NEW DELHI, June 3 (Mail Today): A large number of people from the North-East come to the metros for education and jobs.
The next time you decide to call a person from the North-East a `Chinki`, you could end up cooling your heels behind bars for the next five years.
Growing incidents of racial discrimination and verbal abuse against citizens from the North-East have forced the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to send a letter to all the states and Union Territories, asking them to book offenders guilty of atrocity against people from the region under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act since a significant number of persons from the North-East belong to the Scheduled Tribes.
Under the law, an offender can end up spending five years in jail and the accused could be denied anticipatory bail as well. And in case the police fail to act on a complaint, he/ she could be imprisoned for a term which should not be less than six months and may be extended to a year.
The Act, considered draconian by many because of its harsh provisions, was put to use vigorously in Uttar Pradesh during Mayawati`s rule to check atrocities against people from the lower castes.
According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), 6,272 persons were booked under the Act in Uttar Pradesh in 2010. But the implementation of the Act has been rare when it comes to major cities. Just 16 persons were booked under the Act in Delhi in 2010.
In the letter, MHA joint secretary (centre-state) S. Suresh Kumar has admitted that people from the North-East do face abuse in major cities and feel insecure.
“A sizeable number of persons belonging to the North-Eastern states are residing in metropolitan cities and in major urban areas of the country for education and employment. It is reported that people originating from these North-Eastern states are facing discrimination as they are addressed with derogatory adjectives or face discrimination in the form of targeted attacks, assault, molestation and other atrocities,” the letter, a copy of which is in possession of Mail Today, states.
“This has caused considerable anguish and distress in the minds of people from the North-East. Hence, it is of utmost importance that this feeling of insecurity and negativity in the minds of the people should be assuaged by an adequate and pro-active response that would not only reassure them but also prove that the government would not tolerate discrimination in any form,” it adds.
The MHA estimates that most North-East persons in major cities belong to the ST category. According to a provision under Section 3 of the SC/ ST Act , an offence will be committed if any member of the SC/ ST category is “deliberately insulted and humiliated in public view.”
Not just the victim, but anyone who knows that an offence has been committed under the Act can lodge a complaint. The police are empowered under the Act to arrest the offender without any warrant and launch an investigation.
The MHA letter says that if a complaint is received from any citizen hailing from the North-East but no follow-up action is taken, then a “serious view” should be taken against the police officer concerned and also the officer incharge of the police station.
“If the complainant from the North-East is a member of the Scheduled Tribes, then the provision of Section 4 of the SC/ ST Act should be invoked,” the letter states.