Come to think about it. COVID-19 is just another excuse for many in mainland India to profile people of the North East as the ‘other’, the other who can be abused, verbally and otherwise, the other who can and should be victimised and discriminated, called names ranging from ching-chong chinaman, momo, chinky, and now coronavirus. Not at all acceptable and ironically while the country has been marked as red zones, orange zones and green zones to identify places where COVID-19 is active and where the restrictions ought to be more strident, most of the North Eastern States are now in the green zone. Sikkim in the North East is only the State in the whole of the country where there has not been a single case of COVID-19. Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram together have not had more than 5 COVID-19 cases and to think it is people from this region who have been at the receiving end of discrimination ever since the outbreak of the virus is so astoundingly India. So pathetic is the reality that an activist had to move the Supreme Court which in turn prompted the Centre to pledge that strict action would be taken up against anyone found discriminating the North East folks in other parts of the country. This is not to say that everyone have misbehaved with the North East people, aptly demonstrated by the ABVP which did not hesitate in coming out strongly against the discriminations that people from the North East have had to face, but the very fact that the Supreme Court had to step in and ask the Centre to spell out its stand should tell a story, an inglorious story.
Incomplete education. And by education, one here is not talking only about degrees but about educating the mind. An education which should teach all youngsters the importance of respecting others. This is what is urgently needed. Let the Centre pledge to take stern action against any sort of racially profiling the people of the North East and subjecting them to name calling and ill treatment on the basis of how they look. In many ways the lack of awareness of the North East region in other parts of the country may be ascribed to the system that has passed off as education for decades. Many grew up on a staple of history in which the North East finds no mention at all. Efforts are on, no doubt to sensitise the people on the North East region, with even Union Ministers being asked to visit the region on rotational basis. However as things have turned out, these measures are just not enough. The people of mainland India need to be taught that the India of their understanding goes beyond the chicken neck. At the moment, the Centre has assured to take up fitting action against anyone found racially profiling people from the North East States, but this assurance of fitting action comes with the rider that a case has to be first registered and this is where the question of how conscious and aware are the cops in different police stations about the North East arises. Is opening a helpline for the North East folks at Delhi enough ? Much more needs to be done.