Mumbai: TISS students from northeast at receiving end of Coronavirus slurs

Updated: Feb 18, 2020, 07:38 IST | Pallavi Smart | Mumbai

Students say people have been shouting out 'coronavirus' at them both on campus and outside as well

NESF had a meeting with the institute authorities who have assured them of taking measures to prevent such untoward incidents. Representational pic
NESF had a meeting with the institute authorities who have assured them of taking measures to prevent such untoward incidents. Representational pic

Amid the global panic over the novel Coronavirus [COVID-19], students hailing from the northeastern states, studying at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences [TISS] have been subjected to racial discrimination across the city.

The issue came to the fore after the North East Students' Forum [NESF] at TISS issued a statement condemning the racial discrimination after a few instances occurred with their fellow students on campus as well as outside.  

Recalling one such instance, a master's student from the Deonar campus and who hails from Nagaland, told mid-day, "I was out having dinner with my friend on Sunday night. While I was returning, a few people looked at us and shouted Coronavirus, only to quickly run away after. How are we supposed to respond to such attacks? This clearly reflects the shallowness of people who not only cannot differentiate but also lack decency regarding behaviour in public."

He continued, "A similar instance happened shockingly inside the institute. A friend of mine was unwell and when she coughed, a few students started joking about the virus."

Another 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."

While students have spoken anonymously regarding their experiences fearing more targeting, as a group, they have issued a statement. "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 northeastern 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.

Dean of Students' Affairs at the TISS Asha Bano was unavailable for a comment.

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