Racial attacks against Northeast people on the rise amid Coronavirus fears
With the rise in Coronavirus cases in India, there has been an increase in the incidents of harassment and violence against the Indian citizens hailing from the Northeast states. Several incidents have come to light in the past weeks where people of Northeast India have become targets of racial discrimination and verbal abuse in the wake of Coronavirus outbreak.
One the day of Janata Curfew (March 22), a woman from Manipur was ‘spat on’ and was called “Corona” by a middle-aged man in Delhi. While the man was arrested by Delhi Police, the incident sparked a series of similar incidents in different states against the people from Northeast India where they reportedly faced discrimination and physical abuse in one form or the other. In Kolkata, a group of students were allegedly beaten by their neighbours and were forced to leave the colony. People have been stopped from entering grocery stores and forced to leave their houses.
Students and a host of professional workers including doctors, medical workers, essential goods delivery personnel hailing from Northeaster states are being targeted and discriminated by other people. Despite a legal mechanism, the Northeast people have been facing racial discrimination in several parts of the country over the years. However, the reported incidents increased manifold after the Coronavirus outbreak in China’s Wuhan city.
Furthermore, due to the 21-day national lockdown, several people from Northeast (mostly students) are also stranded across the country, waiting to return to their homes.
As these racial attacks continue to surge, several prominent personalities have raised voiced against racism and discrimination. Minister for State for Minority Affairs Kiren Rijiju took to social media and called out the attacks on the citizens of Northeastern states of India in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. After being a victim of racism and harassment, actor Meiyang Chang shared a powerful video, asserting that ‘Racism is not a joke’.
Last week, Manipur CM N. Biren Singh also raised concerns over recent incidents of racial discrimination against Northeastern citizens during a video conference with PM Modi and other state chief ministers. Several other ministers hailing from Northeast have apprised PM Modi about the ongoing issue of racial discrimination and sought his help in the matter.
In a statement released after the meeting, it was stated that PM Modi has condemned and expressed “distress at the instances of attacks on the doctors and medical staff, and at incidents of misbehavior with students from North-East and Kashmir”. PM Modi also underlined that such cases need to be dealt with firmly.
Meanwhile, with over 7,500 confirmed COVID-19 cases, India is looking forward to an extension in the national lockdown till April 30. Several states including Punjab and Odisha have already extended their lockdown till April 30 with stricter quarantine measures. The death toll due to COVID-19 in India crossed 240 on April 11.