Dr. Ajailiu Niumai presented a paper entitled “Racial Discrimination: An Experience of North East Indians in the Metropolises” in the International Sociological Association (ISA) Forum of Sociology, in Research Committee (05) – session on “Cultures of Violence and Contemporary Racism” on 12th July 2016 in University of Vienna, AUSTRIA. She highlighted that the North East region is the melting point of South Asia and South East Asia, as a result of which there is an interesting microcosm of cultures that reflect both the regions, which is uniquely of its own, and do not necessarily reflect the mainstream Indian counterpart in their society and culture. She raised a question as to why the North East Indian women are the easy targets of comprehending the social realities of the hyphenated identities of being a North East Indian. She argues that the “idea of India” and “Indian as an identity” is questioned by the gender and racial discrimination meted out against the North East Indians. She emphasized that the racial approach stems from ignorance and their distinct cultures that are seen as a threat to culture of mainland people that has led to “othering” of people from North East India. The caste-based Indian societies consider the North East people (especially boys and girls) as polluted socially, culturally and religiously. The notion of “we” (mainstream Indians) signifies “sacred” and “they” (North East people) represents “profane” in Durkheim’s perspective.
The North East people are not accepted as equal fellow citizens and part of the larger society because of their appearance, attire, and cultural differences. Such “Indian psyche” in Sudhir’s Kakar’s jargon is the root cause of discrimination faced by North East people in metropolises. It destroys the philosophy of unity in diversity that remains a distinctive problem that facilitated the mass exodus of around 30,000 North East people due to fear psychosis that was triggered by a SMS hate campaign in various India’s metropolises, which began when people left Bengaluru in July 2012. She uses “push and pull” theory to analyze the intersection of race, caste and gender.
She highlighted about the death of Nido Tania from Arunachal Pradesh in New Delhi in 2014, Richard Loitam from Manipur who was murdered brutally in Bengaluru, and Dana Sangma who committed suicide in her hostel room on 24th April 2012 at Amity University in Pune as she could not take the pressure of being racially profiled. She argues that the mass protest against racism in many metropolises became symbolic in capturing the imagination of the nation on racism issue. In conclusion, she pointed out that the rights to life, to live and to be included in the mainstream society are denied to North East Indians in many forms. Many do not get justice from the law enforcing agencies. Hence, we need to think of mechanisms and policies in which we tackle these challenges effectively.
With Co-Presenters during the Conference on 12th July 2016
University of Vienna
With the President of International Association of Sociology (ISA) Prof. Margaret Abraham, the former Vice-President of ISA Prof. Rita & Prof. Rajesh, former Secretary of Indian Sociological Society (ISS)
As an international outreach, she had interacted with Prof. Phil. Hannelore Lotzke in the Institute of Asian & African Studies, Humboldt University of Berlin, Berlin, Germany on 15th July 2016. She also visited and spent time in their institute’s library.
Parliament of Austria
Ajailiu Niumai is the Associate Professor, Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion & Inclusive Policy, and Joint faculty, Centre for Women’s Studies, University of Hyderabad, India. She is formerly the UGC Raman Post Doctoral Fellow under the INDO-US Knowledge Initiative (2013-14) & Visiting Scholar in the Department of Gender, Women’s and Sexuality Studies, University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa, USA.