Shillong students face ‘Corona’ slur in Kolkata

Two NorthEast students faced coronavirus racism slur in two different incidents in Kolkata. The city known as liberal and open has shocked the family of victims

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Nabamita Mitra
is a freelance journalist and is associated with The Shillong Times

Shillong: After Delhi it was Kolkata’s turn to show the ugly face of racism in the time of Covid crisis.

Two students of a hotel management college in Kolkata were harassed in the city and were allegedly called ‘Coronavirus’ for their oriental features.

The 21-year-old students are from Shillong and belong to the Khasi tribe. They were harassed twice, first on the day of Holi and then in a public bus. One of the students narrated the incident but chose to remain anonymous.

Shillong kolkata coronavirus racism covid19

The first incident happened in New Alipore when they were returning to their rented house from college. They were walking when two men sneered at them and murmured “Coronavirus”. The duo initially ignored the comment but soon after they heard footsteps approaching them. One of them was speaking in Bengali and the other in Hindi.

They saw the two men running towards them, “maybe to incite violence”, when local residents stopped them. The duo left the place in haste and were too shocked to take the route after that day.

In the second incident, the students were on a public bus and the conductor refused to take money from them, turned the other way and shouted, “Corona virus.”

“I understand people are scared or confused about the pandemic but that does not mean racism, even if casual, will make the situation better or make you feel superior. Please be aware, learn more about the culture and the NE (North East), learn more about Coronavirus too if you would like but do not stay ignorant,” said a post on the social media.

The students have come back to Shillong for the ongoing restrictions and shutdowns for the pandemic.

Shillong kolkata coronavirus racism covid19

One of the youths said the two incidents were among the several incidents of racism they faced. He said students from the North East who have Mongoloid features have been targeted in this time of Coronavirus outbreak.

“I always regarded Kolkata as the closest to NE and open-minded. However, I was surprised by the events my brother narrated to us today,” said a social media post of the victim’s sister.

This is not the first incident of racism in Kolkata after the worldwide outbreak of Covid-19. A student of Presidency College was also taunted recently.

Last week, several students narrated their share of the racial nightmare in Delhi. Recently, a video of northeastern students living in Punjab went viral on Facebook. The students in the video explained how after the virus outbreak, people have been calling them with names such as coronavirus. The video was shared on a Facebook page called Dimapur 24/7 with the caption, “Stop calling us corona, ch***i, Chinese … North East students of Punjab. #Govt_Of_India #say #No #to #Racism #Students #Northeast #India.”

Shillong kolkata coronavirus racism covid19

Cases of racism in Kolkata, known to all as the city of joy, were unknown till recently. Students from the North East often face such racial slurs in northern India but Kolkata was never on the list of racial notoriety. With the recent incidents coming to fore, the city that once was “safe for NE students” is turning into a nightmare.

Muralidhar Sharma, Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime), said the police have not received complaints about racism. But in such cases, “the victim should go to a local police station and register a case”.

When asked whether Kolkata Police is running any awareness for citizens, he said, “It (racism) is a crime. Whoever commits it, and if reported against, we will pick them and put behind bars.”

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Nabamita Mitra
is a freelance journalist and is associated with The Shillong Times

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