Is Discrimination A Reality?


By Kishalay Bhattarcharjee and Ashish Ranjan

(Fomer NDTC correspondent now heads a mission under Reachout Foundation, to study the underlying causes behind many disturbing social trends. As a start, he and his team came up with a fairly comprehensive report on the matter of racism and discrimination against people from the Northeast region residing in the National capital region. We are reproducing here a substantial portion of their findings in from their first survey.)

With frequent reports of alleged racist attacks in Delhi and the National Capital Region, Reachout Foundation perceived a lack of comprehensive data on the nature of alleged discrimination against people from Northeastern India in cities like Delhi. Our emphasis thus has been to generate comprehensive and defensible empirical data on the extent and variation of racist attitudes and experiences, in order that they could inspire or guide anti-discrimination policies.

The main objective of the present survey is to understand the extent and scope of ethnic/racial discrimination perceived by people from India`™s Northeast living in Delhi-NCR. The targeted population for the survey were people from all the eight north-eastern states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura who are currently living in Delhi and the NCR (Ghaziabad, Noida and Gurgaon). The respondents were selected using mixed sampling techniques of probability and non-probability methods. The targeted sample was of 1000 respondents across thirty different locations in Delhi and the NCR.

Is discrimination a reality for those individuals from the Northeast who are living in Delhi? While we can`™t say for certain whether or not these individuals have been discriminated against, the study reveals that slightly more than half of respondents perceived as such.

What Are The Kinds Of Discrimination?

The study reveals that majority of respondents who felt discriminated said that they faced ethnic or racial discrimination. 67 per cent respondents said that they were the victims of ethnic/racial discrimination while 4 per cent claimed gender discrimination and 3 per cent said they were discriminated on basis of their religion. 11 per cent respondents did not express any opinion on this.

Males and females reported along similar lines when it came to the basis of discrimination. Both females and males identified their ethnicity as the greatest determinant of discrimination. Ethnic/ racial discrimination exist among 77 per cent of male as compared to 74 per cent female respondents who think that ethical/racial discrimination is what they have experienced in their stay in Delhi-NCR.

If we see the gender division for admission of facing discrimination we find that women are the worst victims of discrimination though the gender ratio is not much different.

If we look at the educational background of those who experienced discrimination, two aspects emerge. First, the achieved sample overwhelmed with the educated respondents and found such a small portion of individuals who received lower level of education.

Second, of those who endured discrimination, 90 per cent of them were either undergraduate or post-graduate and they claimed that they have faced discrimination of some sort. The table below indicates that how people from different levels of education have faced discrimination.

If we consider the profession of the respondents, students are more likely to report having experienced discrimination. Their proportion is very high as against other groups. Among those who have faced discrimination, 60 per cent were students followed by people engaged in private enterprises and private services. Government employees are the least who admitted to have faced discrimination.

Although the difference among the victims of discrimination are very different in terms of their profession which also depends on their number in Delhi, but across the various professions the opinion is more or less the same. The graph (Figure 6a) displays the percentage of individuals who reported experiencing discrimination by profession.

Of those individuals who were surveyed, the greatest percentage (60%) reported they had been discriminated against were between the ages of 22 and 30. Forty percent were below 22 years of age, and 11% were over the age of 40.

How Is The Situation In Delhi In Terms Of Discrimination?

The situation in Delhi regarding racial/ethnic discrimination is most worrying at least for the Northeast people. 74 per cent respondents said that Delhi is the most unsafe place in terms of ethnic discrimination. Only 8 per cent felt that it is the least worrying place regarding ethnic discrimination while 18 per cent did not express their opinion about it. The table below indicates the different opinions regarding this.

The survey reveals that both male and female respondents are on the same page when they talk about the issue of discrimination in Delhi. The graph below depicts that three fourth of male and female respondents said that the problem of discrimination in Delhi is most worrying. The number of female is little higher than the male.

Locations Where Respondents Reported Experiencing Discrimination:

Knowing where individuals reported having experienced discrimination can help us target advocacy work around those locations. The majority of respondents who reported experiencing discrimination experienced it either at a restaurant or sporting or public places (27%). These locations were followed by 24 per cent at the educational institutions and 23 per cent during buying or renting of houses.13 per cent of them said that they faced discrimination at their work place and 7 per cent people informed that even police did not treat them equally.

Response To Discrimination:

Most of the respondents who faced discrimination did not give any response on the question about what measures they took when they faced this problem. The worrying statistic is only 4 per cent of the victims of discrimination reported it to the police. While only 4 percent reported the discriminatory act to police, 24 percent shared their experience with a friend or family member. The experience of being discriminated is so embarrassing to them that only 18 per cent of them informed their friends but not their families while 12 per cent did not say anything to anyone. The graph below shows the people in Delhi who faced discrimination and the measures they took after experiencing a discriminatory act.

The findings of the survey reveal that more male are indifferent about this issue than female. However, the data suggests that more males decline to answer this question than females. 44 per cent of males did not respond as compared to 34 per cent females.

Most of the males just shared their experiences with their friends but not with their family. Far more females as compared to the males have discussed it with their family and friends. 35 per cent females have reported about being discriminated to their family and friends but haven`™t informed to the police as compared to 19 per cent of male respondents.

Rajya Sabha (Indian Parliament) on 19.02.2014 regarding `Discrimination against People from NER` the government provided number of cases registered in Delhi during the last three years by people from the Northeast. In 2011, 27 cases were registered against a total of 59249. In 2012 there were 50 cases against 60367 FIRs and in 2013, 73 cases were filed against the total number of 86564. Since there is no specific data on the number of people from Northeast India residing in Delhi, one cannot establish the population ratio and infer the proportion of cases registered by people from Northeast from this data.

Perception About Themselves

The main reason for discrimination against them was their ethnic origin. 63 per cent of the sampled respondents asserted that they faced discrimination due to their ethnic origin. Amongst them who asserted discrimination due to their ethnic origin, 15 per cent of them said that they faced it very often or many a times while 48 per cent said that they faced discrimination due to their ethnic origin only some times. While only 24 per cent said that they were never discriminated due to their ethnic origin. The graph below indicates this story.

One of the most worrying trends is that the respondents feel they are being looked upon with suspicion. Only 41 per cent said that people never treated them with mistrust. Most of the respondents said that there is trust deficit between them and other `Indian people`™. 12 per cent of them have very negative feelings about this issue and they claimed that often people do not trust them. 31 per cent of them said that people suspect them some times while 16 per cent of said that they hardly ever came across such kind of issue.

Identity is very important in our lives. But it can be humiliating if we are addressed by offensive names/ terms. 56 per cent respondents say that they were addressed by offensive names. Around 20 per cent claim that people used offensive words to identify them. While 37 per cent said they have faced such slur only sometimes.

They may be victims of discrimination themselves but they recognize that discrimination happens with others as well. The data suggests that when they came across ethnic groups being discriminated, most of them said that they did take measures to protest. More than 80 percent respondents say that they have gone out of their way to help others. Among them 54 per cent said that they helped them while 31 per cent claimed that they have spoken against the offence. 12 per cent respondents did not say anything on this issue while 3 per cent said they would walk away in such a situation.

The Causes Of Discrimination:

The major cause for discrimination that emerged from the survey was prejudice and lack of awareness about the Northeast people. 64 per cent respondents said the reason behind discrimination is the lack of understanding/ awareness about people from the Northeast. 13 per cent claimed that it is the indifference towards people from the Northeast by others that lead to discrimination against them. While 20 per cent said that the major cause of discrimination is lack of interaction among the people from Northeast and others.

There is not much difference between male and female respondents regarding their views on the causes of discrimination. Both male and female think that prejudices and lack of understanding against people from Northeast are the major causes for ethnic discrimination. Similarly there is not much difference between male and female who think that indifference and lack of interaction are the main causes of the discrimination.

Awareness About The Law And Procedure:

Only 40 per cent respondents know of a department set up by the government that can help the ethnic groups facing discrimination while rest 60 per cent do not have any idea about this kind of set up which could be of some help to them.

Way Forward:

The most positive response is that most people hope that discrimination will be eliminated. They feel that the government and social bodies will be integral in addressing the problem of discrimination. 35 per cent of them said that government would be the most important driver in this while 29 per cent think that social workers would be the best suited to solve the problems. 17 per cent respondents said that ethnic groups themselves have to play a part to reduce discrimination. 19 per cent people could not say anything on this.

What Would Be The Best Way To Handle The Problem Of Ethnic Discrimination?

The respondents think that education is the most preferred way to handle this problem.

68 per cent respondents chose education as most effective vehicle, while 18 per cent consider that only regulation and laws can solve it. 10 per cent said that setting up more social organization would be helpful to deal with this issue. Rest 4 per cent did not express their opinion.

What they think about Delhi?

Delhi can be free from discrimination. At least 47 per cent respondents have hope that this city can be free from discrimination in the future while 30 per cent have negative feelings regarding this and they think that it cannot be free from this attitude. 21 per cent do not have any concrete idea whether Delhi would be free from discrimination or not.


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