does play into the acceptance of discrimination, what does that mean for the practice of Hinduism in moderm Indian society? Of course, I might be way off base.

    And I do want to say that I am not against Hinduism. I think that it is, by far, one of the most empowering religions for women. At least in its earliest practices. As an outsider, these were just questions I thought of while reading this.

  2. July 27, 2007 9:12 am

    True, Hinduism is by nature hierachical but this is not related to that. The north-easterners are not considered lower castes at all by no means! There is a caste structure within EVERY hindu community, be it Sindhi or Rajasthani or Tamil. Also a significant number of people from the NE are Christians, but they are not discriminated against because of their religion as Hinduism is also prevalent there to a large extent. There are Christians in every state in India in any case. But this is not about religious discrimination.
    I really do not think that developed countries are immune from this problem of discrimination Aikaterine. What about Afro-americans or latinos, chinese americans, arab americans or even indian amercians? Are they well integrated into mainstream american society? Its a human problem and certainly nothing to do with a particular religion’s attitude I think.

  3. July 27, 2007 9:35 am

    I would definitely agree that discrimination is a human problem, and I was not trying to signal out Hinduism or India from other cultures. I was just trying to think of factors that might be related to your article specifically. And those factors are, necessarily, within the Indian culture.

    You did make me think of something else though, I know that Christians have used verses from the bible to validate discrimination against african-americans. I wonder just how much the major world religions interact with our concepts of ‘different’; which is the underpinning of discrimination, right? We discriminate against people we see as different in some way. My love affair with Derrida is rearing it’s cute little head. But that is a topic for another day.

    So, if the discrimination crosses caste and religious boundaries within India then it would seem like your list is fairly exhaustive.

    Still, I get this feeling from my experiences that the broader idea of discrimination is more accepted in the Indian culture than it is in others. That there are more instances where discrimination would be considered morally right. I am not very firm on this, it’s just a ‘fuzzy’ sense I have picked up on. Granted that all cultures have a problem with discrimination, do you think that the concept of discrimination has occasion to have moral significance within Indian culture?

  4. July 27, 2007 9:44 am

    You have asked a very deep question, and my first reaction is to say no. But really I am hardly an expert and come from a liberal background. I do know that Indians are very proud of their cultural identity and this has led to them keeping themselves apart from other cultures.
    I have lived in Africa for years (childhood and adulthood) and there I had african friends and so did my kids. Invariably they told me things like: you are the first Indian friend I have and why don’t Indians mix with us…things like that. They were talking of the Indian community settled in Africa for generations. The indians who were new to Africa seemed to be far more friendly to the native population than those who were actually settled there. I talked to one Indian Tanzanian friend I had in Tanzania and she said, it was important to maintain one’s cultural identity otherwise it could get lost….
    The parsee community in India too felt that their identity would be obliterated if they inter-married.
    So you do have a vaild point…
    its like we have something to protect so lets forget about human values, survival of the community pervades everything!
    but coming to the north-easterners, there is no reason why indians should feel threatened by them? Or do they feel threatened by the mainlanders?
    No, its a very complex problem and there is no one answer. Need to think a lot about this!

  5. July 27, 2007 9:46 am

    Nice write up Nita!
    Well, here are my thoughts why there might be this discrimination.
    Most of the NE people tend to be among themselves (nothing wrong with that, as anyone feels more comfortable in their own group in an alien place) But, there is a downside to this approach. I had a few NE class mates and a few colleagues now. But, there has been almost no interaction. And since many people (including me) dont know anything about them, there is a possibility of being prejudiced and branding them all as ‘Chinkis’ (not in a derogatory sense though) See, the thing here is I have no clue as to the difference between a mizoram guy, a manipuri guy and an nagaland guy. This seems very similar to the “madraasi” approach northies had for a long time. But, with more interaction with the south, they have realized that there is more variety than a fat moustached person always telling “ayyo muruga deva”! And even our movies or our media shows very little about NE, so we know very little about them. So, getting to know about them and more interaction between people seems to be the only solution!
    (Even as I write this, I am thinking of reading on NE states in Wikipedia!) 🙂

  6. July 27, 2007 9:56 am

    Your article also made me think a lot about the influence of western society. You mentioned that even though the younger generation might be less inclined to discriminate based on the traditional norms, they are beginning to preference westernized behaviors. And this is something that I have seen all over the developed world. It seems like as soon as we (humans – all of us) move past one level of discrimination, a new one takes its place.

    I am very proud of my Greek heritage and prefer to date men who are mediterranean, so I am not immune. It makes me wonder if discrimination is, in a very real way, the human condition.

    Which is not to say that we should not try to stop it. We should. But, as mentioned previously, I am not good at that part. So, maybe someone who is can step in and move this conversation along. Otherwise I am going to ramble off into the never-ending discussion about the self-referential cycle of consciousness; and no one wants to hear that.

  7. July 27, 2007 10:08 am

    Oh, you know what, I might actually have some relevant information on the NE issue here. Bear with me, the analogy is a stretch.

    I did some work in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Although that is a religious situation and your is not, there are some similarities. We noticed that the Palestinian children all thought that Jewish children hated them. And the Jewish children all thought that the Palestinian children hated them. But neither had any real knowledge of the other culture. They were all horribly sheltered and completely influenced by the information given from within their respective groups.

    So we met with families from both sides and started a project where the children switched homes for a day. A Palestinian child would spend the day with a Jewish family and vice versa. We found that the attitudes changed as each side learned more about the other. As each side began to view the other as more similar to themselves than different, discrimination became less of an issue.

    It would seem, then, that focusing on learning more about the NE would be a good way to help with the discrimination problem.

  8. July 27, 2007 10:20 am

    Nita – this may seem off your topic, but I feel illustrates a point about discrimination.
    Here in BC there is a big push by various school boards around the province to capitalize on the cash cow represented by an influx of foreign students. In my own community, the school district has a strong programme for foreign students and there is a large number of kids from Korea going to our schools here. These young people are boarded with local families – many Korean parents don’t wish to board their children with any other racial group of Canadians than European origin ones – ostensibly as they wish the children to pick uo English faster and to have familiarity with “white” cuture norms. I see a lot of Korean teenagers hanging about at the public library here in our town, for many hours, until closing time, with other Korean kids. A friend has boarded Korean teens in her home and found the experience frustrating – the children wouldn’t mingle with the family, and spent the bulk of their time with other Korean kids being boarded elsewhere – and always away from the home. It seems most natural that people from a particular culture find more comfort among their mates- same language, customs, habits beliefs.
    I don’t think India’s problems with NE people indicates that the problem of discrimination exists more strongly than in other places in the world. “Difference” perceived and not acknowledged as an all right way to be, not better nor worse, just different is the main cause for frictions among different groups of people coexisting together in a specific place. Time, familiaritywith and curiosity about others will help to ease tensions. It is a matter of education, of bringing the problem to awareness and attention that is most instrumenal in propelling social changes for the better. Your blog fulfills that function well!

  9. B Chopra permalink
    July 27, 2007 10:38 am

    Hey this is a good video ONE MUST SEE ->

    I agree 100% with your article.. Like to add – There is a tremendous change in mindset of people in recent years.. Things were very bad long back.. but Nowadays I see many NE working here & enjoying life like any other common people.. I think Things are not much troubling.. They are look different but that’s cute and FRANKLY that attracts me.

  10. July 27, 2007 12:32 pm

    Aikaterine, yes knowledge about the others is the first step. And like Surburban said:
    //Time, familiarity with and curiosity about others will help to ease tensions.//
    I feel that curiosity is a key word here. if we look inward and are only interested in ourselves its not going to increase our understanding of other peoples.
    Its sad, but I think if we look around us we will see people tend to lack this curiosity…I think a reason is that they have already stereotyped the person so they do not bother to find out more…

  11. July 27, 2007 3:02 pm

    I agree with you Nita.

  12. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    July 27, 2007 3:37 pm


    It’s not just in Delhi, these prejudices against people from the North-East are common in other parts of india too. As recently as 7-8 years ago in Ahmedabad, my colleague from Meghalaya who went to open a savings account in a nationalised bank, was turned away by the Manager (surname Tiwari or Chaube or Mishra) on the grounds that “only Indians can open a bank account here”.

    Another colleague, a young woman from Assam who did not even have “different” features, tells of her experience of hunting for PG accommodation in Pune 10 years ago (before the BPO-IT boom which brought in young people earning big bucks). In DG and Prabhat Road, Maharashtrian landlords suddenly became very cagey when they learnt where she was from, and even when she did finally find accommodation, she was constantly looked upon with suspicion.

    In the North-East itself, where I have been to Assam, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Manipur and Sikkim, the boorish “mainlanders” are no better in their behaviour with the locals. The worst are the Indian paramilitary forces, supposedly keeping insurgency in check. Their treatment of ALL locals is outrageous. It does not surprise me that the North-East is not exactly enamoured with being considered a part of India.


  13. July 28, 2007 2:22 am

    Comments are very interesting. Wouldn’t you want to read what a North-easterner has to say on the same topic?

    Following the link here <<click here

  14. Matthew Khai permalink
    July 28, 2007 5:30 am

    Hi, Nita, your write up was very thoughtful! As a non-resident Northeasterner, I can understand why they NE people resent the dress code issued by the Delhi Police. While pursuing my education at Delhi, I made some friends among the Bengalis, Oriyas, Tamils and Malayalis and I was surprised initially to find a sense of regionalism within each group. So is the case with the NE people. It is not so common to see a guy from Assam mixing with a Mizo, or an Arunachali mixing with a Naga back in the NE. But outside the region, the Northeasters are often treated as a homogenous group and they begin to see themselves as such. It is a sort of situational identity. Seen from a distance, it is not difficult ot see that the NE share certain similar physical and cultural features — mainly Mongoloid looks, caste-less society and partly Westernised cultural taste. Moreover, a large part of the NE have Hindi problem and this is a put made them vulnerable to linguistic discrimination outside their own region. The unequal pace of growth and the economic lag also gives them an inferiority complex to some degree. Few people are proud to own the title of being a Bihari or a NE in present circumstances. But these are not cultural givens, things can change over time.

  15. July 28, 2007 9:01 am

    Thanks Kal for the link. This has certainly given me insights into the problem. You said the language problem is a major issue. Well, I think most of those whose mother tongue is not Hindi have a big problem with north indians who insist on speaking Hindi. My post about
    Hindi imposition on the rest of India will show you that all of India suffers this. So north-easterners should not take this particular thing personally.
    About the other aspects, I think the attitude of those people you have described is despicable. But what makes me happy is when you said that you feel more comfortable in south India. I am not surprised. In the north there is an impression that north india is the only india, that hindi is the only language. Our films and media and even the so-called Indian food in restaurants perpetuates this impression.

  16. July 28, 2007 9:26 am

    General tendency .. Every one who does not look like us is an alien, and his culture is weak

  17. July 28, 2007 9:58 am

    A very interesting comment on this from k.zou posted under my comment policy post
    An excerpt:
    As a social activist who had been trying whatever humble afford I can do for the promotion of integration between the NE and the main land for over 18 yrs, I would like to share my observation.
    That, most people in India are too much caste concsious except few people like you who move around the country and mixed with different communities.
    Secondly, too much selfish and hyprocrite in nature and wanted to exploit any opportunities without thinking the damages it might cause to the other person .
    Thirdly, economically well and sound and wanted to maintain their so-called high standard.
    People in the northeast are late comers into the main stream with typical cultures and way of life which is completely different from the rest of the Country. They are straight forward in nature and expect to be treated equally. Hypocracy / double standard exploiting somebody beyond limits and drawing advantages for personal gains etc is something most NE people did not practice except the POLITICIANS.
    NE people are not aware of the caste system and also could not meet the standard of the middle class Indian societies.

    Challenges: The Government must take up grass root interest in the promotion of national integration and also protect the N E people from any racial abuses which is not happening till today. It is a sad thing that some Politicians / bureaucrats even from the Northeast region are imiitating the Hinglish gentlemen rather than guiding their people.
    With regards,

  18. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    July 28, 2007 1:51 pm

    I am afraid if K. Zhou thinks that the Government (I assume he means the Central Government) is going to take grassroots level interest in national integration he is being too trusting.

    The “nation” is an ellipse with one focus in Delhi and the other in Lucknow. The major and minor axes of this ellipse are left to be determined according to the fancy of each “nationalist” as long as the territory covered lies strictly within the cow-belt.

    “Madrasis”, “Ghatis”, “Gujjus”, “Bangali Machchhis” and “Chinks” are not “national”. They are anti-national.

  19. golan naulak permalink
    July 28, 2007 6:49 pm

    It was very thoughful of you to write on this topic.

    As a north easterner studying in Bangalore I believe that there is a certain
    degree of ignorance among the people of the so called”mainland” India.
    Maybe this is a failure of the education system(geography to be precise).
    Many, and I repeat many people don’t even know where is manipur, Nagaland, Mizoram,
    etc..and that is one reason why they look at us so differently.
    Come on , lets get back to the basics, to history.We didnt beg India to adopt us.
    No way. Infact we were invited and forced to join India.Then why this attitude now?

    It is people like you who give us a reason to say that we belong to India and that we are
    a part of India. thank you

  20. Satish permalink
    July 28, 2007 7:10 pm

    Nita has raised a topical issue in a thought provoking way & the follow up discussion justifies it. After all she is an accomplished columnist & blogger as it seems.

    I am deeply interested in this topic because I am recently posted in North East. Till now north east India was merely a GK issue for me. I was interested in it only academically. I would with great difficulty remember the names of the seven states & the capitals thereof & would in due course forget it again shortly as in my day to day life it was of no consequence. When I received my posting orders I was given many cautions by my nears & dears and not so nears & dears. Almost everyone who was anybody to me and had no knowledge about the NE said his own words of wisdom which in some and substance put the NE in quite a derogatory position. People in fact wrote my obituaries on the eve of my departures. I was advised to remain aloof; beware of the terrorists; not to make & show up my relations with people in Governance or people who matter; be conscious of the spreading christianity; be conscious of spreading HIV AIDS. I was cautioned that the NE people treat the mainlanders as foreigners and say that these are the people who have come from India as if they are not living in India.

    I was lucky that I had the courage to ignore all these cautions and wanted to start my life in North East India with a clean slate and my experiences negates all that rubbish.
    I find that NE cultural canvas is as colored with a variety of good & bad as it is with any other society. I have had wonderful interactions with all sections of society & find the people friendly, simple, open to register progress. No society in the world has the distinction of being uniquely full of good people only. Every society has a mix of good & bad so has North East. It will be wrong to label North East with derogatory labels.

    Friends, it is in the interest of a Region or a group to propagate or promote their image as a group by propagating their positive qualities and positive achievements. It is also in the interest of the humanity to know all regions and cultures in their true colors than having only one-sided view. Those who find bad meanings out of good things are corrupt. For them there is no hope. Those who find good meanings out of bad things are cultivated. Those are the elect to whom reality appears as reality.

  21. Satish permalink
    July 28, 2007 7:21 pm

    People like to live with the cultural identity of the group they belong to. But they develop an equation with other cultural groups based on certain notions. There are four kind of notions:

    We are OK; They are OK
    We are OK; They are not OK
    We are not OK; They are OK
    We are nit OK; They are not OK.

    We Indians have a notion that all white skinned people in Europe/ US & Australia are developed.

    Europeans have aparthied against the blacks.

    Success of Japanese success suddenly made them Management Guru’s of the world.

    India was being promoted as the only place in the world where God would always come in the form of Rishis & Munis or as direct Avtaar but the press is bent upon proving that modern day avtaars of the Rishis & Munies dressed in saffron are cheats totally ignoring that Swami Vivekananda was undisputed Icon nearly 100 yrs ago only & Swami Ramdev is living legend.

    It is in the interest of a ethnic group to maintain their identity and promote its image and maintain self respect. In the sweeping wave of globalisation there is no aim to dissolve all identities but to find out unity in diversity and to round all the edges that are odd to bring about International brotherhood.

  22. Nil permalink
    July 28, 2007 8:16 pm

    A really-good article there. Glad that the North East is getting some attention.

    The ones who seem to face the worst discrimination are the tribal NE people from Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Manipur, etc. Assam to some extent, but a lot of the non-tribal Assamese have indo-aryan features. My mum’s Assamese but could pass for north Indian (studied in Delhi and speaks fluent Hindi as well). Only one of her sisters has the more East Asian look, whereas the rest of them don’t. Furthermore Assamese people have steadily been leaving the state (for work and study opportunities) and appear fairly well assimilated in the large metropolitan areas like Delhi and Mumbai. Assamese, aside from those fighting for a sovereign state from India, have largely embraced India as their home. The state is full of problems, but support for separatist groups like ULFA is at an all time low.

    It’s the other NE people I worry more about. Their treatment and racial profiling is worse than what south Indians are subjected to. A lot of North Indians are so ignorant that people of different ethnicities can exist in one country. A slightly trivial example here, but there was a recent Miss India beauty pageant, and one of the contestants was a Naga girl (think she studied in Delhi), and it was embarrasing to read the misinformed feedback on websites about this young woman. Comments like “Is she Indian? She looks Chinese” was the general response. Luckily there were some people who had to explain things.

    The “mainstream” Indians who look down on such people are almost trying make them apologise for their different looks, culture, language, etc. The far NE states were never part of India until post Independence. Their history and development are virtually unattached to the rest of India. Is it any wonder why so many of them have more in common with Burmese people?? Assam, while very different, has a bit more in common with India. A part of the reason is due to centuries of migration. Even before the long-running Ahom kingdom ruled Assam, migrants from north India and Bengal (mostly Hindus) settled in the region, and in time became naturalised Assamese people. In colonial times, more people such as Bengalis and Marwaris moved into the state. No wonder so many people, who call themselves Assamese, have surnames such as Das, Sen, Banerjee, etc.

    There’s just no appreciation that other forms of India exist outside the glasshouse of Bollywood, Delhi, roti, bhangra, dandiya raas, matar paneer, etc. In my experience, south Indians are generally better informed about the NE. I suppose that’s how they can relate, as many of them are discriminated against by north Indians.

    In time one can only hope that things will change for the better. South Indians, while still facing prejudice, have emerged as a real force to be reckoned with. The north east has so much potential with its natural resources and intelligent people. It needs backing, especially to rid them of insurgents. The central government has neglected this region for too long. The people feel ignored and isolated, so of course they’re not going to mix with other Indians–speaking of which, why is it “acceptable” for Punjabis (for example) to mix only with Punjabis? Hypocrisy of highest kind.

    • bikash permalink
      August 13, 2009 2:28 pm

      Yes dude I agree with u.
      Actually we Indo-Aryan assamese dont use 2 face such problems if we can speak Hindi. Yes,we can overcome this problem very easily that is people from notheast should make themselves able 2 speak Hindi & yes when in Rome act like a Roman.. Those north-eastern people also use 2 discriminate Indian looking people..

  23. Nil permalink
    July 28, 2007 10:17 pm

    And another thing, the so-called “mainstream” (north) India has no right to question the looks of north-eastern Indians, Bengalis and southies, yet look at who the biggest name is in their film industry-Aishwarya Rai! 1) She’s a south Indian, like the many other ordinary south Indian citizens who get made fun of up north. I guess her beauty and fair skin exempts her from the abuse; and 2) You can’t honestly say that Aish looks like a “typical” Indian. Her look is far more Euro-centric compared to Rani Mukherji or Vidya Balan. No one makes fun of her appearance. Strange no?

  24. July 28, 2007 10:24 pm

    Matthew, what you said about NE people looking similar to outsiders, that still happens with South Indians. But as someone has mentioned this has started to change…
    i really like your concluding remark:
    //But these are not cultural givens, things can change over time.//
    Yes, I too believe this.

  25. July 28, 2007 10:28 pm

    NIl, you won’t believe this, but once I had an argument with my neighbour (she was from Punjab) who insisted that Aishwarya was so beautiful that she couldn’t be south indian. Her name was rai, and therefore it proved that she was north indian!

  26. fishingnet permalink
    July 29, 2007 6:34 pm

    I do agree with you Nita that North easterners are treated differently..but the main cause for this differential treatment is go out on the streets and try asking 50 odd ppl the “7 sisters” , i can assure you that not more than 2 or 3 of them will get it right…and as for the north – south divide…i think we are so diverse a country that there are bound to be such things happening…if northies make fun of southies then southies are no less in doing same…surds are the scapegoats most often (that’s become a pan-indian phenomenon) and many times they look down on states up north because of their illiteracy and consider them regressive…which i think is very prejudiced…and northies do the same by making fun of their accent etc…so this is a constant battle for superiority which none will win….but i do think india after all these years is integrating into a nation without any region losing it’s identity…but it’s sad that the NE is lagging behind and is nowhere close to integration with rest of the country barring Assam.

  27. Nil permalink
    July 29, 2007 10:29 pm

    I don’t know about how geography is taught in the Indian education system, as I’ve never lived there, but surely they’d have to learn some basic knowledge about all the states of India (think they do that in American schools, might be wrong!) and their location. If not then I worry what kind of recognition the NE will ever get.

    It’s even worse with NRI’s. A lot of Punjabis and Gujjus have no idea that other Indians exist. Most obviously know of Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata, and many know of Goa and Kerala because of all the tourism there. Some NRI’s are prejudice to other people who come from, or whose family come from other countires of the Subcontinent. I’ve heard British born Indians say horrible things about Pakistanis, Bengladeshis and Sri Lankans.

  28. July 29, 2007 10:57 pm

    Nil, they do teach the geographical location of all the states in India but as adults people forget. The problem is that the NE is never in the news, its never mentioned, and that is why people forget. They simply have a vague idea that it exists somewhere to the NE.
    Actually Indians here do not know people from neighboring countries that well, but if they did they might say bad things about them as well! In fact I find that there is some sort of unity amongst south asians once they leave India, that was what I experienced when I was in Africa.
    But what you say is true, the dominant communities (economically) tend to ignore the existence of other communities.

  29. July 30, 2007 11:41 am

    Hi, my name’s Lun, am a typical NE guy working in Delhi. The article and comments are, I’ve to admit, great reads. Riveting. And here’s a piece I’ve written on the issue sometime ago.

  30. July 31, 2007 1:50 pm

    Hey Nita, thanks for writing about the NE. And to hell with the delhi police code of conduct. I wouldn’t like to see Naga girls made to wear salwars forcibly. This code of conduct is more derogatory than the label of “chinki”.
    The indian govt is doing a lot to build a bridge between mainland indians and north easterners. for example, we all follow the same time zone. And because of that it is already dark at 4:00 pm in Arunachal Pradhesh. Thats stupid, isn’t it? But its true. Hindi movies and songs are banned in Manipur by insurgents. Because face it, the north easterners aren’t considered real Indians by the govt, the delhi police code of conduct, by men who judge NE girls, and even by the ultra modern society of India. So why in the world would NE people mingle with main land indian boys and girls? Think about it.
    North Easterners are different from people in the rest of India. We must accept that difference and please, its not necessary to mingle. All we need to do is, respect one another.

  31. Phantom permalink
    July 31, 2007 2:54 pm

    Hey Lun – I just read your piece (the one for which u provided a link) – very interesting read. You write well.

    Prejudice knows NO reason. It is an indictment on our so called secularism / multi-culturality that even today there are still significant sentiments of regionalism and communal prejudice within the country. In my opinion, the worst perpetrators of this in the country are arguably the delhi/UP/haryana/Punjab walas….who seem to assume that the centre of Indian gravity lies in their neighbourhood, that they alone form the superior gene pool within the country – and that anyone south of MP is a “madrasi”, anyone from NE is a “chinki”. Note that these two terms aren’t just terms of reference, intrinsic to their usage is an innate sentiment of prejudice and pre-medidated perceptions of superiority and ridicule against the other party.

    Throughout the country, people create stereotypes in their thinking and every community in India is mimicked, satired and poked fun at (punju/UP’ites being bhaiyas, gujjus/marvadis being stingy, tamilians being ultra traditonal etc). However when a group of people takes their regionalistic sentiments beyond just satirical stereotyping, and into the realm of forming and communicating derrogatory feelings towards another group……feelings based on a narcissistic attitude of superiority (physically, culturally, linguistically etc)….then that is a very harsh form of prejudice.

    I’ve faced a lot of it…..lots of punjabis I’ve met almost try to convince me that as i’m 6 foot 2 inches and well built I can’t hail from karnataka. I’ve learnt that the best way to handle such ignorant, prejudicial chauvanistic idiots is to plain IGNORE them, and occasionally yell back even, cos at the end of the day a bully is very easily put in place with some timely and stern treatment. There is absolutely no point in trying to change the mindset of idiots like these, instead I choose to interact only with those individuals who are educated, cultured and sensitive enough not to echo such prejudicial sentiments.

  32. July 31, 2007 4:23 pm

    Hey Pradeep, while I agree with you on most of what you say (sp the time zone aspect) I wonder sometimes whether north-easterners are bracketing the rest of India into one slot? Somehow while reading your comment I got that impression…maybe its also because of some other comments I don’t know. Maybe we deserve it…but tell me do we really deserve to be categorised as mainland people? there is so much difference between a north indian (and of various states in that region) and a south indian or even a west indian. Do we all really treat you the same? If we do, then yes we deserve that label.
    For example I am sure an assamese would be understood better in say Bengal or even Bihar but maybe not Delhi. And so on.
    And about the mingling aspect, I feel the desire to mingle should be there. We Indians do not mingle easily because we are different ethnically and culturally…we tend to stick to our own groups. But I honestly feel the desire to mingle and get to know each other should be there.
    And I think you have that desire…otherwise why else should you visit this blog…this is not the first time you have left a comment here.
    In fact it was one of your comments (as you probably know) which motivated me to write this post. As I had mentioned in the post, I was thinking of writing something on the NE earlier, but just didn’t. So many thoughts do not translate into action!
    Well, I am glad you approved of what I wrote. I was hesitant because I don’t want to seem ignorant. But if you ask me the only group I know from the NE are Assamese. My husband’s boss was an Assamese, a classmate of mine was Assamese, and good family friends were Assamese. I have a very positive impression of all north-easterners and I confess it is because of my interaction with these people who were all fantastic people. So the main thing is getting to know the other.

  33. B Chopra permalink
    July 31, 2007 5:06 pm

    Forcing someone to put salwars is bad
    and Forcing someone not to put salwars is also too bad

    Yes, maintaning same time zone when it’s not practical is stupid
    and Banning Hindi movies and songs anywhere in India is also one kind of stupidity

    I feel if we mingle it is good
    and If we respect each other then it’s too good.

  34. Nil permalink
    July 31, 2007 6:16 pm

    It isn’t just a north-south divide in India, as it may seem. The north are flexing their muscles in front of the south, east and north-east. The NE shouldn’t feel that India is entirely against them. It’s just some bigots who are concentrated in the north. They treat all people they consider outsiders with prejudice. My auntie who lives in Gurgoan (about to move to Bangalore) said that in the apartment complex she lived in Delhi, that the Punjabi women formed a kind of clique among themselves and treated all the other Indian like they didn’t exist. Her best friends were Bengalis, Oriyas and Tamils. Northeasteners who are so disillusioned by the intolerance by Delhites should feel comforted that there are others in India who face similar problems (maybe not as bad) to them. Solidarity with south Indians and Bengalis, for example could help them feel more part of India.

    • bikash permalink
      August 13, 2009 2:40 pm

      well, such type of discriminators r there in every part of this world… Those punjabi women whom ur aunt met come under that category..
      But not every punjabi is like that. By the way, those women should also know that punjabis usd 2 face a lot of discrimination aftr 9-11 incidents in US.
      Some north Indians use 2 think that they r the original Aryans, and thats why they r soo proud of themselves but that is not the fact. Many Assamese, Bengalis & oriyas use 2 have sharp beautiful features which many North Indians are not having:)
      Thing is that north Indians also have the potential 2 bcome beautiful but not all of their women r beautiful in a similar way, we Assamese, Bengalis & Oriyas also have that potential, there r many beautiful girls in those states but similarly not everyone is beautiful..
      And yes, many north Indians also like Chinki features, many Chinkis also like north Indian features, and many white Europeans also like our Indian features, chinki features etc, so discrimination will always b there bcoz such people will b always there but it depends on u how u carry urself

  35. July 31, 2007 6:21 pm

    Nil, very often traditional thinking people will behave like this. I think the others who made friends with your aunt must have been all outsiders and thus knew what it felt like. I have lived in cities in different parts of India and my observation is that people who have been living in a particular place for years tend to not mix at all. More so if they are traditionals. The reason could be that they have not been exposed to other cultures and feel uncomfortable with people they do not understand. For example a Bengali who has lived all his life in Kolkata will have a different attitude from a Bengali who has lived in different places in India. This applies to people from other states too….I am just trying to give another perspective on the matter.
    Another example. I was teaching in an international school in Tanzania and the teacher who was friendliest to me was one who had spent two years in India.

  36. Phantom permalink
    July 31, 2007 6:51 pm

    Nita – while it is true that those from any community, who have stayed a majority of their lives within their own state/city/community, will tend to be less willing or able to mix freely with folk from other communities…..I also believe that different communities in India have different levels of cultural chauvism. In my experience, many maharashtrians, kannadigas, telugus, bengalis will tend to be more friendly to outsiders, than many traditional punjabis, gujjus, harayanvis. I speak of course from personal experieince.

    The example that Nil quoted seems very feasible to me, as I’ve actually met many punjabis who echo that sentiment, and these are educated, middle class folk, who I’d expect to have had soem exposure to other communities. I dare say that one may nto find such in-your-face exclusionistic behaviour among the other cultures of india. Of course, there are bad apples and ultra-traditionalists in every community.

  37. July 31, 2007 7:08 pm

    Actually I have some good friends who are Punjabis. But true, they come from Army backgrounds. In fact I have found Punjabis one of the most hospitable people in the world.
    I’ll give you another example, not of an army person. I lived in Kolkata for four years in a predominantly Bengali area. All the people around me had lived there for 20-30 years and I did not even expect them to mingle with us (language problem). We generally moved around with friends we met through our kids’s school or our office friends. But I had two Punjabi neighbors who had been born and brought up in Kolkata. They were the only ones who ever invited me to their home and stuffed me with paranthas. They were older ladies and there was no question of being in their friend circle but I guess it was my kids who attracted them!
    Also when I was living in Delhi our landlady (who was a Punjabi) was so nice that I cannot describe it here.
    So what I mean is…that it depends on whom you meet. True we have some very close friends who are Punjabis but as I said they come from an Army background.
    I think we are talking of two issues here:
    1) Racism
    2) Socialising (superficial)
    Perhaps people from all communities if they have lived in one place are reluctant to socialise with others (except Punjabis and Sikhs) BUT it could also be true that they may be more chauvenistic about their region than others. its the latter which can lead to racism.

  38. August 1, 2007 1:19 pm

    I agree with what you’ve said about my comment Nita. I do believe that the feeling of mingliing must come from both ways but we are a society driven by information rather than our own perceptions. The information usually comes from the media, television, newspapers, magazines and movies basically. Now, the top news media in our country, watched by a huge majority is, Aaj tak, Star news. I haven’t seen any news related to the Bodo or the Nagaland insurgency in these channels. Nor do i see any news about Kerela or Tamil Nadu. Certainly, all focus is on the north of India, whether its in television of the movies. We pay the same amount of taxes as the rest of India. Those taxes, are spent for defense and kashmir. It will only be a matter of time when NE people and South Indians will realize that the taxes they pay are all concentrated to the north of India.
    Seen that movie called “Tango Charlie”?? Kelly Dorjee, plays a Bodo militant. He doesn’t even speak bodo in the movie and he is project as some kind of a sick beast. And all South Indians in hindi movies are coconut vendors with lungis. And it kinda of gets me sick.Now people in India believe what is shown in movies and television. I have some cool punjabi friends and even cooler Bengali friends and believe me, when i am with them, theres no feeling of reservations and inhibitions, we have fun regardless of what community we are from. I am not prejudiced against whom i call “main land Indians” words come from what i have seen and felt. And i tell you again. Its not important to mingle, its important to respect one another.

  39. August 4, 2007 8:07 am

    Just wanted to add that at least two people have copied this post verbatim on their own blogs. And this person:
    even has ads on my post. He seems to have disabled comments therefore it is not possible for me to tell him about the copyright infringement.
    Mangtk, do give just a few lines and the link…please do not copy my post. If any of his friends comes here (this guy lives in Chennai) please inform him that he is doing an incorrect thing.

  40. venkat permalink
    August 18, 2007 1:25 pm

    I did not feel like clogging up the space by cutting and pasting so maybe you can copy the links below to a dialog box and click on. The articles are quite readable and at times humorous but the tragedy and melancholy of being discriminated comes through clearly:

    A later note by Nita:
    None of these links worked and therefore they have been deleted.

  41. August 18, 2007 5:44 pm

    Venkat, none of the links above are working. I will be deleting them soon enough. Also please remember that on my blog I do not copy anything, so if you had copied something from somewhere I would have had to delete that part. A line or two plus a proper link is what is needed.

    Later: I deleted the links (I kept them for a day so you could try them out) as they did not work.

  42. August 18, 2007 5:49 pm

    As far as i have learned about north eastern Indians,i have only been impressed by their culture. North eastern Indians are Dominative, Bold, carefree and courageous people who follow their hearts or rather instincts. They do not vaccilate or shy away from things and are always confident to put forward their opinions despite communication problems. Another noble thing about north east indians is their meticuluous sense of unity.Try mauling one of them and you d have an entire lot of them ready to take your case.. and good Lord ,they can be aggressive.

    I have often observed that these people are badly treated by the north Indians places with north indian domination .Once, personally witnessed an encounter where the north indian challenged the other to speak in hindi even as he was trying to overcome the fear of being cobbled up by the furious Manipuri.

  43. raka permalink
    August 19, 2007 10:33 am

    People justifying discrimination by saying all Indians club together/talk bad of others is missing the point—-
    These are just prejudices which are rarely if ever put into practice in presence of the other group. Does the Bengalis/ Marwaris/Tamils/Telugus/Gujaratis….get mistreated on the ground? NO.Do they get lectures on ‘joining’ the ‘mainstream’?
    The people of the NE has to bear actual discrimination day in and day out irrespective of which social class or profession they belong to.
    Isn’t it ironic that a country which killed hundreds of thousands of NE people(via Army) and itself sacrificed thousands of its securitymen to keep them from seceding ,is at the same time not treating them as their own, and in fact calling them Chinese(chinki) and Nepalese(Bahadur)??

  44. August 19, 2007 10:46 am

    I agree with you Raka! What people of the NE suffer is abominable and much much worse than other groups suffer. And they definitely do not get lectures on joining the mainstream…though they do get lectures on learning hindii!
    But I do believe this discrimination will start to reduce as people get more educated and aware. Right now ignorance is a large part of the reason why people behave this way.

  45. Phantom permalink
    August 19, 2007 3:29 pm

    Can’t help but think that were the NE to get more economically progressive and prosperous, then NE’erners would get more readily accepted into the fold of mainstream indian society and politics.

    The central govt needs to be more pro-active about integrating this region and people more into mainstream idnian lifee.

  46. raka permalink
    August 20, 2007 12:24 am


    With policies like these it is no surprise that the Northeast is lagging behind the rest of the country, or, for that matter, claiming discrimination. It is amazing,but such a policy does not exist even in a ‘despotic’ country like China or Pakistan! Deliberately keeping your own people backward!!

  47. Bombay wadapav eater permalink
    August 20, 2007 7:56 pm

    When I did my Masters at the Bombay University and lived in the ladies’ hostel, there were a big number of North Easterners. Just two or three of the girls did not want to mix with us altho’ they fancied being friends with European students. Otherwise I have great memories with friends from Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Assam. I invited them home and they loved eating the traditional Konkani food that my mum cooked who was more than happy that at least someone praised her culinary skills! Esp. my Manipuri friend, Manju kept in touch even after finishing university and going back to Manipur and invited me home. So I don’t think it is a good idea to label them as every individual is different, be it from the NE or anywhere in the world.
    About the north and south divide, my comment is that it is obviously hilarious to call South Indians conservative. I live in Frankfurt and my husband is German. Mostly people think I am Spanish, Italian or South American and sometimes it is better that way since it is really aweful to see some Indians eve-teasing or passing horrible comments. Most of them are north Indians and some probably Bangladeshis and Pakistanis and I wonder often how these people manage coming here. Even my Maharshtrian friend, also married to a German, was pissed when two Indians sat next to her in the underground and said “yehan to hawa behut garam hain” and odds. Even if you are with your husband, they will pass cheap comments in Hindi and probably they think it is their birthright and as tho’ we were some loose chractered people. South Indians never behave like this. It is no different in Bombay either and mostly the eve-teasers were Hindi speaking less educated people with excessive testerone levels. When I was in Bombay three years ago, my husband and I met my friend at the Santa Cruz station and when we walked together, a man started yelling ” dekho randiyo ko”. He was drunk and clearly north Indian. Last year when I was coming back from the opera in the underground, an Indian asked me in Hindi where he had to get off to reach his hotel. It was a small bunch of men and women, all pompously dressed from Delhi, who were there for a week participating in the textiles fair in Frankfurt. Later on the man asked me how my parents allowed me to marry a foreigner. In Frankfurt or rather Germany, Indians are a minority and most of them are in ghettos – Punjabis who mostly work or own shops and restaurants, Tamilians and Keralites and Bengalis and all have their own groups and don’t intermingle and especially if you are married to a German, you are more of an outcaste. Most Indians married to Germans are the highly educated ones. The recent Indian crowd – mostly South Indians and Maharashtrians – all IT specialists are more open than the Indians who have been living here since generations and thier kids are no better. I think it is just the mindset and I see all kinds of people in all the groups – those who are very open and others very conservative.

  48. August 20, 2007 8:13 pm

    Wow, Bombay wadapav eater, that was a very informative and interesting comment! Increased my GK about Indians in Germany quite a bit. It is sad that Indians live in ghettos, but surely not all Germans would accept them in the mainstream? Here we have problems accepting our own people so I guess over there it must be even more so, esp if Indians do not take the ways of the germans. I have some second generation relatives in the US and I am proud to say that they have integrated with the mainstream. Ofcourse when I tell some people about this they feel its wrong! They feel proud that they have clung on to their own culture and live in ghettos. There must be many people like that in the US too. Personally I think if you go to another country, one has to integrate otherwise the next generation could well have problems of identity.
    Where eve-teasing is concerned, education levels matter. A lot of people on railway stations etc are not educated and one can become a victim to eve-teasing. I would hide my head in shame if my fellow Indians behaved like this if I was in a foreign country!

  49. Aattu kaal soup eater permalink
    August 20, 2007 9:24 pm

    Bombay Pav eater and all,

    As a person from NE who has been in the South (TN &Pondy) for well over a decade (education), and has friends/extensive travels in Andhra, Kerala, BIMARU, Punjab, Bengal, Orissa I have to say that we the NE people are considered different (no prob, we are different as you are to us) in the South but almost all the time I never felt discriminated. In fact the civility and humility of the ‘Dravidian’ race(esp Tamils) has forever imprinted itself in my mind and I am forever grateful to them for this experience.
    ‘Aryan’ people but non-northerners like Bengal and Orissa get along well with us too.

    But the North Indians (meaning BIMARU and Punjab but not beyond Punjab) are one of the most arrogant and racist people I have come across (I am now abroad, even here too!).
    This I find amusing as I don’t think there is any reason why they should be so proud, atleast over others. I really feel sorry for these racists esp since such behaviour is seemingly well accepted in their society (this differentiates them from all other racists worldwide).

  50. Bombay wadapav eater permalink
    August 20, 2007 11:50 pm

    Well, it is hard to classify the Indian community here since they are a minority and I hardly know any except from little experiences. I have seen all sorts of permutations and combinations of people here. It is hard to define integration with the mainstream as well as clinging to Indian culture and maintaining your Indian identity. I think it primarily depends on how you want to lead your life, education, interests, values and mindset.
    It is the labourer section who think they are maintaining Indian culture by watching 24-hour Indian TV and Bollyood films. Education plays little importance in their lives and they never really learn the German language so the kids have problems in schools. Many of them are integrated enough as to consume all the cheap processed supermarket food, full of additives and preservatives and follow a Mcdonald or other junk diet and adopt German citizenship as soon as they can but still live in ghettos and raise their eyebrows at mixed couples like us who actually preserve the Indian culture better. When I go to the Indian consulate in Frankfurt, I see how it works – there are the north Indian and south Indian visa officers/ receptionist each formed into their ghetto – one talking in Hindi with either UP dialect or Punjabi accent and the other speaking Malayalam. The line is cluttered with North Indians – either Punjabis or Bhaijjas , all unable to fill the visa form due to poor English and German skills. Visa forms for India are only available in English or German – makes sense, right….Indians wouldn’t need visas to go back to their own countries. So my statement that these people want to bag the German citizenship asap but are a shame to both the countries. Then they try to ask help from the visa officer who if on that particular day is North Indian- luck has popped into their lives and help is certain but if the Mallu officer is in charge then they are doomed and try to ask me or alike for help. But thankfully these people form a minority as compared to the big Turkish and East European counterparts (certainly not all of them) who are are a real problem and threat to the German economy. Even the entire German community is not integrated. There are many sections esp the uneducated who live on social help who misuse the systemt. Then there are also well educated Germans who have high paying jobs but lead a miserably unhealthy life and will certainly prove a burden on the health system on the already aging German economy. So even education is not a guarantee to leading a healthy and conscious life. Then comes the small category of the very green Germans (with more anthroposophic mindset) and some of the mixed couples who mingle well together and many of them are actually health conscious and practise more Indian culture by adopting Indian lifestyle in terms of food, yoga and meditation, sending their kids to learn Indian music or dance, etc. I must admit I live more in tune and harmony with the nature due to the very green and organic and other political issues discussed here in Germany which influenced me positively. Now when I am in Bombay, I wonder if the oil is organic or if it is refined and full of carcinogens when I buy my favourite wadapav. My Maharashtrian friend married to a German has still maintained her Indian citizenship but she is very much German and well-integrated and a staunch vegetarian and her husband has converted to vegetarianism. I took almost eight years (the time span of my life spent in this country after leaving Bombay) to decide for a German citizenship, primarily because it was hard to manage my career and needed a visa everytime I needed to go to London or Dublin for a business meeting, etc. So I think we are very Indian and we really argue with people who only talk about the poverty and other problems that India faces but definitely well integrated in Germany. Definitely we also have our own preferences and I wouldn’t mix with every German or Indian. It is definitely very hard and I definitely suffer from identity crisis. As they say “birds of the same feather flock together”.

  51. Anand permalink
    August 28, 2007 2:32 am

    Wonderful article Nita..I am a Tam *blessed* with a fairer skin that Northies consider their own. I have been around with Northies for over 3-4 atleast now, and even I am sometimes irritated with the kind of racist remarks that Northies make of us,Tams.

    Sometimes, being a fairer guy does help in getting to know the comments made, since my Northie friends think I am not anyway offended by all this (Anand is a gora Tam, Shankar is an IAS – Invisible After Sunset). But, I love my people and do take a lot of offence on such racist remarks..But sadly, I dont see mindsets changing anytime soon…

    @Aatu Kaal soup eater

    Nice name :))
    I have seen quite a lot many NEs near my place in Chennai, and I am really touched by your remark:
    “In fact the civility and humility of the ‘Dravidian’ race(esp Tamils) has forever imprinted itself in my mind and I am forever grateful to them for this experience.”

    I would like to thank you on behalf of all the Tams here..

  52. Nil permalink
    September 1, 2007 8:11 pm

    Keep in mind that NE Indians are likely to be perceived in a very distorted way, due to the insurgency going on in the region (some more than others). Next to J&K, Assam and Manipur aren’t very nice places to live. The initial motives by rebels was justified in the 70’s and 80’s, because the Indian government completely raped places like Assam of its natural resources and didn’t even let the people there profit, and help the region prosper. The NE’s econmic backwardness isn’t all their fault, rather the government’s years of neglect. Even politically, they’re insignificant, because collectivlely, there are about 25-26 members in the Lok Sabha from the entire North East, which less than, or equal to the no. of MP’s from certain SINGLE states.

    However, the insurgency problem today is appalling and it is impossible to have sympathy for this new generation of separatists. They extort lakhs of rupees from their own people, kill innocent civilians, and are just puppets of Bangladesh. The govt is slowly realising the potential of the NE, but probably make policies more equitably, now. Problem is that the insurgency problem has become so huge that any progress is just halted. Furthermore, Assam’s CM Tarun Gogoi, I hate to say, is one of the most incompetent politicians ever. All he does is make false promises. I’ve never seen so much apathy from a chief minister. As controversial as someone like Narendra Modi is, Assam needs someone like that to govern them. Obviously without the religious affiliation, but someone HAS to take a hard-line on terrorists. Otherwise Assam will go up in flames if they keep someone like Gogoi in power!

    Manipur is even WORSE. Insurgency, drug and alcohol abuse, high rates of HIV-AIDS, etc. Recently, militant groups have siphoned off profits from local pharmacueticals, so medical care for THEIR OWN PEOPLE has become difficult. What a disgrace.

    So all of this leaves Northeasteners in a Catch 22 situation–if they stay in the NE, they’ll have no real prospects, and if they go Delhi, they’ll be frowned upon, because the media has so conveniently tarred all North-East Indians with the same brush–violent people with no control.

  53. September 1, 2007 8:28 pm

    Nil, thanks for the insight. I guess only political change can make the difference. I think its important for north easterners to go and live in other parts of india for this very reason…the exposure and intermingling will help in the political process. It will be wonderful isn’t it if one day we have a national leader from the NE, someone like Manmohan singh or vajpayee.
    frankly if you ask me, I think that north easterners should not let what the rest of india thinks hamper them. they can in fact think of it as a challenge.
    assam also needs to elect better leaders, they say that saikia was mixed up with the insurgents..who knows about gogoi? maybe he too is mixed up with them?
    two pronged approach is needed and one is building of better infrastructure from the govt side and good governance and this is up to the people. the people have to govern themselves….and govern themselves well.

  54. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    September 2, 2007 6:46 am


    “I think its important for north easterners to go and live in other parts of india for this very reason…the exposure and intermingling will help in the political process”.

    “north easterners should not let what the rest of india thinks hamper them”.

    Such things are easier said than done.

    Most people go to live elsewhere if they have something to gain by the move; or they are required to go; or things at home have become absolutely insufferable, forcing them to go. They do not change residence just for “exposure and intermingling [that] will help the political process.” For that it is important to travel with an open and absorptive mind, and to try and mingle with outsiders who are in your own neighbourhood.

    Having travelled a bit in the so-called “insurgency” and “terrorism” affected areas (including the interiors) of the Northeast over the last decade — mainly in Assam but also in Manipur and Meghalaya — I can say with some degree of confidence that, although I have only the most superficial insights into what the problems of the NE are, I am sure there is basically considerable, though somewhat fragile, goodwill for mainlanders among most people. The Indian armed forces (predominantly paramilitary) seem to be determined to destroy this with their ham-handed and brutal behaviour. In many places they seem more like an imperial army of occupation than a peacekeeping force.

    On the other hand I have, over the years, known about half a dozen people from the mainland who came to the NE because of their government jobs, made a tremendous mark on the local people, and decided to make the place their home after retirement. They, according to me, are the real ambassadors of peace and goodwill.

    I think we should be cautious using words like “separatism”, “insurgency” or “terrorism”. Let us not forget that the very people that you and I call terrorists may, for their own people, be “freedom fighters”. And concepts like territorial sovereignty, national integrity, are very much open to debate, particularly when there is so much intolerance about differing points of view and those who are in control are so arrogantly confident that they are right, and that there is nothing to debate.

  55. September 2, 2007 7:54 am

    Vivek, when you said that:
    //They do not change residence just for “exposure and intermingling [that] will help the political process.”//
    I really think thats obvious!!
    As for the other points you mentioned, ofcourse I do agree.

  56. Nil permalink
    September 2, 2007 6:12 pm

    Let us not forget that the very people that you and I call terrorists may, for their own people, be “freedom fighters”.


    The difficulty with this is that a lot of these insurgents TODAY barely even fight for the rights of their own people. In Assam, ULFA (United Liberation Front Of Assam), go around extorting thousands from tea estate owners and Assamese business people. Is that how to defend your own people? I’ve read about how wealthy Assamese families have to live in austerity, to avoid suspicion from ULFA. Furthermore, the killings of many Hindi speaking migrants is brutal and a breah of human rights. Assam IS in India, and the last time I checked, Indians have the right to live and work wherever they want to.

    The higher-ups of ULFA profit from these kinds of extortion rackets, and are reportedly owning big, luxury properties in Bangladesh (kind of like a hide out from Indian authorities). If the NE were to gain independent, it’d be a huge mistake. Illegal immigrants from Bangladesh are already entering in droves. China and Bangladesh would probably try to conquer the region for themselves, and there’ll still be border conflicts between each of the seven states.

  57. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    September 2, 2007 8:12 pm


    //The difficulty with this is that a lot of these insurgents TODAY barely even fight for the rights of their own people.//

    You hit the nail on the head by the qualifier TODAY in all-caps. So let their own people call them terrorists or whatever. I don’t think you and I have the moral right to use such terms, looking as we do, “through a glass, darkly”.

  58. vish permalink
    September 5, 2007 10:54 am

    here is a link from; any comments? news

  59. September 5, 2007 11:18 am

    Vish, the link you gave is not working. You can send me a new link for the story and I will replace this one.

  60. vish permalink
    September 5, 2007 12:05 pm

    Hi Nita,

    The link works for me. Otherwise, you can go to and it is under the ‘News’ section. It is an article about Northeast…’North east is is more dangerous than Kashmir’.

    Vish, its working for me now. I think there was a problem with my internet connection. I read that article. It is indeed sad, isn’t it? Like the article said, people who live in the north east do not have opportunities to grow and therefore the frustration. All the more reason why they should come to the mainland. Because if we wait for the government to do something, it will take years!

  61. Sunil permalink
    September 17, 2007 5:25 am

    It was great to see the various point of views that were published here. As a former resident of BIMARU states (I am from uttaranchal), I totally agree that there is a lot of racism that mainlanders exhibit towards others.
    Note the “Others”. It is not against NE guys/gals only; we are racist against ANYONE who is not from the mainland ! Including those south of MP.

    But I would put the blame on the lack of education. I am ashamed to say that even I thought NE ppl lack culture and the girls are ‘fast’, but the more I knew them, the more my views changed.

    I dont have any solution to the problem except one. We need to have more visibility of the NE guys/gals. The more they are seen, the more they will be thought of as one of us.
    Why cannot we have a north eastern girls as the newsreader on DoorDarshan? This is the most watched news programme even today in India. And the best part is that it will be seen in the most far flung areas of the country. Imagine seeing a NE person day after day, conveying the latest news from around the world to the rest of the country.
    I am sure this will be more effective then a thousand seminars on this issue.

    “Familiarity breeds contempt.”
    But in our case, familiarity is EXACTLY what we need.

  62. September 17, 2007 8:38 am

    Sunil, I agree. That is the only way that people will get to know the people from the seven states. If you have even one friend from a particular state, automatically you start seeing the good things…

  63. September 17, 2007 11:09 am

    Some of the most educated of people do not know about the insurgency problems in the NE. So don’t you guys think that there is something terribly wrong with the media, especially the news channels who show programs based on tv sitcoms and filmstar weddings but dont have even one single news about the NE. They say, the fourth pillar of the consitution in a democracy is the media. The media in india is only a source of entertainment. Apart from film based news and cricket analysis, they have nothing else to telecast.

  64. joshua permalink
    September 19, 2007 3:07 am

    I am a northeasterner and yes, the NE people are treated differently by the rest of India in one or the other ways. There are a couple of things I’d like to mention about my personal experiences after staying in bangalore for 8 years. Yes, one reason why a lot of people isolate themselves from the northeastern people is because of the oriental/asian looks that we possess. Another reason that is partially true which is the language barrier… Pls do not misunderstand me….majority from the northeast are reserved by nature(lol) and therefore, a lot of other indians think we can’t communicate with them at all… Try us… we can speak English….or HIndi for that matter… Also, I’ve had people asked me where’s nagaland, manipur, or darjeeling, mizoram or even Assam for that matter… At that point of time, my only response would be… get back to high school and you’ll get all the informations… Majority of Indians from the mainland will agree with me.. that is.. if you take one step toward a northeasterner, he/she will take 2 steps to receive you…This proves and shows our hospitality… The truth of the matter is,people rarely try us which is ofcourse sad…So, the next time pls take the initiative to befriend(positive term) a northeasterner and see the result…..
    last but not the least, I’ve also had a lot of friends from down south say that people from the north are generally haughty and by that they meant to say the Delhites.. and again, pls Delhites don’t take it in other sense…it’s just vice versa… the delhites think that people from the south are know it goes on…Therefore, to every indian I’d like us to open up our minds and thoughts and take the initiative in being hospitable to everyone..After all, we are all humans and we need friends and not enemies… We are all strangers on this planet.. which means all of us have to go one of these days(death)..
    Hi guys, thanks for sharing all your views,ideas and thoughts which really makes me happy because atleast the norteastern people are talked about here….If this note seems funny or if it has angered you pls forgive me…

    joshua Says:
    September 19th, 2007 at 3:04 am
    I am sorry.. to add this again since I made a mistake up there…. majority of mainland Indians who have association with the northeasterners will agree with me that we are hospitable people and friendly too…As I’ve just mentioned in the above note, give us a chance and we will prove our friendliness and goodness too…. Pls those of you reading this I encourage you to tell more about the NE people and our culture to your friends and family members( make them aware that we are very much part of India though the indian government avoided us for so long, long time..

  65. B Chopra permalink
    September 19, 2007 9:14 am

    Joshua, It’s really nice to read your friendly & lovely comment..


  66. September 19, 2007 8:10 pm

    I was going to redirect Joshua to this post after he commented on my blog, only to find that he’s already commented here! 🙂

    Aren’t they friendly, lovable folk? I fail to understand why ‘mainland’ people treat them differently!

  67. September 20, 2007 12:14 am

    thank you guys for the response…

  68. Nil permalink
    October 1, 2007 5:32 pm

    Just thinking about this, but with the large numbers of NE students heading off to Delhi, I think they must be provided with a kind of cultural awareness/preparation programme prior to moving. They need to gain knowledge about Delhi, about its culture, people, and perhaps some Hindi lessons and skills to prevent being cheated by vendors, drivers, landlords, etc. On top of that, they must be told of the problems faced by NE students. They are thrown into a lion’s pit, so to speak, because they haven’t had any warning about how different Delhi is to their homeland.

    Such steps could help so much, and it wouldn’t be offending them, because it could be done in their state, and a means of helping them overcome the potential dangers of the Capital.

  69. October 1, 2007 5:47 pm

    Nil, to some extent this must be happening. Friends must be going back and relating personal experiences….but ofcourse an organized programme may not be available. I think mostly people are going back home with negative experiences and this is alienating people further.

  70. Brahmaputri permalink
    November 1, 2007 9:31 am

    For all those ignorant Indians who wonder if Assamese people are foreigners should go back to school and study history and geography. The original name of Assam is Kamrup. There are legends that links Assam with Krishna and Arjun, Anirudha.
    I’m from Assam. My ancestors went from U.P and settled in Assam Valley five hundred years ago. I don’t look like the socalled ‘main stream Indian”. Thank God. I guess my forefathers married the indegenous people of Assam. We are a mixed race. Assamese language was evolved in 6th century. Our language is rich with words from the indegenous people of Assam. Our culture is also different . I call my self Assamese from the North East.
    The police department who was telling the North Eastern girls how to dress, eat and act should also follow some guide lines and here they are.
    1. Indians stink. They should use deodorant. It is a joke among the north Eastern people. Indians wear polyester clothes and they do not wash them regularly.
    2. North East peole may have oriental eyes but Indian men have physically disproportionate bodies.
    3. Indians speak with high pitch voice. Hardly anybody undestand them.
    4. Indians are nosy as hell .
    5. Indians do not groom very well eventhough they make a lot of money.
    The list goes on and on.

  71. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    November 1, 2007 12:11 pm



    Just one point, though. When your ancestors migrated from the Gangetic Plain to the Assam Valley, there was no concept of U.P., although those you left behind imagine that they are anaadi, ananta, and the essence of India.

  72. November 1, 2007 12:42 pm

    Vivek, Brahmaputri has clubbed all Indians together (and by that very fact has implied that she is not an Indian) and frankly I am not enamoured with her comment and in fact wondered if I should publish it. After she too is generalising a whole race and/or different races.
    But then I thought well, all points of view need to be represented. And she has not used any strong words and plus I do empathise.
    And definitely her statement that “Indian men have physically disproportionate bodies.” is not correct. It is so incorrect that I decided to let it be. I would say that genetically speaking Indians and particularly north indians are very well-endowed by nature.

  73. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    November 1, 2007 1:10 pm

    Nita, I do realise what Brahmaputri has done. It is a natural reaction to the way “Indians” behave when they are in the noth-east, and they project themselves as a homogeneous lot, without distinguishing between different cultural identities.

    The implication that she is “not an Indian”, while regrettable, is also part of the same reaction.

    I have spent time in the north-east a number of times since 1976, am accustomed to this attitude to mainland Indians, and under the circumstances I am inclined to sympathise with it.

    At the same time you may recall that the recent opposition in Assam to the screening of Hindi films was just that — against Hindi films, not against films in other Indian languages.

    “Proportionate” or otherwise is a very subjective aesthetic judgement. I would not get into a debate about it.

  74. Ish permalink
    November 1, 2007 6:46 pm

    One way to understand the differences would be to have the North easterners showcase their culture/food at the college/hostel where they live or interact with other “mainstream” people. A little presentation about their culture,clothing,tradition,dance and sharing of local food should help other people understand them.
    It should help widen the horizons and understanding. Differences make life interesting. Just imagine a world where everybody ate the same food, spoke the same language, dressed the same how boring!!!

  75. November 1, 2007 7:03 pm

    Ish, thanks. Yes that I agree is the best…the northeasterners need to throw themselves into the mainstream and expose us to their differences. I too dread to live in the ‘clone’ culture tht is so typical of America and Britian. Even their newscasters are clones of each other, even if they come in different colours!
    But as Brahmaputri’s comment shows, they can retreat into their own world because of various hurts that are accumulated. But this intermingling will happen I am sure. It’s already started. when i was in college there were hardly any people from NE in pune, mumbai, but now there are.

  76. Nil permalink
    November 4, 2007 4:28 pm

    Well here’s what I stumbled across. Enouraging:

    CNN IBN Coverage

    Here’s the link to their site (it’s a blog currently):

    Hopefully this will catch on and bring justiced to the many harassed in the capital. But yeah, there needs to be far greater exposure in the mainstream of these people. Ignorance and myths could be broken when you’re exposed to communities in the flesh. In particulay, what needs to be acknowledged is that North-easteners aren’t all the same. As distinct as the people and culture and region are from the rest India. Within the North-East itself there is much diversity and contrasts between each state with their numerous tribes, culture, language, attire, food, etc. Mizo people are different from the Meiteis of Manipur (eg Mizos are largely Christian whereas Meiteis mostly follow Hinduism).

  77. Atharvan Bamezai permalink
    November 18, 2007 12:49 pm

    I read all comments on this blog with a lot of interest. Comments by Nil and Nita make an especially fascinating read. Though, I do feel that in all this talk about rampant racism in “North” India, some generalisations have been made about the very nature of “North” Indian society.

    And it is ironical in a way, because the problem being discussed here is ignorance & generalisation of the North-Easterners by the “Northies”.

    To give you an example of what I am talking about, consider the usual geo-cultural definition of North India invoked frequently in this discourse – i.e. the Hindi-Haryanvi-Rajasthani-Punjabi cultural continuum. But, as any geography teacher worth his/her salt would tell you, that is NOT the whole of North India.

    In fact, people quite conveniently miss out the *really North* Indian peoples of Uttaranchal-Himachal-Jammu & Kashmir, who, just like their North-Eastern bothers in the far eastern side of the Himalayas, live in the mountains and foothills too and owing to their proximity to Tibet can have the *chinki* looks. In fact, people of Eastern Himachal and Leh-Ladakh (in J&K) are exclusively of Tibetan stock – yet they ARE North Indians too. And No, they don’t speak Hindi !

    Nonetheless, they tend to go too easily off the radar whenever their is a talk about North Indian culture/language. Somehow, “mainstream” Indians don’t recognize anything North of Punjab. Even when educated and concerned people like you talk about North India, you treat us with the same broad brush as the Punjabis and the general assortment of “North” Indians, other than when discussing about militancy in Kashmir.

    Being a Kashmiri (of Kashmiri pandit extraction, though there is Tibetan blood in me as well from my mother’s side), I ask you all educated Indians to force yourselves to not see the whole North as a monolithic cultural entity. It is anything but. Just like the Northeast (& other parts of Southern/Central/Western India) it is an incredibly diverse collection of people of vastly differing languages, cultures, religions and landscapes.

    I urge my Northeastern brethren to visit the western Himalayan regions of Kumaon, Garhwal, Ladakh, Zanskar or Kashmir to see how welcoming at least some of their Northern Indian counterparts are.


  78. November 18, 2007 9:17 pm

    @Atharvan Bamezai:

    Atharvan, I humbly opologise. Yes you are right one does tend to think of north indians as hindi speakers. but that is glossing over the truth. I am familiar with kashmir as my father was posted there several times in his tenure and it’s true I tend to think of kashmir as a separate entity and do not think of kashmiris as ‘north indians’ but as ‘kashmiris.’ I have infact dined in the homes of kashmiris, both muslim and hindus and they have a distinct cultural identity and perhaps this is due to the different language. I don’t know. when I think of north indians I tend to think of punjabis and UP’ ites and to some extent rajasthanis and yes the pahardi people as well.
    and if indians overall are not familiar with kashmiri culture it is also because few people actually know many kashmiris. we do not see them in the rest of the country as much as people from the other northern states. in the case of the NE this is slowly changing and I sincerely hope that people in the rest of India will start seeing people from the NE as people from particular states and not just NE…but the first thing necessary is familiarisation.
    Also one must not forget that this tendency to club together other indians is on both sides. in fact in Kashmir and NE it goes one step further and I have personally met people who do not even consider themselves Indians. That you will not find in in the rest of India and what’s more no one will ever think of a kashmiri as a non-Indian. we fiercely believe that kashmiris are a part of us, that they are Indians.

  79. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    November 19, 2007 6:45 am


    //Just like the Northeast (& other parts of Southern/Central/Western India) it is an incredibly diverse collection of people of vastly differing languages, cultures, religions and landscapes.//

    Thank you very much for recognising that Central and Western India are NOT part of the North Indian realm in terms of cultural traits such as aggression over the cultural and psychological space of others. Over the years, I have had some very pleasant experiences (and far off the tourist track, let me hasten to add) of Kumaon, Garhwal and Himachal (though unfortunately I have not been to the Kashmir valley, Zanskar or Ladakh)

    Permit me to slightly differ from Nita’s take, and say that for people like me (and a few others on this blog — I do not claim to speak for all) who rave and rant about Hindi imperialism (which we tend to equate with North Indian imperialism), Kashmiris, Ladakhis, Kumaonis, Garhwalis etc. are as much beyond the pale as the sub-Vindhyan types.

    Nita’s observation including Kashmiris among people who do not consider themeselves Indians, does not in my experience apply at least to the Pandits. As a matter of fact many of them (and I don’t mean the 3rd-plus generation Delhi-Allahabad types) complain that India has not done enough for them. On the other hand, historically Kashmir does have a distinct identity within the sub-continent, of which the most outstanding dimension that comes to mind is Kalhana’s Rajatarangini.

    If you do not mind a personal question, yours is the firs instance I have come across of spelling this surname with ‘-mez-‘. Is it a different name than Bamzai or does the e signify articulation of the vowelic ending of the ‘m’?

  80. Raj permalink
    December 13, 2007 10:15 pm

    Hi everyone,
    Another excellent blog,Nita! I came across this while going through the one on language.

    To my friend from the NE who calls himself/herself attukaal soup eater,I am touched by your remarks that you are grateful to the Dravidians(esp. Tamils) who did not discriminate against you.I thank you for this unbiased comment.

    Well,Tamils have a saying “Vanthaarai Vazhaveikkum Thamizhagam”-the true meaning of which is “Thamizhagam (Tamil country) always protects and uplifts those who seek refuge here”.(Though the literal translation is “Thamizhagam gives a life(a living) to those who come here”).This is mostly true.Even today Sri Lankan Tamil refugees are given equal facilities in TN as the local people,and not just because they are Tamils (Sri Lankan Tamil is quite different from TN Tamil-it is more like a language that sounds like Malayalam to a non-Tamil,though it is definitely more musical to hear).

    Tamils love outsiders who respect the local culture and especially the language.I can see that you are one such person by the name that you have chosen,and I like that name (even though I do not eat meat).

    The name tells you why you have been treated well by Tamils.Almost all North-Easterners in TN are friendly and respect the local culture.They speak to the locals in English initially and learn some Tamil (Tamils like such people and will treat them with respect even if they speak broken Tamil,because we appreciate the effort).Infact,Chennai,Coimbatore and Hosur have a large number of Telugu,Malayalam and Kannada speakers who have lived here happily for generations and have integrated seamlessly,even as they maintain and preserve their languages and culture at home.

    It is only the attitude of the haughty,imperialistic outsiders (read as Hindi speakers from the cow-belt) who are bent upon humiliating our language and culture that we find disgusting.

    And my friend,please tell your friends from your region that North-Easterners are always welcome and will be treated well in Chennai as they are neither haughty nor imperialistic.

    If you are treated badly in Delhi,please come here as there are quite a few good colleges and universities here (No, I am not their agent).And rice (in different forms) is the main staple here. (Beware of the notorious auto-rickshaw drivers though! and the house rent might be a bit on the higher side in some areas)

    We would always prefer you and other friendly outsiders to those who are haughty,narrow-minded and imperialistic.

  81. Raj permalink
    December 13, 2007 10:29 pm

    I have missed typing something in the above post.

    I meant to say that Sri Lankan Tamil is definitely more musical to hear THAN TAMIL NADU TAMIL,and almost all TN Tamils will agree with me.

    I include this correction lest my Malayali brethren and others mistake me for saying than SL Tamil is more musical to hear than Malayalam.

    I personally find that Malayalam is more musical to hear than TN Tamil.


  82. ishq permalink
    January 15, 2008 8:19 pm

    a very thoughtful and well written article. im not from the NE, but am aware of the plight they suffer in the rest of India

    bringing them into the mainstream might solve problems, but thats easier said than done. Considering how low the NE is on the govts agenda, nothing will forseeably improve. The region, as a whole, has proven to be one of the Indian government’s biggest failures. Keep in mind that many northeasterners don’t WANT to be called Indian, even if they are brought to the mainstream. After independence, the region was separated out of Assam into 6 other states. They probably expected independence after the Raj. Who can blame them for not wanting to be part of a country that has treated them so poorly? And the irony is that India refuses to grant them sovereignity. Why is that? They havent developed the region at all, and maybe they should realise why theres so much insurgency problems. I’d love to know the UPA’s agenda for holding onto them.

    The sad part of it is that when terrorism is highlighted in J&K or where attacks may be in ‘mainland’ states, the govt declares how big the security threat they are. Have they forgotton the security threat in the North-East, whose people have been suffering for years?

    I found it very odd how Sonia Gandhi criticised the Narendra Modi govt in Gujarat for neglecting the needs of minority Muslims. She attacked him for they very thing her government, and previous Congress govts have done to Northeasterners for years. At least Modi has developed Gujarat amazingly well and is the reason why it’s one of the most prosperous states in India, and he openly acknowledges his policies. What has the self-righteous do-gooder Sonia been doing for those people in the North-east?? Nothing. She (since its her running the show, not the PM) is silent on the matter, and i havent heard anything from her to help the region.

    Students are treated like common garbage in Delhi and elsewhere, because the govt sat on their backs doing nothing, while thousands of innocent people are caught in the crossfire of insurgency. Then authorities (like the Delhi police) allude to NE students as being ‘of lose morals’, without knowing nothing about their culture. The girl students are harassed and molested, because Indians see them as ‘fast’? The same country where female tourists (and local women) are molested and the same country where a woman was stripped an beaten in Andhra Pradesh. Mainland Indians like that should check their moral integrity, before judging northeasterners. Resentment is also due to the fact that many students enter via reservations as ST’s and Adivasis. What India needs to do (after addressing insurgency) is to raise educational standards there, and help them compete with the best of the best.

    So for many of them, India is not their home–their homes are Manipur, Nagaland, Mizoram, etc–India forcefully became their home, something on their passport. If they had the educational opportunities in their homeland, or somewhere which didn’t treat them like outsiders, they’d have probably chosen to go there.

  83. January 20, 2008 6:13 am

    There is a lot of truth ,in what is being said regarding discrimination against North-easterners.Its similar in some respects to the racism in Russia against Tajiks and other central asians settled in cities like st.Petersburg.I have found myself that most indians cant even name a single city in the northeast other than say…Guwahati .Indians (I am Indian myself)dont make any attempt to learn about our northeastern brothern ans sisters,this arrogance can only be compared with british Imperialism , This attitude stems from North Indian ,Punjabi Fascism,people like them who force Hindi on others, dont respect other cultures , I am from Maharashtra ,Pune,none of the north indian students make any effort to learn marathi ,they are arrogant with the locals , and try to behave badly sometimes.Remember what happened to Pakistan in 1971 ! These people are the real enemies of a united country , not dissidents, militant groups .

    We must give up our UK-USA centric mentality ,our destiny and future lies in Asia , with Asians , not with Europe ,USA, UK,Germany etc.Ask any Indian about Vietnam,Malaysia,Indonesia ,Thailand,Phillipines , they have no idea about their language culture etc.People in India spend time learning french , German ,Spanish , but does anyone learn Chinese or Japanese, Vietnamese, the answer is no. Let us learn from Japan , the Asian giant which IS THE ONLY ASIAN Country to defeat RUSSIA and Britian in Naval&Land Battles.The world respects them.Let us stop fooling ourselfs int thinking that by speaking english , and using it we become Honourary Whites.Secondly discrimination against Africans is appauling , I have found (I live abroad) Sudanese,Malawians,and many other Africans to be wonderful and helpful people, they look up to us yet we treat them badly .If any races should be treated preferentially it should be Africans , they are the people originating from the birthplace of man.

  84. January 27, 2008 9:50 pm

    It take me back to the recent Bhajji mess in Australia. It had everybody saying…’we Indians are actually born racists’. This, though its worst form, is just another of the cases.

    And unfortunately, its not just Delhi but entire ‘mainland’ from where incidences and experiences echo.

    At the same time, there are many who say that the ”
    “Northeasternes” themselves do not like to mingle with the ‘mainlanders’ and choose to stay within their NE population even when they move to mainland…but then the way they are treated by some….do they have a choice?

  85. February 1, 2008 12:41 pm

    hey all

  86. joshua permalink
    February 1, 2008 1:04 pm

    Dear one and all,
    After decades of silence, I am back again on this blog……. HOw’s everybody doing? I’d like to mention something about what Govind just mentioned above.
    Well, he rightly said that ” people say the northeasterners love to hang out only with their own people”. Let me admit that it is true to a certain degree (me although a northeasterner). But we really don’t have any choice when people treat us very differently. So what we do is hang out with our own people most of the time. Here’s what I’d like to tell our friends from the mainland part to really be patient with us because we need ur love and care when we all move down to ur cities like: New Delhi, Bangalore, Madras, Mumbai, Pune, Hyderabad, Lucknow, Ahmedabad and Calcutta for that matter too. We are there either for work or college. We are fun loving people…….We seriously like ur company but take the initiative pls… I don’t know for some reason, majority of us are shy… just too shy sometimes to take the first approach(northeasterners). Also, this is to my fellow Northeasterners. Let us be more open and be willing to learn other culture, food or tradition too….. (mainland india’s)…. Why don’t you try exploring them… ? Having stayed in a cosmopolitan city like Bangalore for 8 years has shown me that we Indians are friendly people by NATURE…It’s just we need to be more patient and be willing to learn other culture . Therefore, my fellow NE friends, let us try to be friendlier than ever before and teach our friends who we are and what we are?
    Hey guys, I am rite now in a city called KANSAS CITY in the United States doing my master’s programme. Here, whenever we meet even on the parks, streets and malls(INDIANS), we are really friendly to one another……So at times I feel sad because in India, I really don’t see that harmony and peace most of the time……. Hey guys, pls tell me what’s new out there in India…..God bless.

  87. Ishq permalink
    February 3, 2008 3:10 am

    The image of Assam is being tarnished by the millions of Bangladeshis coming in ILLEGALY and squatting there. It amazes me how the government there haven’t taken a hardline on these scroungers. Everytime I go to Assam, it’s becoming an extension of Bangladesh. Doesn’t surprise me why so many students and other who, despite loving their land, leave Assam for better prospects. That beautiful state is being ruined by insurgency and illegal immigrants. Thats another thing Indians in the mainland might have to understand. Assamese people are going to be like the Parsis, at this rate.

  88. moneche permalink
    February 16, 2008 5:07 pm

    HI Nita,

    I saw lot of your other blogs, and I am really impressed with your knowledge about the NE region.
    But one question if people of NE have asspiration to be free would you not support it? The Indian government treats the NE same as the British did to India, its just a region to take out resources.Just to preserve the Union would you sacrifice other peoples aspirations?The same with the British,they tried to save their commonweath for years till they went away.
    You said in other post that India could not produce anything under the British and India was just a market for them. Is not the same thing happening now with NE.It can not even produce even a single needle by itself.Lot of NE people think they are Indian because everything the use is from India, its a pity they do not see the reality that we are reduced to just comsumers and market for India.
    NO Country is greater then the people .Its politicians that like to say the other way round to get their agendas.
    I think peblicite is long due in India or a change in way how India governs is urgently need if the union is to survive. A big country like India can not be just govern from the center,lot of the power of the center must be delegated if peace is to ensure.

  89. February 16, 2008 5:19 pm

    Moneche, idealologically speaking I cannot disagree with you. It’s a national shame what the central government is doing to the North East. But let’s look at the reality today.
    And the number one reality is that the Indian govt will never let the NE go. you see what is happening in Kashmir, the number of people who have died. India has not let Kashmir go…do you know why? They know that if they let Kashmir go, next will be the north east! And then after that the South, and India will be broken up into little bits. I would advise you to read something about the multicultural identity of India. India is very diverse and that is one of the reasons for these probems. .
    The South too was neglected and it was by sheer accident of ommission that the IT industry came up and now because of the monetary power the southern politicians are calling the shots and demanding things for South India.
    The way forward for the NE is the same. The NE needs strong politicians backed by a thriving economy. Once you have that, you can demand…
    I think tourism can be a very thriving industry in the NE.
    If the NE tries to separate, it will mean more poverty for the
    people, I feel it is the road into hell. Finally it’s the common man who suffers. Right now there is no way that the NE can win independence. If Kashmir hasn’t suceeded with global terrorists backing it, how will the NE succeed?
    The NE can get it’s own back. It has to fight for it’s rightful place in the Indian hierarchy. And the region is so beautiful, it’s people so smart and cultured, I know it will happen. It’s a long road ahead, but to take the wrong turn would be disastrous.

  90. I. Das Gupta permalink
    February 17, 2008 9:16 am

    I think we can separate the NE’s socio-economic woes with the discrimination NEI students and others face out of their homeland.

    When people say that the North East has been completely left out of India’s economic growth–let’s be real, how much of India has truly benefitted from IT, outsourcing, etc? Only a small section of Indian society. Like in the south, it may on average be better developed than the north, but look at individual states. Kerala for starters is famous for its high quality of life and important roles women play, literacy, education, etc. But lift that veil and you’ll see a Kerala which is severely lacking a proper infrastructre, lagging behind in industrialisation, high levels of unemployment, high rates of farmer suicides…..

    And how about Bihar, UP, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh? All closer to Delhi than the NE states, but among the poorest in India. Poverty, female infanticide, illiteracy, disease and illness, ill treatment of SC’s, etc. I mean the NE is known for its equal castless societies so it must be doing something better than a lot of other places in India. For example, matrilineal tribes like the Khasis of Meghalaya place women on a VERY high position in society; Also Mizoram has the 2nd highest literacy rate in all of India.

    As far as the insurgency problems go, the govt need to fully acknowledge how dangerous the NE is becoming, instead of chronically neglecting it and its people. A peace settlement worked very-well in Mizoram, which has remained relatively peaceful for over 2 decades now. There needs to be intelligent and rational dialogue to bring peace. Of course those who’ve committed atrocities must be brought to account, but look how many ULFA militants, for example, from Assam have surrendered in the last year, to start afresh, a new life. People like them need to be looked at in order to secure peace.

    The fact that so many Northeasterners have gone to the big metros is already a huge step in the right direction. I advise them to remain strong and resilient in the face of racism. India is admittedly, a prejudiced country, so it’s highly unfortunate how NE students face discrimination and harassment and are treated like outsiders. But I feel that TIME is the essence to let people understand who they are and where they’re from. They already make up a visible minority of student populations across the country, The way India is opening up to globalisation, anything can happen. Look at how many TV channels there are now–Indians are exposed to so many different faces, colours, races, etc because of TV. NE students who excel in their fields of expertise will go a long way to changing long-held perceptions of them.

  91. Raj permalink
    February 17, 2008 11:13 am


    I whole-heartedly agree with Nita when she said that it is a national shame when the central government continues to treat the North-East in the way it has been doing since Independence.

    I have known a few North-Easterners in school and college.I must say that you are among the most wonderful people on Earth.Even if your region is small,it is the most diverse region in the country.I happen to be a guy but I simply admire the way in which you treat your women.We have so many things to learn from you.

    I would humbly request you not to view all Indians as your oppressors.I hate to oppress others as much as I hate to be oppressed by others.I am an egalitarian at heart.

    Let me compare our situation with that in Spain.I would say that we are the Catalans of Spain while you (and others) can be compared to the Basques of Spain.The Basques know that the Catalans are not their oppressors.The real scoundrels are the Castilians in Madrid.So please do not view all Indians as your oppressors.Please !

    I do not think that I am in a position to tell you what to do.I know that my situation is different from yours.So I will not even attempt to tell you what to do.

    All I can request you to do is to carefully think thrice before you take any decision . . . we live in a very,very volatile world at the moment and no one knows what will happen next . . . I hope that you will take a decision that is in the best interests of your region and its wonderful people.

  92. moneche permalink
    February 23, 2008 2:10 am

    Thanks people for your response, yea I agree at getting independence is not possible at this point. Or even if we get it what will be the future,but to assume that we will go down to poverty is wrong .Thats the same notion the british used that Indians can not govern themself and need the white men’s guidence to lift them from poverty.Did not they?=)
    I agree fully with Raj that this are volatile times and yea I have nothing against the union bt just like some more freedom within. I have mentioned before a more federal system is the requirement of the moment. India is too big to be governed from New Delhi.But its seems that this will not be forthcoming so thats why I was thinking perhaps being free makes more sense(or no sense)?But time will be the judge for that.
    And Das Gupta, I would like to add this information as to how the Mizo rebellion was put to an end.(very peacefull indeed)=). I bet this piece of information was not given out by the Indian media.

  93. moneche permalink
    February 23, 2008 2:18 am

    And yea I would like to appologize if any of my comments seem to be condosending to anyone. Sometimes I am just trying to be sarcastic. =)

  94. Raj permalink
    February 23, 2008 3:07 pm


    I apologise if I have said something that I should not have said.But I did not want you to apologise.I had just requested you to count me out when you refer to the people who have treated you the way they have.I never had any hand in it.I hate to oppress others as much as I hate to be oppressed by others.As a human being,I can empathise with my fellow humans (in any part of the world) who have been wronged.Whether I was personally affected by that or not does not matter.

    You should not apologise ! Others have to apologise to you ! Recently,(the Australian Prime Minister) Kevin Rudd apologised for what Australia had done to the Native Australian people over the years.He was courageous enough to realise the miseries inflicted upon his fellow countrymen and apologise for that.He is a true leader ! The opposition politicians did not want him to apologise.But he did ! Though it can never completely heal the wounds that were inflicted on the hearts of the Native Australians,at least it will ensure that the wounds turn into scars and that will ensure a better future for all Australians.No country (however rich it may be) can call itself developed or even civilised if some of its citizens are treated badly.

    Though the situation in India is very different from that in Australia,I hope the day when India gets a leader like Kevin Rudd is not too far away.Historical wrongs can never be set right by brushing them under the carpet.They have to be tackled with the courage,honesty,candour,wisdom and sensitivity that they require.That is the only way forward if we are to become a developed nation.

  95. February 24, 2008 1:43 am

    This topic is a good one..Well, as far as I can say, forget about NE being treated somewhat differently, my point is if women of India are treated like sex toys and e.g like the Gateway of India a shame.
    Going back to how India treats NE, I say I don’t even feel proud to be an Indian if India treats girls and women from NE is a abusive way..When i was in Delhi , I never ever tried to or tease any Delhi girls, instead me and my frens from NE has outmost respect towards them. Then why does they treat our girls like sex symbols or you know, saying its easy to have relationship with . Hell no! this is insane, even though India maybe the gr8est economic power in the world in years to come, if this mentality is for to stay, I say India is still uncivilised…..May god bless us all…

  96. I. Das Gupta permalink
    February 24, 2008 11:58 pm

    Another slightly less acknowledged factor is how Partition left the Northeast geographically ‘hanging’ onto the rest of India. Once East Pakistan (later, Bangladesh) was created all that linked Assam and the other states was a narrow stretch of land known as the “Chicken’s Neck”, which connected the northern part of West Bengal to the Assam border.

    I don’t want to get to deep into this, but if Partition never happened, and Pakistan and Bangladesh remained with India, the map would look like something considerably different. Given that the eastern side of Bengal wouldn’t be neglected by the centre, the North-East could have been very well connected with India, as they’d be sharing a much larger border with the entire Bengal region (again, hypotethetically speaking if Partition never occured). Communication and infrastructure would do a long way in helping, in my opinion.

  97. March 10, 2008 2:07 pm

    “The isolation of the Northeastern states began earlier as a result of British imperialism, when the region was cut-off from its traditional trading partners (Bhutan, Myanmar and Indo-China). In 1947 Indian independence and partition made this a landlocked region, exacerbating the isolation that is being recognized lately, but not studied yet. Soon it became a captive market for mainstream India. The Northeast has a strong genetic similarity with the peoples of East Asia.. The northeastern states with just 25 out of a total of 543 seats in the Lok Sabha are politically insignificant in Delhi.
    The northeastern states are home to many ethnic groups, that are engaged in self-preservation. In recent times, some of these struggles have turned violent, leading to proliferation of armed insurgent groups, like the ULFA, NLFT, NFDB and NSCN. Soon after the Sino-Indian War of 1962 and especially after the rise of insurgency in the region, security influence on policies has increased. ” extracts from wikepedia.
    The worst thing that could ever happen is the AFSPA act. This is pure discrimination.

    The AFSPA Act is a henious act and I too think it should be repealed. But what you said earlier, about NE people having more of a genetic similarity to the East Asians, is what worries the Govt. It is also Chinese propaganda. 🙂 It’s not just people of the NE, every region in India is genetically different.
    As long as there is any threat from separatists the Act will not go. It is extremely important for the violence to stop otherwise the Act will not go. I am not saying it should stay, just pointing out the reality. Frankly the separatists can only harm their own regions because India will not let go. We are of one nation Yanger and I firmly believe that it is in the interest of the NE to be a part of this country, India. They will nto survive alone and being a part of China is worse. You know what happened to Tibet. – Nita.

  98. monechee permalink
    March 10, 2008 3:07 pm

    HI Nita and All,
    I would like you read this blog
    and comment on what you think. I am trying to make people aware of the problems in NE, the Blogger has his point of view but I would like to know other peoples too.
    I know I would sound little conservative when I say preserve tibal lands.But thats one of the root problem that we are facing with mass migration(both foreign or Indian) which threaten to wipe us off. Maybe with your help we can make people aware of the problems of mass migration and the demographic changes that would dangerously ulter the population and culture, not to even speak of all the turmoil it will bring.

    I tried to read that piece but I found it very confusing. Frankly I have no idea what the author is trying to say. However, what you said about the indigenous cultures getting disturbed by an influx of immigrants, this is happening in Maharashtra too. I have written about this here and that post got more than 200 comments. But as a Maharashtrian I say that free movement if people should be allowed all over India for the sake of economic development. However, the immigrants should respect local culture and if they don’t, the govt. should make it mandatory for them and one of the way is make it compulsory in schools and colleges. Also preference should be given to local people for jobs, specially for the labour classes.
    As for violence, I hate violence. Violence solves nothing. – Nita.


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