Yes, the incidents of violence against black people in the United States trigger everyone including me. Many Indians have stood with black lives matter and I am proud of them. Keeping this incident in mind, let us dig deep into the roots of racism in our country. We are Indians and we should address some issues that highlight casual racism and communalism in our country. Let’s face it- Most of us are going to study here, work here and live here for the rest of our lives. So, why not try and make it a better country for us to live in?
Meaning of Racism: prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against a person or people on the basis of their membership of a particular racial or ethnic group, typically one that is a minority or marginalized.
India has a rich heritage and culture. You have heard this many times before. But only people who have lived here for decades will know the sugar-coated reality. Race is when someone has a story of origin. Sometimes, we tend to confuse diversity with communalism. We have diverse communities, we can call them by different names, have interactions with them but we can’t deny their existence and try to oppress them just because we ‘think’ we are better than them.
India has come a long way with casual and violent racism. Let me give you a couple of examples:
1. Different religious groups
Even if you are not Indian, you will know something called ‘Islamophobia’. There has been communal tension between the two groups ever since the British invaded our country. Unlike slavery in the United States, our relations started in harmony in the 12th and 13th centuries.. Apart from one of the families I know being asked vacate am apartment due to ‘threat’ they posed to the community, I have not encountered any small-scaled incident involving communalism but rather the big stories.
Right before the pandemic started, hundreds of Muslims were tortured and killed in North-east India. It was so big a story that all the news channels covered it. I had the opportunity to gather first-hand information about their suffering. I talked to at least five families who were victims of all those violent crimes (kind of like interviews). The records of what they said are confidential but I can tell you that just talking about it is a traumatic experience. Villages, mosques and schools were burnt to the ground and they were sent to camps. I don’t think I need to explain further. Religious and ethnic groups in India have always been hostile towards each other. Any group can trigger violence but it does not change reality. Hurting and killing innocent people is murder without any explanation.
2. North-east Indians
Even though North Eastern India has been a place of political unrest and constant stand-offs, it is a part of India and will always be so. You will be surprised to know this. I often brag about the fact that I’ve known all the states and capitals of India since the second grade (and I do, lol). Whenever I challenge people to name all the states of India, they not only forget north-eastern states, some of them forget all the seven sisters of the north-east. This may seem petty but it shows how we have perceived the structure of India. There was a video of a young boy on Instagram who discussed an incident that happened with him. He was called ‘Corona virus’ by an uncle in Delhi. I don’t need to explain the context because there is no context. A human being cannot be a virus. He also discussed how North-eastern girls were thrashed, spit upon, thrown from their homes and harassed in India. It is devastating how people do not consider you a part of this country even when you are. It may start with a joke or a stereotype but it ends with violence.
There was a video on YouTube that showed different songs in various languages of India. Many of the languages were repeated but there was no language featuring the North-eastern states. I was eagerly waiting for one because their languages are very similar to mine. I saw comments like ‘No North-eastern languages.’ I don’t even need social media; these comments are passed on my college campus. These little things will tell how regular Indians living in so called ‘metropolitan’ cities do not acknowledge the fact that North-east Indians are Indian and not Chinese and even if they are, that doesn’t give us the right to judge.
3. Caste System
I am from a progressive city of the country with open-minded people around me all the time. I do not know what happens in the areas where education and awareness do not reach everyone but I acknowledge that the caste system exists and it is toxic to the modern society. For those of you who do not know, caste was invented in the Vedic age to make it easier to separate people based on what their occupation was. This gave rise to sub-castes and other caste groups. In itself, the caste system is harmless. We belong to a caste, might have been of a higher or lower rank. So what? The problem arises when people refuse to acknowledge and respect each other’s castes.
This is why they are said to be more prone to violent unthinkable crimes. Have you seen the headlines ‘Dalit girl raped’ or ‘Dalit brutally killed’? Have you ever wondered why they add the caste to the line? It doesn’t matter who you are, a crime is a crime.
Please note: I have not given any political opinion regarding any incident because I don’t think it’s relevant. These are things I’ve seen, heard or witnessed.
I can go on and on about other kinds of racism but these are some of them that just can’t be ignored.
Also a note: I’m it’s entirety, casteism, communalism and regionalism are three distinct issues but I chose Racism as an umbrella term because I want you that all discriminatory practices, of whatever nature, are unacceptable and that charity begins in the home country. The protests going on around and all these issues are connected in the human way.
What is your take on racism in India? Have you witnessed racism in India? Do you think it is different from racism like the world perceives it? Do you feel that I have missed a kind of historic racism in India? Let me know in the comments section.
Thank you for reading:)