Take strict action against harassers on Northeast people: CHRI tells PM Modi

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Take strict action against harassers on Northeast people: CHRI tells PM Modi

SHILLONG | March 29, 2020:

Taking note of reports of numerous incidents of racism and discrimination during the COVID-19 pandemic in different parts of India, the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) has urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to take stringent action against those harassers and for linking ethnic communities from the North Eastern States with' Corona' or 'Chinese' and held responsible for 'bringing the virus' to India.

In a separate letter to Chief Ministers of the North Eastern States, the CHRI has called for setting up of emergency hotlines and nodal cells and sought better coordination with the Centre and their counterparts of those states where the incidents of racism and discrimination during the COVID-19 have occurred.

CHRI's Chairperson Wajahat Habibullah and International Director Sanjoy Hazarika shot a letter to Prime Minister Modi and Chief Ministers of the North Eastern States in the wake of the repeated incidents of racism and discrimination against persons from North-East India and essential service givers like doctors, nurses, caregivers, and pilots.

" …. in the past few weeks, persons from the North-East states of India have become targets for racist attacks, physical and verbal abuses. They have been beaten, dragged out of restaurants, threatened with a boycott, told to leave rented accommodation and spat upon," the CHRI noted in a letter to Modi.

"The incidents have been an ugly reflection of prejudice across the country, including Ahmedabad, Delhi, and Kolkata at a time when India needs to stand united," it added

Informing the Prime Minister that even when persons from the North Eastern States have "engaged with and embraced this country and traveled widely to study, settle and earn livelihoods," the CHRI said, "they (northeasterners) continued to experience "the sting of discrimination and prejudice. Working professionals, students and ordinary residents of this country have been called 'corona' or 'Chinese' and held responsible for 'bringing the virus' to India."

Seeking proactive action against those harassers under the Epidemic Diseases Act in the interest of their protection and safety of the people, the CHRI urged the central government and others in the states to launch extensive information and social media campaigns to destroy the rumours which only create more harmful conditions at a time of the epidemic.

Welcoming the Ministry of Home Affairs' advisory on sensitisation of law enforcement agencies to all states, the CHRI  called upon all chief ministers and political leaders of all parties from the North Eastern States to reach out to people from their communities who are fearful and stressed for reasons of prejudice and not just the disease.

"They need to liaise with the Centre and all other states to help nip this ugliness which must be met with the full force of the law, as recommended by the MP Bezbaruah committee into incidents of racial profiling and abuse in its 2015 report," the CHRI said

In separate letters to the Chief Ministers of North Eastern States, the CHRI called not just for strong action under the law but also for robust public messaging, social media campaigns and sensitization of communities as this treatment even after decades of trying to educate fellow Indians about their brethren from the North-East who move, work and study among them.

The CHRI urged the Chief Ministers to launch extensive information and social media campaigns on the issue and to coordinate with other chief ministers of the region and with CMs of those states where the incidents have occurred.

It also suggested setting up of a nodal group with emergency hotlines which are widely circulated in the media, especially social media.