NEW DELHI, March 29 - Following reports of incidents of racism and discrimination against the people of the Northeast during this time when the country is facing the COVID-19 outbreak, the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) has urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to stress the need for extensive information, social media campaigns as well as stringent action under the law.
In a separate letter to chief ministers of the region, the CHRI also called for setting up of emergency hotlines and nodal cells, and sought better coordination with the Centre and other states to prevent racial attacks.
�As you are aware, in the past few weeks, persons from the Northeast have become targets for racist attacks, physical and verbal,� CHRI chairperson Wajahat Habibullah and international director Sanjoy Hazarika said in a letter to the Prime Minister.
�They have been beaten, dragged out of restaurants, threatened with boycott, told to leave rented accommodation and spat upon. This has been an ugly reflection of prejudice across the country,� the letter added.
The CHRI has suggested setting up of a nodal group with emergency hotlines which are widely circulated in the media, especially social media.
Habibullah and Hazarika noted that even when persons from this region have �engaged with and embraced this country and travelled widely to study, settle and earn livelihoods,� they 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,� the letter said.
In a separate letter to Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, the CHRI said there have been numerous incidents of hate crimes and racial abuse, especially of people from the Northeast during this time, and they are deeply concerned about it.
This calls for not just strong action under the law but also robust public messaging, social media campaigns and sensitisation of communities about this treatment even after decades of trying to educate fellow Indians about their brethren from the Northeast, who move, work and study among them.
�By drawing your attention to incidents of racism and discrimination against persons from Northeast, we urge your government to launch extensive information and social media campaigns on the issue and coordinate with other counterparts of the region and with chief ministers of those states where the incidents have occurred,� the CHRI said.