Mizoram Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla on Tuesday said he had faced racial abuse in India several times. “Racial abuse is the worst thing in this country. I have faced it myself a lot of times,” he said in an interview to IANS. “These are foolish people who do not know their own country.”

The 74-year-old recalled an incident from “20-25 years ago” when he said he was told he does not “look like an Indian”. “I replied: Tell me in one sentence what an Indian looks like,” the five-time chief minister said.

Thanhawla attributed the birth of regionalism and secessionism to racial abuse faced by those from the North East in other parts of the country. “That is why in the North East, regionalism is very high. [Feelings of] secessionism are very high. We are not accepted outside the North East. This is how so-called Indian people treat us,” he said.

In March this year, a student from Arunachal Pradesh studying in Bengaluru had filed a police complaint against his landlord for beating and forcing him to lick his shoes. Higio Guntey had alleged that he was subjected to such humiliation for having used up more than his share of water.

In the same month, four Nigerian students, accused of cannibalism, sustained severe injuries after being attacked by a group of residents in Greater Noida. The incident triggered a diplomatic crisis, with the envoys of African countries issuing a strong statement against the Centre’s inaction in the matter.

Corrections and clarifications: An earlier version of the story carried the wrong picture of Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla. That has been changed.