There have been many reported incidents of racial discrimination against our fellow north-easterners in the mainland. It is a well known fact. That being said, many of us are also aware of the inconsistencies that prevail in our arguments against racism in India. The inconsistency arises when we fail to acknowledge the fact that racism is everywhere. That it is rampant even in the most modern societies.
We are a country with a commendable diversity in culture and ethnicity. Our northeast region itself is comprised of countless ethnic groups, where majority are tribal communities. One of these, the Khasis in our home State, are further divided into four sub-tribes.
Racism in our home state is well documented, and the evidence is quite abundant if one choses to search. The offshoots events in the recent ILP issue or the series of communal violence in the previous millennium are but just a few incidents of racial incidents in our seemingly quiet city of Shillong.
Many of us will often ask ourselves, as to how far can our fetish for discrimination go.
I believe most of us are racist in some way or the other. Our primal tendencies to create divisions or noting differences among ourselves is unfortunately inherited from age old legacy of our ancestors. Though the levels of racial indoctrination may differ from person to person, the concept of racism itself is being taught to the young unknowingly, and at most times without reason. It just happened. One of the outcomes of such an indoctrination is evident in the rampant offensive stereotypes that the Khasis have for each and every ethnic group they had ever intermingled with; Dkhars, Khyllahs, Riewkhlaw, Muid, etc. to name but a few. In fact, we even express a form of xenophobia towards our own fellow Khasis just because they belong to a different sub tribe.
‘Ngi, ngin da kiew dieng ngi kiew tang ha ki tnat, kan da kiew ka War, ka kiew haduh ka sla’ / When we climb trees we climb up to the branches but the War climb up to the leaves
When I first heard this shocker from one of the local guys from Pdengshnong, Sohra I couldn’t help but burst into a terrible state of laughter for it is downright offensiveness. Humour aside, this sentence could be one of the most derogatory way to downgrade the apparent prowess in climbing trees of the majority of the Wars, a subtribe of the Khasis.
It may be that most people would resort to such stigmatic offensive outbursts for the sake of humour and humour alone, but the sad truth is that such humour, tasteless and otherwise, could very well pave a way for more, probably much hazardous outgrowths.
Much of the humor strains from Sohra stem from racist remarks. Growing up in a place where theres not much non Khasis, i learnt a thing or two about racism. It seems that having not much non-locals for us to vent our racial prejudices on, we seem to turn upon our very own. The non Sohra people then becomes the ‘Other’. People will always find an excuse to define or rather create the concept of the ‘other’, be it via religion, economy, ethnicity or territory. The Nongwei(s), a name given to the inhabitants of the central region of the East Khasi Hills, are often associated with potatoes, much like the Irish stereotype: complete with jokes and racial insults. But of course, our remarks and insults doesn’t limit us to the Wars and the Nongweis alone, but to every sub ethnic group that we have culturally hang out with. The Bhois, Lyngams, Pnars and even the west are all subjected to the same sort of dicrimination, though the magnitude may differ with proximity and how well we know ‘them’. It can also be safely assumed that such xenophobic attitudes towards foreign people also exists elsewhere in the State, not only Sohra or Shillong. Though racial prejudices towards our other Khasis may not neccesarily take the form of violence, it does happen every now and again, where they are ignobly brushed as regular brawling incidents. Just because there is no ‘dkhars’ or ‘khyllahs’ involved.
There is a serious issue of racism even in our midst that is so deeply imbedded in our oral legacy that most of us have no idea when we unwittingly participate in its circulation. My laughing at the above joke on the War people is the finest example. If we are to argue against the general racial attitude of the ‘mainland’ towards our northeast brethren without the slightest acknowledgement of the mirrored happenings in the ‘homeland’, then we would have utterly failed in our endeavors. Racism is everywhere and we have to fight not only against its practice against ‘us’ but against every form that it takes.