Amid coronavirus scare, Northeast students at TISS allege racial prejudice
Students from northeastern states at Mumbai’s Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) have complained of racial discrimination in and around the campus in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak in China.
In an open letter to the institute and fellow students on Monday, the Northeast Students’ Forum of TISS alleged that some of the members of the forum had been accused of carrying the deadly virus, which originated in China, owing to their facial features.
“Many students from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, have recently been subjected to racial treatment due to their distinctive identities and features,” the letter said.
In one such instant, the letter said that on February 10 a student and her visiting friend, both hailing from Nagaland, were subjected to ‘outright racial discrimination’. The forum alleged that a video of the visiting friend was filmed without consent and circulated through social media by people around to raise an alarm about a potential carrier of coronavirus from China. When the student confronted the makers of the video, she was met with other forms of slurs and threatening behaviour. The letter has also said that other students from the northeastern states have not only faced name-calling such as “corona” and “coronavirus” at various public places, they have also been subjected to racism within the campus.
The novel Coronavirus outbreak has so far claimed over 1770 lives. Over 71,000 cases have been recorded, most of which are in China. In the past few weeks there have been allegations of racial profiling of people with Asian or ‘mongoloid’ features across the world.
“This form of discrimination, played out in the pretext of health concerns, is a reminder of inherent racial prejudices and stereotyping of particular peoples based on their physical features and perceived cultural inferiority,” a student said.
Condemning such discrimination across the country, the forum has now asked the institute’s administration to intervene in the matter to ensure the safety of students from the Northeast.
“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 northeast 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 northeast states in Mumbai and to deter cases of harassment and racial discrimination,” read the letter.
The TISS administration was unavailable for comment.