GroundXero | April 01, 2020
A migrant worker hailing from Shillong in Meghalaya, has committed suicide in Agra on March 30. On his Facebook page, he blamed the sudden countrywide lockdown announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, following reports of outbreak of coronavirus for his decision. A GroundXero report.
From 23rd March, when the Prime Minister announced the country wide lockdown till Sunday, 27 people have died of the Covid 19 virus, while 20 reportedly died of hunger, exhaustion, police brutality and other accidents. All 20 have been identified as people working in informal sectors. Numerous pictures and videos of helpless, panicked, starving workers desperately trying to reach their homes flooded our smartphones, TV screens, social media feeds and newspapers. While special flights were send to bring in people stranded in foreign countries, thousands of migrant workers, thrown out by the factory owners, were left stranded on state borders, without any arrangement of how they will return to their native villages, towns and cities.
A youth identified as Aldrin Lyngdoh, a migrant worker from Shillong, working as a waiter in a restaurant in Agra had hanged himself at his rented house. The deceased in a Facebook post, addressed to Mr Robin Hibu, IPS in charge of NE Affairs in Delhi, had accused his employer, Seema Chaudhury, of not providing him any support during the 21-day nationwide lockdown period. The tragic incident came to light when his post was shared by Patricia Mukhim, editor Shillong Times, on her Facebook timeline. Below we reproduce the youth’s FB post as shared by Patricia.
Does anyone on my FB list in Meghalaya happen to know this young man or any of his relatives who can be contacted? He is in Agra and desperate if we go by the message he wrote to Mr Robin Hibu, IPS in charge of NE Affairs in Delhi. Please only comment. No likes for this post please
Robin Hibu sir,
i am Aldrin lyngdohi was Born from a poor family my mom my dead expired so i had 2move on to do something 4myself n i was a thief from Shillong n i thought better 2move out from drbcozi want 2change my life n i work here Agra uttar Pradesh sikandrakargil shanti food court resturentmodi have closed all way 4me nowhere 2go were ill go n the owner also he don’t feel petty for me seemachadhauary she told go were ever u want 2go so we’re ill go plz help me i don’t know we’re 2go only 1way i see suicide dat all i just want a help from u plz if u have humanity plz take my dead body 2my town so dati can relax plz in the name of god plzbcoz 2day ill be no more help me out plziam not joking plz help me out f da dei para khasiiaraplangsehiaki met ngabntphane ha Shillong to iarap she think dat her father in low is minister n she can do whatever she like plz show them how she kill me plz.
Responding to this incident, Robin Hibu, speaking with Inside Northeast said,
“He committed suicide around midnight today. It’s very sad. I am concerned about his identification and then informing the local Police. We are still working on it. This boy we could only trace that this boy came to Agra some years back, worked at a hotel as a waiter. He also had a very few friends.”
He also informed that since Aldrin was not fluent in Hindi, the local people in Agra nicknamed him “Tapaa”. He said, “A lot of things might have landed him to this drastic step. Nowadays, an added problem is there – Coronavirus,” he added, pointing to the rising cases of racial discrimination against the ones from Northeastern part of India. As it is, it is not at all uncommon for the residents of Northeastern states to face direct, on-your-face racism in the cities of the Indian mainland.
Recently, a woman from Manipur has alleged that a man spat on her and called her “corona” in Delhi. Not just her, many Northeastern citizens have shared stories of discrimination amid the coronavirus outbreak. Famous Bollywood singer Meiyang Chang has also written on her twitter that while he was out on his morning walk in Mumbai, two men on a bike sped past him shouting “corona”. A social media user aptly described the situation, “It’s a double crisis for us, first battle with the virus and then with the societal virus of racism!”
Although, Aldrin Lyngdoh’s last and fervent wish was that his body be brought back home to Shillong for burial, his foster parents are not in a position to fly his body back home. Hence, Chief Secretary, Goverment of Meghalaya has arranged that his body be brought to Meghalaya House in Delhi where he will then be given a decent burial. “Given that all flights at this time are cancelled, that is the only option left”, he said. He further added,
We trust Aldrin will forgive us all for failing him and perhaps many young people like him who struggle to find meaning in life but are treated like pariahs. In some ways we have failed our younger generation.
The tragic demise of Aldrin puts a big question mark on the government’s sudden announcement of this lockdown now in the second week. The politicians, the media, and the urban middle class, safely enjoying paid holidays in their homes are more concerned about the ‘religion’ of the virus then the plight of the migrant workers like Aldrin. To them, the migrant workers and the Muslims are the new ‘vectors’, spreading the virus.
Especially precarious in this situation are the conditions of workers like Aldrin, who come from the northeastern states to work primarily in the service sector in the cities in the mainland. Their situations has been made more precarious by a combination of factors – habitual poverty, the haphazard way in which the lockdown has been organized by the current regime without giving a single thought to how the most vulnerable would deal with it, and the anti-northeastern racism that as it is plagues the cities in the mainland. Corona’s complex association with China has only now given that virus a phenotypical face, unleashing the complicated anti-northeastern racism that exists as it is within the Indian mindset. The tone of indictment in Aldrin’s Facebook post, then, needs to be seen in that context. For a long time to come, his desperate effort to tell his life-story in the way he knew best, would continue to haunt the current Indian state and the civil society, which ultimately failed to provide him and countless others like him with any forms of respite.