Darjeeling MP Raju Bitsa (Twitter/Raju Bista)
A 29-year-old woman from Darjeeling was racially abused at a market in the city’s Gorabazar area on Wednesday, and accused of spreading the COVID-19 coronavirus.
The woman, who is a crew member at an airlines company, said she went to the market at 10.30 am along with her elder sister to buy groceries.
“My grandmother, who lives with us, is very old,” the flight attendant told The Indian Express. “She can’t go to the market. So, after yesterday Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a lockdown for 21 days, we went to buy some groceries and other essential things in the morning. After buying all my groceries, I was all standing in front of a rice shop, waiting for my elder sister to come back with a rickshaw.”
A group of people surrounded the flight attendant on seeing she was not wearing a mask. The woman said she had taken it off five minutes earlier as it had become dirty because of the dust from potatoes at the market. Though she tried to explain it to the group, she was accused of spreading the virus, and asked to leave the area immediately.
“There were other Bengali people in the market without masks, but they questioned only me,” she added.
After a while, the woman’s sister returned without a rickshaw. The sisters then asked another rickshaw-puller in the area to take them home. However, he left them in the middle of a road, saying he would be pulled up by the police. The air stewardess then called up a police helpline number, where they were advised to register a complaint at Dum Dum police station. However, a policeman at the station’s gate allegedly did not let them in.
“I tried to approach him, saying I was harassed in the market and want to file a complaint,” said the woman. “But, he was very rude, did not allow us to speak, and told us to either wear a mask or move away.”
The official allegedly beat the sisters’ rickshaw-puller with his baton. “I tried to check his name, but he was not wearing any badge,” the woman added.
“This situation made me feel very humiliated,” she said. “I don’t want it to happen to any of my brothers and sisters. If these people behave with us in this way, then it will be very difficult for us to survive here in Kolkata as I am also working for the country and our people. I am very much aware of safety and personal hygiene.”
After going home, the woman contacted Darjeeling MP Raju Bista, and requested him to take necessary action.
“Yes, she called me under acute distress,” said Bista. “This is a very unfortunate incident. I wrote to the Director General of Police, and told him to take strong action against the people at the market, and the police officer. I also wrote a letter to the Union Home Minister [Amit Shah] and Home Secretary, and intimated the fact.”
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