From downright shock to a seething anger, people from the country's northeast, and especially its youth, reacted strongly at the death Thursday of a 19-year-old Arunachal Pradesh student who was allegedly severely assaulted by shopkeepers in a busy south Delhi market.
Calling it as yet another incident of blatant racism against northeastern students, people of the region spoke out against widescale discrimination meted out to hapless youngsters going to the national capital every year looking for better opportunities for education and career.
"There were such large scale protests against discrimination of South African students in Delhi after the Somnath Bharti (of Aam Aadmi Party) incident in south Delhi. Without undermining their case, why are there no voices outside the northeast community condemning incidents of racism against people of India's northeast?"
"Day after day, and year after year, when helpless students of the northeast are meted out worse behaviour by residents of the city, no one speaks out. Nido Taniem's death was a case of downright discrimination and racism, but who, other than us from the northeast, are going to speak out against it?" asks an agitated Saurav Barman, a second year graduation student in Guwahati.
Agrees another student in Tinsukia, another town of Assam.
"Taniem was harassed for his hairstyle, for the way he looked and that resulted in a tiff. This incident stinks of racism. And even if the argument resulted in the breaking of a shop window, does it justify the merciless beating of a young boy with rods by six-eight men? What kind of barbaric society is this?" asks Arupjyoti Gohain.
Taniem, who was severely assaulted Wednesday, died of his injuries while being treated in a hospital Thursday. Police said they are questioning shopkeepers of the Lajpat Nagar-1 area where the attack on him took place.
Speaking out against the incident, Suhas Chakma of the Asian Centre for Human Rights said, "There have been increasing racial attacks on the people from the northeast India in Delhi. In addition to the provisions of the Indian Penal Code, Delhi Police must invoke the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act against the murderers, as well as the Delhi Police personnel who failed to protect Nido Taniam, a Scheduled Tribe boy, from being beaten to death."
In recent years, Delhi has also earned a dubious tag of being a city that often sees sexual harassment of women, and almost every northeastern girl in the city complains of being teased because of their looks and being referred by the derogatory term, 'chinky'.
Babita Singha of Manipur, whose 18-year-old daughter is deciding on colleges outside her home state for her graduation, said that Delhi is strictly out of the list of choices.
"How can any parent send their child to a place that is notorious for being racist to people of the northeast? My neighbour's daughter is studying in Delhi and she often complains of being harassed on the road, being called 'chinky', even harassed by her landlord. It's a shame that the capital of the country is so hostile to its own people," Singha said.
It's a similar reaction by a number of other students from the region preparing to explore colleges in the metros for their graduation.
"I will either go to Bangalore or Pune, but not Delhi. All these incidents have put such a negative impact on my mind," said James Jyrwa, a student in Meghalaya's Shillong.
Already sore with the capital's attitude, Thursday's unfortunate death of a young student has further darkened the mood of the people, especially its youngsters, towards Delhi.
"People say why do people of the northeast feel alienated...with such discrimination, who wouldn't? We youngsters go looking for better opportunity to the capital of the country, not to do any harm. Let's see who speaks up against Taniem's death this time, or if we will yet again be left to scream for ourselves," read a post by Animikha from Assam on a social networking site.
(Azera Parveen Rahman can be contacted at email@example.com)