NE girls battle racial slurs, feel like aliens

NEW DELHI: Reena, a Delhi University student from the northeast, was on a cyclerickshaw when four bikers brushed past, feeling up her thighs and snatching away Rs 15,000 that she was carrying. And after all the fight she put up she was literally dragged by the bikers for some distance she reached the police station only to see the constables smirk at her. They simply asked her to give a written complaint and leave.This was one of the many similar incidents shared during a group discussion organized by NGO Jagori as part of its `safe cities’ programme. The vulnerability of women from the northeast and the sexual harassment faced by them in Delhi has been catalogued in the international four-city study labelled “Learning from Women to Create Gender Inclusive Cities”, which was presented at the three-day international conference on safe cities for women in the capital that concluded on Wednesday. The study takes into account the vulnerability of women working in call centres in Delhi.

The Delhi chapter of the study has a section, `Place of origin’, highlighting that students and young women from the northeast states reported facing particular forms of discrimination. Young women reported being called names such as “chinki”, “momos”, “thukpas” and “noodles”.”The findings are an outcome of a focussed group discussion carried out as part of the study to understand the concerns of women from the northeast states of the country who come to Delhi to study or work,” pointed Kalpana Viswanath from Jagori.The discussants comprised six young women, aged between 19 and 22, from Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and Manipur, who are studying at DU. They stay in private hostels or PG accommodations mainly along with other men and women from their states.The study points that since they have different racial features from north Indians, they are subjected to humiliation, molestation and sexual violence.

Everyone in the group agreed that Delhi is unsafe for women, particularly those from the northeastern states. “People perceive us as different. They have preconceived notions about women from the northeast and brand them as `untraditional, easy, and available for sexual favours’,” said one of the participants.”When I wear salwar kameez people stare. If I wear shorts they say `she is ill mannered’. No matter what we wear people always comment,” Tina from Manipur said.The Delhi chapter also looks at safety of women working in BPOs. A focus group of nine female employees aged 23-28 years working at a BPO at different times of the day were interviewed. They said they feel secure wearing I-cards so that they’re not misunderstood if they are out waiting for their cabs at night.Significantly, crowded places seem to be as unsafe as deserted places. One of the participants shared how she was teased while waiting for her 11pm cab in a market. Another employee revealed that her cab with only female passengers on board was followed and asked to pull over by strangers who banged on the windows. This, too, occurred in a marketplace and not a secluded spot – TOI