The gruesome murder of Ch Alena in her Mumbai hostel was unfortunate and has sent a shockwave among the North-eastern community.
The incident showcased the appalling negligence and the unco-operativeness of the hostel authorities. It also highlighted the indifference and the insensitivity of the Mumbai Police in dealing with the issue. The dismissive approach adopted by the police is not co-incidental. The North-easterners have always been subjected to ridicule on the ground of ethnicity by the people and the authorities alike. So it is not surprising to learn that the police has ruled out any foul play. When looking from every angle the case presented a sinister twist.
They didn’t take into account the injury marks on her body.
The fact that they brushed off the case as a mere suicide was disrespectful to the life and memory of Alena.
The half hearted treatment of the case left a big question mark on the integrity and the law enforcing power of the system.
An innocent life has been snuffed out mercilessly for no reason in a place which was supposed to provide security and protection.
This brought to light the safety of the North-easterners living in big metropolitan cities whose pleas and complaints against sexual harassments, ethnic prejudices are swatted aside like nothing.
This incident has certainly rekindled some issues which are waiting to be resolved in the political realm. Is the so-called political disparity shown by the Indian Government to the NE States visible in this event? Are the big States thrusting its political and cultural supremacy on the minorities by overlooking their predicaments?
Because of its poor track record on account of low convicting rate, is the police intentionally opting for a cover-up of the case so as to salvage its pride?
Is the general misrepresentation of the identity of NE women the reason behind the lackadaisical attitude of the Mumbai Police in dealing with the case?
In Delhi itself, many cases of molestation, rape and murder of NE women have been reported and in more than half of the instances reported, the police refused to register the case until the media intervened.
Some of the related cases:
1. Dhaula Kuan rape case, May 2005: A 19 year old Mizo girl was gangrapped by four men in a moving car. The next day, the vice-principal of Kirori Mal College made a press release that the NE girls should wear salwar-kameez to avoid any such happening in the future.
2. Chanakyapuri Incident, Nov 2005: A Manipuri girl was molested and mishandled in Chanakyapuri.
3. Nehru Vihar case, Nov 2005: One girl was molested by dragging her in a deserted
alley, the police refused to take timely action. When a complaint was lodged the police asked the girls to take it easy. They replied action would be taken when she identified the culprits.
4. Vijay Nagar case, January 2007: A Manipuri girl was rapped and murdered in her rented room in Vijyanagar. The girl was alleged to be immoral.
5. Mahipalpur case, Oct 2007: One girl was molested by a tenant in Mahipalpur. The duty officr of Vasant Kunj Police Station refused to register the case until the mdia intervened. The accused was arrested but the police failed to book a case under SC/ST Prevention of Atrocity Act though the victim belongs to scheduled tribe community.
6. Gandhi Vihar case: Jan 2008: Two sisters from Manipur, aged 24 and 18, were beaten and molested by 25 roudies in Gandhi Vihar on 5th Jan 2008. The police registered the case only 2 days after the media intervened.
The goons were released on bail after few days. The siblings left the place owing to threats and apprehension surrounding their lives from the thugs.
It is generally theorised that the whole NE community has a laid back attitude towards sex, drug and violence by the mainstream society. The women especially are being misconstrued as being immoral and liberal minded enough to give up their virtue without any hesitation. Racial discrimination and sexual harassment is rampant due to this misconception and mispresentation of the identity of the NE women. The mainstream society is wrapped up in its conservative ideal and are oblivious of the freedom that the NE women enjoy in their native land, so any kind of freedom shown in their attire or demeanour are strongly identified and they become easy targets of sexual overtures and harassment. Study shows that 50% of the cases of sexual assault are targeted at women from the North East. The police turns a deaf ear to the complaints filed by the victims against the atrocities. As we can see in the Gandhi Vihar case, the complainants were victimised even more and protesting by the goons.
The death of Lucy Kashung on 16th Dec 2006 at Roop Nagar Delhi questioned the ethics and the authenticity of the media and the authorities in dealing with the case. Lucy was brought dead to the Hindu Rao Hospital at Malka Ganj on the Saturday morning. The accused Ajay Luthra and his friends tried to flee after leaving the dead body. The police denied any foul play. The Pioneer on Dec 17 stated that Lucy was found dead under mysterious circumstances at Roop Nagar in Delhi. She was reported as a resident of Meghalaya staying at Mukherjee Nagar. The Hindustan Times of Dec 18 stated that a murder case has been registered against Ajay Luthara for the death of Lucy Kashung. According to the police Lucy consumed a lot of liquor with Luthra at a party. It further stated that the accused took Lucy to Hindu Rao Hospital on Saturday morning after her condition worsened. The Pioneer reported that she was in Murkherjee Nagar which was not true. She was staying at Vijay Nagar. The erroneous conclusions draw by the media were due to the recognition given to the informations provided by the accused and the those known to the accused only. The opinions of the deceased family and friends were not given due weightage.
The question is: can we trust the media for its supplication? The Northeastern women are believed to be easy prey and can be seduced quickly. Two women from Nagaland aged 23 employed at Accurate BPO in Green Park Extensions, New Delhi were suspended by the Manager when they resisted his sexual advances. They were sacked from their job without any payments. The police and the authorities took all these issues nonchatenthy and adequate measures to punish the culprits are not issued. The NE women are made out to be booze-guzzlers party animals, fast and what not. The identity of the NE women is constructed within a stereotypical framework. The misconstrued identity needs to be tackled as it exposes them to the worst forms of sexual harassments. Not all NE women are saintly. Some of them are being blamed for dragging the names of the NE women in the muck by their untoward and disgraceful behaviours. Indian ranks 144 in a list of 128 countries in the Global Gender gap Report of the World Economic Forum (WEF) Agreed, discrimination of any kind is highly prevalent in present day India irrespective of caste, race, gender and culture. But perpetual negligence towards the plight of the NE women can’t be ignored for long. We need to resist the misrepresented identity for covering to it, would encourage further victimisation of them.
A couple of years back, just a day after the gang rape of a NE girl, the vice principal of a reputed college in Delhi University announced dress code for the girl students from the region. In the press release issued by the vice-principal it was alleged that the NE girls were sent by militants to be molested and seduced so as to promote anti Indian sentiment. The police men also alleged that the complaints on sexual harassments are dramas and said that there is no smoke without fire. Is our own Manipur Government having a blind eye to the escalating crimes against its own people residing in alien places? Is it going to only verbally condemn the issue or is it contemplating asking its Mumbai counterpart for a conclusive inquiries into Ch Alena’s murder? When some migrant workers were shot dead at Hayel in Imphal district and Takhel, the Manipur Govt took swift action and lost no time back then to bring the real culprits to book. The Govt even went to the length of pleading to the immigrants not to leave the State. It seems that our Government is only interested in pursuing its hypocritical and opportunistic policies and completely disregarding its accountability to the people of Manipur. In order to eradicate this menace, social work interventions, concrete measures to fight discrimination and enhance socio-cultural exchange between the communities are needed. Law enforcement agencies are not enough to prevent the crimes but local people’s co-operation is a must to uproot this problem.