Surat ban beaten by locals, forcibly evicted from rented home on suspicion of Covid-19

Sanjay Sharma had lost his job at a catering firm in Surat and moved in with his friends as he couldn’t afford to pay rent at his prior residence

Covid 19Image

It has been three months that India is grappling with the Covid-19 pandemic. However, the curve of the infection and insensitivity, both don’t seem to be abating. Even though the government has issued guidelines against the eviction of tenants, incidents of the same are still rampant.

Ostracism by locals

On Friday, June 12, 2020, a 24-year-old man, Sanjay Sharma from Assam who worked at a catering firm in Surat, was allegedly beaten by three local youths who asked him to vacate a house on the suspicion that he was infected with Covid-19, The Indian Express reported. According to the police, he was rushed to the SMIMER Hospital and Medical College by his friends who managed to save him and is now stable, though he sustained fractures on his hands and legs. His friends have lodged a complaint against three – Dipu, Nepali and Bunty. The police have launched an investigation into the matter and are yet to identify them.

IE reported the police as saying that Sharma had come to Surat a few years ago and was employed at a catering firm. Out of work for the past three months, he moved out of the Pandesara area where he was staying owing to the ability of paying rent. Four days prior to the incident, he had moved in with his friends at Patelnagar in Udhna area. A day after he had moved in, locals allegedly asked Sharma’s friends to ask him to leave, suspecting that he had Covid-19. On Friday, three locals accosted Sharma and asked him to leave. However, the argument turned heated and the locals beat Sharma with wooden sticks.

MV Patel, Udhna police inspector told IE, “He was beaten up by local residents, who also made allegations that Govalaknagar in Pandesara where Sharma was staying had Covid-19 cases. We are trying to identify the accused and will arrest them.”

However, this issue is not just prevalent in cities, but also the villages in India. The Telegraph reported that seven migrant workers who returned home to Tajpur Village in Hooghly, West Bengal from Punjab, at the end of last month, faced ostracism from fellow villagers and indifference from the administration. It was reported that the seven returnees were barred from entering their own homes and were also not allowed to spend their quarantine period at the local school.

The men were then housed at a makeshift pandal made of bamboo and plastic, erected by sympathetic neighbours. However, a tree broke the makeshift structure and they were forced to spend their quarantine period in the open near a forested area, a worker told The Telegraph.

Racial discrimination

In another incident, in Mumbai, Tek Bahadur (27), who worked as a security guard, was ousted from his job by his employers who stated that it was risky to let outsiders stay in the building. A naïve Bahadur believed them at first, but only got to know the real picture when he heard from an acquaintance that he was actually replaced due to his looks, reported Free Press Journal (FPJ).

Bahadur, who worked at a Ghatkopar housing society, told FPJ, “I was fired from the job, because I am from Nepal and my looks resembled similar to those living in North east India and China.”

Deepak Koirala (30), a Nepalese waiter cum delivery boy, too had a similar story. He was ousted from his job for his employers feared that nobody would order food from the restaurant due to him. Speaking to FPJ about his plight, he said, “There are people who are spreading rumours against us. We have been coming to India for generations for our bread and butter but this is the first time we are facing such racial discrimination.”

Though Koirala said that he was assured he would get back his job once the pandemic was over, it forces one to think of the systemic racism imbibed in the minds of the people.

Throughout the country, there have been reports of frontline workers being ousted from their rented homes, neighbours ostracizing residents under quarantine and people targeting minorities with racial and casteist remarks. These are only evident of a complete disregard for the law and an unsympathetic attitude to help fellow countrymen to tide by the pandemic.


Covid-19 stigma: Medical professionals ostracized and evicted from rented homes
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