Even as the world brawls with the COVID-19 pandemic, numerous instances of anti-Asian sentiments are being reported. The article talks about the issue of Xenophobia and racism in relation to coronavirus pandemic. It talks about the massive surge of Xenophobia and Racism with respect to different countries like India, USA, Russia. UK etc
The World Health Organization (WHO) on March 11, 2020, has declared the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak a global pandemic. Since Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic originated in Wuhan in China, several nationals ofthe country across the world have faced discrimination and became victims of xenophobic attitude bycitizens of various countries including India. The coronavirus pandemic has not only brought about atotal halt in the economy and compelled people to stay locked up indoors but it has also broughabout heightened xenophobia and racism across the world.
Xenophobia is the fear or hatred of that which is perceived to be foreign or strange. It is an expressionof perceived conflict between an ingroup and an outgroup and may manifest in suspicion by the oneof the other's activities, a desire to eliminate their presence, and fear of losing national, ethnic or racialidentity. Xenophobia and racism often overlap, but they also differ because the latter is based onphysical characteristics while the former is "based on the perception that the other is foreign to thecommunity or nation or originated outside it.
In India, the people whose physical features resemble the Chinese have been facing racism and acts of racial discrimination across the country because of the origin of the virus in Wuhan, China. Especially people of the Northeast are facing increasing harassment and violence over their looks.
A report by Rights and Risks Analysis Group (RRAG) which has been monitoring acts of racism and racial discrimination against India’s Mongoloid looking people who have been living mainly in metropolitan cities.The report highlights 22 reported cases of racial discrimination or hate crimes from 7 February 2020 to 25 March 2020. The report says that these incidents are just tip of the iceberg as India’s Mongoloid looking people have been facing discrimination on daily basis.
J Maivio, special invitee member of Monitoring Committee, Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), commented on the massive surge in racism and xenophobia related to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Unfortunately the North East community has for years been subjected to xenophobia and racism by various sections of people. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has literally opened the flood gates and there is a surge in racial discrimination towards people from the region. Ever since the corona virus made its presence in China''s Wuhan, the viral racial tremors have been severely felt in India. We have been receiving reports of racial attacks across India." To overcome the discrimination, he also stressed on the need of insertion of section 153C, 505A/509A to include racial discrimination; derogatory remarks relating to race, culture,customs, identity or physical appearances to be made punishable.
Many Northeast people and other likeminded people from social work, Public health, law etc, in collaboration with Special Police Unit for North Eastern Region (SPUNER) and Delhi Police have intensified efforts to provide ration to the people from the region stuck at home in the national capital during the lockdown.
North East Task Force (NETF) platform streamlined to address and redress the issues and grievances faced by the Northeast community at this time of crisis. It was initially formed forecasting growing problems of the Northeast people living in Delhi-National Capital Region. But later extended its presence pan-India by offering advice and assistance to people through its respective networks, acting as the focal point for connection. It facilitates and connects victims and people to their respective state governments or concerned authorities.
THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Racial Discrimination in America has been prevailing for decades, and the global coronavirus pandemic appears to be making matters worse by fueling anti-Asian discrimination. One of the major factors responsible for the spread ofxenophobic tendencies and racism in this period is often the way in which countries and especially the USreferred to the virus. American President Donald Trump has constantly been calling the coronavirus,the ‘Chinese Virus’. Although the causes of pandemics and their effects may be different, more than 30% of Americans have witnessed someone blaming people of Asian background for the coronavirus, according to an Ipsos survey conducted in late April for the Center for Public Integrity. Although Trump has tweeted that Asian Americans are not to be blamed for the virus, but recently described it as "kung flu". Critics say Trump is trying to distract attention from his handling of the pandemic.
Several violent attacks against people of Asian descent were reported when the Covid-19 outbreak began in the UK in February, including several physical attacks or beatings.In many jurisdictions, the figures for the crimes related to racism and Xenophobia forfirst three months of 2020 were higher than all of 2018 or 2019. The figures from the British Transport Police between January and March, for instance, showed anti-Asian hate crime incidents matching the total number of complaints during all of 2019.
On about February 20, after Russia banned Chinese citizens from entering the country, the state-owned transport companies began ordering drivers of public transport in Moscow to report Chinese passengers to the police.Also there were cases of people yelling at Asians or Central Asians on the subway or in public, asserting that “the Chinese brought coronavirus to this country.” The Chinese embassy sent a letter to the Moscow government on February 24 asking them to take steps to stop the discriminatory practice.
In Africa, there have been reports of discrimination and attacks on Asian people accused of carrying coronavirus, as well as foreigners generally, including in Kenya, Ethiopia, and South Africa. In Brazil, the media have reported harassment and shunning of people of Asian descent.
In Italy, the civil society group Lunaria has collected over 70-80 reports and media accounts of assaults, verbal harassment, bullying, and discrimination against people of Asian descent. Human rights and other groups in France, Australia, and Russia have also told Human Rights Watch of Covid-19-related attacks and harassment of people of Asian descent.
The UN committee responsible for monitoring compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which 182 countries have ratified, has recommended that governments adopt “national action plans against racial discrimination.” Plans should lay out specific approaches to combat racism and discrimination, from enhanced policing of hate crimes to public messaging and education programming encouraging tolerance. Governments need to take urgent action to adopt new action plans to address the wave of Covid-19 racism and xenophobia.
History shows that the censure of certain minority groups is an all too familiar scenario when a nation struggles with a viral pandemic. A natural human reaction to a pandemic is fear, which frequently results in blaming individuals who are deemed outsiders. Unless the government enacts a law against racism and the Ministers publicly and repeatedly rebuke the acts of racism and racial discrimination, the world will continue to see the surge in Xenophobia and Racism