Indians Are Racists … Yes!

Posted in Business, Current Affairs, India, politics by Anuraag Sanghi on January 18, 2008

Considered interchangeable, there is a wide difference Western racism and Indian preferences and keeping distance.

Indian Caricatures

Indian Caricatures

Racism In India

Travel in a Indian railway train and you will hear racist comments. Sardars are the eternal butt of racist jokes. North Indians make “Madrasis” the butt of their jokes – and Madrasis joke about North Indians. Maharashtrians crack jokes about Gujaratis and vice versa. Together, the Maharashtrians and Gujaratis joke about the ‘Thambis’, ‘Gurungs’ and ‘Bahadur’.

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, Malayalees, Marwaris, Muslims, Parsis, Sindhis, UP bhaiyyas – and nobody is spared. Indian parents don’t spare their own children – and crack jokes 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.

My apologies in case I have missed anyone out!

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 extermination of Native Americans, the Australian aborigines, the persecution of Roma Gypsies, the Jewish demonisation and the holocaust, the Irish, the Poles, the enslavement of the Africans and the subsequent discrimination – and other minorities have been persecuted, killed and massacred. Hence, this Western guardedness about racism.

Protest Against A Weak Anti Racism Bill

Protest Against A Weak Anti Racism Bill

Racism is another form!

To see another kind of racism, travel to Hong Kong. Chinese taxi drivers and shop keepers compete for the ‘privilege’ of serving White customers. South Asians are a special target of such racial profiling. People of Indian origin possibly may not qualify to represent Hong Kong in Olympics, as they are not Chinese enough. White customers get lower rates at hotels and shops compared to others. Some Chinese companies parade White, Western investors – and the Chinese investors line up to follow ‘Western investors.’ In modern China, foreign investors are preferred over domestic entrepreneurs.

For a century, British colonial rulers did nothing about social discrimination. Finally, the Chinese authorities – in July 2008, moved to pass a law making such racist behavior illegal. I understand that Macau is also similar. This kind of racism in Hong Kong, is an interesting behavior to examine.

In Singapore, this fawning Chinese attitude is referred to AMTK – standing for Ang Moh Tua Kee syndrome. An innuendo laden phrase meaning ‘White Man With Big Stick!’. Ang Moh is semi-derogatory word for White Caucasians, actually meaning ‘red-haired’. Tua Kee is Hokkien for “big shot”. Literally, “big stick”.

What happens In India?

Do Indians practice racism in the Western manner – especially the Anglo Saxon manner? But does any Indian community get demonized?

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 – like the European persecution of the Roma Gypsies? 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’?

Indian Behaviour

This stems from the Vedic tradition. Indians believe that all are वसुधैव कुटुम्बकं vasudevaih kutumbakam’ and ईसा वास्यो मिदं सर्वं ‘isa vaasyo midam sarvam’(meaning all on Earth are one family and God is in everyone and everywhere respectively).

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 ‘asur‘ king Bali is shown as a just and fair character – whose only ‘crime’ is that he is the king of asuras and cannot be allowed to become “too” powerful.

In modern India, when the Janata Party tried to demonise Indira Gandhi (like good Anglo Saxon chelas), they were soundly rejected – and Indira Gandhi won the very next election. India has the lowest prison population in the world – because we do not demonize people. Indian politicians with pending criminal proceedings are elected to the Indian Parliament. Similarly, attempts by the Congress party, to raise Gandhiji and Nehru to the level of saintliness comes unstuck. Gandhiji’s shortcomings and Nehru’s peccadilloes are discussed openly and knowingly.

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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