I hail from one of the states that form what is referred to as North-East India, a cluster of states which ‘mainland India’ cannot or doesn’t want to distinguish from one another, I live in Delhi and I would like a copy of the booklet – Security Tips for Northeast Students/Visitors in Delhi. I too want to know firsthand how ‘others’ want me to act like.

While the booklet might have been issued in good spirit, but it ends up sending the wrong message and gives further credence to the unfounded presumptions about people from the far eastern regions of the country that many in ‘mainland India’ harbour. The officer behind this initiative, Robin Hibu, is himself a north easterner and an IPS officer from the Arunachal Pradesh cadre.

I too had my share of experience of being an unknown Indian, but being a Bengali by ethnicity and the fact that I don’t look like a ‘chinky’ (it is a derogatory and racist term) I’m spared many of the asperities that others have to face.

Since I’m yet to read the actual booklet and am basing my observations on media reports, I wouldn’t like to comment much. But here are some excerpts from what appeared in the papers:

* A proud father sent his only daughter in Delhi to make her IAS/IPS but she returned back as drug addict, promising boy landed into police case for drunken brawl, late night parties with loud music landed six youngsters into police case, revealing dressed up parties lass was molested and thrown out from moving vehicle badly bruised after being outraged…

* Dress code: When in rooms do as Roman does (sic)

* Revealing dress be (sic) avoided. Avoid lonely road/bylane when dressed scantily. Dress according to sensitivity of the local populace

* Bamboo shoot, Akhuni and other smelly dishes should be prepared without creating ruckus in neighbourhood.

Anyone with a dress sense will agree to the fact that north easterners do know how to dress well (especially the females) and the connection between dressing and sexual harassment is something which The Blank Noise Project is trying to disprove.

Food is a personal choice as well as a cultural one. I savour the ‘smelly food’ and on my flight from home last night, a quarter of my luggage was occupied by the ‘smelly’ stuff. I don’t like anyone else to dictate my food habits and would like it to remain that way.

The interesting observation that emerges from this controversy is that most of the time efforts are being made to assimilate the North East with the ‘mainstream.’ Why isn’t there anything visible which strives towards making the ‘mainstream’ understand the North East better? Cultural hegemony…

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