Saturday, 29 December 2012

Support for Nepali community in Nagaland

Are we failing our Nepali brothers and sisters?

The bed was too big for her. Lying in her hospital bed at Oking, the four year old looked smaller and frightened. She shied away from my touch. There was fear in her eyes as we stood around her bed. So this was the little girl who had been raped by a labourer who hailed from Jharkhand. My heart lurched within me and I fought back tears. Her father sat by her side. Her mother came in with her other child on her back. The family looked listless and without hope.

I have never felt so helpless before. I'm sure I was not the only one feeling like that in the room. The others were members of NorthEast Region Services Nepali Association (NERSNS) and Dimapur Gorkha Union (DGU) and Gorkha Public Panchayat (GPP), all men. The doctors said she would be discharged the next day but that she would need to be under observation for one month. She had not completely healed from her injuries and it was obvious that she had been deeply affected psychologically.

What are words when they cannot heal and comfort? Our words sounded like empty sounds, and I stood silently at her bed. The little girl and her parents were from the Nepali community. Her father had been working as a labourer at Senapati where he had taken his whole family. The rapist Raju Sorin, came from Jharkhand, and had worked alongside her father. On the pretext of taking her to see the Christmas carolers, he raped her in an empty shed.

This rape of an innocent child which happened in our neighbouring state, and was brought to our state for treatment, and was featured widely in our newspapers, has not received any condemnation from the Government of Nagaland and Manipur although the media had splashed it on the front page. In fact, the news was hard to miss on the 28th December when most readers were eagerly awaiting their morning newspaper after the Christmas holidays. The DGU had immediately sent information to NGOs and to the government. It followed on the heels of the death of the gang rape victim in Delhi. While the condolences for the Delhi rape victim were quickly forthcoming, there was silence on the Nepali child's case in the days following the report in the newspapers. A Facebook support group garnered one hundred and forty-one names in the space of one night. The supporters were both Naga and non Naga. This article is not written to accuse the government, rather to appeal to it to show that it cares for all its citizens, irrespective of religion or nationality.

The lack of support for the Nepali community is a blot on Nagaland. This is a community that has lived with us for longer than any of us can remember. In the years before the war, their forefathers peacefully existed in Kohima and other towns, contributing to the Naga agrinomy with their milk and vegetable production. They were an accepted part of the Naga community. They fought our wars with us, ousting the Japanese invaders with their Gorkha fighting skills and protecting this land thus. For many of them, the word home evokes Nagaland and not Nepal. Why then has there been no outcry from the social bodies against the atrocities committed on the Nepali womenfolk in the Naga Hills?

The post morten report on the brutally murdered Meena Rai is still not forthcoming. The Nepali community is waiting for justice. Why is this report taking so long? Mother of two Meena Rai was raped by a Bangladeshi national and horribly mutilated. The rape and murder happened two months ago on the 2nd of November 2012.Where is the post morten report? Why has it not been prepared till now? Her children and her community are still waiting for the report.

All that the members of the Nepali community are asking from the government is justice and protection. And from the Naga public, meaning churches, tribal groups, and individuals who care, support and voices that can join their lone cry for justice. The leaders expressly told me that they are not asking for money but emotional support.

The culprits in both cases have been apprehended and are in judicial custody. But for a people who have been greatly wronged, the long wait for a verdict is a violence against justice to the victims' families.

The same rape laws that are put in effect in Delhi should apply in Nagaland and the Northeast. It should not matter that the victim is a Naga or not. To anyone who opposes violence against women the differentiation should be seen as a continuing violence against the female sex.

If we fail to make our land safe for women and children of any caste or religion, how can we ever hope to make it safe for any citizen? The longer we dally in giving justice to the wronged, the more we encourage by our actions those crimes to continue. This is what happened in Delhi. Rapists were not punished harshly. As a result they continued to violate women without any fear of reprisal until it culminated in the indescribable murder of the medical student.

This is an appeal that goes out to all Nagas especially to those who have the authority to make a change. Please care about the worth of the sojourner in your land. They are no longer just sojourners now. They are peaceful inhabitants who are one of us. Our Christianity is to be lived in these situations, by showing love and support for the suffering within your borders, not by remaining deaf and blind to evil around us, and certainly not by allowing love to grow cold by failing to respond to situations that challenge the Christ in you. If you are not a believer, you are still a human being and this is a challenge to your humanity. Come forth, join hands, fight evil. That is the sign that you are a human being. Your tears are important, come and shed them. Come and pray and cry and work so that no girl child will suffer this fate again and that no woman will ever have to go through what Meena Rai did.

Originally published at here and here.

Background: A four-year-old Nepali girl was raped by a 24-year-old youth at Tongpanj Village, under Senapati district Manipur, on Christmas night. Read more about it here

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