Discrimination Against North-easterns Amid Covid-19

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    Recently, a study commissioned by the Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR) has highlighted racial discrimination, prejudices and hate crimes against people from the northeast States.

    About the Study

    • The Centre for Criminology and Victimology at the National Law University (NLU), Delhi conducted the study under the aegis of the ICSSR, Delhi.
    • It was on the prevalence of hate crimes against the people of the region in six metropolitan cities (Mumbai, Pune, Delhi, Chennai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad).
    • Around 1200 persons, mostly women from Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura were interviewed for the research.
    • It examined various kinds of security concerns and experiences faced in their daily life.
    • However, the study has not been published yet.

    Findings and Concerns

    • The people of Northeast India have mostly borne the brunt of racism and discrimination and have been often regarded as foreigners in their own country.
    • The majority faced discrimination when it came to renting an accommodation, visit to a restaurant and even transportation.
    • They believed that physical appearance was the most important reason for prejudice against them.
      • The residents from Northeast India have been the targets of racism from the mainlanders in India for a long time as they have typical mongoloid features, which are similar to the features of Chinese individuals.
    • Amid the Covid-19 outbreak, people from the region faced an increased number of acts of hate and prejudices against them.
      • A series of attacks were reported in various parts of the country where people from the region were harassed, abused, traumatised and were disparagingly called “coronavirus”.
      • The experience of stigma has mostly been due to their association and facial similarities with Chinese individuals who are also stigmatized by many to be the reason for the origin of this pandemic.
    • The hate crime and racial discrimination against people from the northeast is deep-rooted even in the cosmopolitan cities.
    • Offensive and abusive language were reported to be most common across all the six cities.

    Data Analysis

    • Offensive and abusive language related crime: Mumbai>Chennai>Pune>Delhi>Hyderabad>Bengaluru.
    • >60 per cent said their studies and work were hampered.
    • Most pervasive reasons behind hate crime were public attitude and insensitivity (44.5 per cent).
    • Incidence of non-reporting: 32.3 per cent.
    • Refusal to file FIR by the police: 34 per cent.
    • Fear of hate crime: Particularly high in Chennai (74 per cent).

    Suggestions

    • It highlighted the need to materialise the recommendations of the M.P. Bezbaruah Committee, 2014.
      • It recommended amendments to the Indian Penal Code (IPC) by creating new offences under Section 153C and 509A to to deal with comments, gestures and acts intended to insult a member of a particular racial group.
      • It suggested making such offences as gender-neutral, cognizable and non-bailable with imprisonment extendable up to three or five years with fine.
    • The study also emphasised upon the Supreme Court (SC) recommendations in Karma Dorji & Others vs Union of India & Others (2014).
      • In the case, the SC made several recommendations for the prevention and monitoring of racial hatred and violence.
    • Suitable innovative ways should be devised to integrate each and every aspect of the North East into the consciousness of people from mainland India.
    • A detailed socio-economic study of the nature of student migration from the North East would be worthwhile as it will provide valuable insight for planning of higher education in the region.
    • Legal awareness campaigns should be carried out in neighbourhoods that have a significant presence of members from the North East community and lectures on legal rights should be introduced for university students.
    • Also, laws against discrimination, fast-track courts and special police squads, education interventions, social media outreach and using sports as a bonding tool should be the other stapes taken into consideration.
    Indian Council of Social Science Research

    • It was established in 1969 by the Government of India.
    • Aim: To promote research in social sciences in the country.
    • Functions
      • Advise the Government on all matters pertaining to social science research from time to time.
      • Sponsor social science research programmes and administer grants to institutions/individuals.
      • Indicate areas in which social science research is to be promoted and adopt special measures for development of research in neglected or new areas.

    Source: TH