Alienation is known to trigger suicidal thoughts significantly and prejudiced opinion and a racist attitude does just that for Northeast students
Dr Athiqul H Laskar
The recent suicide of Dana Silva Sangma has turned the spotlight once again on the sensitive and controversial issue of discrimination and racial targeting of north east students in India. Dana Sangma who originated from Meghalaya was pursing her MBA from Amity University in Gurgaon. She took the drastic step of committing suicide after being debarred from giving her examination on account of cheating.
The college authorities maintained that they had caught her using a mobile while giving her exam because of which she was stopped from continuing her examination. However, according to Sangma’s friends, the invigilator who was in charge of the examination on that particular day had verbally abused and insulted her in front of all the students present there. This prompted her to take such an extreme step of hanging herself from the ceiling fan of her hostel room.
This unfortunate incident has raked up the old issue of northeast students being discriminated against on grounds of race and caste and this time, it seems to be in no mood of dying down. The northeast population has even gone to the extent of saying that had the girl been from any other part of India, institutional reaction would have been much quicker thus pointing to the fact that there is indeed an indifference when it comes to taking action against discriminatory behavior towards northeast students.
If that is thought to be true even partially, it points to an obvious blotch in the integrity and unity of the nation. It is okay to be proud of one’s culture and to celebrate it with gusto. However, such celebration should not come at the cost of other people’s emotions and sentiments. One should not be demeaned to highlight the other. But that is exactly what is happening because of which suicide cases of northeast students are on the rise.
In fact, Mukul Sangma who is Meghalaya’s Chief Minister and is also the uncle of Dana said that she is not the first or only one to face such behavior. Many youths and students belonging to Northeast have, on several occasions, confessed to him that discrimination has been faced by them in the NCR region as well as the capital. Elaborating on the issue, he also added that Dana was made to fill up a form or questionnaire by the university officials after she was allegedly caught cheating while giving her exam. She had clearly stated in the questionnaire that she had not copied. In fact, she had studied satisfactorily for the exam and had no chance of failing.
Mukul Sangma’s views once again corroborate the fact that a discriminatory attitude continues to exist for northeast people which often drives them to the path of suicide. This is indeed lamentable and disheartening.
Reason behind the Increasing Suicidal Tendencies of Northeast Students: Alienation is known to trigger suicidal thoughts significantly and prejudiced opinion and a racist attitude does just that for northeast students. It alienates them to such an extent that they become compelled to end their lives than face the humiliation repeatedly. The racist attitude that prevails among the rest of India against southeast people is manifested in a number of ways ranging from rude comments and stares to facile judgments and stereotyping.
Misconceptions have a very important role to play in this regard. There are certain myths that surround the lifestyle and ethics of people hailing from the northeast. In most cases, they are not very flattering and the students have to bear the brunt of them. They are constantly humiliated on account of such unfounded and baseless views and this hurts their self-esteem and morale significantly. When faced for a considerable period of time, it usually invites suicidal thoughts which ultimately find fruition when the next instance of humiliation or victimization happens.
Women are at greater risk of such prejudices because along with facing emotional trauma, they also become victims of sexual harassment. There are ample examples of incidents in the last few years that demonstrate this fact clearly.
The worst part is that their hometowns do not offer much scope in terms of education and employment. The ‘seven sisters’ of northeast India that include Meghalaya, Manipur, Assam, Tripura, Nagaland, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh are not very developed in terms of infrastructure and facilities because of which northeast residents are compelled to move out and shift base to more developed cities and states. Being at a tender age and lacking the physical presence of their families around them, they often succumb to these prejudiced incidents and situations. All these play an instrumental rule in increasing suicidal tendencies amongst southeast students.
Other Factors at Play: However, it won’t be right to attribute prejudiced opinions and discriminatory attitudes against northeast students to be the only reason for their rising suicidal tendencies. There are other factors at play too one of which is the usual poor performance in examinations. This is one problem that plagues the whole teenage generation of India and the northeast students are no different.
Just a few months back, a 19-year-old northeast student hailing from Assam and studying at Delhi University took his life by hanging himself. The student Samiran Saikia was only in his first year and was a botany student at Hindu College. Though the police did not find any suicide note, it was suggested by his fellow lodgers that he was very depressed for the past few days because of his poor performance in exams. It was thus understood that he committed suicide owing to this.
This throws light on another pressing problem that contributes to the act of committing suicide significantly. Parents often have high expectations from their children and when they cannot live up to it or feel that they are not competent enough, decide to end their lives thereby saving embarrassment for their family. At times, students also set higher goals for themselves which, when not met, ends in disappointment ultimately leading to suicide. For northeast students, the situation is a bit more problematic since they also have other issues to take care of among which one is resentment from fellow students.
Hope for a Better Future: As discussed earlier, the prejudiced behavior meted out to northeast students arises from ignorance about the problems faced by the youth coming from such regions. These include inadequate health care facilities and employment opportunities and limited higher education provisions. This can be overcome by strengthening the bond between northeast people and the rest of the country. This is only possible if orientation courses are developed for all students which encompass comprehensive information about such regions and their people, the problems and situations of different states and so on.
As for tackling violence against northeast students which often compel them to resort to suicide, a special cell has been formed by the Central Government known as ‘Connect Cell’. A joint secretary level officer would head this cell and tackle all issues of discrimination against people coming from the northeast region. Along with it, an interactive website has also been developed especially for them so that they can address their grievances and complaints and are not forced to take the dreaded step of committing suicide.
It is hoped that with the application of these measures, this menace of suicide can be curbed if not stopped altogether.