As India grapples to deal with the ongoing coronavirus crisis, there has been another "pandemic" that has raised its ugly head - racism. From the start of the health emergency, there have been numerous accounts of North Eastern people in the country facing racism and racist attacks by their fellow Indians.
That has now progressed to anyone who does not look "Indian" (who knows what that even looks like?) - which includes foreigners, even if they have been living in the country for a while.
Recently, a New Zealand YouTuber uploaded a video speaking about a racist attack he faced in Delhi's Chandni Chowk. Karl Rock, whose Instagram account shows that he is married to an Indian and has been residing in India, has thousands of followers and travels to different cities of India, exploring their nooks and crannies. He was walking down the spice market in Chandni Chowk when a local hurled abuses at him and asked him to leave the country.
The local called Karl "Corona" and told him to leave the country. Karl tried to speak to the man and tried to reason with him, clarifying that he had lived in India for a long time. But the man refused to pay heed and continue to attack him.
Karl also says in his YouTube video that this is not the first time he's been in such a situation. The first time, he says, he was forced to take a Covid test and that cops were called on him.
Ironically, Karl had donated plasma earlier for Covid-19 patients in India. Even Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had tweeted about Karl, saying that he set an example for many.
According to a report by Indian Express, Karl had seen Kejriwal's post on social media about a newly opened plasma bank in the city. He had contracted the virus and recovered the month before and decided to do his bit.
"Karl Rock, a New Zealand origin Delhiite donated plasma at Delhi govt's plasma bank. You must watch his video about his experience. I am sure this will encourage many more to come forward to donate their plasma and help save lives," Kejriwal had tweeted in July.
Karl Rock, a New Zealand origin Delhiite donated plasma at Delhi govt's plasma bankYou must watch his video about his experience. I am sure this will encourage many more to come forward to donate their plasma and help save lives. @iamkarlrock pic.twitter.com/VySSg0P0yV— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) July 10, 2020
The Coronavirus pandemic in India and around the world has fuelled racism against certain communities. For instance, in the initial phases of the pandemic, the Chinese were targeted for their eating habits and repeatedly blamed for causing the pandemic.
In India, several North East Indians have reported abuse and harassment on grounds of race since the pandemic started. In March this year, a North East woman living in Delhi narrated her horrifying experience when men spat on her and called her corona.
Karl's case was no different.
Here's the thing - calling people or places 'corona' dehumanises the people and the culture in the eyes of the larger viewers, thus encouraging neagtivity toward them - a classic technique used by racists to legitimise their actions against the said aggressor.
With resepct to coronavirus, any individual, irrespective of caste, nationality or gender, is susceptible to it in equal degrees. No particular community is more prone to or safe from the virus or even more likely to transmit the infection as compared to other communities. The virus, unlike humans, does not discriminate.