South Asians for Human Rights

Promoting Democracy, Upholding Human Rights

The Exodus is Not over: Migrations from the Ruptured Homelands of Northeast India
Author: Nandita Haksar
Publisher: Speaking Tiger
Price: Rs. 350

Migration is not easy and it is all the more difficult in case of labourers. Again in India, if migrants are from North-East India then they have to encounter both racial discrimination and racial prejudice.

Nandita Haksar is a human rights lawyer, campaigner and writer. She regularly writes on human rights violations in North-East. Her first visit to Ukhrul, Manipur, with an all women’s fact-finding team in 1982, was on the invitation of the East District Women’s Association. Since then she visits the region. In her new book ‘The Exodus is Not Over: Migrations from the Ruptured Homelands of Northeast India’, she has focused, primarily, on the plight of Tangkhul Naga community of Ukhrul.

Economic deprivation, insurgencies and deadly ethnic clashes is driving impoverished men and women from the North-East region of India to the “mainland India”. Their first choice is, normally, Delhi. But, of late Tangkhul and others are also opting Goa, Bengaluru etc. Here, in “mainland” India they face discrimination and young girls have to face much more. The migration of women from North-East is sizeable. It also indicates how strong they are. Tangkhul women had started asserting their rights and challenging the customary law practices.

Historically, North-East has been a migrant receiving zone. The region has received a large number of migrants from Nepal, Bangladesh and more recently from Myanmar. Now, the scenario is opposite. The Exodus is Not Over features first-generation migrant workers from Manipur. Meitei is in majority in the state of Manipur and Naga are in minority. The book revolves around Ngalatim Hongray (or Atim, as she is fondly called). She moved to Delhi in October 2005. She left beautiful, green and silent Ukhrul to earn some money. She wanted to see her big family survive. Her aim was to earn and send some money back home. Her brother Yaokhalek too comes to Delhi. Their younger sister Ramchanphy was brutally murdered in Delhi on October 24, 2009. Ramchanphy had just turned nineteen. The author narrates how they suffer when someone from the North-East is murdered or dies. Taking the body to their native village is not easy. In such scenario, the members of the community come forward and help.

Most of the migrants from North-East are working in hotels, restaurants, spas etc. The working hours are long and most of them are not even paid minimum wages. In such a condition, 6-7 people live in a one- two room rented flats. The life is not easy. The reality is migrant labourers, globally, works at less wages than local labourers. In case of Goa, there is anti-migrant feeling also.

Atim, Yaokhalek and others regularly face humiliation. Many times, they are treated as “foreigners” even though they are Indians. They are treated differently. Reading the book makes it clear how less we know about North-East India, their culture and life. The author narrates the life of North-East migrants through the eyes of Atim and others. She and couple of others came forward and gave accounts of their sufferings to the author. It’s an eye opener.

The author highlights a case of Yuimila. She criticised the functioning of a Goa NGO who played role in police raiding spa and their claim of “rescuing” women. Even media also highlights such cases without independent investigation. She had to spend twenty-five days in Protective Home where the conditions were filthy. The court order stated that the father had to ‘give a report in this regard to the nearest police station at Manipur, also to the protective home Merces (Goa) every three months that his girls are residing at Manipur.’ The author says,” to my mind, the order was absolutely illegal. The Constitution of India gives every Indian citizen the right to move freely about the country, the right to profession and the right to live with dignity.’

The narratives focus on Tangkhul community but the suffering of other communities of North-East is not different. The North-East is divided by various ethnic communities and many of them have their own militias. Most of the migrant’s dream of starting their own business. Tangkhuls also dreams of constructing their own homes in their villages.