The coronavirus pandemic has led to racism and xenophobia across the world. While US President Donald Trump is constantly calling SARS-CoV2 the ‘Chinese virus’, people from northeast India are being targeted, abused and attacked. A woman from Manipur alleged that a man spat on her while she was walking in Delhi, while singer Meiyang Chang said two men on a speeding bike in Mumbai called him ‘corona’.
ThePrint asks: Coronavirus racism against NE Indians: How can govt prevent Sino-phobia from hurting our own?
Govt must educate people; history of tribal communities should be included in the syllabus
‘Sino-Phobia’ is an additional challenge to the all-out battle against the spread of Covid-19 in India. Reports of incidents where Indian citizens from the northeast are being discriminated in India’s metropolitan cities are adding to the grim picture. On 22 March, two boys from Mizoram in Bengaluru’s RT Nagar were turned away by shopkeepers and the domestic gas supplier since they appeared ‘Chinese’. Earlier in Ahmedabad nine young professionals from Nagaland, who work in a dental insurance company call centre, were evacuated from their office by the authorities and subjected to COVID-19 tests. The tests turned out to be negative, but they were retained in the quarantine room in the hospital for 24 hours. The matter was settled with the intervention of the Nagaland state government and the police in Gujarat.
It is time for the government to include the history of small tribal communities in its education syllabus. How many schools in the country know about the Battle of Kohima or that of Khonoma? How many students in colleges are familiar with the Indo-Naga political issue or that of the Assam Movement?
Since the late 1940’s the region has been regarded as a punishment posting by bureaucrats. The people have been the butt of many a joke at cocktails and dinners. However, no attention has been paid to the way in which the tribal communities organise themselves in times of a crisis or need. Are people aware that a sizeable population from ‘mainland India’ have made their fortunes from the resources in the region and continue to live and practise their trade and businesses, without venomous racism?
It would be foolish to challenge the reach of Covid-19 but even more foolish is to believe that racism will spare you from Covid-19.
Ironic that Modi, and home ministry, has not taken cognisance of Sino-phobia during coronavirus pandemic
Editor, The Shillong Times
It is ironic that Narendra Modi government, more particularly the home ministry, has not taken cognisance of the Sino-phobia during the coronavirus pandemic that threatens to dislodge the lives of many from the northeast.
It cannot be that the Modi government is not aware of this, but the silence is almost deafening. The coronavirus pandemic is as bad as the hatred that a section of Indians holds against people of the northeast.
The UPA government set up the Bezbaruah Committee to deal with such people. The Modi government has chosen to put the recommendations of the committee on the back burner. So, every time Modi says, “Hamare northeast ke sathiyon, bhaiyon aur beheno”, it sounds fake. Where is the concern for those suffering a double whammy — fear of Covid-19 and fear of fellow Indians? It’s time the northeast stands as one to push the Modi government to take punitive action against those guilty of racism.
Govt must ensure the safety of people from northeast by identifying abuse and curbing it
Adam Saprinsanga Halliday
The most important thing is awareness because the racist aspect is that people from northeast have South East Asian features. There is an assumption that we are all Chinese. It is necessary to make people aware that there are Indians who have different features and they are not Chinese. Even if they are Chinese, there is no reason why they should be picked upon.
We are getting reports that some people from northeast living in other parts of the country have been asked to vacate their homes and have been forcefully quarantined. An advisory was issued by the ministry of home affairs asking states to take strict action against these incidents of racism. The ministry should follow up on its order by deploying more forces and investigate such incidents. This has to be done because only awareness might not work. People might continue to do it deliberately or out of ignorance.
A vast majority of northeast people living in different parts of the country are students. The percentage of people, who are working professionals, is quite small. These students are most vulnerable in these times because they are young and probably not as street smart as the older ones. So they need to be extra careful.
Fighting back and exposing racism on social media is a good way to educate ignorant people
Owner, Aborcountry Travels & Expeditions
Racism and xenophobia are inherent human behaviours. But it hurts people psychologically and often physically. What is frustrating about India is that there are many who still see people with mongoloid features as outsiders.
During my time at Delhi University in the 1990s, it was normal to encounter slur, mockery and racist comments multiple times daily. Being called ‘Nepali’, ‘Bahadur’, ‘Ching Ching’ and other such terms was all too common. We did not have social media to highlight, expose and retaliate to these abuses. So, it’s a good thing that people are fighting back, especially via social media. I think the only way to educate ignorant people is to highlight and expose racism as much as possible.
Nothing of this sort should be tolerated and ignored, the more it is shared, broadcast and condemned, the better it is.
The government already has a punitive regulation in place, which is a good initiative but it needs to be enforced more effectively with stringent and exemplary actions. Sometimes that is the only way to send a message. Perhaps a department or a permanent committee in the government will be more effective in dealing with these problems.
By Unnati Sharma, journalist at ThePrint