Thursday, 23 January 2014

Racism in India

Following the racial and sexual violence against African women in Delhi orchestrated by Delhi Law Minister Somnath Bharti, the issue of racism in india has been getting some attention, including in the mainstream press. Other harrowing stories of the casual, yet extreme, discrimination faced by African migrants in India have been emerging. These are certainly backed up by the anecdotes of friends of African origin who have visited or stayed in India. This seems to be worse, but certainly not exclusive to the north of the country, with Delhi a hotspot of bigotry. See also these personal stories.

African migrants are of course not the only victims of racist attacks and discrimination in India, and it seems fair to say that racism is deeply embedded in Indian culture. In a country so diverse, it is bizarre that so many Indians - at least the urban middle classes - are so obsessed with, and terrified of, difference. It would be fair to say that racism is endemic: take, for example, the casual telling of racist, xenophobic or regionalist jokes which anyone who has lived in India will have heard; the obsession with fairness and the huge industry around it; the discrimination and harassment faced by people from the north-east in many parts of the country; the endless association of fair with good and dark with bad in popular culture (naani teri morni...) And of course, caste can be seen as India's very own brand of racism, and no evil is quite as ugly and endemic as caste.

So since Indian racism is certainly there, I guess it's positive that people are talking more about it. There are good articles appearing in alternative media, but also some decent commentaries in the mainstream press. No doubt the deeply authoritarian tendencies in Indian culture (fear your superiors, kick your inferiors) mentioned in an earlier post mean that no sudden changes are to be expected. But perhaps people who haven't thought too hard about these things but are just carried along on the tide of normality of racism in India (everyone does that, everyone finds that funny), may pause for thought.

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