Kohima: Amid reports of racial profiling and attacks targeted at migrants from Northeastern states living in metros, activists have demanded that authorities enlist lawyers from the region to represent victims.
“In view of all these unfortunate incidents we are writing to you to empanel Northeast Advocates to represent Northeast people who are victims of crimes, and racial discrimination in metro cities of India,” Alana Golmei, General Secretary of Northeast Support Centre and J Maivio wrote to Justice NV Ramana, Executive Chairman of the National Legal Services Authority citing growing instances of racial discrimination faced by Northeastern migrants during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The letter details multiple incidents reported since March. Outside the Delhi University campus, men on motorbikes threw water balloons aimed at private parts of two NE women and shouted ‘Aye Coronavirus!’
In another incident in Delhi, a young woman from Manipur was spat on and called ‘Coronavirus’ when she came out to purchase groceries soon after the Prime Minister announced lockdown in the country.
In Gujarat, nine Northeast migrants were forcibly quarantined for 24 hours despite showing no COVID-19 symptoms solely on the basis of their race. Another two Northeast girls were also threatened with eviction from their apartment in Ahmadabad, Gujarat.
In Mysuru, two engineering college students from Nagaland were denied entry to a supermarket after the staff refused to believe that they were Indians.
“Our fellow Indians in metro cities have been calling the northeasterners’ Coronavirus’ in the same way they’ve called them chinki, momo, chinese, chowmein and other derogatory terms,” the activists wrote in the letter.
The two activists claimed that authorities have failed to take exemplary action “therefore, the ones on the doing end are taking this lightly.”
The two activists who were members of a 2014 committee headed by MP Bezbaruah formed to suggest measures to deal with racial discrimination targeted at Northeastern migrants said the government has failed to implement the recommendations.
Among other recommendations, the committee suggested a panel of lawyers for legal assistance and consultation and said that advocates from the Northeast practising at different courts may be given the preference.
“In order to effectively implement all these recommendations, NALSA must empanel Northeast practising Advocates as well as Coordinator for Northeast people on behalf of NALSA,” the letter quotes from the Committee report.
The activists said MHA’s monitoring committee formed on the orders of the Supreme Court has hardly held any meetings. The committee was formed to monitor, oversee, pursue, and review the implementation of the MP Bezbaruah Committee report. While Golmei is a member of the monitoring committee for monitoring and redressal of cases of racial discrimination, Maivio is a special invitee.
“We are sorry to report to you that though lawyers from the Northeast were to be appointed on the legal aid panel of NALSA, no Northeast lawyer has been appointed to provide legal aid to persons from the Northeast residing in the various states,” the activists wrote in the letter. They said some lawyers had been appointed to provide legal aid generally. “But this is not what was envisaged,” the activists wrote.
The letter demands that two representatives on the monitoring committee who come from the Northeast be made “in-charge of identifying the lawyers in every State/UT of this country to be empanelled for legal aid to persons from the Northeast.”