Woman from Manipur was spat on by a man | Twitter
Woman from Manipur was spat on by a man | Twitter
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The coronavirus pandemic has unleashed a new kind of racism. It made Donald Trump call it the ‘Chinese virus’, a racist slur. Now, it’s making Indians call people from the eight northeastern states ‘corona’ and ‘virus’.

This isn’t the first time that people from the northeastern states of Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Assam, Sikkim, Tripura, Mizoram, Manipur and Meghalaya are being otherised and targeted by ‘mainland’ Indians. They have been called ‘chinkis’, ‘momos’ and ‘Chinese’ for decades. Now a new term of abuse has been added to their bigoted lexicon.


Also Read: Advisory issued over racial remarks against Northeast Indians in wake of coronavirus


India’s racism virus

On Sunday night around 9:30 pm in Delhi’s north campus area, a man on a scooty spat paan on a woman from Manipur, calling her ‘corona’ as he sped away. In another incident, nine young professionals from Nagaland living in Gujarat’s Ahmedabad with no travel history or symptoms were forced to spend more than 24 hours in a quarantine facility because they were mistaken as ‘Chinese’ and complaints were made against them in their office stating that they were infected with the ‘virus.’

The list doesn’t end here, in fact, a couple of days back at a mall in Pune, a woman covered her face when she saw a woman from Manipur and gestured looking at her like she was ‘infected’. Two students from Darjeeling also faced racial slurs linked to coronavirus in Kolkata.

It looks like India’s latent racism has been unleashed with full force, exposing all the underlying bigotry and the desire to treat people from the northeast states as second-class citizens.


Also Read: ‘Beaten, abused, spat on’: People from Northeast endure racist slurs amid coronavirus panic


Othering of the own

“Oh, so are you from India,” is the most common form of racism that people from northeast tolerate, followed by a very ridiculous negotiation of Indianness.

When I tell racists that I am from Assam, they often asked me if Assam is a part of India, and this is not one isolated incident. As a matter of fact, they have also asked if Sikkim and Shillong are both in one state, if Cherrapunji is a part of Nagaland and not to forget how they refuse to consider the states of northeast India as different places with different identities in terms of culture and language. It has often been expected of me to understand Mizo, or speak to Nagamese considering it’s the ‘same thing’.

With this comes the typical racist remark:All of you look the same.”

Till when are we expected to tolerate this racism under the pretext of lack of geographical knowledge of one’s own country?And let’s not forget the occasional abusive slurs like ‘momos’, ‘chinki’ and ‘choti aankh’.

We are often looked down upon as ‘alien-like’ creatures because of the extremely distasteful and nasty perception of ‘mainland’ India that the food habits of people from northeast are ‘impure and filthy’. “Tum log to kuch bhi kha lete ho,” is the classic example of rasicm. Not everyone eats chhole bhature, and that’s okay.

What makes racism worse is it’s dangerous cocktail with misogyny. ‘Mainland men’ whether they are complete strangers you meet at a bar, the local shopkeeper or just a normal passerby, have always considered women from northeast as ‘easy’, ‘slutty.’ These conclusions they say, have been drawn from the way we ‘dress’ and ‘carry ourselves’. A friend of mine from Manipur was once bullied and mocked at by an auto driver who repeatedly kept questioning her national identity, while finding ways to take a peek at her legs. In another instance, a landlord in Delhi had told a friend of mine from Nagaland, “Aap log northeast se ho, waha ki ladkiyan to bohot party karte hai, hum ghar nahi denge,” while scanning her top to bottom.


Also Read: Social media trends #MakeChinaPay as Covid-19 forces people into indefinite quarantine


Ignorance of educated elite

India has a social responsibility to constantly evolve and correct its ways. But this racism against the northeast has gone unchecked, and has sometimes even been encouraged.

Unfortunately, even the educated ‘elite’ class of ‘mainland’ India doesn’t understand the culture, history and demography of northeast India and indulges in casual racism, trying to turn it into light humour.

They often club, address and identify us as ‘northeasterners’ in an extremely stereotypical manner, refusing to validate the individual identity of our respective states, which people from the rest of the states enjoy.

This needs to be stopped right now because coronavirus cases are increasing day by day and who knows this systematic racism might translate into something more perilous and result in incidents like the murder of Nido Taniam in 2014. Twenty-year-old Taniam from Arunachal Pradesh was killed in broad daylight in Delhi’s Lajpat Nagar area in a fight over his ‘hairstyle’.

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18 Comments Share Your Views

18 COMMENTS

  1. Agree that people from north east face racism in North India especially in Delhi. But at the same time, before taking high moral ground, they should ponder over that they themselves hold prejudice against bengalis, unlike Delhi, which had no past history of prejudice against bengalis and in fact sheltered bengali refugees. The current imbroglio over CAA in Assam is a classic example of prejudice against bengalis.

    • Corona and CAA both are different term some one getting a tag as Chinese, MOMO or Corona is a different issue and the issue CAA is all about not to allow Bangladeshi …..no doubt difference toom place but CAA was a issue which was all about how politician played ;created a huge difference but NE students getting a tag name like Corona it which means attacking verbally in individual only because of appearance …..so before commenting look at the activity do not jst try to merge a different story with a different one which doesn’t even fits.

  2. How’s trump calling it Chinese virus makes it racist! It’s seems to me more like a pressure on CCP … No Chinese people living in china can see this because of the firewall so it doesn’t matter.

  3. I have never heard such an incident that any mainland north India person are beaten up in North East India. It is no true in fact north Indian people think that they are superior than northeast people. No wonder such a comment is pooping up bcoz india is racist country and also street look dirty
    Actual their mentally are worst than Hitler
    . Come to the northeast we have cleanest village in asian. You people need to learn lession from us

  4. I sympathize with the people of the north east, but at the same time think about how they treat people whom they consider ‘ the other’, in their region. They demand an archaic Inner Line Permit, which the Britishers had introduced to isolate them. This demand which they make today also indicates they want to retain the isolation. So is it not expected that just as they don’t see others as their own they will also at times be in the receiving end?

  5. It will be a gift to a person if his land is of vast and pluralism. In that way if my country remains and if I could say Kashmir is ours: Kanyakumari is ours; Arunachal, Mumbai, Jaipur, etc. etc. are ours I amlucky to be born here. But if anything happens against it, it will be because of people like you and I but not by the politicians who come and go. We must respect all Indians as our brothers and sisters for our self pride also.

  6. it seems nonsense to you people because you haven’t faced the racism we face you may be right about you guys facing racism but i have never heard about it and have only seen and heard northeastern people of India face it .

  7. So from last weeks stingy, ridiculous article, this time the ship sails into leveraging an unfortunate, ignorant incident.

    Now, I am wondering it is not a “OPINION” column, it is a “Habit” column.

    The article is epitome of mental bankruptcy of the “hater” not even a writer.

    This is utter stupidity, a complete shit show.

  8. As an Indian, I do feel are racist through and through. In western countries, there’s a saying that black skinned people can’t be racist, but in India, yup! You can. No it’s not about just racism, we hurl every kinds of insults to each other. Wait! If you are thinking it’s only about north India, you got it wrong bro! In this case we are brothers and sisters. We like to bash and undermine every people who doesn’t match with us. And as we love to do it passionately, we change it according to our religion, culture, mother tongue, looks even the teams we support and make it convenient to hurt others. And it’s a pan India thing, there’s no chinkis, gujjus, dhotis, chapattis, madrasis in these.

  9. The man who spat must be thrashed by police …. legally. But to brush all Indians with racist brush is a little toooo much. Dont forget the same north Indians spray bullets on north indians for varioous reasons.

  10. A lot worse had happened with North Easterners in the past. Many of them had to flee back to their states, due to threats to life and property by Muslims, during the Rohingya crisis.

  11. People are gathering in religious places in INDIA. They are saying that corona virus will not affect them, but will affect non believers. I think the writer should write about that . Would be nice to hear her opinion

  12. As usual Ms. Taskin whines on and on regarding the “abuses”, “racism”, “misogyny”, etc. she and others from north-eastern states have faced in “mainland” India. What she very conveniently brushes under the carpet is the treatment meted out to so called “mainland” Indians residing in these north-eastern states. Save Assam and Tripura, mainland Indians are persecuted, harassed, bullied across all states by members of various tribes. Be it Nagas in Nagaland or Khasis in Meghalaya, the non-tribal, i.e., the mainland Indian, is the target of violence, intimidation and extortion. Usually, the perpetrators are the various “student” unions – e.g. the KSU in Meghalaya. Racist tropes and stereotypes abound and mainland Indians are vilified and demonized on a regular basis.

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