Michael Haokip was attacked in Bangalore for not speaking the local language (photo: Hindustan Times)
A startling upsurge in racial attacks has been reported in the past week from Delhi and Bangalore. The targets have been people from north-eastern states and from Africa, with locals attacking them as outsiders. This trend once again exposes Indian society as being inherently racist. According to The Economic Times, “It comes naturally to Indians to practise vicious racism at home and still wax outraged when Indians abroad come up against racial discrimination.”
Take the attack on 26-year old Michael Lamjathang Haokip, an engineering student from Manipur. Bangalore is supposed to be a cosmopolitan city and home to India’s Silicon Valley, but Michael was attacked with stones by three men who allegedly demanded that he "speak in the Kannada language or get out".
"They said you are eating Karnataka food, living in Karnataka. If you don't speak Kannada please get out. We ignored them, but they took it as an insult. They picked up stones and attacked us and I got injured," Michael told NDTV, showing his bandaged head and blood-splattered clothes.
The alleged perpetrators were school cab drivers and have been arrested for assault.
Bangalore was earlier in the news in 2012, when an SMS threatening north-eastern students was being circulated, leading to their mass exodus from the city.
The national capital, meanwhile, has an even worse history of racial attacks. On Wednesday, two BPO employees from Nagaland working in Gurgaon were allegedly abused and thrashed with cricket bats and hockey sticks by a group of residents.
The attack left Awang Neomi and Aloto Chisi with head injuries and deep wounds on their arms and legs. The perpetrators also cut off Awang's hair before warning the duo: "We'll stop here so that you can tell other people from the northeast living here to leave immediately."
The police filed a case based on Aloto's statement and have charged seven youths for attempt to murder. But no arrests have been made so far. According to Dalbir Singh, assistant commissioner of police DLF, the police are conducting raids to nab the seven alleged perpetrators.
This is merely the latest in a series of racist incidents targeting Indian citizens from the north-east who are living, studying or working in metros.
Last January, Delhi had seen protests over the death of 19-year-old Nido Taniam, who was attacked with iron rods by shopkeepers in Lajpat Nagar market after an altercation. The shopkeepers had allegedly mocked Nido's hairstyle and he had in turn thrown a rock at the store, shattering the display window.
Then in February this year, two Manipuri women were assaulted by men who hurled racist abuses at them in south Delhi's Kotla Mubarak area.
Minister of state for home Kiren Rijiju said on Saturday that the "government of India is 100 per cent committed to not allow repeated of such incidents."
"No stone will be left unturned to control such type of hate and racist attacks against northeast people," he said.
Yet hostility to outsiders who appear to be Chinese or African appears to be deep-rooted in Indian society. Last month, 3 black students were attacked by a mob in the Delhi Metro after a rumour spread that they had allegedly misbehaved with a woman. Whether this rumour was true or not, the men were thrashed by the mob at a station, despite policemen being present.
The attack was caught on camera and video clips have been posted on YouTube, but no one has been arrested so far. The police claims it has identified at least three men among the attackers. A case has been registered against unknown people for rioting.