Love thy neighbour

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By Tinky Ningombam

Prejudices and Steteotypes are age-old maladies in this world. And I believe as long as we have a thinking mind, we will always have a bias against someone. We will always hate someone or be hated. This is undisputed. The issue comes when people decide to act on the HATE.

“Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” Why do you think God had to get that written down in the commandments above all things? And why not “Love thy kids?” for that matter (sic). Because God knew man: that there will always be a neighbor that we don’t like.

So today I decided to painfully read up all the racist slurs, the debate and mostly hate comments that people anonymously post on their Social Media profile. And we arrive to the pick of the day. DISCRIMINATION: the buzz word of the season; thanks to the rather late awakening of some powerful people, who decided to sit up, only after the death of a young innocent kid.

I never knew what racial discrimination was until I was 17. I was in a catholic school most of my years before that, brought up amongst people from different parts of the state with different types of dialects. I never favored a friend because she was of a particular caste or class or religion. Then Delhi happened.  I was not prepared. I was never made to travel outside of my home-state.  It just never occurred to me that I needed to, I was happy in my shell, protected. And I know my dear small-town readers who came to this “City of Wonders” know what I am trying to say. Wondrous indeed. I cannot lie, Delhi gave me a lot of things to cherish, but equal amount of unwarranted discrimination as well. I needed to acclimatized to the stereotypes that people had against NE people. Maybe more than people are required to, when one moves generously from a place to the other.

I had always known people to tease me, if at all, JUST because I am a girl. And not because I looked different or looked “available”. The only way hence to not be ruffled by these random cat-calls and lecherous intent was to avoid public transport, cover up or just black out (ignore it).

But I found solace, surprisingly in the fact that all the other girls also had similar experiences, irrespective of any race, creed or color. Again, the intensity varied accordingly. To how easy or intimidating you are to a man’s eye. Now this is a typical girl story in Delhi, any girl who has ever lived here will most probably tell the same thing. A slight difference may be that richer girls get harassed in a posh area by richer people in a different way while in the case of a poor girl in their local habitat. I know I am being generic but you get my gist. But somehow it seemed different when it came to my girl friends from the North East. Men were bolder, more unashamed. The reason is but obvious. It is just territory.

Whenever I searched for a new flat, I would be scanned from top to bottom and asked whether I drink or smoke or partied or brought in men. Sometimes they just say NO before the questions come.

I have learnt to live in this city mostly by turning a blind eye to a lot of small irritating instances. Because if you pay attention to every cat-call, whistle or a nasty comment in this country where supposedly eve-teasing is a crime, then you will hear a lot of racial abuse as well.

I will complete an entire novel here if I write down memoirs of how much discrimination there is to people who come from our part of the world. The land of the talented. The natural haven. The forgotten paradise. The gateway to the south east. Or not ?

But in the bigger game-plan. All this prejudice, this racial hatred, it will not go away soon; it will only be directed to some- thing if not some-one else. The enemy of an enemy is a friend?  Yes, I am cynical. Because there is not going to be a one-fine day that we are going to wake-up and find people suddenly changed. How many hundreds of people are in the countries who do not accept hundreds of other people just because of their living habits, their religious inclinations or just the way they live. The only rational outcome of all the protests and war-cry that I see can only be stricter penalty. Penalties for people on discrimination. And a quicker course of Law against the culprits. And making people empowered to file those charges. If you can jail a gay person because he is gay, I am sure discrimination is no less a crime.

This is us. This is where we live. We are engulfed with discrimination – based on Racial or ethnic, Caste, Class, Nationality, Regional, Religious, Sex/gender, Sexual orientation, Disability, Age, Employment, Language. And racial discrimination is not just in Delhi or Mumbai or Chennai or Bangalore, not just in Manipur, its everywhere. It is just the matter of degree of intensity and who plays victim. Because sadly, we all have racially discriminated someone in some form some-time or the other. Now what we need to think of is how do we change others while changing our own selves?

(The author condemns the horrific crime against deceased victim Nido Taniam and expresses solidarity in the call for justice. Sometimes we search for years to find answers to the immortal question of “why we were borne”. Oftentimes, in death, we leave behind a bigger purpose. RIP Nido Taniam)

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