Monday, June 1, 2009

Colors of Racism

These days everyone is talking about the attack on Indian students down under. Indians feel enraged, agonized, hurt, insulted, everything but ashamed.
Why should we feel ashamed?
Well because what is going on down under is nothing but an inter-national version of what goes on in our country every day in every city and in some or the other way each one of us contributes to that.

If what happened in Australia is height of racism, what would you call the incident where students from Bihar appearing in the railway recruitment exam were beaten up in Mumbai? Recently, Raj Thakeray launched a full fledged anti-Bihar campaign and came up with slogans like "Ek Bihari Sau Bimari" which published openly and no strict action was ever taken against him. What was it when Shiv Sena had launched the "Pungi Bajao, Lungi Bhagao" campaign against the Tamils?

In fact, we don't even need to delve into these political issues in order to gather examples of racism in our country. Be it words like "Chinki", "Sardar", "Bahadur", "Bhaiya" or be it the treatment meted out to certain North Indians in South India and vice versa, we practise racism on a daily basis.

I myself have been both, the victim as well as the perpetuator of racist practices at different points in my life. I have made fun of people of my own country based on their origins and toay I do feel ashamed. And although I have neever been a part of any instance involving physical harm, I do think I have seen the different colors of racism.

'Bihari'- something that I am and quite proud to be so has often been used as a derogatory term in this country. I have seen a few people treat me differently and ask me strange questions once they come to know about my roots. And of course I can recount several occasions when people would have preferred me speaking to them in a language other than Hindi.

'Northie' was a tag that I had never even heard of till I took admission in Sathyabama University, Chennai. I am sure the north-south drift doesn't manifest itself in a worse manner as it did in the mess of Sathyabama. Believe me, nothing can be more insulting than treating people differently while serving them food.

Perhaps what all Indians need now is not only to fight against their rights in other countries but also introspect and realize that may be we are no different. May be there is a bigger battle we need to fight within. The Aussie miscreants must be taught a lesson but I think these incidents leave a few lessons to be learnt for us too.


  1. Anonymous5:06 AM

    As an Australian I would like to say that the vast majority of my country is not racist. These assaults are exactly that......assaults. We need to work to make the streets safer for everyone......locals, international students, tourist.... everyone.

  2. @anonymous - yes friend...
    i agree with you..
    in any country or place its only a handful of scumbags who bring bad name to their motherland...
    and i hope, realizing that we start differentiating between right and wrong rather than Indians and Oz...

  3. What you say makes sense yaar... Look @ Indian obsession with fair skin (FAIR and lovely / FAIR and handsome, who says fair is lovely or handsome) or the matrimonials which ask for fair girl...

  4. yes...
    in fact our matrimonial sites and newspapers sections are racism on stilts...where we very proudly keep announcing and seeking people of 'only' a particular area or caste...

  5. While I agree with you that India is a country where 'separatism' (casteism, racism, regionalism etc.) has wide social acceptance, the terms "Bhaiya", "Sardar" or "Bahadur" are not racial slurs. Perhaps they may be interpreted to be so, just as "Jew" was a loaded term in Nazi Germany despite having no fundamentally averse meaning.

    As for "Bihari" being used in a derogatory fashion , that is similar to the use of the word "Negroe" or "Barbarian" - words that achieve negative meaning because of the perception of failure on the part of those being addressed as such - even if they are perfectly legitimate descriptive terms.

    Lest you think this comment is about wordplay, I , as mentioned before, agree with your conclusion - thought I am an in two minds on whether separatism is a negative thing or simply the natural state of mankind.

  6. @ Nash - yes friend, meaning wise these words may not be derogatory but the context and the intent often makes them so...

    Secondly, you may be right again in saying that separatism may just be a natural state of mind but to those it is targeted at, it hurts....and so I wud prefer to avoid this state of mind as much as possible...

  7. Hello Shashank!

    This is by now an old post, just hope you do notice my comment! :)

    I too have always thought about this issue of what we can largely term 'communalism'. Am impressed with your honesty at admiting indulging in stereotyping people on the basis of their ethnic origin.

    I'd done a post titled 'Communalism' (click), and would love to have your views on it.

    Take care.

  8. @Ketan: thanks for visiting GajabKhopdi... you shall soon find me on ur blog...:)

  9. I do agree with all the comments made.. Just to add a little bit more about the plight of North Eastern States especially in Delhi Region where they are treated as Non Indians.. Calling with names such as "Chinky" is also very much racial..