(Photo by GREG BAKER / AFP)

Mumbai: Citizens from northeast India are always subjected to ‘extreme’ racism by fellow Indians and the pandemic has only worsened the situation for them.

The novel coronavirus outbreak in the city has also seen as a spurt in incidents of racism against northeastern citizens, living in the financial capital.

The situation has worsened now to the extent that people have been fired from their jobs. “I had a minor cold and fever and went to my office at Kharghar, Navi Mumbai.

On reaching office, my boss asked me to take a half-day off and go back home,” says Chumtila Lotha, a receptionist at a car service centre. As per the advice by her boss, Lotha (24) left for home and even before she could reach home, she was asked not to come to the office.

“My boss messaged me saying he fears I am infected with the coronavirus. He told me not to come to the office,” Lotha recollects, lamenting, “After a few days, when I messaged my boss that I am completely fine now and I would be resuming work, I was shocked to hear the response.

I was asked not to enter the office and that my salary would be transferred in my bank account. All this just because of my looks.”

According to north-eastern citizens, the bullies have just got added new terms to tease from ‘chinky’ to ‘coronavirus’. Another incident of alleged racism occurred with Imtitemsu Sangtam (29), who had been to a garment shop in Santacruz.

“The shopowner was initially reluctant to show me any cloth. Later, he told his staff to help me but asked him to keep ‘safe distance’ from me,” Sangtam alleged.

If north-eastern citizens are to be believed, they face racism not only at shops but even in public transport. “Almost on a daily basis, especially from the past few weeks, autorickshaw drivers are refusing to ferry us. It has compelled us to walk from station till our homes,” said Sangtam, a resident of Andheri.

Speaking exclusively with the FPJ, Wungramthing Huileng, the President of Naga Students Union said racism and discrimination against people of northeast is common in Mumbai.

“Over the past few weeks, especially after the pandemic outbreak, we are facing the worst-ever situation. People are running away from us as they are scared they can get infected. This is because they mistake us as Chinese citizens,” Huileng said.

“We would not hesitate in filing complaints against bullies as the incidents are rising by the day,” he added.

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