Coronavirus: Dear India, Spitting on a Manipuri Woman Shows How Horribly Racist We Are


Coronavirus: Dear India, Spitting on a Manipuri Woman Shows How Horribly Racist We Are

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

On 22 March, India witnessed over 80 new cases of coronavirus COVID-19, and the total number of positive cases crossed 400. With an increased level of awareness, there has also been a rise in unsavoury incidents of xenophobia, especially toward Indians hailing from the country’s North-Eastern region.

The ugliness is real. In Delhi’s Vijay Nagar last night, a man spat at a Manipuri woman and called her “corona”, which is quickly becoming a racial slur used toward those with an East Asian appearance.

However, Delhi Police were quick to act to file a case against the man.

More steps like this need to be taken to stamp out the spread of ignorance surrounding the virus. Despite the fact that those from the North-East are just as Indian as those from the Hindi heartland, or indeed any other part of India, there exists a bias toward them that casts them as “outsiders”. “Corona” is a new slur; the vulgar have long been calling them “chinki” and other epithets.

Now that the coronavirus, which originated in China, is spreading in India, this underlying racism has manifested in intolerance toward North-Easterners. A video on Twitter showed how a Gujarat Police officer had to comfort a group of female students from the North-East, who were being pressured by residents of the housing society in which they stayed to vacate their flat due to paranoia over the virus.

Despite the fact that the North-East has produced some eminent personalities that have brought India global renown, like Mary Kom and Bhaichung Bhutia, the region remains an afterthought for many Indians. Even when a North-Easterner achieves a level of celebrity, they remain exposed to this brand of bigotry. Actor and singer Meiyang Chang shared another incident of how the coronavirus pandemic is just another opportunity for racists to have a laugh.


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In times of crisis, some human beings devolve into the worst versions of themselves. Or may be that was them all along? . Thank you @mumbaigirl14 @timesofindia for taking this message far & wide, in light of the online & public #racism & discrimination against North-East Indians & the Indian-Chinese🙏🏼 And thank you everyone for your unstinting humanism & love since this article broke yesterday (or today, depending on which city you are in). I’m reading your messages and I’m so, so touched by your kind words. Let’s stay united; in spirit & in philosophy. Now and always 🤗 . And to those stray trolls who are still spewing venom on my timeline; I say to you, as we would back in Bihar-Jharkhand: “भक साला, तुम तो हमारे प्यार के क़ाबिल भी नहीं हो बे! लेकिन, तुमको भी दीर्घायु भवः।” . Stay safe, stay healthy everyone ❤️

A post shared by Mister Chang (@meiyangchang) on

If Chang, a renowned singer and public figure, cannot escape the intolerance while out for his morning jog in cosmopolitan Mumbai, regular citizens don’t have a much better chance. Reports have emerged from major metros across the country, from Kolkata to Delhi, of Indian citizens being teased for their “Chinese” appearance, and taunted with chants of “corona”.

Indians who can’t seem to understand that not all their countrymen look alike would do well to listen to a message from the North-East.

Since we’re already practising social distancing, maybe some distancing from bigotry is also in order.