Chin refugee women abused in their workplace
19 June 2014 – On 9 May 2014, a group of Chin refugee women were assaulted by Indian colleagues in their workplace, on the orders of their Indian boss. The physical assault came after they had already faced discrimination and verbal abuse while working as waitresses at Indian wedding celebrations, which usually take place at night.
On 14 April 2014, a group of workers including eight Chin refugee women, one Chin refugee man, and a woman from Manipur in Northeast India had travelled to Rajkot District in Gujarat to earn money for their daily survival at such events, known as ‘night party work’. They worked alongside a group of 50 Indians.
One of the Chin refugee women reported to the Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO) that after working there for one month, the Chin group asked the Indian manager for leave to visit their families in New Delhi. He reportedly refused, and wouldn’t give them their salaries. This led to a dispute between the manager and the group. According to the Chin refugee, who prefers to remain anonymous, “The manager urged the other group of local Indian workers to beat us. They kicked us and hit us in the face and on our bodies, and pulled our hair. After that we were locked up for four days.”
After they were released, the Chin refugee group went to Gujarat police station to report their problems. The Chin refugee told CHRO that the police officer there refused to record a First Information Report on their behalf.
“He told us, ‘I don’t want to see any people from the Northeast in this State’,” reported the Chin refugee. “So, we reported our problems to the UNHCR office in Delhi by phone. The UNHCR officer told us that UNHCR would not interfere in this case, because you all are outside of Delhi, and we can’t take responsibility for refugees who travel outside of Delhi. We felt very sad and helpless,” she added.
The woman from Manipur who had also been detained with the Chin refugee group then called a former Manipur State Member of the Legislative Assembly, who apparently intervened with the Gujarat police station by telephone. This resulted in the police officers talking with the manager, who finally paid the Chin refugees on the morning of 14 May 2014.
“There was no punishment given to the local Indians who assaulted and abused us. After we got our salary, we came straight back to New Delhi. I suffered from searing stomach pain where the assailants had kicked me, for days after the assault,” added the Chin refugee, who is pregnant.
An elder from the Chin refugee community in Delhi said, “Many Chin refugee women have been abused and assaulted by local Indians in their work places, especially women who work at night parties. They have been doing that work because they can earn more money than they can get by working in the informal section in the surrounding areas. But many live in constant fear of the consequences of discrimination, like verbal abuse, molestation, and physical assault by local Indians.”
A number of violent assaults in recent months against people from Northeast India – who share physical characteristics with the Chin from Burma – have sparked a debate about discrimination and racism in the country.#