NEW DELHI — Hundreds of young protesters from India’s far northeast demonstrated outside a New Delhi police station Saturday, furious over the death last week of an 18-year-old man who was injured in a fight with shopkeepers, and complaining of discrimination against them because of their East Asian features.
Though the exact cause of the death of the man, Nido Tania, has yet to be determined, he was found dead in his bed less than a day after a violent altercation, and many in his circle say they believe he suffered serious internal injuries.
Two shopkeepers at the Rajasthan Paneer Shop, a dairy store tucked away in the corner of a residential street, are accused of making fun of his hairstyle, using an ethnic slur, and later beating him.
Indians from the northeast who live in other parts of the country often face verbal abuse and harassment because many have distinct facial features and are not native speakers of Hindi or south Indian languages.
“We experience discrimination not just in Delhi, but in all of India outside of our states,” said Adam Patak, one of the students who organized Saturday’s protest. “They say we are Chinese or made in China.” Demonstrations also took place in Tania’s home state.
Tania, the son of a legislator from the northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh, was visiting a friend Wednesday when he approached the shopkeepers to ask for directions. After one of them made a derisive remark, Tania broke the glass of a refrigerated display case in the front of the shop, witnesses said.
The police were called and managed to broker a compromise at the police station. Tania agreed to compensate the store owners for the damage.
Tania’s father, Nido Pavitra, said his son told him the police returned him to the same spot and the two shopkeepers and at least one other man then beat him severely.
“At first nothing happened, but the second time the Delhi police brought him to the spot, he was beaten very badly,” Pavitra said in Ziro, a town in Arunachal Pradesh, as he was taking his son’s body home.
“It was a mistake of the Delhi police,” he said. “It was a great mistake; after solving the problem in the police station, they brought my son to the same place.” Pavitra said his son had not complained of pain before the attack.