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Amidst The Coronavirus Crisis, People From Northeast India Are Being Racially Abused

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This post is a part of YKA’s dedicated coverage of the novel coronavirus outbreak and aims to present factual, reliable information. Read more.

Over the internet, the COVID-19 or novel coronavirus is being named synonymous with China as it was first reported in China’s Wuhan province. Globally, the COVID-19 is also called as “Chinese virus” and even US President Donald Trump called it with the same name while slamming China for the outbreak.

However, in India, amidst the COVID-19 outbreak and nation-wide lockdown, an unpleasant situation has been created for the people from the Northeast with mongoloid features who are being abused, discriminated and called “corona” in cities like Delhi, Bengaluru and other parts of mainland India. This racial profiling of people from the northeast has become a regular affair in metros with the government doing next to nothing to fight this deadly disease.

A shocking incident happened on 22nd March 2020 in Delhi’s Mukherjee Nagar when a woman from Manipur in her early 20s was verbally abused, called “corona” and was spat on by a man who chased her on a bike. The man identified as Gaurav Vohra in his 40s was later arrested by the police after the incident was widespread on the internet.

Meanwhile, in Karnataka’s Mysore, two youths from Nagaland were denied entry into a supermarket based on their looks. In a video shared over social media, one youth is being seen saying, “We are Indians. We need groceries too. We live here, we have an Aadhaar Card. How can you discriminate us?” However, the Mysore City Police lodged an FIR and the store manager and staff who denied their entry were taken into custody. After this incident, Union Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports, Kiren Rijiju, in his Twitter said, “This is unacceptable. Union Home Ministry has already issued a clear advisory to all the States and Union Territories to prevent any such discrimination against the people of North-East. Pls [Please] inform the local Police wherever this incident had occurred as soon as possible.”

Hirak Jyoti, General Secretary, Assam Society of Bangalore said, “We strongly condemn such kind of racial profiling against north-eastern people living across India. We are in constant touch with the Bengaluru City Police and they have assured us that strict action will be taken against anyone who discriminates and target people from the northeast.”

In a report published by Delhi-based NGO, Rights and Risk Analysis Group titled ‘Coronavirus Pandemic: India’s Mongoloid Looking People Face Upsurge of Racism’, it came to notice that between February 7th and March 25th, 22 cases of racial profiling have been reported against people from the Northeast. The report mentioned that the people from Northeast are called “Corona”, “Coronavirus”, “Chinese” and “Chinki” apart from being spat on and based on their looks, few are forcibly quarantined even though no symptoms of COVID-19 was seen. The report also mentions that few were denied entry into the apartment while few were asked to leave their apartment besides other forms of racial discrimination. What’s even more shocking is that the report mentions that racial discrimination has taken place in prestigious institutions like Kirori Mal College and NCERT in Delhi, and Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai.

Jamgoulen Kipgen, a student from Manipur, studying in Bengaluru, said, “The profiling and discrimination based on looks is now a regular business in mainland India. It has become a habit for us to be name-shamed based on our looks. This is deadlier as compared to COVID-19.”

There is no specific law to fight against racial discrimination. In a case of women, Section 354 and Section 509 of the Indian Penal Code are charged however, for a man, there is no section in the IPC. Tirap Kakati, an advocate at Gauhati High Court said, “The use of Chinki is banned and anyone calling with it will be booked under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, however, mongoloid looking Tibetans and Meities from Manipur are not listed as ST. The police find it very tough in charging the culprits and thus, they come out easily. There is a need for a law which deals with racism and racial profiling of North-eastern people in India. We need such strict legislation.”

The people from Northeast residing in different cities in mainland India are time and again discriminated, abused, named-shamed and heckled based on their looks, ethnicity, food-habits, names, etc. The government does nothing while the media files the story for the sake of reporting and the racism continues. The vaccine for this disease is when everyone accepts each other and the inclusiveness is seen across the nation. Until then, we continue with the fight where there is no hope to win as the culprits are always in a winning side.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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