Nurses employed at a private hospital in Assam’s Guwahati city have alleged that they have been verbally harassed and called “coronavirus” by people on the streets.

There have been reports about Asians around the world having to contend with racial attacks, with people blaming them for the Covid-19 outbreak that originated in China last year. In India, people from the north eastern states are also facing coronavirus-related racism and xenophobia.

Twenty-five-year-old Kshetrimayum Bidyabati Devi, a native of Imphal in Manipur, told that she and her colleagues were on their way back home from work on the evening of April 3 when a group of men shouted “coronavirus coronavirus” at them. The men were lounging on the porch of a shop in the city’s Tetelia locality when the incident took place, she added.

Devi said she and her colleagues had been subjected to similar taunts a couple of days earlier too. “We have informed our hospital management that it has already happened two times,” she said. However, they have not approached the police yet.

Devi alleged the comments were racial in nature and said it was particularly disconcerting that she and her colleagues had to face discrimination in Guwahati. “In Delhi, they don’t understand that people from North East and China are different, but in Guwahati at least they should understand,” she said. “We are feeling so bad.”

Devi said several other tribal nurses from other parts of the North East employed at the same hospital were being subjected to similar insults. “The landlords are also harassing the nurses – we discuss all this in the hospital these days,” she said.

The Ministry of Home Affairs had last month asked state governments to sensitise all law enforcement agencies to take action against any kind of verbal and physical harassment of people from the North East. This came after a 25-year-old woman from Manipur was allegedly spat on in North-West Delhi’s Mukherjee Nagar area. The woman had alleged that a man first “misbehaved” with her. When she objected, he spat on her and yelled “corona” before fleeing in a two-wheeler.