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India’s North-easterners face racial discrimination over coronavirus scare

India’s North-easterners face racial discrimination over coronavirus scare
March 23
17:22 2020

Mumeninaz Zaman

The Coronavirus pandemic, which evolved from Wuhan city in China, has been claiming thousands of lives around the world. The COVID-19 positive cases are being reported every minute in the country, thereby creating a tensed atmosphere. While the entire world is grappling with the rapidly spreading outbreak people of the Northeastern region of India, living in different parts of the country are no exception. However, apart from the coronavirus scare the people hailing from the northeast has been on pins and needles in the mainland.

The spread of the deadly virus has opened up old faultlines among the mainlanders against the Northeasterners- insecurities of being a foreigner and fears of getting infected by them, just because they have Mongoloid features.

Recently in an unfortunate turn of events, a case of racial discrimination has surfaced in Delhi after a Manipuri girl from Delhi’s Vijay Nagar area was racially abused. The incident took place when a middle-aged man, on a two-wheeler, came and racially abused the woman by allegedly calling her ‘corona’, before fleeing.

As per reports, the man also spat ‘gutkha’ (tobacco) on the woman’s t-shirt, a photo of which has also gone viral. Many activists from the northeast are calling it an open case of racial discrimination. The incident took place on Sunday night and an FIR has been filed under section 509 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

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With the rise in the cases of the deadly virus, xenophobic and racist attacks are frequently coming to the fore.

On March 3, a woman from Northeast has alleged that she and her friend were hit by water balloons and called ‘Coronavirus’ by two men on a bike near Delhi University’s North Campus. The incident was reported to have happened near Kamla Nagar. Following a police complaint, an FIR was registered.

Taking heed of the prevailing situation on March 17, Lok Sabha MP Tapir Gao has urged the Centre to issue an advisory to all the states of the country against the alleged racial discrimination against the people from Northeastern states.

The senior BJP leader from Arunachal Pradesh said: “The coronavirus disease is spread all across the country, and the people of the Northeast are facing a double coronavirus. The people upon seeing a northeastern face comment…look here comes coronavirus. They are also asked to vacate hostels and rented accommodation. I urge the Centre to issue an advisory to all the states of the country against the racial discrimination which is a conspiracy to divide the northeast and the rest of the country.”

Tapir Gao

Tapir Gao

 

In another instance, the Northeastern Welfare Association, Chennai, filed a complaint on March 20, with the city police commissioner after the outbreak of COVID-19 in China and across the world. The association claimed that since Northeastern people resembles the Chinese people they are often targeted. The association further requested for a 24*7 helpline number for the assistance of Northeast people in Chennai. As per reports according to the Association, many of the students have been ordered to vacate their hostels and return home.

As reported in The Hindu on February, the Northeastern Students’ Forum has issued a statement highlighting the rise in the number of such cases and called for the TISS administration and government bodies to take necessary steps to keep it in check. They further highlighted a recent case of a student from Nagaland and her friend being subjected to outright racial discrimination at Maitri park in Chembur on February 10.

The letter also mentions that TISS students from northeast states have received name-calling such as ‘corona’ or ‘coronavirus’ at various public places.

Condemning the act of racial discrimination the students have asked the authorities to adopt adequate measures to ensure the safety of the students from the region, who are vulnerable to racial discrimination.

Recently a video of students, living in a small village in Punjab called Chunni Kalan, also went viral on social media because of the same reason. The students posted a video explaining how after the virus outbreak, people have been calling them with names such as coronavirus.

The video was shared on a Facebook page called Dimapur 24/7 with the caption, “Stop calling us corona, ch***i, Chinese … North East students of Punjab. #Govt_Of_India #say #No #to #Racism #Students #Northeast #India.”

Watch the Video here:

Union Minister Kiren Rijiju also took to Twitter to call out the incidents of racial attacks that have been faced by the citizens of northeastern states.

The Minister tweeted- “Some incidents of racial remarks against North-East people have emerged in some parts of India in the wake of #Coronavirus due to cultural ignorance, prejudice mindset & lack of understanding,” Rijiju wrote. He added that the matter had also been discussed in the Ministry of Home Affairs’ North East Division and that a “strict advisory” had been issued to all States.

Featured Image Source: India Today

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