Bengaluru: After a Manipuri woman in New Delhi was called “coronavirus” and spat upon, several such cases of racial discrimination against people from the Northeast have been reported across Bengaluru.
From being called “corona baby” to “made in China”, many people are now living in fear and are thinking twice before stepping out to buy even essential goods. This is making life especially difficult for them with the country in the middle of a 21-day lockdown announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi Tuesday.
A young Mizo woman, employed in the financial sector said that on 10 March, while she was on her way to work, a car stopped beside her at a traffic signal and the driver called her “coronavirus” before speeding off.
“We live in fear and many of us are scared to venture out. We keep getting called “coronavirus”’, she said.
The same evening, another girl from Nagaland was allegedly called “corona baby” by a group of young men as she was crossing a busy street near Adugodi in South Bengaluru.
When asked about these incidents, Bengaluru Police Commissioner Bhaskar Rao said that those engaging in such activities will be dealt with “very seriously”.
“Such diversionary tactics to insult humanity will not be tolerated. We are fighting a bigger war with this epidemic. Everybody is an Indian and we must love and respect each other,” said Rao to ThePrint.
‘Triggers memories of 2012 exodus’
Northeast Solidarity, a Bengaluru-based helpline for people in distress, said that they have been receiving several calls and messages from distressed Northeast natives about such racist slurs.
According to the organisation’s president, Rini Ralte, there is a sense of fear among the Northeast community and they think twice before stepping out even to buy food.
“Northeast people have often been called ‘chinkis’, but now with this virus being connected to China, and just because we look like them, we are being targeted,” Ralte told ThePrint.
She added that these incidents also trigger horrible memories of the mass exodus in 2012, when thousands of people from the Northeast fled Bengaluru after rumours of racial violence began circulating in the state.
“How do you expect people to live if they don’t accept us as fellow Indians?” asked Ralte.
‘Made in China’
Mara Rona, a Mizo native, who has been living in Bengaluru for the past 18 years, described how he was called “coronavirus” by a local resident. However, when Rona confronted him, the man walked away claiming that he was just teasing.
This was not all, when Rona took his three-year-old daughter for a walk one evening, a biker passing by allegedly called her a “corona-baby”.
“I was so angry and upset, they did not spare a little baby. She is just three years old. After these two incidents, I did not go to office for a few days. We continue to face such racist attacks,” Rona told ThePrint.
In another incident, a woman from the Northeast was called “made in China” when she was in line to buy groceries.
Many people are also being harassed to leave their localities because people fear that they are carriers of the virus.
An Assamese lady was allegedly surrounded by a group of men on 23 March, and asked to leave her locality as “they did not want Chinese people living there”.
This hostility is making it very difficult for people to access essential services like food and groceries.
Two young Mizo boys, from North Bengaluru’s R.T. Nagar, were prevented from buying groceries by shopkeepers, their gas dealer refused to deliver gas cylinders to them and even the local tea shop would not serve tea to them
“It was after our intervention that food was finally delivered to them at 11.30 pm,” said Ralte.
While police complaints have been filed in all these cases, nobody has been booked as the victims find it difficult to identify the perpetrators.