Racism and India

Sanjeevani Kusum

Sanjeevani Kusum

“Racism is discrimination and prejudice towards people based on their race or ethnicity. The ideology underlying racist practices often includes the idea that humans can be divided into distinct groups that are different in their social behavior and innate capacities that can be ranked as inferior or superior.”

Racism in India

In India, right from a common person to the highest dignitaries, everyone would vehemently condemn if someone says that India is one of the most racist countries in the world but still when some surveys say so then it’s the time to introspect. We would not like to speak of India even in parallel lines with racism. But still in May 2016 at least five Indians were accused of assaulting Africans in New Delhi. A 29 year old French language teacher, Masoud Kateda Olivier, a Congolese national, was shot dead after a brawl with some drunken men. In February 2016, a 21-year old Tanzanian woman was allegedly stripped and beaten by a mob in Bangalore after a Sudanese man ran over a local. All these cases were dismissed by the authorities as stray and freak incidents which can happen to anyone in such a vast country. According to our constitution, India aspires to create a society where all the people belonging to different religions, castes, races and languages and gender are all treated equally. However, aspirations need to be lived for them to become reality. That India aspires to be a non-racist country doesn’t mean India is free of racial discrimination. We must remember here that racism doesn’t mean just the discrimination between black and white. Racism means discrimination in any form.

Racism Vs casteism

Casteism is the most complex form of racism in where the people are discriminated not only upon the basis of their color but also upon the basis of their occupation, their food habits, their languages, their dialect and what not. Indian government has always blocked the proposals at international forums to recognize or discuss casteism as a facet of racism saying that caste distinctions are based on social, occupational and economic considerations rather than genetic or racial differences and that casteism is India’s internal matter. No matter is internal matter when it affects the dignity, self esteem and security of millions of people. The various population groups belonging to different races stopped to intermingle and interbreed between themselves on Indian subcontinent about 1600 years ago or some 70 generations back when the caste system became rigid.  Differentiation which has been continuing for 70 generations upon genetic lines can’t be ignored just as social norm. Lack of evidence may prove the absence of race in India but not the absence o racism. White color has been venerated since ages in India. Even though dark skinned Krishna is worshipped all over, women would pray to him to bless them with a fair child. Matrimonial ads shamelessly announce that fair skinned bride only is wanted. Africans are called Negros or blackies. We discriminate not only upon the basis of color but also upon the shape of their nose or slant of their eyes. North eastern girls are taunted as chinkis in rest of India. They are treated with dishonor and molested without any hesitation.

India witnessed mass exodus of north easterners from Bengaluru after the city witnessed a spat of physical and sexual assaults upon the people from north east. No one can forget the hate campaign against Biharis in Maharashtra in 2008. For us all Biharis are goondas and all Punjabis are dumb. Any kind of discrimination, you name it and we have it. Inter-caste and inter-religious marriages are still a taboo and khap panchayats are still a norm. Today even in the ultra modern cities like Hyderabad and Ahmadabad we find residential ghettos, strictly allocated only to certain castes. They are not allowed even to rent them. While the reservation system has brought tremendous change in the lives of downtrodden people it has also made caste system much more deep rooted than ever since reservations are corded upon the basis of caste. Caste has influenced the policy making of the government. The programs, policies and declarations are made keeping in view the caste factor. The caste consciousness is brought forward at the time of elections when private TV channels create a whole new world in which anchors and experts shamelessly vie with each other to bring out the significance of caste factor.

How to root out casteism

The first step in dealing with casteism would be to slowly do away with caste base reservations in favor of income base reservations. Exclusion of creamy layer from reservations should be made practically possible. Casteism can’t be rooted out without the change in policy at the highest level but such change would be successful and fruitful only when it comes from people themselves. Caste will slowly lose its prominence once it is stopped given prominence at the policy making. Casteism or racism is a social construct and like any other social value, when it’s devolved from one generation to other without being questioned; it gives rise to the complex of superiority and inferiority. People should stop exalting the merit on the basis of caste or creed. Muslim writers associations, Dalit poets associations and such caste based groups give a sense of false identity to people where they start believing that what they are is more important than what they do. Such caste based groups should be discouraged. A person is not born racist or casteist. We teach him to be so. Stop inculcating such false identities in the minds of children. If you want to stop discrimination, stop talking about discrimination.

“You can’t be proud of something you have not achieved or earned, or you can’t feel inferior about something which you have not chosen or have control upon.”

(The author is Junior Lecturer in Zoology, Government Junior College, Kovvur, West Godavari District, Andhra Pradesh)

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