NEW DELHI — Stanzin Rabka had stepped out to buy vegetables and pulses at his local market in Jammu city on 21 March, a few hours before Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Janata Curfew” was scheduled to kick in the next day. The 21-year-old Ladakhi was about to approach the grocer when a man nudged him out of the line with his elbow and said, “chal hatt, aap logon ki wajah se coronavirus aaya hai.” (Go away, coronavirus has come because of you people).
Rabka could feel his face getting hot and flushed with humiliation, and said he could not find the words to defend himself. No else spoke up for him or countered the man who had passed the racial slur.
When he finally willed himself to speak, Rabka confronted the man, daring him to do it again while he made a video.
The video, uploaded on Instagram, struck a chord with many people, especially from India’s northeast states and the Union territory of Ladakh, who have been facing an increase in racist attacks since the coronavirus pandemic reached India.
In a recent conversation with HuffPost India, Rabka spoke about why the racial slur had shook him to his core, and why he made a video in which he tried to get his tormenter to “confess” and shared it on social media.
Rabka, who hails from the Buddhist town of Zanskar in Ladakh and is currently preparing for a competitive medical examination, said, “I’m Indian. I’m not the coronavirus.”
“People need to understand that we will not remain silent in the face of this racism. If we don’t speak out now, and the infection keeps spreading, this racism will only get worse. There will come a time when we won’t be able to control it. We have to bring an end to it now.”
I’m Indian. I’m not the coronavirus.
When this reporter asked him what he thought the words “you people” meant, Rabka said, “They slander us because our faces resemble the Chinese. We have got used to people saying ‘chinki, chinki’ and making fun of us. But now...