NEW DELHI: The four-panel comic is simply titled “Arrey Gupta Ji”. It begins with two young people from the northeast looking for a house on rent in Delhi. The landlord refuses. “You people eat dogs and do drugs,” he accuses them. “Have you been to the northeast and seen all this? How can you say that?” the two ask him.
“Guptaji told me,” replies the man, pointing to his neighbour who, in turn, claims to have heard it from one “Sharmaji”. The youngsters drive home the point that the men are working on plain hearsay. Finally the landlord relents, and Guptaji, too, asks them for leads on tenants. This comic, by Jamia Millia Islamia student Piyusha Gupta, is among the several made during a workshop held with her development communication MA class. The workshop invited people to discuss stereotypes faced by those from the northeast and how to break them.
“I had been thinking about doing this ever since the exodus of people of northeast from Bangalore two years ago. Then there was Nido Tania’s case in Delhi. I realized these stories need to come out,” says Sharad Sharma of World Comics Network, who held this workshop. Here, 30 youngsters, both from the university and some from other institutions, got together to discuss issues of racism and discrimination. Participants from the northeast were evenly represented. The 30 comics that came at the end of the exercise were displayed. In the coming few weeks, Sharma plans to take this exhibition to Delhi University, JNU and the streets of Lajpat Nagar, Munirka and Connaught Place. “We are planning to compile them into a book,” says Sharma, who routinely holds such “grassroots comics” workshops across the country.
In the comics, as in conversations, the most highlighted issues include food, appearances and general ignorance about the region. One talks of surprise at discovering that a northeastern classmate is vegetarian. Another shows how a student from the northeast is introduced to one’s friends as “Chinese”. When 24-year-old Mahibul Hoque moved here from Mangaldoi, Assam, the only piece of advice his mother had for him was that he grow out his spiked hair a little and part it on the side. “She didn’t want me to stand out and be discriminated against,” explains Hoque. Participant Chumbemo M Patton had an experience similar to what Gupta detailed in her comic. The student from Nagaland, who learnt Hindi from Amitabh Bachchan classics like Zanjeer and Deewar before moving to Delhi, says he was refused a flat on rent in the capital with the landlord’s assistant clearly telling him it was because of his race.
The students also indulged in a little social experiment. They clicked pictures with their friends and uploaded them on Facebook. Gupta says she immediately got a comment saying, “Ye chinki kahaan se mil gaye tujhe?” “Chinki” is a derogatory term. Its usage as a racial slur can land one in jail. Now, a Facebook group called “No Stereotypes Plz: NE is India” has become a focal point for these students to address issues of discrimination. A campaign here shows people holding speech-bubble shaped placards. “I am an Angami Naga, and that does not mean I eat snake,” says the speech bubble in one young man’s picture, addressing a common misconception amid the community.
Source: The Morung Express