Maisnam Arnapal
Delhi, India
These images are meant to provide a peek into the the life of an Indigenous person from Northeast India who was quarantining for months alone in a house from March to September 2020 in a migrant ghetto in India's capital, Delhi. The pandemic definitely took a toll on our mental, emotional and physical health. For days, I would lie on the floor staring blankly at the whirling ceiling fan. I wasn't stepping out not only for fear of being infected but also to protect myself from racist attacks. This was also the time when a lot of people from Northeast India who have mongoloid features were attacked and beaten up because they were blamed of bringing corona. Just 5 minutes walk from where I was staying, a Northeastern girl was spat on and called Chinese/corona. There were news from other cities where people from our region were turned away from shops, fired from their jobs, thrown out from their rented accommodation.... The fear and the anxiety was exacerbated by the increasing racialized violence around us. However, violence is not new to the Indigenous people of Northeast India. We have fought together and survived decades of armed violence; the region has been under the draconian, Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958 and human rights abuse by the security forces, who enjoy legal immunity and impunity under the AFSPA, are rampant till today. But how did we survive decades of violence and how did(are) we (to) survive the racial violence during the pandemic? A sense of community, resilience, the will to fight and live. While many fled the city toward their homelands in the early days, the ones who couldn't (like me) got together, helped each other with food, water and sometimes, just a call or a text. The image, 'NE VERIETY STORE' is a representative of life of Indigenous Peoples from Northeast India where they get vegetables and herbs and fermented fish and smoked pork from their region, food otherwise considered dirty and stinky by the mainlanders. This shop was opened for a few hours on certain days and the Northeast people would flocked there to re-live their homelands through the smell and the texture of ngari (fermented fish), oaksa (smoked pork), numitlei (sunflower seeds).... In one of the images, we can see the Indigenous migrants waiting in a line to collect grocery donated by some good Samaritan. They all stood a few meters apart but the 'social distancing' brought them closer than ever before. We owe it to our ancestors.