Chinese, Chinki, made in China, Korean, and now Corona are a few of the many racial slurs that have been hurled at me. The issue does not just stay with me but is echoed by many Northeast Indian migrants. Here’s how a typical conversation would go for me, “Are you from China? I say no I’m from Manipur.”
There’s a confusion that is seen on their faces. Either they did not pay attention in their Geography class or Manipur never really existed. Then the conversation gets into the obvious, “oh so you’re an Indian! All of you look the same! Do you people eat snakes, frogs, and insects?” What am I supposed to be answering?
Sadly, I have to specify that I’m an Indian and I can speak Indian languages as well. When I converse in those languages the people who hear me speak look so surprised for all obvious reasons. It is a shame to see that every time my family and I take a walk there are unpleasant comments which we hear. Fortunately or unfortunately, I happen to understand the ruthless comments passed. Now do I back off and not cuss? I can give them the same thing to chew, but only is that a fair thing to do? So now there’s priority for types of skin colours? Who can speak, whose voice will be heard and who can’t?
Honestly speaking I’d prefer to identify myself as an “Asian” rather than an “Indian”. I know that may be a controversial topic but that is how we are treated; foreigners in our own land! We are made to pay different prices to enter parks and museums.
Recently I booked an auto to go out, and just like every other human I still can go out, right? As I got off and paid the fare, I was asked to pay extra for no reason. I asked, ” why the extra amount uncle?” He began to argue with me in Hindi and without any second thought he immediately said, “Go back to where you came from!” Well, that was not the first time I heard those words. Those very words I heard from another Indian citizen. So, tell me something? There’s an extra price to pay for my skin colour as well? It’s not my fault I was created this way.
It is dumb that knowing Indian languages like Hindi or Kannada is a prerequisite to being recognized as an Indian.
I am not the only person who is facing racial discrimination – there are still more being discriminated against by mainland Indians, even though the North-East states were given recognition on December 30th, 1971. We are still not accepted as “Indians” just because of our mongoloid features and our choice of a different language and dialect. I would like to bring up some cases of racism against the Northeast community, during the pre-covid and post-covid timelines.
A group of students from Assam who were on a school trip to the Taj Mahal were asked to prove their nationality – they made them show their identity cards and made them sing the national anthem.
Higio Gungtey was forced to lick the boots of his landlord just because he used excess water. His landlord was an educated lawyer.
Tongou Mechia, an employee at the Oberoi Grand Hotel in Delhi had received a call from her interns seeking for rescue from a small crowd that had gathered in front of their house who were forcibly asking them to leave. So, the employee sent over some security to escort them. As they were leaving, the people living around them began to chant out loud ‘Go corona Go’.
There are many other cases that you can check out for yourselves.
It seems axiomatic that racism towards the Northeast community does exist in India, but it has been ignored by the people and also a few members with the power to influence and raise a voice for people like us – our leaders. The covid pandemic just made things worse for us because not only do we have to hear racial slurs, but watching people pull up their masks when they see us takes the discrimination to a whole new level. It is infuriating to not only read about all the horrendous racial, discriminating acts happening around us but to experience it personally is mental torture.
I hoped as time passed things would change for us but I guess I was wrong, it only got worse. Take the case of the two Manipuri students who were denied entry at a Hyderabad supermarket even after they showed their IDs and Aadhaar cards.
We went from being called names on the road to being forced to move out of our homes, being accused of carrying the virus, and forcefully being admitted to the hospital just because of our appearance. India is known for its “UNITY” not its individuality, but here we are fearing the people who we are supposed to consider our own. Implementation of anti-racial laws in our country needs focus and must be attended to before things get worse or before a lot more people die for no fault of theirs.
Imparting education on racial discrimination must be the uttermost priority of every educational institution in this present chaos we live in. There’s more to it than just skin colour or ‘funny’ names or features of the northeastern side of the country. We must as humans begin to appreciate the roots of different cultures, the geography, the stories, the landscapes, the people!
We as adults are setting the path for a generation that can see us with a completely different perspective. Now that perspective is left to you and me as to how we want to display it. Discrimination is never the answer, but if it is, you are always a foreigner to another person. What you sow is what you reap.
By Khual Min Thang
A tenth grader with a passion for food, love being around people and doing things together with friends and family. Have my heart set on working as an industrial psychologist. I also am an amateur writer who loves to write on life and other experiences.