For too long, Delhiites have tested Arunachalees' Indianness. The tests are gruesome: Arunachalees are called "chinky" and have been subjected to race-based violence (under, presumably, the assumption that India is not or should not be multi-racial). And discrimination against Arunachalees has only been rising, perpetrators seemingly suggesting, with ever-greater certitude, that Arunachalees do not belong in the national capital and by extension in the country. (People from the Northeast more generally have faced such non-acceptance in the national capital.)
How about we turn the tables, and test the testers? With a milder test, to be sure: a challenge of knowledge, comprising questions not pejoratives, and ending with question marks not strangle marks. How about we quiz these people (mostly Delhiites, but also Mumbaikars, Bangaloreans, and others) ---assertive of their Indianness, dismissive of Arunachalees -- to see how much they know about the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh; to attempt a diagnosis for their acts of discrimination; and, ultimately, to see how Indian they are?
So what follows is a quiz (with answers at the end).
1. What is the most commonly spoken language in Arunachal? (Hint: It's not Chinese.)
2. What is the capital of Arunachal?
3. What is the document every non-Arunachalee entering the state must carry?
4. What are the former names for Arunachal?
5. Did separation of powers in Arunachal occur 41 years ago, 21 years ago, or 1 year ago?
6. The Arunachal Pradesh government recognizes which system of law alongside Common Law?
7. What is the main traditional faith of the people of Arunachal?
If you are struggling, let me make an admission. Until four months ago I, too, at best knew answers to two out of these seven questions. I was embarrassed, ashamed at how out of depth I was about an entire state even though I had very much grown up in India.
But after reporting in Arunachal for four months now, and occasionally, during this time, travelling to other parts of the country, I have found that ignorance about the state is pervasive. It's as if Arunachal Pradesh doesn't exist! When, over conversations, I would mention I had been working in Arunachal, my interlocutors would be befuddled; I would be paddled questions such as: "Do a lot of Chinese people live in Arunachal?" No. "Is Arunachal Pradesh a state, or is it part of the Northeast?" It's both, actually. "Who is the chief minister of the Northeast?" Uhh. "What's the capital of Arunachal? Is it Guwahati?" Guwahati is in Assam.
Cluelessness about Arunachal is likely a key cause behind the discrimination against Arunachalees. People tend, inherently, to be suspicious of people they don't know, or don't identify with. What makes goons distinctive is that they exploit such a dynamic, and discriminate--subtly and explicitly, even violently. Nido Tania, son of an Arunachal Pradesh Member of Legislative Assembly, has been the most notable victim of such violence. Tania was assaulted in Delhi's Lajpat Nagar market on January 29, 2014, in part because of his appearance; he bore the Mongoloid features characteristic of Northeast people, and had his hair streaked. He died the next day.
So to Delhiites so fond of questioning others' Indianness, ask yourself: How much do I know about this country, especially of its founding ideal that we are an emphatically diverse polity comprising people of all sorts of races and all sorts of physical appearances, and that each is as worthy as the other? Do I know the basic, most rudimentary facts about an entire state? And what is revealed about the extent of my "Indianness" when I let ignorance about a group of Indians slip into discrimination against them?
If the Delhiites in question introspect, they will recognise that the insufficient-Indianness problem lies not with Arunachalees -- who are every bit Indian and have every right to the national capital --but with their own selves. Perhaps (gasp!) it is the goons of Delhi who are not Indian.
Answers to the earlier questions
3. Inner Line Permit
4. North-East Frontier Agency (NEFA), which itself was earlier called North-East Frontier Tracts
6. Tribal law, as evident from the government's official endorsement of the institution of Gaon Burah.
7. Donyi Poloism
Contact HuffPost India