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 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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.