Corona Corner

Northeast states take measures to stop racism, help stranded locals, launches App

With several cases of racism being reported against Northeast people, during coronavirus pandemic in India, Northeast states reach out to youth in mainland

Shillong: The northeast states are on alert after several incidents of racism against youths from the region in mainland India.The Manipur government launched an app on Tuesday for reaching out to those from the state living outside the region. The mobile app, named Tenbang, will help youths register themselves.

“Many of them are stuck outside as flights and trains have been cancelled. We are trying to reach out to them. They can register so that even in case of financial need, the state government can transfer money to their bank accounts. For any other help too, they can use the app,” said Manipur Chief Secretary Suresh Babu, adding that Tenbang website already exists for receiving aid for fighting Corona virus.

There is also a toll-free helpline managed by the Centre which takes complaints. “We have designated a resident commissioner in Delhi who is in touch with other states. On Monday, we have designated two senior secretaries for each state and their contact numbers have been circulated,” Suresh Babu said.

Cases of harassment of Manipuri residents have been reported from Pune, Hyderabad and Bengaluru. A man has been arrested in Delhi for spitting on a woman from Manipur.

The chief secretaries of the Northeastern states are also coordinating among themselves and “are in constant touch with each other through a WhatsApp group”, informed Arunachal Pradesh Chief Secretary Naresh Kumar.

northeast coronavirus covid-19 youth NE government racism
Northeast people stand at a shop (maintaining social distancing) to buy groceries

Talking about his experience of working in tandem with other states, Kumar said, “Whenever any news of any type of problem being faced by our students in any part of India was reported, my experience is that concerned state administration responded quickly. My experience with the governments of Telangana, Uttarakhand, Assam and Tamil Nadu in the last one week was positive.”

According to Kumar, the main problems now are crisis of food rations, rental accommodation and that many locals are stuck midway. “The Uttarakhand chief minister has made arrangement for rations for our students. I believe this is the time to work in a harmonious environment by all of us,” he added.

Nagaland Chief Secretary Temjen Toy recently tweeted his email ID and his team’s contact numbers so that locals facing racial discrimination can seek help.

“There are many Nagas stranded in several cities like Bengaluru, Mumbai and Kolkata and I have been in constant touch with states. This racial profiling is a sad thing and nobody likes it. But the main issue now is that our people, wherever they are, should not be stranded and feel helpless. I am addressing that issue first. The profiling other things are most unfortunate and should not happen anywhere. I am grateful to the chief secretaries of Maharashtra and Karnataka who responded to my letters and they appointed nodal officers. Many other states have also done that,” he said.

Recently, two Naga youths were not allowed to buy groceries from a shop in Mysuru. The video went viral and caused much uproar. Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma got in touch with Mysuru MP Pratap Simha to address the issue of racial profiling of people from the Northeast.

Meghalaya Home Minister Lahkhmen Rymbui said the Centre has “clearly notified that these kinds of things should not be tolerated”.

“The Centre is taking it seriously and I hope that such things will not happen in future. In this time of crisis, we should all work together irrespective of our caste, creed and religion,” said Rymbui, adding that the Bengaluru police commissioner has already taken action after the Mysuru incident was brought to his notice.

Though “it is not possible to deploy officials in every state”, the Meghalaya government is trying to promptly respond to complaints, Rymbui said.

Two youths from Shillong were harassed in Kolkata more than once.

Lalnunmawia Chuaungo, the chief secretary of Mizoram, said so far there has been no report of any Mizo resident being harassed and “if it is outside the state then it is the responsibility of the respective states” to ensure safety.

“Discrimination is against the people of Northeast and we are not outside the purview. Though we have not received any specific complaints we are compiling all details so that we can reach out to them,” Chuaungo said, adding that Mizoram does not have presence in all states in the form of liaison offices and “we have to depend on the respective Mizo civil societies and state governments for help”.

Workers stranded in Mizoram are also being provided food and shelter, he informed.

Recently, a video of a woman covering her mouth at a mall in Pune when she saw another woman from Mizoram went viral on social media. The Pune Mirror quoted the Mizo woman as saying, “I have lived and worked here for ten years. Just recently, two instances of intolerance have left me sad and insecure.”

News reports also said a girl from Assam was harassed in Delhi.

Assam chief secretary Kumar Sanjay Krishna said he has not received any complaint about incidents of racial discrimination and he is in constant touch with the resident commissioner in Delhi. “If I hear anything about discrimination, I will take it up immediately with that state government concerned,” be added.

Assam too is coordinating with authorities concerned and the police to prevent such incidents, especially at a time when the country is facing a crisis.

Union Minister Kiren Rijiju took up the issue of racism with the North East division in the Ministry of Home Affairs. Advisories were also issued in this regard.

Nabamita Mitra

is a freelance journalist and is associated with The Shillong Times

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