NEW DELHI: Hundreds of protesters took to the streets of New Delhi Saturday after a 19-year-old student from India’s remote northeast was beaten to death in an apparent hate crime.
Nido Taniam was allegedly thrashed by a group of five men with rods and sticks at a busy shopping area in the capital on Wednesday when he objected to their remarks ridiculing his hair, which he had colored blonde, local media reports said.
Taniam, the son of a state legislator, was found dead a day later, triggering fury among rights activists, students and migrants from the young student’s home state of Arunachal Pradesh.
People from the isolated northeastern state routinely complain of racial profiling and discrimination based on their facial features, which appear more Asiatic than Indian.
Angry protesters carrying placards and banners gathered at the same marketplace Saturday to demand a proper probe into Taniam’s death and highlight their “routine racial profiling.”
“We are not animals. Please respect our feelings. We respect yours,” Sabaduni, general secretary of Arunachal Pradesh student union, told reporters.
Taniam, whose father is a Congress lawmaker in the Arunachal Pradesh state legislature, was studying in Jalandhar in neighboring Punjab state and had traveled to Delhi for a holiday.
His friends say that while at the market he stopped at a confectionery shop for directions, where he was taunted over his hair colour by the men, who then attacked him with sticks and iron rods.
He was taken away by the police but was reportedly dropped at the same place where he was first attacked. Friends allege Taniam was beaten for a second time by the same group of people, leading to severe internal injuries.
The story was front-page news in leading newspapers with The Times of India condemning the “racial assault” while the Indian Express listed several recent cases of attacks on people from the northeast.
Another student leader Longjam Tony Singh said racial discrimination against people from northeast was widely prevalent in the rest of the country.
“India’s attitude to the peripheral societies of the northeast can never be negotiated unless there is a certain amount of understanding about our culture and our roots,” he said.
Arunachal Pradesh is one of India’s eight northeastern states, which are connected to the rest of the country by a sliver of land that arches over the northern top of Bangladesh.
The state is isolated from the rest of India not only geographically, but also ethnically and linguistically.