Racial Discrimination In India Will Soon Be Punishable With 5 Years In Prison

09/07/2015 2:16 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
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Indian students from the northeastern states and supporters hold a banner as they protest the death of northeastern student Nido Tania in New Delhi on February 2, 2014. The 19-year-old student Nido Tania, son of Congress MLA and Parliamentary Secretary in Health and Family Welfare Department Nido Pavitra, was allegedly beaten up by shopkeepers January 29, following an altercation sparked by their taunts on his hairstyle.  Taniam, the son of a state legislator, was found dead a day later. AFP PHOTO/SAJJAD HUSSAIN (Photo credit should read SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP/Getty Images)

NEW DELHI -- With concern mounting over slurs and attacks against people from the northeast, the Modi government has decided to make "racial discrimination" a non-bailable offence punishable with up to five years in prison.

On Wednesday, the Home Ministry informed the Delhi High Court that it is finalising a bill which will insert two new provisions, Sections 153 C and 509A, in the Indian Penal Code.

The proposed Section 153 C will make any words, signs or actions that discriminate against the race of person, or promote violence against a particular race, a non-bailable offence punishable with five years in prison. The proposed Section 509A will make any words, signs and gestures, which insult the race of a person, punishable with five years in prison.

Last year, an 11-member committee, headed by retired IAS officer M.P. Bezbaruah, submitted its report on racial attacks, which said that "largest number of incidents" are reported from Delhi which also "has the highest concentration of northeast people."

The Bezbaruah committee made four key observations: The number of racist incidents against people from the northeast in the capital are "proportionally very high" considering the small number people living in Delhi, such incidents and molestations are growing, most of them believe they are attacked because of their physical appearance, and these experiences fuel a strong sense of alienation and encourage separatist movements.

The report said that "racial slur and comments include momos, chinkis, chichi chu chu, chowmein and Chinese. Repeated comments and contours causes hurt and when resisted physical conflict takes place, e.g. the death of Nido Tania."

The committee said that Section 153 (A) did not cover racial violence, which, it recommended, should be covered under a new provision and made punishable with five years in prison.

Nido, a college student from Arunachal Pradesh, died from severe lung and brain injuries after he was beaten up with iron rods in Lajpat Nagar market, last year. Nido's friends said that the shopkeeper and men in the South Delhi market shouted slurs at him and made fun of his dyed blonde hair, NDTV reported.

The fight escalated after Nido broke a glass counter in retaliation. The next morning, the 20-year-old was found dead in his bed.

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