Campaign against racism

Racism is an abiding problem in India, where it intersects with the hierarchies of caste, religion, region, class, background, gender, sexuality, ability, and other realities. People from the north-east of India are regularly subjected to racial discrimination and violence.

Following the lynching of college student Nido Tania in January 2014, the Bezbaruah Committee was constituted. Its mandate was to research the racially motivated discrimination and daily violence faced by north-eastern communities settled in other parts of India, especially in metropolitan areas. It was also asked to suggest measures which could be implemented by the Government of India.

The Bezbaruah recommendations

The committee held public consultations across India amongst communities of people from North East India, and subsequently made five key recommendations. As evidenced below, the recommendations are wide-ranging, thorough, and cognisant of both short- and long-term measures that can be taken to prevent racially motivated discrimination and hate crimes against people from the north-east of India.

The Bezbaruah Committee filed its report with the Home Ministry on 11 July 2014. They advised the Home Ministry to implement these recommendations in a timeline ranging from six months to a year.

The recommendations are as follows:

  1. New law against discrimination:
    • Either a new law to be promulgated as directed by the Delhi High Court, or the Indian Penal Code to be amended
    • Offences to be cognisable and non-bailable
    • Investigation of FIR to be completed within sixty days by a special squad
    • FIR should be investigated by a police officer not below the rank of deputy SP or ACP
    • Special prosecutor to be appointed to handle all cases of racial atrocity
    • Trial to be completed within 90 days
  2. Fast-track courts and special police squads:
    • Fast-track courts to be created for cases relating to people from the north-east, particularly on racially motivated and heinous crimes against women and children from the north-east.
    • Especially designated public prosecutors to be appointed for cases involving people from the north-east. These must be appropriately trained, and sensitised.
    • Special squad supervised by north-east special police unit to ensure speedy justice in criminal cases. Such squad to be manned by people especially selected for the purpose, especially trained and sensitised on the problems of people from the north-east.
  3. Interventions in education:
    • Suitable and innovative ways to be devised to integrate all aspects of the north-east into the consciousness of people outside of the north-east.
    • Recommended: When the next NCERT takes place,
    • all teacher training institutes to be advised to include sensitising material in syllabus for trainees,
    • universities and schools outside the north-east to make projects on the north-east a mandatory part of course curricula.
    • Detailed socio-economic study on nature of student migration for the north-east, in order to provide insight for the planning of higher education in the region. Note: This is based on the high migration of students for higher education to Delhi and other metros, in part due to the absence of institutions of excellence in the north-east.
  4. Social media outreach and legal awareness campaigns:
    • Recommended:
    • Legal awareness campaigns in neighbourhoods that have a significant presence of members from the north-east
    • Legal awareness campaigns on legal rights during introductory lectures for university students
    • Considering the role of social media in the connectivity and communication within the community, a dedicated Facebook page to be created.
    • Nodal police officers to be in constant touch with members of the community on WhatsApp.
  5. Bonding powers of sports:
    • Recommended: Ministry to hold international and national events regularly in the north-east, in order to increase harmony and understanding.
    • Ministry to review status of present facilities and assess if they are suitable for such events.
    • If not, such facilities should be created in every state in the north-east.
    • Indigenous games from the north-east to be promoted.

Series of attacks in October 2014

Three months after the submission of the report, a series of attacks happened within one week in various parts of the country. In Bangalore, a group of students from the north-east were attacked for not speaking Kannada. In New Delhi, a North-eastern woman was stabbed to death. And in Bangalore, two young men from Nagaland were assaulted with iron rods and sticks, and told “Tell your north-east people to go home.” And while this happened the Home Ministry made no mention of implementing the Bezbaruah report’s recommendations.

Jhatkaa’s petition

Following these attacks, Jhatkaa launched a signature petition addressed to Minister Rijiju, Minister for Home Affairs, urging him to take action against racially motivated attacks on people from the north-east. The organisation simultaneously launched Facebook content on the campaign specifically calling on the government to implement the Bezbaruah Report — the only organisation to call for this during this time.

Jhatkaa’s advocacy with the Home Ministry

  • First meeting

In November 2014, Jhatkaa met with Deputy Joint Secretary of the North-east Division, Mr. Supriyo Saha. This was a few hours before a meeting on the implementation of the Bezbaruah Committee Report between state representatives and the joint secretaries of relevant ministries. Mr. Saha invited Jhatkaa to meet with him after the state level meeting, and promised to take action.

The Home Ministry then directed all states to file an affidavit by November 7th on how each of them would implement the report. These affidavits would then be submitted to the Delhi High Court, which would hear the case on 12th November, and direct the Home Ministry on the report’s implementation.

During this period throughout November and December Jhatkaa followed up with the Home Ministry almost every day to find out the progress and understand what the next steps were.

  • Second meeting

In December 2014, Jhatkaa met with Mr. Ajay Kanojia, Deputy Director, Northeast Division at the Home Ministry.

Mr. Kanoujia said that since the Bezbaruah committee had recommended a minimum of six months’ time to start the implementation, the Ministry’s target timeline was on 11th January 2015, i.e. exactly six months from the date the report was submitted to them. He also added that they’d already begun to implement the education reforms.

Mr. Kanoujia admitted that things had been moving far too slowly, and thanked Jhatkaa for their pressure. “On Bezbaruah [report], you [Jhatkaa] asked us ten times a day “what is happening”, “what are you doing on it”, “you promised to implement it” and this put constant pressure on us to fulfil the promises and statements we made,” he said.

  • Third meeting

In January 2015, Mr. Ajay Kanoujia invited Jhatkaa for a meeting to share progress. He said that the report had been officially accepted, and that the implementation of reforms had begun.

  • Final notes on campaign

On 2 January 2015, The Ministry of Home Affairs publicly announced via a press release that they had accepted and started implementing the immediate measures recommended by the Bezbaruah Committee.  This public announcement included a detailed account of which measures had already been taken and which were in the process of being implemented.

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