Sunday, July 22, 2007

Chp 134. Ethnocide: The Great Hibu Fiasco

Content:
  • The booklet that started it all
  • Links regarding this issue
  • What the booklet actually achieved
  • What went wrong. Mistakes that Mr.Robin Hibu made.
Commenting is moderated for this particular post, due to the reasons stated below (way below). Inconveniences caused deeply regretted. For some of my regular foreign visitors: North-East Indians, an extremely small minority here in India, are mainly of the Mongoloid Race, unlike the rest of India.

This past one week, the only topic people ever discussed about in any group that has at least one person originating from India’s North East, is the “controversial” book published by IPS Robin Hibu, Deputy Commissioner of Police (West Delhi).

Splashed across various National newspapers in the front page, the synopsis of the booklet basically stated that “People from India’s North East shouldn’t eat their “smelly” cultural delicacies in Delhi, and that they should not wear revealing clothes”. The reaction of the Vox Populi was obvious: Sacrilegious outcry and protests from all sections of the North eastern society settling in Delhi demanding a public apology from Mr.Hibu (a person from NE himself) for stereotyping the NE people and the immediate withdrawal of every booklet already published and distributed.

Even my closest Mizo friends living near my house here in Delhi were infuriated. However, having learnt from my past mistakes, I decided not to comment anything about it until I see the infamous booklet with my very own eyes. It is most advisable to refrain from reacting to whatever one reads in the newspaper, giving some of their record for over-sensationalizing certain issues. Once bitten, twice shy. I kept mum.

And then on Thursday, opportunity finally knocked. My friend and I were invited over to a Mizo Officer’s apartment for tea. He had just received the booklet from his superiors. We took an auto to his apartment immediately.

The first thing that struck me when I read the first few lines of the book was errors. Quite a few errors. Grammatical, lexical, semantics, you name it. The tone of his English was a bit amateurish to a certain degree. My friend joked, “Maybe he wrote it that way because he’s afraid we poor uneducated people from the tribal North East don’t understand English”. He laughed at his own sarcasm. I laughed too, but I swear it was a very uncomfortable laughter.

It took me less than 5 minutes to go through the entire booklet.

As I kept the booklet down on the table, my friend and our Mizo Officer host both looked and me and asked… “Well?”

Well… frankly speaking, I may not share the exact sentiments of many of my North eastern brothers and sisters. I am of course offended by some of the contents in the booklet, but a part of me feels that this entire issue is blown way out of proportion. Forgive me for saying that, but that’s just the kind of vibe I seem to be getting from the booklet. Why? Simply because I don’t think Mr. Robin Hibu ever intended to purposely stereotype the entire NE population like how some of the Mainland Indians are currently doing.

He made a mistake. A horrible mistake. And he’s paying for that everyday ever since he published that booklet. All he tried to do was to prevent the NE students of today from facing the same unfortunate racial abuses he probably experienced when he was in Delhi during his hey days. He did that out of love. Unfortunately, he failed to realize that the Delhi NE students of today are already facing such racial abuses and stereotyping already. Hence his “brotherly advice” only added more fuel to the racial fire already burning.

He came. He saw. He spoke. He blundered.

The internet is full of prominent newspapers and illustrious NE writers expressing their views on this whole Hibu incident. Given below are just some of the results Google churned out:
Ok I have absolutely no clue as to how the article appeared in the last link (mouthshut.com) mentioned above and how such an issue is related to the particular website (lolz), but apart from that, in all the articles posted above, most of the writers and people who took part in the discussion were out crying for Hibu’s blood, screaming for a crucifixion of sort.

I am of course appalled by such a publication too, but I also know what it’s like to be misunderstood. It’s not easy being the advocate for the minority and the down trodden who are extremely insecure due to the incessant racial abuses faced everyday. We must be exceedingly cautious in whatever we say or do, especially when the entire issue is highly sensitive as that of the North Eastern people of India. Last year, one of my most popular posts Chinky – What me insult? appeared in many National magazines and newspapers. In the post, I mentioned about the psychology of racial abuses, and tried to probe deeper into such phenomenon as to why we don’t feel insulted if somebody of the same race utters a racial slur at us, whereas it is extremely offensive if another person from a different race does the same. It was a logical statement. But I was suddenly misquoted (at a popular discussion forum which will not be named) that “Sandman says it’s OK to be called Chinky!”. Gosh you have no idea how much damage control I had to do, all because of that narrow-minded brain-the-size-of-a-pea commenter.

Anyway, that’s just my personal opinion, that Mr. Robin Hibu never intended to hurt the sentiments of the NE people to this degree. Prominent NE writers like David M. Thangliana (dmt), David Buhril, Donald Tsang etc have stated their opinions about this whole issue, for which I highly recommend you go to the above mentioned links. My opinions are nothing but a mere speck in a vast sea of desert when compared to theirs.

Hence, I on the other hand, will try to look at what this booklet has actually achieved among the NE population of this great Nation that we call India.
  1. The booklet, instead of informing the NE people of India about the various security measures and attempting to bring them closer to the main fold through means of assimilation, has definitely alienated them further away from the rest of India. A commoner from the NE is definitely going to think “Now it’s not just the average Delhi Joe who racially profiles, segregates and abuses us, but also the Delhi Police who are supposed to protect us from such racism. If that is the mentality of the Law maker in the National Capital, it is pretty obvious what the rest of India is thinking…”

  2. Racial abuses rose in alarming proportions, with “one side” claiming that there should be a set of rules for Mainland Indians too like prohibiting them from using “smelly” masalas in their dishes, making sure they take bath everyday to minimize the stink etc etc, while the “other side” hit back saying NE people should stop eating dog’s meat, be less promiscuous in their sex life etc etc. One only needs to read some of the discussion forums to know what I’m talking about. If stereotyping was basic, we are definitely back to basics. This is the sole reason why I have enabled comment moderation on this post. No racial abuses please!

  3. Not just NE women, but Indian women in general, lashed out at this booklet for reviving the age-old myth that a woman is raped because she wears clothes that does not cover her entire body properly (even though tons and tons of researches have proved that at least more than 80% of women raped in India are raped when they are dressed in the most socially acceptable attire). Remember that famous statement, “If you leave meat out in the open, dogs will come to eat it?” by a certain he-who-shall-not-be-named?

  4. This booklet also distanced NE women further away from Mainland Indians, because it stereotyped them as people who dress provocatively all the time. Use your common sense. In a crowd of Mainland Indians (Aryans and Dravidians origin), a girl of the same Race wearing a tube or spaghetti may be noticed but the memory of it does not linger for a long time in the subconscious. Whereas one single girl from the NE (Mongoloid origin) wearing such a dress will have a long-term effect in the subconscious simply because she is different (Just like how a foreigner is more noticeable in a crowd of locals). Hence the stereotype that all NE women dress provocatively. That stigma is exactly what every NE girl in India is trying to remove, and this booklet does nothing but put a knife right through the struggle.

  5. This booklet has definitely united everybody from the NE like never before. The Great Divide between NE and Mainland Indians grows stronger and stronger. NE people want recognition, for which they feel most of the Mainland Indians don’t give a rat’s ass. NE people have been identified as ONE single entity, when in fact each of us have our own particular customs, traditions, languages etc all different from each other, just like how Tamilnadu is different from Kerala, Maharashtra, West Bengal etc. Yet, this booklet seemed to pass on a message that the 7 sister States of India’s NE are just one entire singular community.

  6. The reaction from back home was also quite expected, with some prominent leaders with a “separatist agenda from India” using this as an opportunity to spread further propaganda to the masses. Some even spoke about the denial of basic Fundamental Rights to the NE population in the National Capital! Yes, they definitely blew this way out of proportion. First of all, there’s a difference between a Law and an Advice. Secondly, Mr.Hibu is an IPS Officer. He is well aware of the proceedings of The Constitution of India, and he’s not going to do anything that foolish (Even I’m appearing for the UPSC exams and I know how mandatory it is to study Political Science). Not only will he not do it, he cannot do it. Period.
What went wrong???

What exactly went wrong? When that book was finally sent to the Printing Press for publication, I’m sure Mr. Hibu had a great sleep that night, thinking about how his little booklet would make the lives of so many NE students in Delhi better. How then, did it turn into such a nightmare, with basically the entire NE community up in arms against this booklet?
  • First and foremost, Mr. Robin Hibu failed to understand the level of rift that has already existed between the NE and Mainland Indians. Only an actual personal experience can bring somebody from both sides close to each other (like how I have experienced) because no amount of such “advices” and booklets will ever remove the preconceived notion either side already has about each other.

  • If Mr.Hibu really wanted to give such advices, he should have done so at various NE Student Functions in Delhi, orally. By putting it down on paper for everybody to read (especially after the National newspapers promulgated it), he passed on a wrong message about the image of the NE people to the general public. Mainland Indians who don’t know much about NE people are now going to say, “So these people eat smelly food huh? That’s disgusting.” Remember Maneka Gandhi’s insensitive public allegation that the NE people thrive on dog’s meat? First of all, not all NE people eat dog’s meat. Not even most. And even if some enjoy such meat, it’s their wish. Mocking a different culture’s delicacy only displays the insensitivity and narrowness of certain xenophobic individuals.

  • Mr.Hibu should have chosen his words and sentences more carefully. The tone of his Introduction where he mentioned about NE guys in Delhi doing drugs and being sent back home in a coffin, NE girls dressing provocatively and getting raped, etc all sounded as if that’s what every NE students here in Delhi are doing. As mentioned before, being of a different race altogether, it is much easier to be noticed. That is why NE people don’t like to see NE girls flirting openly with barely enough tissues covering their entire bodies at Pubs and Discs in Delhi. And that is why certain NE Student Organizations in Delhi send such people back home to NE (sometimes forcibly), however unconstitutional that may sound, because one promiscuous NE girl at a pub or one drunk NE guy at a Pub Brawl can spoil the entire North eastern image.

  • The social evils that he mentioned is present across every society on the face of this planet. Yet the book sounded as if he singled out the NE students alone. Once again, he should have chosen his words more carefully. After reading some of the grammatical errors in the booklet, it was obvious nobody proofread it before publication. Had he given it to a good Publication House, they would have not only corrected some of his mistakes but also toyed around a bit with his sentences in order to reduce the tone a bit. A little more subtle title would help.

  • Anything dealing with the societal status of minorities is extremely sensitive. If the majority tries to impose certain cultural diktats on the minority in the name of assimilation and acculturation, the minority will only look at that as an extermination, an ethnocide, and a cultural imperialism. When black and white mix, gray is formed. Gray has the property of both black and white, yet this booklet seem to suggest that gray must be formed with just black as its property. Do you think white would ever want to mix with black then, even if gray is the color of Nationalism?
God bless India (North, East, West, South, and North-east).

27 comments:

illusionaire said...

Testing comment moderation :)

illusionaire said...

ok, I guess I don't have to moderate my own comments. lolz. silly me! *grin*

benjamin rualthanzauva said...

bad link: Battle over the Dress Code for NE Girls - mouthshut.com.


PS: if do not want to see 30 comment half of which is your own :-D

benjamin rualthanzauva said...

I have this comment for the title.

My reaction on seeing the title:


Ethnocide: The Great Hibu Fiasco

Ethnocide : This post has something to do with ethnicity.

Hibu : Who this this ?

From the title alone, I had absolutely no clue that this article is about the booklet issued by Delhi Police.

I read the booklet was written by someone one from NE but I do not remember his name.

If given a list of titles (or say on Google search)about this booklet for NE issue, I am unlikely to pick this because on a quick look at the title, it doesn't give me any clue about it's content (booklet issue).

That is not to say this article is bad. (in case somebody misinterpret)

claytonia vices said...

I feel that he should have instead tried to spread awareness and sensitise the 'majority' about racism... instead it is like telling the victims 'hey conform or get abused!'.

And that myth that dressing provokes attrocities is so prevalent even now among so many. I wonder if all the newspapers screaming that it isn't true on their headlines everyday for a month might put some sense...

BigSiS said...

Jobless you

illusionaire said...

@ Ben: Thanx for pointing it out. Link is rectified now. Regarding the Title, I think people who know Hibu and the booklet might know what this particular post is about. Although yes I agree people generally googling for news on NE might skip my post. I guess thats the risk Im taking. And about the "30 comments with half mine" well, that is exactly the difference between a personal blog and a consolidated News blog :-) It is considered a decent (N)etiquette to reply to the comments my visitors make, and also a way of showing my appreciation for the time they took to visit my blog and comment :)

@ claytonia: Exactly my thoughts, bro. Thats the kind of message one might get from the booklet, that it is our fault for getting abused! And just when we thought people now no longer live under the delusion that a woman is raped just because she wears "revealing" clothes, some leader or the other comes out in the name of society and makes such a declaration. sigh....

@ BigSis: :-P
U Muanpuii's back in Delhi. I'm going to interview her! :)

JesseTheCat said...

Hello Again,This article is an eye-opener for me, as I am not from India and my only knowledge of the happenings there comes from the news and internet and a local friend who originates from India.I read your take on this current issue and also followed a few of the included links to learn a bit more about it. Seems Mr. Hibu was giving advice to a community who were already so sensitive and raw from previous predjudice that it all got out of hand.Maybe he should have known better, having come from the community himself...and handled his booklet in a more positive way, if he had to publish such a booklet at all.When people are fighting to be accepted as part of society,( and not to be thought of as a group of undesirables, etc) it hardly helps to advise them not to eat their 'smelly foods' etc.Everyone has the right to eat their cultural dishes and dress revalingly if they so choose. It should be their own choice.Your post was excellently written and well researched. It was also very open minded. Hey, keep it up..and keep smiling ! I learnt something new today. You Go Sandman.. :)

illusionaire said...

Thanx for the comment Jesse. Nice to have the view of an outsider. I'm sure glad I could teach you something :) My greatest fear is the growing rift between either side. And all that starts from mere stereotyping. Remember, a victim of racism usually turns out to be a racist himself. It is a psychological phenomenon. If this is the attitude some people feel they are getting from the other side, there is bound to be retaliation. And people who never had such attitudes in the first place, will definitely have one if they are the victim of the repercussion. And the circle of hate will continue...

Shahnaz Kimi said...

Well written Kima.Like you, I have refrained from commenting as I have not yet read the booklet(scanned copy i nei mial lo maw:-)except the selected excerpts by the newspapers to suit their sales, but I can relate well to what you have written.
Thanks for the deep insight....
Shahnaz Kimi

illusionaire said...

Thanx for commenting dear Pi Shahnaz. Sorry, but I don't have the scanned copy. I don't think it's that difficult to get a copy of it. Since I already read the actual copy, I guess I never bothered to get a copy for myself. Maybe I'll ask around and try to get it scanned for you :)

Anyway, only about half the book is on the so called "security tips" for NE students. The remaining half is more on a very generalized topic, the kind of safety measures one can find anywhere, like not leaving your keys under the door mat, what to do in case of a fire etc etc. I don't think he wrote that other half as the style of English and even the paragraph style were completely different from the first half.

Phoenix said...

good post, really. And being one of those "mainland Indians" who happens to hate discrimination of any kind...esp on issue like ethnicity and caste, I feel strongly for tolerance, respect freedom and equality. Why make a farce of democracy in india by imposing "conducts"?

but then again, on another level one could reflect...when muslim clerics and self appointed Gods bring out dictums for women's dress codes...burkhas et al...the community itself doesnt cringe that much but when a comment is made from outside, it reacts automatically. Similarly with people from the NE, the tube tops get so easily stereotyped, it doesnt cease to amaze.

Chacko said...

Great post, we should have you on the Mutiny (that's www.mutiny.in incase you were wondering) :-)

illusionaire said...

@Phoenix: You and I belong to the new generation of Indian youth, fighting discrimination of all forms. Power to the Youth! :)

India is complicated, because of its unique diversity. That is why there are separate laws for Hindu Marriages, Muslim marriage etc, and why Tribal laws and customs are still practiced in many places with the Govt's knowing. Hence when it comes to such issues as culture and tradition, I believe anyone trying to make a change (in the name of progress) should tread as carefully as possible, especially when dealing with those of the minorities.

@ Chacko: Thanx! :) I am a regular reader of Mutiny, incase you don't know :) I never comment because of my ongoing UPSC coaching classes, but sometimes it is really difficult to be a silent observer especially when it comes to topics like Race, discrimination, exploitation, ethnocentrism etc. Thanx for the visit once again!

Oracle said...

It gladdens me when voices within a community speak up and make sense of issues rather than indulging in caustic attacks on adverse commentary.I believe in India , most of us stick by our various identiites ( religion, region, caste etc) ,and each faction has had to face discrimination because of it.
And instead of looking at the diversity as a multiplier of cultural plurality we seek to draw lines and create sacrosanct but closed spaces.
As i have experienced, a genuine and warm intermingling of diverse group can only take place when each faction is willing to compromise.
When one invites a guest home ,there are protocols that both the host and the guest folllows. SO if each of us takes care of such protocols on an individual/society level , we will not only dissolve boundaries but at the same time preserve indivdual/social/ ethnic identities.

Anonymous said...

I share your opinion about this Police booklet, a good post again.

FadeNoMore said...

..

Mr.Hibu has released a guide booklet.
he has not ENFORCED it on the NE People has he?
its up to us to follow it or disregard it.
the BMA (Bangalore Mizo Association) also has published rules and regulations for the Mizos to follow while living in Blore.. do we follow them? No. :)

its upto us to decide what we feel is right or wrong. simple as.

illusionaire said...

@ FadenoMore: He's the Commissioner of Police. If somebody in that position make such a statement, what does it look like to the common man? Remember, with great power, comes great responsibility.

And apart from that, even if it was just an advice, need he label the community in such a way? Suppose a Muslim Leader, say an IAS or IPS officer, "advices" the Muslim community not to wear their white Kufi Skullcap, because it "announces" to the others that they are Muslims and they might be discriminated for that. Can you imagine how the Muslim community would react to that? That is exactly what Mr.Hibu had done. He is "advicing" his own community to change according to the people around them, to prevent them from being alienated. Even though such an attempt is a noble deed, he seems to be blaming them for all the discriminations they have faced because they won't comply with a different culture.

Even if it is up to us to oblige or not, why tell the whole wide world that we eat "stinky" food and wear promiscuous clothes? How will you react if somebody "advices" you to change something that has been a part of you since time immemorial? And remember, its not just that somebody advising you, but publishing those words of advice for everybody to see... The main point is, why publish it like that? He could have told each community separately in ways like newsletter, magazine article etc. BMA never distributed their Do's and Don'ts to newspapers, police stations, Schools and colleges etc. And I think it's mostly in Mizo. There's a vast differences between those and Mr.Hibu's publication.

illusionaire said...

@ anonymous: Thanx for the visit and comment :)

@ oracle: India is not called a Unity in diversity for nothing. There is a unity amidst the vast diversity, simply because we have learned how to live with each other. Even with the existence of various different classes and ethnic groups, the level of discrimination in India is never as bad as the early Americas where white folks would hunt down black people to hang or burn, just because they were black. In India, we have learned how to compromise, as you mentioned, to a certain level. Many of my closest friends are non-Mizos. We get along so well with each other only because we compromise when it comes to each person's particular culture and tradition. Compromising means accepting other cultures as they are. It does not mean we should stop practicing our own customs and traditions. The second, is what the booklet unfortunately seem to suggest. Thanx for the comment.

philo said...

The tabloidesque title threw me off initially but thanks for the measuredly articulated reportage. I seem to be constantly blowing my own line but does dealing with difference have to be limited to extreme tones: paternal condescension at best and rabid insenstivity/blindness at worst. From what you write, seems like Hibu, for all his well intentioned impulse, seems to have inadvertently pigeonholed himself into these self-limiting tones. If the youth do have the answer (as you aver in a response) id say it'd be in creativity...of conjuring up attitudes and practices that encounter and engage with difference in ways that are more equitable, inclusive and life-affirming. Thanks for keeping us on top of these issues.

illusionaire said...

Thanx for the comment bro :) Yup the answer lies in the youth. Assimilation will only take place through a gradual peaceful compromise, and never by means of brute force.

Ps. When are you updating your blog??? lolz. Lost interest in blogging already? And you were all fired up and enthu etc when you posted your first article :) Its been 2 months now, and still the same 4 posts :))

JesseTheCat said...

Hello Mr S. I am just popping in to read all the wonderful comments...seems like all the coolest things are saidin ones 'comment section' , not so ? Thanks for the recent comment you left me on my blog, it made me absolutely hoze myself ! :) Jesse

Opie said...

Humans are a mistake.

mnowluck said...

IMHO... Publishing a book like this would make us() vulnerable to being discriminated -- don't you think so???
Instead of publishing a book-tips for the northeast, he should better publish a book like, SEX education if he have a lot of time to kill. Me a racist too :D, sorry pooh!!!

Mariuca said...

Hi Sandman,

Thanks for the lovely poem on my post! It made me feel like making a special Mariuca Mug just for u LOL! :)

Anyway, I read this article of yours several days ago (using the great bloglines!), I read every word to make sure I really understand what you wrote.

I feel bad for the author cause like u mentioned, his intentions were noble to begin with, but due to certain things, it has been blown into such a huge issue that I bet he regrets ever writing it ;)

I do agree with you on several issues here, but what I would like to mention is what u wrote about him neglecting to have his work proofread and edited first.

Being a copywriter, I wish he had done that at least. That on its own, would have helped sugar-coat his words better and made it less harsh or bold. Which brings me to my point, that u always need to proofread and edit your work, many many times before feeling satisfied enough to have it published. To have such a sensitive topic out in the open like this, without any form of toning down his words, is just asking for trouble ;)

But that's just my opinion. :) Most importantly, I wanted to tell YOU that this was an excellent article. Your writing was magnificent, you covered all the bases and you definitely left me in AWE at the unique talent you so obviously profess...

I'm just baffled as to why you're not on the bestseller list yet. Am really looking forward to your first book. I have no doubts in my mind that you will be awfully famous one day. Don't forget me when you're at the top! Will be waiting for that autographed copy no matter when! :) :) :)

Have a pleasant night (or day!)

raka dada said...

Well Mr illusionaire your post is well written and makes sense.

I would however advise you to remove the link to the discussion on the topic by Sepia Mutiny--it is an unacknowledged COPY (not plagiarising, it is copy-and-paste)from an Arunachalees blog(www.Arunachaldiary.blogspot.com) and Sepia Mutiny has shamelessly lifted different postings from this blog in the past too and shamelessly presented it as its own.Disgusting pirates.

Unknown said...

i should have seen this back then
i had to get up in the morning early, scan & hide all the newspaper from my roommate (Robin Hibu's niece)so as not to see her in tears again
piece like this where Mr. Hibu was not completely attacked by fellow NE would have made her day those days...tuna hmuh tir chu amzia toh lo bok sia :)
seni