Priyanka Dasgupta | TNN | Apr 18, 2017, KOLKATA: A Trinamool councillor of south Kolkata now has the unenviable task of acting as a mediator between people from the Northeast who stay in the Jadavpur-Azadgarh-Bikramgarh belt and long-time inhabitants of the area.
"Yes, I have received complaints. I want to discuss this issue in the presence of all aggrieved parties and cops," Ward 95 councillor Tapan Dasgupta admitted. The latest flare-up in the area, where both sides say their relationship has always been marked by an "undercurrent of tension", came last week.
Even some years back, a 600 sq ft flat could be rented in Bikramgarh for Rs 4,000 a month. Today, the rent is Rs 10,000, thanks largely to an influx from northeastern states. However, they allege that despite paying through their nose, they have to face a lot of discrimination.
"After staying in Bikramgarh for three months, I moved to Kasba. I would get often teased there. They would call me 'momo' and 'chinki'. There were times when men would try to touch me inappropriately," said Rachel Lalremtluangi, a Loreto student from Mizoram.
There's a misconception that girls from northeast are "easily available". "These men ogle at them and make passes. If the girls don't respond, they spread rumours and indulge in character assassination," said a resident, who didn't want to be named.
Discrimination in rent is also a regular complaint. Apart from higher rents, many house-owners don't even return their deposits giving silly excuses Students allege that they are expected to pay hefty donations for programmes. Vegetable sellers also hike prices if they see a buyer from the northeast, Lalremtluangi claimed.
"Rickshaw-wallahs charge an extra 20 bucks from Northeast people. I, too, have had to shell out Rs 50 more to cabbies just because I don't look like someone from Bengal," said Saurav Chettri, who runs momo counters in Bikramgarh.
However, locals have a different take. According to Bikramgarh resident Rupak Chatterjee, "The economic boost has changed the social fabric of our locality. Their lifestyle is different and they often get into tiffs with locals. Sometimes, they abuse us in a language we can't even comprehend." Dipak Bhattacharya, who works in a private firm, is apprehensive of a cultural assault. "Even youngsters from this locality are now emulating their lifestyle. We aren't used to this."
According to sociologist Tumpa Mukherjee, "Northeast India has always been marginalised by mainstream Indian politics. There is a myth about their lifestyle and food habits. People here often live under the false impression that those from the northeast naturally gravitate towards deviant activities."