Racial Discrimination against North-East Indians
This is the scenario across the entire world which we called “mainland”. India is also not far behind this state where racial discrimination against North East Indians stands out as exemplary of the challenging state of the minority throughout the country. So far, there are several validated and verified incidents of racial discrimination reported across the four corners of the country. This bunch of incidents has substantially increased after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is because the world was highly stigmatized, with the blame falling on China as the origin of the virus. Because of the physical resemblance, in India, the pandemic has reinforced racism ruthlessly against Northeast Indians, with which the country has been dealing for more than a decade.
Racism is “Discriminatory behavior based on inherited physical appearance in the minority. It has deeper ideological and structural elements such as superiority-inferiority, subordination, superordination, etc. deploying and treating a group of people as inferior beings based on some essentialized “social category” and denying their rights or access to employment and basic amenities of a dignified life.”. This intention of rejection is deeply problematic.
North East Indians are misrecognized most as foreigners, hailing from China, Nepal, or Thailand, and this withholding of equal recognition of “Indian-ness” works to discriminate against and marginalize them. From the very beginning North East Indians mainly women have to fight continuously against the allegations of being “Non-Indians” or worse “unwanted Indians”. It is an ongoing battle to achieve acknowledgment and acceptance as equal Indians. They often face malicious and offensive terms like “chinky or easy women” which invariably relates to their physical appearance. During the pandemic, the North East Indian women have been fighting the battle on two fronts- the Covid-19 outbreak and simultaneous wave of racially charged attacks on them across the country. They were harassed, abused, traumatized, and faced an increased number of acts of hate and prejudices against them. A data published in THE HINDU revealed that “offensive and abusive” languages were reported to be most common across all six cities. Mumbai recorded the highest offensive language-related crime (74%), followed by Chennai (72%), Pune (67.3%), Delhi (64%), Hyderabad (48.7%), and Bengaluru (43.3%). Over 60% of the persons who were interviewed said such experiences seriously hampered their studies and work.”
The absence of strict anti-racism laws resulted in the extensiveness of blatant acts of racism during the pandemic. They are often evicted forcefully from their apartments or being attacked on the street just because of the misconception of “infection carrier or The face of Coronavirus”. A majority of these Northeastern females are being subjected to a twin crisis of racial discrimination and long-term unemployment. This results in loss of livelihoods and financial independence as well as their hard-earned freedom. In the beauty, hospitality, and healthcare sector, everywhere, a drastic division of labor and joblessness was seen by northeastern ladies. Not only during the pandemic, because of the lack of adequate legal framework, sexual assault, molestation, rape, and murder often happened to those who have migrated to the metro cities (like Delhi, Mumbai) in India for a living.
Not only females, but Northeast Indian Males also faced similar problems during the ongoing lockdown phase and before. They do not get jobs, housing, or living accommodations based on their ethnicity or race. Beating and torturing were common to them for no valid reason. The reason may be of not speaking in the local language (Bangalore) or maybe entry in a metro city to settle down (Goregaon). Some hotels denied giving them entry because “they don’t look Indian enough”. On 24th March 2020, a video became viral were two boys from Nagaland begging to a security of a Store in Mysore, saying that: “We are not corona, we were, are, and will be Indian always.” The Indian Constitution does not clearly state laws protecting people against racism that’s why it is not considered a major problem affecting India all along.
It is suggested to make such offenses gender-neutral, cognizable, and non-bailable with imprisonment of several years with fine respectively for prevention and monitoring of racial hatred and violence. It is our duty to acknowledge and shed light on the problems faced by the peoples of North East India because “safety of the people shall be the highest law”. It is the fundamental right of every citizen to get a safe environment. Discrimination on the grounds of caste, sex, race, religion, place of birth should be prohibited, and the spirit of harmony and brotherhood should be promoted along with a strong, anti-racism law for more qualified national integration.