Racism. Castism. Social discrimination. Lately, we have been hearing a lot about all these issues. The world is facing severe societal turmoil everywhere. It’s like the black history of the world is coming back. But after every dark night, there comes the brightest light of the day, hope! And to everyone’s surprise, with more and more women falling victim to several societal issues, they are the bearers of the ray of hope!
In this article, I will talk about one such inspiration from Northeastern states of India. Yes, the area, from where people are discriminated the most. This woman, who is the youngest member of a conservative family, for whom it was difficult to get out of her home city, is now one of the most prominent activists. Her belief to stand for others who cannot stand for themselves made her come a long way despite all the obstacles. She is none other than Dr. Alana Golmei.
The roadblocks in her journey…
After completing her PhD from Manipur University, she decided to come to Delhi to fulfil her dreams. This was the time when her hardships started. Belonging from an orthodox family, she was denied to leave her city. But there were not many choices left because back then, Manipur did not give a scope of jobs for more than 10 years after the completion of studies. Hence, Dr. Golmei stood her ground and moved to Delhi, for which she had to quit all the connections with his elder brother for a year.
That was just the beginning.
We all know how northeastern states people face name-calling. But something that you might not know is the extent of assaults they have to face, physical, mental, and even economical. Well, Alana was no exception from that misery.
You know, how people never stop mocking others upon their weak points! Well, I surely know that because so many times, I had to face the same. This happened even with Dr. Alana Golmei. Due to her poor Hindi-speaking, the humiliation continued. It gives me goosebumps to think about her horrendous experiences.
The turning point…
Although nothing could stop her; rather she grew from the ashes of this crisis and built her own identity. And after watching her several interviews, I anticipated the more she got tormented, the stronger she became.
At first, I was surprised to know that after completing her PhD in Political Science, how come she found interest in doing such social work! Surprising isn’t it! Well, here comes the time when her life found a new meaning, I believe.
She was recruited in a rehabilitation centre for Burmese women refugees. With this project, she got closely acquainted with women who were victims of sexual assault and rapes.
“Unke samne toh mera problem kuch bhi nahin hain!” (My problem is nothing compared to them) she had exclaimed.
Speaking for change…
By then, she knew her motive in life. Alana decided to stand beside those who don’t have the courage to stand against the prejudices.
The decision went firm when she came across a group of youngsters from Northeast states of India who were not only discriminated but also sexually assaulted, harassed, and even underpaid. The cause of this rampant discrimation is not unknown to you, I hope; their clothes, their lifestyle, and of course, their looks, calling them ‘chinkey,’ and what not!
So, in 2007, she established the North East Support Centre & Helpline (NESCH) with a few of her associates. The response was shocking. Every month, they used to receive at least 30-40 calls with cases of assaults, harassments, and rapes.
To quote Dr. Alana Golmei, “They feel that every smartly dressed Northeastern woman is loose in character, every boy with spiked hair and tattoos is a drug addict or an alcoholic, and so they can be harassed. It is more of a mindset problem,” [Source]
Phase 2 of the roadblocks…
If you look at history, good things can never happen overnight. So, NESCH also went through all the struggle.
At first, there was a lack of manpower. The concept of this helpline was to operate 24/7 to be available for the victims always. But even though they managed to cope up with the minimal technical support, there was unbearable humiliation from Delhi police. In spite of solving the cases and focusing more on the crimes, the police were keener towards ridiculing their way of speaking of Hindi.
“The whole process of the court and the police station was very new and akin to a nightmare for youth from the Northeast,” said Dr. Golmei [Source]
Revising the psyche
Crossing all the barriers, Dr. Alana Golmei succeeded in her venture.
If I quote Alana here, “Many locals in Delhi admitted that they have a problem with the way people from the Northeast dress, the food they eat, etc. It only calls for more sensitisation and understanding,” [Source]
Yet, it was remarkable how the Delhi police started to realize, show empathy, and especially work on the committed crimes, ignoring all the discriminations.
Not only that the Delhi police has a separate cell for northeast, but also the volunteers from NESCH have collaborated with Delhi police helpline.
Because there was more to do…
Dr. Alana Golmei has long realized the importance of being there for the people of northeast India. Hence, it was in 2013 that she started another similar organization named Pann Nu Foundation.
You would be shocked to know that students from Northeast India do not even get similar accommodation facilities. The ones, who did not get to the hostels, had to rent places to stay. But the owners were reluctant to pay back their security deposits.
And along with that, the obvious and prevalent issues of harassment, especially in workplaces, were unstoppable.
Pann Nu Foundation took the pledge to get them away from the bullies and help them to have a life where they can be free and easy-going, just like you and me.
Though there were several, here I will share a single incident, which can surely clear the picture.
Told by Dr. Alana Golmei, herself:
There was a 23-years old northeastern girl, working at a parlor, and staying with her roommate at Malviya Nagar, Delhi. Her roommate left for a 2-weeks vacation to Manipur when the landlord and his brother-in-law came to her room, raped and murdered her.
Golmei and her peers went to lodge an FIR but the police denied claiming that the incident was abetment to suicide.
So, they decided to protest near the police station. 500 protesters. 27 hours. And finally, the FIR was lodged. [Source]
During my research, I was shocked to not being able to trace this incident. And it has been 8 years now. No justice has yet been served.
Has the discrimination ended?
Well, what do you think? Have you seen people stopped name-calling them? Or have you not been hearing cases of assaults and harassments?
The newest addition is Covid-19 pandemic. We all know how it all started in China. And with the resemblance in their look, people from Northeast India are now being called “coronavirus!”
Even Dr. Alana Golmei has also been called by this.
The ongoing revolt…
Dr. Alana Golmei is not someone who can be stopped. Her voice cannot be suppressed.
That’s why when entire India was protesting against racism by putting ‘matter’ to ‘black lives,’ Dr. Golmei couldn’t resist but say, “When people are suffering here, you don’t even raise your voice? It’s only when it’s an American issue that you speak out?” [Source] Since January 2020, the helpline numbers are now receiving more than 200 calls per day. Although the advisory released in March tackled the situation a bit.
Think about betterment…
Racial discrimination, mocking, sexual harrasment, name-calling – everything is still there. And the worst part is, all the cases are not even addressed as the victims are scared to expose themselves.
But people like Dr. Alana Golmei are continuing their movement with every possible action, either by being a part of the administration or by protesting on the roads.
Studies show that situations have improved, still, we have a lot to do. You and I – we should stand together with Dr. Alana Golmei and help our country get out of this discrimation. It’s our responsibility to make people understand that from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, and from Gujarat to Arunachal Pradesh – it’s all India, and we are united with our diversity.
Team Gangtokian Monday, February 1, 2021, 22:20 [IST]
Some other Articles you might be interested: United We Stand.