Attacking the ‘Shadow Nation’

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The news report of May 24 that of a woman lawyer and her two friends from northeast being chased by a group of lawyers, who slapped and threatened her is condemnable beyond any words. The incident was an out fall of an alleged molestation of the woman from Nagaland studying at the Delhi University by a lawyer at the Vishwavidyalaya Metro station on the evening of May 22. According to the news report carried by the Indian Express, the accused lawyer allegedly passed lewd remarks at the woman student from Nagaland. The woman objected and then the accused came close and molested her. Passers-by near the Metro station nabbed the lawyer and handed him to the police. On the following day the woman along with her lawyer and friends went to court. An unruly mob of lawyers chased and attacked them in the court premises. They warned the victim with dire consequences if the case is not withdrawn against the accused lawyer. Court staff had to call the police as the mob of lawyers was getting uncontrollable. The counsel of the woman has alleged that the lawyers even tore the shirt of the investigation officer. They threw ink on the files of the investigating officer. It was also reported that some students representatives of northeast student bodies based in Delhi, who accompanied the victim to express their solidarity were not spared from the attack. Here, we would like to dismiss the shock element of ‘law practitioners’ breaking the law at a court premise. We would leave the matter at the disposal of the law itself, as there has been report of FIRs being registered against the violent lawyers. Incidents of attack on the people from the northeast in different parts of the country, more particularly in the Capital city of Delhi are not new occurrences. These have been going almost on a regular basis. There have been deliberations among the concerned citizens ranging from the people in academics to the civil organisations on these issues. Groups are being formed at various levels for a positive intervention. For instance a voluntary group based in Delhi was in Imphal a few days back. The group has promised to provide all possible assistance to the people of the northeast like free transportation and medical care in the Capital for a safe stay. These are the words of the Samaritans with a skewed perspective, we would say. As many commentators would often say that there is a need to bring the people of the northeast into the ‘mainstream’, and that people to people interaction must be encouraged. Agreed that India as a country is a mosaic of cultural and ethnic identities. But case like racial segregation cannot be handled by slogan like ‘unity in diversity’ unless the issue is addressed from the vantage point of the Indian state, of how they perceived the northeast. The stark reality like the imposition of draconian law of Armed Forces Special Powers Act in the states of northeast India should be the entry point to locate skewed perspective. Perry Anderson in his ‘Indian Ideology’ takes a critical look of the ‘unspoken realities of the Indian polity’. Anderson quotes historian Ananya Vajpeyi, who says ‘what AFSPA effectively does is to create an entirely separate space within India, a sort of second and shadow nation, that functions as a military state rather than electoral democracy’. Though Anderson does not prescribe fully to Ananya’s contestation on AFSPA viv-à-vis the northeast in the context of debating on the idea of India as a republic; we, however, would burrow Ananya’s ‘shadow nation’ to contextualise the skewed perspective of the Indian state and its ‘mainstream’ people particularly towards the northeast people. There is an AFSPA like approach employed by the ‘mainland’ people while dealing with the northeast people. Racial discrimination is another form of AFSPA, and this perhaps is another dimension where from we can engage the debate afresh.

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