Sunday, June 21, 2009

Racist India!

The Outlook magazine must be commended for doing a cover story on racism at home, even as Indians cannot stop protesting against the racism they face elsewhere. It follows this recent report in the Telegraph about the racist abuse faced by a Ugandan student in Kolkata. It is echoed by the experiences of a gay black American in Delhi, whose travels in India with his white partner (and the differential treatment they received) only accentuated his awareness of his race. Another story in Outlook talks about NRI families and their complex relationship with race. The issue also covers racism faced by Indians in India: those from the North-Eastern states and those born with a darker skin.

I have discussed discrimination against Muslims in the past, also also measures proposed to combat it. Outlook has done a good job of holding up a mirror to our society. These stories tell us that it is not just caste, sex and religious discrimination that India needs to worry about. Racism is alive and kicking. So is homophobia. Disability, language, marital status and many other labels also invite prejudices, stereotypes and hostility.

Update: The Chief Minister of Mizoram has spoken about the racism he has faced in India. Although, a day later came the denial. NDTV's coverage of the issue (and the wider context of racism in India) is here. In the video, Mani Shankar Aiyer denies racism within the country. Ravi Shankar Prasad puts it to ignorance, but insists that Indians are not racists. Malena account of being black in India was brished aside as her personal experience by Prasad. It was amazing how defensive some of the responses were, lauding India's 'unity-in-diversity', its history of tolerance, its composite culture, its official role against aparthied. Yes, these achievements (even a sceptic will find 'some' truth in these claims) are laudatory, but do they require us to deny experiences of people who suffer racism in our country? How can we deal with the issue if we continue to deny it exists?
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