Skip to main content

Coronavirus scare ‘pushing’ people from Northeast India into more hardship

By Rishiraj Sinha, Biswanath Sinha*
“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background or his religion. People learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” – Nelson Mandela
***
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) which has been declared pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) has created panic and a tensed environment around the country. However, the pandemic has also brought in various kinds of racial discrimination and behaviour towards the people belonging to the Northeast region.
It is very disturbing to see a country like India which is an epitome of cultural diversity and has a mutual coexistence of various religion, ethnicity etc. witnessing such racial discrimination and dehumanisation of people from the Northeast due to their Mongolian features.
It has to be kept in mind that although people are targeting them as carriers of coronavirus in the mainland, so far there have been only two cases of coronavirus found in the region of Northeast till this article is going to the press (one each in Manipur and Mizoram).
We also have to understand why we are targeting people with Mongolian features in such a hostile manner just because of a pandemic. During the 2009 flu pandemic (H1N1 influenza virus) around 1.4 billion people were affected and it originated in North America.
Source: Instagram
At that moment of time nobody judged the Western nations or termed it “American Pig Flu” but we are targeting Chinese and people with Mongolian features as the carriers of Coronavirus, and many have attributed this as “Chinese Virus” whereas WHO had issued a guideline in 2015 in an attempt to minimise negative impacts on trade, animal welfare and avoid causing offence to social, cultural, national, regional or ethnic groups.
The discrimination towards Northeast people in mainland India is not a new thing and has been taking place for a long time now. In the recent past, it was brought into mainstream news when a student from Arunachal Pradesh, Nido Tania was murdered brutally in New Delhi because of racial discrimination in 2014.
“Racist incidents of North-easterners being targeted recently in many parts of India -- from Bengal to Maharashtra to Delhi -- should not be understood as an effect produced by the pandemic coronavirus. Racism has existed prior to the arrival of the pandemic and is now being brought to the fore. This is yet again a reminder that crisis situations amplify already existing social hierarchies”, says a senior Guwahati-based expert.
As the whole country observed Janata Curfew on the 22nd March 2020, a girl from Manipur was racially discriminated, humiliated, abused and spat upon by mainlanders in New Delhi. 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.
Ever since the outbreak of Covid-19 in India, many cases of discrimination have been reported from places like Pune, Mumbai, Kolkata, parts of Punjab, Mysuru and Ahmedabad. The cases range from publicly calling names, addressing people from NE as ‘Corona Virus’, asking them to vacate rooms, sending them to forceful quarantine centres to physical assault as it’s reported from Kolkata.
Tapir Gao
On March 17, 2020 Lok Sabha MP Mr Tapir Gao had urged the Centre to issue an advisory to all the states of the country against the alleged racial discrimination against the people from North-eastern states. However, when he was addressing Parliament his fellow parliamentarians were seen laughing and they were ostensibly mocking about the situation in the Parliament.
Unfortunately, this has been perceived by many as the social reality persisting in the society. Many, especially netizens from the region thought when people representing the country are sitting in the Parliament and laughing about it, how far will any actions be taken to control such discrimination?

Government and civil society response

Presently, except New Delhi, there are hardly any Northeast Help Cells available to provide assistance to the people of region facing discrimination in parts of the country. Being in a small minority, it’s difficult for them to raise their voices too. In many cities students’ bodies from Northeast are active to play supporting role for the victims. But they cannot cover each and every such case.
The discrimination towards Northeast people in mainland India is not a new thing and has been taking place for a long time now
After spurt of discriminatory incidents across the country the Home Ministry has issued a notification asking all the states to look into such cases on the March 21, 2020. In a letter to chief secretaries of all states and Union territories, the ministry said it had come to its notice that people from the Northeast have been facing harassment after the occurrence of the deadly COVID-19 in the country.

Way forward

The only way some cases are being heard are through people who are being vocal in social media and the victims who are capturing videos of the live event and streaming in the online platforms. These are then shared by some well-known personalities (mostly from northeast region) asking the competent authorities to look into such matters. There are many cases which are not reported and many victims are not escalating the cases of discrimination simply to avoid police and not antagonising neighbourhoods.
In 2012, the Ministry of Home Affairs had mandated all the states and union territories to penalise anyone who commits an act of atrocity against people from the region under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. However, many potential target communities (like the Ahoms, Gurkhas, Meiteis and many more communities with Mongolian features) do not come under Schedule Caste or Scheduled Tribe category.
The latest incident on the March 28, 2020 at Mysuru wherein two youths from Nagaland were denied entry into a supermarket store is testimony of the fact that only Government Regulations are not going to eradicate this social menace.
This is a sad reality that Indians are feeling unsafe in their own country because of such bigotry, prejudice and stigma in the society. One must remember that the victims in such cases are mostly youths, workers and students stuck thousands of kilometres away during the national lockdown without any option to return to their native places. They are also struggling for their livelihoods. Discrimination towards them only adds to their existential misery.
---
*Rishiraj Sinha is a student at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Guwahati Campus, contact: rishirajsinha28@gmail.com. Biswanath Sinha is with Tata Trusts, Mumbai, contact: mbiswanath@gmail.com. Views are personal

Comments

Lalpal said…
Every Indian must read this article. Well pened bro. Keep it up.��
Anonymous said…
What is the point of anyone reading it, their sympathy will only last for the few mintues they read. The discrimination is never going to stop, people will always treat us as second-rate citizens and such acts, crimes will continue. Like the article said, even our so called netas, law makers, the ones elected to protect the people are the ones laughing at us, than the people will only do as they do, like monkey see monkey do. India is hopeless at this point, the few who care are just a pebble in the ocean, the country itself sees us NE people as easy targets just because we dont act back so quick in fear we might attract unwanted attention. Maybe it will someday end, but i can only see that in a fantasy world, even than its still uncertain. Its a great article, im not throwing any shade, but the people wont change not in a million years, maybe someday we(NE) might just find our ticket out this hell hole but than again... Its still to close anywhere we go in this world.
This is true. Well written and researched upon. And it has been like that since a long time. And nothing has ever improved. Racial discrimination still persists and will remain to persist until the Indians from other states don't enhance their knowledge upon the inhabitants of India itself.

TRENDING

'Flawed' argument: Gandhi had minimal role, naval mutinies alone led to Independence

Counterview Desk Reacting to a Counterview  story , "Rewiring history? Bose, not Gandhi, was real Father of Nation: British PM Attlee 'cited'" (January 26, 2016), an avid reader has forwarded  reaction  in the form of a  link , which carries the article "Did Atlee say Gandhi had minimal role in Independence? #FactCheck", published in the site satyagrahis.in. The satyagraha.in article seeks to debunk the view, reported in the Counterview story, taken by retired army officer GD Bakshi in his book, “Bose: An Indian Samurai”, which claims that Gandhiji had a minimal role to play in India's freedom struggle, and that it was Netaji who played the crucial role. We reproduce the satyagraha.in article here. Text: Nowadays it is said by many MK Gandhi critics that Clement Atlee made a statement in which he said Gandhi has ‘minimal’ role in India's independence and gave credit to naval mutinies and with this statement, they concluded the whole freedom struggle.

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

Don't agree on domestic subsidies, ensure food security at WTO meet: Farmer leaders

Counterview Desk  The Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements (ICCFM), a top network of farmers’ organizations in India, in a letter to Piyush Goyal, Minister of Commerce and Industry, has asked him to “safeguard food security and sovereignty, even as ensuring peasants' rights" at the 13th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO MC 13), to take place from 26 to 29 February 2024 in Abu Dhabi.

Sharp 61-85% fall in Tech startup funding in India's top 'business-friendly' States

By Rajiv Shah Funding in Tech startups in top business-friendly Indian states has witnessed a major fall, a data intelligence platform for private market research has said in a series of reports it has released this month. Analysing Tech startup data of Telangana, Maharashtra, Delhi NCR, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala, Tracxn Technologies Ltd , the Bengaluru-based research firm, finds that except for Kerala, funding witnessed a fall of anywhere between 61% and 85%.

Maize, bajra, jute, banana cultivation banned off West Bengal border: Plea to NHRC

Counterview Desk  West Bengal-based human rights defender Kirity Roy, who is secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Manch, and is national convenor of the Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity, in a representation to the chairman, National Human Rights Commission, second within few days, has bought to light one more case of trespassing and destruction of a fertile banana plantation by BSF personnel along the Indo-Bangladesh border, stating, despite a written complaint to the police has taken "no initiative".

India second best place to invest, next to UAE, yet there is 'lacks support' for IT services

By Sreevas Sahasranamam, Aileen Ionescu-Somers*  The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is the best place in the world to start a new business, according to the latest annual Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) survey. The Arab nation is number one for the third year in a row thanks to a big push by the government into cutting-edge technology in its efforts to diversify away from oil.

Solar energy funding dips 9% in 2023; 2024 'kicks off' with US$1 billion investment

By Lakshmitha Raj*  Solar energy tech companies have already secured slightly over US$1 billion in funding in 2024 (till Feb 7, 2024) after total funding into Solar Energy companies in India fell 9% to US$1.55B in 2023 from US$1.7B in 2022. A total of 39 $100M+ rounds have been closed till date, with Delhi leading the city-wise funding, followed by Gurugram and Mumbai.

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Mahanadi delta: Aggressive construction in flood plains, reduced fish stock, pollution

By Sudhansu R Das  Frequent natural calamities, unemployment, low farmers’ income, increase in crime rate and lack of quality human resources to strike a balance between growth and environment etc. continue to haunt the state. The state should delve into the root causes of poverty, unemployment and natural calamities.

Narmada Valley's fossil evidence: Ground for 'nationalists' to argue primates' India roots?

By Saurav Sarkar*  In December 1982, a geologist digging in India’s Central Narmada Valley found something he did not expect. Arun Sonakia, who at the time worked for the Geological Survey of India, unearthed a hominid fossil skullcap from the Pleistocene era. The discovery sent shockwaves through the field of paleoanthropology and put South Asia on the map of human prehistory. Some experts concluded that the skull likely belonged to a member of a predecessor species of ours, Homo heidelbergensis , or perhaps was a hybrid of homo species, while Sonakia himself suggested “ an affinity… to Homo erectus .”