Friday, January 18, 2008

Indians Are Racists … Yes!

Racism In India

Travel in a Indian railway train and you will hear racist comments. Sardars are the eternal butt of racists jokes. North Indians make “Madrasis” the butt of their jokes - and Madrasis joke about North Indians. Maharashtrians crack jokes about Gujaratis and vice versa. The whole country makes a joke about Indians versus the world - where Indians come out second best. There are other jokes about (in alphabetical order) Bengalis, Biharis, Christian ‘Pavs’, Haryanvi Jats, Malyalees, Marwaris, Muslims, Sindhis, UP bhaiyyas - and nobody is spared. My apologies in case I have missed anyone out! Indian parents joke about their own “dark-er” children.

These jokes can be communal, on colour, history, behavioural traits of certain communities - but rarely on family. Parents, sisters, and wife are off limits.

How is the West different?

The West is very afraid of racism - and they should be. The Western model of genocide and racism, these jokes and ridicule, soon are taken as truth and character assessments are made. The demonisation begins and then the killing starts. The Red Indian natives, the Australian aborigines, the Roma Gypsies, the Jews, the Irish, the Poles, the Blacks - and other minorities have been persecuted, killed and massacred. Hence, this Western guardedness about racism.

Racism is another form!

Travel to Hong Kong and you will see another kind of racism. Chinese taxi drivers and shop keepers compete for the ‘privilege’ of serving white customers. White customers get lower rates at hotels and shops compared to others. I understand that Macau is also similar. In modern China, foreign investors are preferred over domestic entrepreneurs.

What happens In India?

But does any Indian community get demonised?

Not any where even close to western benchmarks. Are there pogroms against these sections? Isolated incidents, yes. But not a pattern. Yes, there are isolated villages where ‘harijans’ are killed - and ‘harijans’ these days kill back. Is it state sponsored? Most definitely not - like it has been in the West. The British Colonial administration declared various communities as ‘criminal tribes’! But Indians did not use the ‘open season’ to kill or loot these ‘criminals’?

This stems from the Vedic tradition. The ‘demon’ Ravana was not demonised in Ramayana. There are numerous ’causes’ which are given for his behaviour. Various Ramayana writers compete with other to give a balanced view of Ravana’s character. Similarly, in Mahabharata, Duryodhana and Shakuni are given balanced treatment. The ‘demon’ king Bali is shown as a just and fair character - whose only mistake is that he is the king of demons and cannot be allowed to become “too” powerful.

In modern India, when the Janata Party tried to demonise Indira Gandhi, they were soundly rejected - and Indira Gandhi won the very next election. Similarly, Gandhiji’s shortcomings and Nehru’s peccadilloes are discussed.

India need not feel so paranoid about internal racism - but should be careful when it comes to the West. Also, Indians need not feel guilty about their own ‘racist’ behaviour and beat their breasts.

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