Mumbai, Feb 18
Amid the global panic over the novel Coronavirus [COVID-19], students hailing from the North Eastern states, studying at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences [TISS], located at Deonar in North East Mumbai, have complained of racial discrimination in and around campus in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
In a letter to the institute, the Northeast Students’ Forum of TISS alleged racial profiling of some members of the forum as potential carriers of the virus (Covid-19), which originated in China, owing to their facial features. “Many students from TISS have recently been subjected to racial treatment due to their distinctive identities and features,” the letter said.
The letter also said that students from north-eastern states have faced name-calling, such as “corona” and “coronavirus”. Around 200 of 2,900 students at TISS are from the North-East.
“We would like to bring this matter to the notice of concerned authorities of TISS to adopt adequate measures to ensure safety of students from North-East who are vulnerable to racial discrimination. We request the general student body, faculty, and staff to deter any practices of casual and structural racism and promote a sensitive approach towards students. We also request the concerned government bodies to take appropriate measures to ensure the safety of people from north-east states in Mumbai and to deter cases of harassment and racial discrimination,” read the letter.
A student from Nagaland said, “I was travelling in a share cab when I coughed and suddenly the fellow passengers started discussing the virus. Nothing was directed to me per se but it just showed a complete insensitivity.”
”In the midst of the ongoing global health crisis due to an outbreak of Coronavirus, purportedly originating in the Wuhan province of China, we have seen a disturbing trend of discrimination and racial profiling across the world towards people of China origin and other Asian nations bearing Mongoloid features. It is a grim reminder of inherent racial prejudices and stereotyping of particular peoples based on their physical features and perceived cultural inferiority, manifested by subjecting them to various forms of hostilities, slurs, and suspicions which is now being played out in the pretext of health concerns. We condemn this form of discriminatory behaviour and call for a sensitive approach for addressing the outbreak without racial profiling of people. This is especially to bring to light the increasing instances of racial discrimination within India being faced by people from the North Eastern states due to distinctions in socio-cultural traits and physical features,” reads the NESF statement.
The group also had a meeting with the institute authorities regarding the insensitive behaviour. “The Dean of Students’ Affairs at the institute gave us a patient hearing and has assured that specific steps will be taken to create awareness and to ensure safety of students from northeast,” a research student from the institute who also hails from northeast said.
Asha Banu, dean, student affairs, confirmed that students approached her office to discuss the matter adding that the administration is mulling ways to spread awareness within the campus and in nearby areas.