Punjab: How One Northeastern Woman is Countering Racial Abuse With Compassion

In response to racist slurs, Chelsea Kikon Kaur, who runs a restaurant in Phagwara, preferred to set an example by reach...

It seems as though some people are always looking for an excuse to be racist. Even the smallest trigger is enough to set off a chain of hate speech, violence, and crime. With the spread of the coronavirus, bigots have a brand new excuse to spew their hateful opinions and justify their often factually incorrect views. We’ve already seen Chinese people facing racial discrimination and being blamed for spreading the virus. In India, it is the individuals from the north east that are bearing the brunt of this unreasonable hate. On May 10th, Chong Hoi Misao, a 20-year-old girl from Manipur was brutally attacked in Gurugram and called ‘corona’.

But these instances of racism had started as early as March. Chelsea Kikon Kaur, a north eastern woman from Nagaland, heard a group of men shout at her, “Go Corona, we will not ferry you.” The incident took in Jalandhar, while she was waiting for public transportation. A few days later, another girl from Nagaland shared a similar experience where she was called ‘coronavirus’ in Paghwara.

But Chelsea did not let these hateful comments made towards her and her community get to her. Instead, she decided to set an example by helping out migrant workers in the crisis that they are facing. She has been providing rice, flour, sugar, pulses, and soap to the migrants for over two months now.

In November 2019, Chelsea started her north eastern restaurant, ‘The Village by Chelsea’ at Paghwara. Now that it has been shut due to the lockdown, she has been distributing ration from there to her employees. They reach out to migrants everyday and contribute whatever they can.

She and her brother are eager to send out a strong message to all those people who have been using the coronavirus to target and spread hate against specific communities. We saw this happen to Muslims as well after the Tablighi Jamaat gathering at Nizamuddin Markaz in Delhi. Chelsea is also the advisor of the North East Students Organisation in Punjab.

If all of this was not enough, badminton champion Jwala Gutta was also trolled and called derogatory things like ‘China ka maal’ and ‘half corona’ due to her mother being Chinese. “Such incidents hurt us,” Chelsea said. “But I feel that the only way to overcome hatred is through positivity and hope.”

 

There was some relief for the community when a man was arrested by the Delhi police for spitting paan at a Manipuri woman and calling her ‘corona’ in March.

People from the North Eastern states have faced discrimination even before this. It is an ongoing struggle that has been constantly overlooked. Racist comments and hate crimes are absolutely unacceptable, especially during a time of crisis when millions are suffering. We salute Chelsea’s undying spirit, and are extremely inspired by her wonderful effort to help the migrant workers!

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