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.
Another racist attack on NE girl reported just now in North Campus calling her Coronavirus and spitting on her. Are the concerned authorities waiting for untoward situation to happen again? Incident like Nido Tania should not happen again to any of our NE boys and girls. pic.twitter.com/rrNdzU3CIf
— Alana (@Alanagolmei) March 22, 2020
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.”
I'm sad to see such racial discrimination in many parts of India. Anyone whoever discriminates people of other community, region, religion or race are the real enemy virus. All State Govt must take strict action as per the direction of the Govt of India. https://t.co/GZAwV6Q68P pic.twitter.com/v8iU4xXDuA
— Kiren Rijiju (@KirenRijiju) March 23, 2020
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.