Home Minister P. Chidambaram Friday denied that students from the northeast were rampantly discriminated against and said the government had taken steps to curb a “subtle discrimination” against any section of the society in the country.
Chidambaram was speaking in the Rajya Sabha following a calling attention notice by Leader of Opposition Arun Jaitley over the deaths of three northeast students in Gurgaon, Delhi and Bangalore.
“It is not correct to say that students of northeast states are more vulnerable as compared to students from other regions,” Chidambaram said, replying to Jaitley who alleged “racial profiling and discrimination towards students of northeast, who go to different parts of the country”.
Dana Sangma, the niece of Meghalaya Chief Minister Mukul Sangma, an MBA student in Amity University in Gurgaon, was found hanging from the ceiling fan of her hostel room last month after a teacher allegedly accused her of cheating during exam. This has been denied by the university.
Delhi University student Samiran Saikia from Assam also committed suicide, due to examination pressure, while Richard Loitam from Manipur was found dead in his room, allegedly after being badly thrashed.
Chidambaram said police were investigating the deaths after registering cases and conducting post-mortems.
Chidambaram said there was a “subtle discrimination” against various sections of the society.
“Sometimes ago it was based on the language. Sometimes it was based on regions. Every south Indian who came to Delhi was called a Madrasi. But things have changed now,” said the minister who hails from the southern state of Tamil Nadu.
He said the government encourages “lots of northeast people, especially boys and girls, coming to the rest of India for better opportunities”.
“Their initial reaction will be sense of discrimination. I am confident that this sense of discrimination will go,” he said, adding that the government will take steps to ensure their security.
“I am confident that all state governments will discharge their constitutional responsibilities to ensure the safety and security of all people residing within that state.”
“I wish to state categorically that any student belonging to northeast is free to travel and reside in any part of the country. They have right to security and peace and governments are obliged to ensure their safety and security.”
He said far as Delhi is concerned, a “lot of measures have been taken”.
Eight cases of offences against women from the northeastern state were registered in the capital in 2010, he said.
“Seven of these have been worked out and 11 persons arrested. In 2011, seven cases were registered, six prosecuted and 10 people arrested,” the home minister said.
He said the government in Delhi had designated deputy commissioner of police-level officers as nodal officers to specifically address problems faced by students from northeast.
“A northeast connect cell, headed by a joint secretary-level officer has been formed that serves as a coordination point with resident commissioners of eight northeastern states (in the capital),” he added.
Some members raised the issue of alleged racial profiling during the March 29 BRICS summit in Delhi during which police had detained some Tibetans amid apprehension that they would disrupt the high profile meeting attended by Chinese President Hu Jintao. The police had also detained northeastern people, who have Oriental features, during the raid.
The police, the home minister said, “have categorically stated that there was no racial profiling”.
“During the checking process some Indians, including a few from the northeastern states were detained for a short while and let off as soon as their identities were confirmed.”