Racist Attacks Against Northeast Citizens on the Rise

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television personality Meiyang Chang
Image: Twitter

On Sunday night, a Manipuri woman was out to buy groceries in West Delhi’s Vijay Nagar when a man came on a two-wheeler and spat on her. He called her “corona” and went away.

As soon as pictures of the woman’s ordeal went viral, scores of citizens from Northeast India condemned the incident and shared their own experiences of facing harassment, ostracisation and verbal abuse.

Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal also took to Twitter to express “shock” over the incident and appealed to the Delhi police to find the culprit.

Yesterday, the police registered a case under Section 509 of the Indian Penal Code against the man and an investigation is underway.

Moreover, the minister of home affairs, has also asked all the states and union territories (UT) to take note of the instances of racial discrimination. “This is racially discriminatory, inconvenient and painful to them. It is requested that all law enforcing agencies in your State/UTs may be sensitised to take appropriate action in cases of harassment when these are reported,” the ministry said in a letter sent to all the states and UTs.

A week ago, senior BJP leader Tapir Gao from Arunachal Pradesh had urged the Centre to take strict action against those harassing Northeast citizens. “The coronavirus disease is spread all across the country; however, between all this the people of the Northeast are facing a double coronavirus,” he said.

Racist attacks

For the past couple of weeks, several incidents of racist attacks have come to fore from different parts of the country. Yesterday, March 23, television personality Meiyang Chang shared his story of harassment on Instagram. “In times of crisis, some human beings devolve into the worst versions of themselves. Or may be that was them all along?” he wrote.

In an interview with the Times of India, Chang said, “I go for a jog every day near my house in Mumbai. The other day, two guys sped past me on a bike, screaming ‘corona’ and laughing. I wanted to scream back and hurl the choicest of gaalis, but I didn’t see any point in it. How do you punish people for their stupidity or ignorance? Over the years, I have become used to these comments and yes, they are hurtful. I try to move on and be optimistic, but it does affect you.”

In a video posted on Twitter, a group of students from Nagaland can be seen being forced out from their house in Kolkata. Ever since the incident came to light, many Twitter users have appealed Kolkata chief minister Mamata Banerjee to take action against the person who asked the students to leave.

Similarly, another video went viral of a woman covering her mouth at Reliance mall in Pune when she saw another woman from Mizoram. The woman can be seen shouting when she was confronted.

The Pune Mirror quoted the woman who was harassed as saying, “I have lived and worked here for ten years. Just recently, two instances of intolerance have left me sad and insecure. The woman at the mall kept rudely gesturing like I am infected and said ‘baap re’. When I asked her what’s wrong, she screamed so loud that mall staff had to intervene. I just left without buying anything,” she said.

In another video, shared on Twitter, a woman from the Northeast posted a video of a middle-aged man at a grocery store, where he can be seen calling her an outsider.

Similarly, on March 20, Cathy Chakhesang from Nagaland and eight others from the state, were quarantined for a day in AhmedabadScroll reported. According to the website, police landed up in their office when someone complained that they could spread coronavirus. None of them, however, showed any symptoms of COVID-19.

Chakhesang posted a video on social media alleging that she and her friends were quarantined only because they “look different.”.

“We feel very bad, it was insulting,” she said.

Ahead of Holi, on March 3, Newslaundry reported that six men attacked two Delhi University students from the Northeast in Kamala Nagar. The men hurled water balloons at the women and called them “coronavirus”, the women told the reporter.