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Calling People Of The NE ‘Coronavirus’ – Are We Completely Losing Our Humanity?

From calling them aliens and other racial slurs, we have always made people from NE India feel othered. But calling them 'corona virus' is the worst yet!

From calling them aliens and other racial slurs, we have always made people from NE India feel othered. But calling them ‘corona virus’ is the worst yet!

Racism against the people from North East India has been present in since forever. Right from calling them ‘chini,’ and ‘chinki’ to considering them foreigners to making fun of their culture and language all this is not new. All of this leads to those people feeling alienated and left out. Indians have deep-rooted racism against them and after the outbreak of the corona virus, the racist comments have just worsened.

Recently, Alana Golmei, a member of the Monitoring Committee wrote a letter to the Ministry of Home Affairs (NE Division). In her letter, she wrote about how the North eastern people are now being called ‘corona virus’ and facing blatant racism in the wake of the new pandemic rocking the world.

They are constantly called racist names!

To take a pandemic, and call people who are already being attacked by the name is extremely cruel. Alana pointed out how they have been at the receiving end of all kinds of racism by all sorts of people. However, most of the cases of racism reported are from Delhi. The national capital, a major metro city and the home to a number of well-known educational institutions is the place that treats people in such a cruel manner.

What’s shocking is that it was in 2014 when the cases of racism were much worse. People were mugged, harassed and even killed due to their ethnic identity around the country! India basically has a racism problem that goes unnoticed owing to casteism. And it is this inherent racism that is building a wall and creating barriers between our own people.

Is ‘chinki’ really funny?

And it’s not just Delhi where they are targeted, it is all across the country that they are made to feel alien and foreign. At a time when separatism in India is at large, these issues are just adding to the fear of how inevitable the separation of this country is.

More often than not, we have all heard the term ‘chinki’ being thrown around in conversations about them. It’s high time we changed our language and looked at how it affects people who are appropriated for something they can’t control.

Theirs are stories of horror

And theirs are the stories of horror, as Alana points it out in the letter. She says she met a woman in Dilli Haat, who is originally from Ladakh. The woman was quite upset when she narrated how she was called ‘corona virus’ by some people in Delhi. She said, “I tried to explain to them that we aren’t Chinese but they refused to listen and kept calling me ‘coronavirus.”

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There was yet another story from Horchipem Khamrang from Manipur. “This happened twice with me. The first time at Safdarjung when I was in a hurry and the second time, on February 22, 2020. When I stared back at them very seriously, they stopped and avoided eye contact,” he told Alana.

And even Alana was on the receiving end of this. In her letter, she has written about the day it happened to her. “On February 24, 2020, I was walking inside the NCERT campus with a friend from Meghalaya. Whne we came closer to a bunch of people, (NCERT staff), one of the guys commented, ‘Coronavirus aa gaya (the corona virus is here)’ while the rest of them giggled. Though he apologised later when I told him that I will report him to the concerned authorities, that this is not acceptable since he did it deliberately. And to top it all, he is a graduate working as LDC at the publication division at NCERT.”

Isn’t it time things changed?

It is indeed debilitating to hear such stories knowing that there are still people roaming around who think of this as funny. North east has always been isolated and the people, termed aliens. It’s time to change that attitude.

In the midst of an epidemic as this, it is important for all of us to come together and help each other out instead of targeting people. There have been many cases of racism that came forward after the cases of corona virus came out. In such a tragedy, a lot of the countries have had a rise in Anti-Chinese racism attacks. With many businesses outright denying Chinese people to enter.

The world is grappling with a terrible health emergency and it is natural to feel the fear. But that doesn’t give us the leeway to attack other people because of their ethnicity. For people from the northeast, it has been a repeated attack on their existence and frankly, it is too much at this point.

Maybe stories like these will lead people to think before they speak or act. Here’s hoping we get a solution for corona as well as the racism.

Picture credits: YouTube

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