Racism is a deadly virus. A global scourge that has no known cures yet. Its manifestations are ugly, even fatal. And who would know that better in independent India than a native of the Northeast—that part which is still mysterious and exotic for many of their countrymen. It’s not familiarity which breeds contempt here—it’s the lack of a capacity to be familial. An outright refusal by “mainland India” to see beyond its nose, to truly understand and appreciate anything beyond what it already thinks and knows. Here, they are presented with a diverse people, with diverse cultures, languages and food habits, with one commonality: that for all of them, their home is not a remote corner of a huge country, but the centre of their universe.
But racism is a global pandemic, and also a local one. Taunts, abuses and even physical assault directed at people from the Northeast, with distinctly Mongoloid features, are a symptom that any roadside checking can catch. Just the other day, a Mizo girl, apparently a student, was accosted by a woman at a Pune department store. For the Pune woman, the Northeast girl was a “Chinese”, a carrier of COVID-19. Her abuses, caught on mobile phone video and widely circulated online, were only the latest proof of supreme ignorance. In Delhi, another incident saw racism and sexism at work together when a 40-year-old man spat at a woman from Manipur and called her “corona”, following on some lewd comments. (The man has since been arrested, mercifully) That was no exception. Angelica Aribam, a former general secretary of NSUI and gender activist from Manipur, was viciously trolled on Twitter recently—inter alia, she was called a ‘chinki’, one of the most frequently used racist term to target people with Mongoloid features. She too filed a police complaint about it.