The recent attack on the Congolese national, Masonda Ketanda Olivier, has resurfaced the ugly face of racism in India. He was beaten to death last week in a brawl over hiring an auto rickshaw. Infuriated by the incident 42 African countries have decided to boycott the African Day celebrations as a protest against the constant racial attacks on their citizens.
This is not an incident that is unheard of. There have been similar attacks in the past. A few months back, three African men were beaten up by the locals in New Delhi after they objected to their pictures being taken by them. This year in February, a young Tanzanian woman was allegedly stripped and beaten up by a mob in Bengaluru.
After there were reports of this incident in the media, the Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj swung into action. She tweeted saying that Gen VK Singh has been asked to talk to the heads of the African countries and assure them that the safety and security of their citizens would be ensured.
However, she seemed more concerned about what such incidents do to India’s image rather than getting deeper into the problem.
She tweeted claiming the launch of a “sensitization program” to prevent such incidents that “embarrass” the nation.
Worse still, Gen VK Singh blamed the media for blowing these incidents out of proportion.
Well, to remind him, India is a highly racist and hypocritical country.
There is no dearth of incidents of racial discrimination in India. Not just the foreign nationals, but our ignorance towards our own people who become the targets of rampant discrimination is disheartening. The unrestrained attacks and racial slurs against the North-Easterns in Delhi and other places are well known.
It is appalling to see that so many people do not even know the names of all the 7 states in the North East. They are treated like they belong to some other country (reference to China) and are not a part of our national identity.
Being as thick skinned as ever, we refuse to accept our racial prejudices and ironically, we are outraged when similar attacks happens against the Indians in countries like Australia or the United States of America. In the case of the 57 year old Rohit Patel being attacked in the USA just because he was an Indian, we totally lost our minds and demanded justice as this time, we were at the receiving end of discrimination.
But when it comes to the Africans (or even people from the North East in our country), being our hypocritical-self, what we have is a sense of racial superiority over them. Our country has an obsession with the complexion of a person which is evident from the matrimonial sections in the newspapers.
But even on the Internet we saw a lot of trolls on the players of West Indies after a cricket match that had nothing to do with the game, but their complexion. There is a definite notion of ‘fair’ being superior to ‘dark’.
This reveals the sheer hypocrisy and benightedness of our country in dealing with racism at large.
Well, these incidents come at a time when PM Modi is about to go for his tour to Africa in a few months to facilitate the already rising trade between the two countries. The Government had doubled its investment in African countries last year and offered huge monetary assistance for focused spending on healthcare, education and technology. However, another reason for the same can be to counter China’s influence in the region.
Although racial attacks might not directly affect the trade between the two countries but if such attacks continue to happen, they threaten to hamper the goodwill and friendship between India and Africa.
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Views presented in the article are those of the author and not of ED.