Danny Denzongpa

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They called me chinki I lived through hell: Danny

Last week, Nido Taniam, a 19-year-old student from Arunachal Pradesh, was killed in an alleged racial attack in Delhi.

Soon after,  two Manipuri girls were beaten up by goons in Delhi.

Politicians like Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi were quick to condemn the incidents.

The latter even spoke of there being "only one India" and saying that the country "belongs to all of us".

With racial abuse now in the spotlight, stars who hail from the north-eastern states of India share their own experiences.

I lived through hell: Danny Denzongpa
The veteran actor believes that lack of geographical and cultural knowledge are the prime reasons behind racial discrimination.
"To feel alienated in your own land is the saddest thing,” he had said, reminiscing about his student days at the Film and Television Institute of India during the Indo-China war in 1962.

"That was the worst time for me. I dreaded stepping out of the campus because people would stare, and jibes like Gurkha, Chinese, Nepalese and chinki were openly thrown at me. I lived through hell,” he added.

But Denzongpa didn’t accept the rejection. He fought it to make his place in Bollywood too. “I knew I was different, but I was going to convert that into an advantage. Once you become a brand, the world wants you — including the same people who rejected you,” he said.

Let’s not pretend we’re unaware: Meiyang Chang
"Let’s not pretend that we are unaware of the fact that discrimination permeates the very moral fabric of our society on the basis on caste, creed, colour, looks and social standing.

The unfortunate incident in Delhi is a mirror of what happens to members of every community on an everyday basis. We need to be more accepting and less judgmental. One can’t blame another for the sins they themselves commit.

I’ve been teased: Papon
"I have never personally faced racism, but yes, I’ve been teased in a fun way for my accent and looks. However, I don’t know why people are like that. We’re a vast country and there will be differences. I hope the situation improves slowly. There are jokes against south Indians, north Indians and east Indians, but people should start respecting each other. We must be open to all cultures because this country is the biggest collection of them. We should be proud of our versatility and not make fun of it.”

Lots of pain behind the laughter: Jahnu Barua
"I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve faced racism. I’ve had people ask me for my passport and address me as 'chinki'. Initially, I’d get angry, but later I learned to live with it.
There are people who are mindlessly ignorant and have no human character. I used to protest earlier, but today, I laugh at the people who treated me that way. There’s a lot of pain behind this laughter.”

I detest the mindset of people who can’t change the way they think: Mary Kom
"Most of India is ignorant about the north east. It’s the attitude that’s wrong. I was never taken seriously due to my looks. I had to suffer my share of derogatory ‘Chinki’ remarks, especially in big cities. I speak Hindi, so I always understand what they say. But now, I hope for a new beginning…I hope I can be the change.

The people of the north east are well-qualified and well-brought-up Indians. They are employed in big cities as waiters and shop assistants. I respect the dignity of labour, but I detest the mindset of the people who cannot change the way they think about us. Treat us with warmth, respect and love. Then, there won’t be simmering anger and feelings of alienation in your own land.”

To segregate them is criminal: Kalpana Lajmi
The film-maker is completely shocked by the news. “There is definitely an undercurrent of violence and non-acceptance towards north-eastern students. Every member of the Central as well as State Governments should do something about this. It’s highly unfair to stereotype them and call them by vulgar names because they look different. To segregate them is criminal,” she says, adding, “In 2014, for the police to pick up a young boy and put him back in the same spot, I don’t know what kind of cruelty that is. There is no proper search done regarding who the murderers are. Like all other cases, this too will close down soon and be forgotten."

Lajmi also questions the Prime Minister. “He has held his post for 10 years, and he supposedly belongs to Assam. What has happened is very unfortunate. I have been with Bhupen Hazarika (late singer), and his entire life was spent begging, shouting and singing to the establishment to include the north east with mainstream parts of the country,” she says.

The film-maker feels that north-eastern Indians are neglected and isolated. She says, “They come to Delhi because they don’t have proper infrastructure for education and employment. This reflects badly not only on the government, but also on our society. This racism against each other stems from society itself. The government is not implementing transparency in laws, and I am shocked at the crude, uncivilised and barbaric behaviour of society itself."

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