Parties in Delhi fail to impress voters from Northeast
NEW DELHI, APRIL 1
[dropcap]A[/dropcap]S the campaign for Lok Sabha polls reaches a fever pitch for seven Lok Sabha seats here, candidates are having a tough time wooing voters from the Northeast who feel almost all political parties have failed to address their “key” concerns.
People from the eight NE states of Assam, Nagaland, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Tripura and Sikkim, who have settled here for better education and job opportunities, say it is time political parties took concrete steps to address their grievances concerning lack of adequate security and rising instances of racial abuse.
Though Delhi Election Commission said it does not have the figure of voters hailing from the Northeast in Delhi, NGO Manipur Women Gun Survivors Network puts the number at around five lakh.
A senior Delhi BJP leader said though the number of people from Northeast may not be very significant, they may matter in case of “tight fights”.Youngsters from Northeastern states say they have been facing racial abuse in various parts of the national capital and nothing has been done by political parties to ensure they can live in the city just like any other Indian citizen.
“I want my elected representative to make sure that people from the Northeast are treated as Indian citizens and we are not discriminated against because of our accent or features. Also, I would want my representative to bring up the anti- racial discrimination law in Parliament,” says D Apao of Manipur.
Apao said political parties in Delhi have not addressed issues of racial discrimination faced by those from Northeast, primarily due to the lack of a robust electorate.
Last month, around 5,500 eligible voters hailing from Northeastern states registered themselves for voter identity cards in a drive jointly launched by the Delhi Election Commission and the North Eastern Council, the nodal agency for economic and social development of the region.
With the theme being ‘inclusive voting’, the drive was launched with an aim to register voters from sections which are sidelined, including those from the Northeast.
“With the theme of inclusive voting, we had a special focus on adding to the voter list people from the Northeast. More than 5,500 girls and boys from Northeast applied in the recent drive to register themselves as voters for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections,” said Vijay Dev, Delhi’s Chief Electoral Officer.
Asked about grievances of people from Northeast, DPCC Chief Spokesperson Mukesh Sharma said Congress party has been “vocal” in condemning cases of racial discrimination and was doing its best to help the community.
“If we come to power again, an anti-racial discrimination law will be on our agenda,” said Sharma.
Aam Aadmi Party’s Nagendra Sharma said Arvind Kejriwal had expressed solidarity with the cause of Northeast people in Delhi following the death of Nido Tania, who hailed from Arunachal Pradesh.
“We believe Delhi belongs to everyone and there should be no alienation and our party will work towards this issue,” Sharma said.
Delhi BJP’s North East coordinator Manas Deka said they would select some families in every constituency and make them work as links with Northeast people.
“So, in case of emergency or any aberration, NE people can contact these local families. Additionally, we will also press for implementation of an NE security cell in every major police station in Delhi,” he said.
J Maivio, Vice President of the Naga Students Union in Delhi, says there was a need for greater interaction between the community and Resident Welfare Associations (RWAs) of various areas in Delhi. Political representatives of Northeast can play a key role in this regard, he added.
“We are being discriminated against because people here do not know we belong to the country,” says Maivio. He further called for leaders to ensure sensitization of Delhi police personnel.
In the aftermath of Tania’s death in February this year, the city had seen a series of protests where students and activists demanded safer spaces for those hailing from NE.
Other issues that came to the fore included several cases of sexual harassment of young girls from the Northeast. Be it public transport, educational institutions or workplaces, Northeast women continue to feel threatened.
“The issue of safety applies to all women in Delhi and that would be a deciding factor. Additionally, for Northeastern women, we need an increase in the number of hostels for us to stay in. This will help make residential areas safer for us,” says Sunny Tayeng, general secretary, women’s division, Arunachal Students’ Union Delhi. In the aftermath of the Tania case, AICC Vice President Rahul Gandhi and former Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had joined the protesters and expressed solidarity with their cause. People from the Northeast now hope that concrete measures will be introduced by the three major political parties BJP, Congress and AAP to address their concerns.