Vishü Rita Krocha
Kohima | July 7
Recognising that with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, India is simultaneously facing another outbreak of racial discrimination against the people of North East India, Campaign YOLO, a joint initiative of Sarvahitey and Social Media Matters (SMM) has taken up serious efforts in eliminating all kinds of racial discrimination in India by taking a pledge to fight against the racial outbreak.
The campaign called #NorthEastMatters, is working through a network of 200+ Facebook groups spread across India with a membership of over 7 lakh people. Its activities include educating people about North East India through social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. As an impact of the campaign, #NorthEastMatters trended at number 26 on Twitter on the midnight of June 24.
In an exclusive interview with The Morung Express, Prem Prakash, Co-founder of Sarvahitey said that “our aim is to make impact on the ground” while highlighting that both SMM & Sarvahitey have worked extensively in the North East.
Mention may be made here that Sarvhitey has numerous libraries in villages across North East while SMM has done over 100 online safety workshops in colleges. Nagaland had also received its first library at Chingmei village under Tuensang district through the Paper Bridge project of Sarvahitey early last year and within a span of one year, various districts in Nagaland became home to several libraries under the initiative.
“Our field work led to many friendships, gave us an opportunity to understand the beautiful diverse cultures. I guess it makes the cause close to our hearts and when our participants shared the increase in discrimination faced by them during COVID-19, we knew we had to take a stand against it. This campaign is from the heart, dedicated to all our friends in the NE and focuses on the dream of one India that stands for justice and equality,” he expressed.
“Violence against and stigmatising of people from the Northeast, who come to metropolitan cities for higher studies and employment is not just a corona phenomenon,” he said while putting across that it has been latent in the country and every once in a while, takes a very ugly form. However, asserting that this time it turned violent and degrading, he stated that the “people from Northeast were being slandered with racial slurs, being spat at and denied entry even to basic facilities,” particularly in big metro cities.
He cited the instance of a Manipuri woman who was returning home in Delhi on March 22 when a man passed lewd comments and when she protested, he allegedly called her 'corona' and spat paan juice on her. “They have been denied entry to their own apartments, forced to vacate the premises and even forced to go into quarantine despite showing any symptoms. This is just the tip of the iceberg; it is so deeply embedded in the mindset of the people belonging to the so-called ‘mainland India’,” he pointed out.
Further expressing that they might not know what it feels like to be a pariah in your own country when you are asked to show your Aadhaar Card wherever you go, he asserted that “a question we need to ask ourselves is, how are we treating our fellow citizens from Northeast India?”
The YOLO Team came together during the COVID-19 lockdown wherein the program organically grew. With a specific strategy for each state, he divulged that “this is created in collaboration with young people from the state, highlighting the uniqueness of the culture. We had information posters relating to the amazing state of Nagaland. Also participants from Nagaland have been helping curate the #YOLO campaign.”
Further to the people of Nagaland, he conveyed, “we wish to have more participants in #NorthEastMatters, please reach out to us. Campaign YOLO would love to set up a branch in Nagaland and do offline events after the lockdown is over.”
So far, they have also been able to provide dry ration to 4000 families, an approximate number of 20,000 people, helped save more than 400 lives through blood and plasma donation. Prem Prakash also highlighted that “our volunteers have been helping migrants get home, and assisted with numerous curfew passes.” “All across the country we have 250,000 members on our My Pincode groups who get hyper local verified COVID-19 related information on a daily basis. We have a long way to go, but it’s a good start”, he added.