"Had the victim been from a different part of the country, I don’t think they would have gone to the extent of killing him by beating him up so brutally," says AS Yaruingam, Head of the Department of African Studies, Delhi University, and an advisor to North East student Unions.
For the North East community, which is still recovering from the shocking attack and murder of 19-year-old Nido Tania in January, the tragic demise of 29-year-old Akha Salouni, is one more horrifying example of a racially motivated crime. Salouni, like Tania, was beaten to death by a group men, this time following an altercation over rash driving in the early hours of Monday morning.
The slew of measures announced by the Delhi Police following Tania’s murder have remained mere ‘tokenisms’ that have failed to have any impact in tackling racial crimes and attacks against them, feel members of the North East community. And insensitive statements by the Delhi Police about the victim have only made matters worse.
"The first statement that came out from the Delhi Police was that he died because of too much drinking. Is this not ridiculous? This reflects the attitude of the Delhi police towards people from North East... They say they doing all kinds of things to protect the North East people, but if you look at the actions taken so far, we don’t see any seriousness,” says Yaruingam.
This new attack comes less than ten days after the Bezbaruah Committee report was submitted to the Home Ministry. The committee, chaired by retired IAS officer MP Bezbaruah, was set up following Tania’s death to examine the concerns of people from the North Eastern states and to come up with measures and legal remedies to address those concerns.
However, the Modi government’s ‘silence’ on the 80-page report has raised doubts among some leaders in the North East community about the new government’s seriousness in addressing their concerns.
"The Bezbaruah report has been submitted. The first thing we expected was that Home Minister would formally announce that this report had been received and talk about the key recommendations that were made and give the community an assurance that the government is looking into it. That would have been good. But no. The government is keeping absolutely silent. Now this is a wake call for them. Whether they want to continue sleeping, we don’t know,” said a visibly disturbed David Boyes, convenor, North East India Forum against Racism.
Slamming the government machinery for its ‘lip service’ when it comes to addressing concerns of the North East community, Boyes said, the measures announced by the Delhi Police after Tania’s death have been no more than ‘token gestures’.
"A Nodal Officer has been appointed but he has no administrative or investigative powers. The special cell that has been set at Nanakpura is another token gesture. There is no seriousness to it. The Lieutenant Governor of Delhi held two-three meetings to ensure safety of members of the North East community. But where is the action plan? We are very sad about it,” said Boyes.
Student leaders like J Maivio feel very little has changed on the ground despite the public outcry after Tania’s murder.
"Personally, no change has come even though many initiatives have been announced. Of course, we can see improvement in lodging of FIRs but when it comes to action and results we haven’t seen any difference. Now a new government has come. We are hoping there will be some changes but we have not seen any action yet. We are still waiting,” said Maivio, president of the Naga Students’ Union.
Asked what should be done to address the immediate concerns of the community, he said, “I think the police have a very important role to play. Of course, justice is a very long process. But as for immediate steps, the police has to be sensitised. The Delhi Police has set up a North East unit but it has not been given any powers. I feel it should have the powers to investigate and to arrest. Also, the Nodal Officer for North East community Robin Hibu, who is the Joint Commissioner of Police, has not been given any powers. Of course, we approach him when we face problems and he tries to help us as much as he can but he can only request the concerned police station or the DCP to take action. That is why NE unit has not been helpful,” said Miavio.
The action taken by the police and progress made in the investigation in the Salouni case, say those who are closely following it, has largely been the result of individual efforts.
Underlining the need for institutional mechanisms to be put in place, Miavio said, “The Joint Commissioner of Police Robin Hibu is going all out to help us because he has the heart to do it. If another officer replaces him and there is no system in place, what then? I won’t deny that there have been some improvements. But this could be result of direction from the High Court or pressure from the media. But unless there is a system in place, we won’t feel secure.”
Published Date: Jul 23, 2014 10:58 AM | Updated Date: Jul 23, 2014 11:06 AM