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.��
Elena wesley said…
Thanks for sharing this Information. If u looking for more updates about coronavirus, visit
Common Safety precautions against coronavirus
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

Iswarchandra Vidyasagar was a 'frustrated' reformer who turned into a conservative

By Bhaskar Sur "If someone says the Manusamhita was written by all wise Manu and the principal scripture of the land and if he asks me to throw it away, I'll say it is nothing short of atrocious audacity." -- Iswarchandra Vidyasagar

Why do I lend my support to voices protesting world class renovation of Gandhi Ashram?

By Martin Macwan* One would not expect an activist working on Dalit rights to join such a protest. Dalits carry unhealed trauma that Gandhi caused to Dr BR Ambedkar and the Dalit cause of effective political representation by using violent means of his own definition in the event of the Poona Pact. This apart, Gandhi’s ideas in general, which changed often, on caste were orthodox. I have nothing to add to the subject after the sharpest critique offered by Dr Ambedkar.

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

2002 riots: Gujarat assembly 'misinformed' about dereliction of duty, says ex-DGP

By Rajiv Shah  Former Gujarat topcop RB Sreekumar, an IPS officer of the 1971 batch, has alleged that the Gujarat government gave “totally false information” on the floor of the State Assembly regarding the appeal he made to the Gujarat governor for the “initiation of departmental action against those responsible for culpable negligence in maintenance of public order and investigation of genocidal crimes” during the 2002 riots.

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".

Odisha bauxite mining project to 'devastate' life of 2,500 Adivasi, Dalit farmers: NAPM

Counterview Desk  While the public hearing on mining in Mali hills has been cancelled due to protests by Adivasi and Dalit farmers of the Mali Parbat Surakhya Samiti, Odisha, who have been protesting against the proposed bauxite mining project, India’s top civil rights network, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) has said it is “deeply concerned” at the decision of the Government of Odisha to push the project in a Schedule-V Adivasi-belt Koraput district against the interests of the people and environment.

Economy in tatters, labour codes 'take away' workers' safety, benefits, right to form TU

By Our Representative  The four new labour codes promulgated by the Government of India came in for sharp criticism from several labour unions and civil rights groups at one-day discussion meeting organised in Ranchi (Jharkhand) on the issue of ‘changes in labour laws. Participants in the meeting asserted that under these new codes, many of the benefits and safeties accorded to labourers have been "taken away", while the right of labourers to create trade unions has been attacked.

'Devastating impact': Rural workers suffer as Govt of India NREGA budget down by 34%

Counterview Desk  A civil rights group, the NREGA Sangharsh Morcha has sent a letter to the Prime Minister and the Minister of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj stating that 34 per cent decrease in the fiscal budget of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGA) for year 2021-22 has added to woes on India’s rural population, already suffering from “devastating impact” of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Celebrating birthday amidst image of 'coerced, submissive' India ruled by a strong leader

Pushkar Raj*  As the weeks long birthday festivity of the leadership was being rejoiced India wide, the Covid was still raging in several parts of India. The carnival was in line with the post-Covid decisions and actions of the leadership demonstrating a pursuit of personal power and glory instead of national interest in times of disease and death.

Politically-motivated: Global NGO network on ED 'harassment' of Harsh Mander

Counterview Desk  CIVICUS , a top global alliance of civil society organisations seeking to strengthen citizen action and civil society around the world with a claimed membership of more than 10,000, objecting to the alleged harassment of IAS bureaucrat-turned-human rights activist Harsh Mander by the Government in India, has said that the the the Enforcement Directorate (ED) raid on his house and office highlights “an ongoing pattern of baseless and politically-motivated criminal charges brought by the authorities against activists across India”.