Our country is the home ground for the phrase, ‘the guests are God’ or ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’. Since childhood, we have been taught to treat our guests as the most honourable people that we will ever meet, and to make their visit as pleasurable as possible. From cooking mouth-watering delicacies to having an enlightened conversation, we are always taught to keep up with them, promising them nothing but the best. However, with recent attacks on foreign nationals, has the society slithered around with the renowned phrase and come forth with a loophole that promises to diminish the morality of our cultural society?
Of late, a Congolese national was lynched to death by a mob in New Delhi due to a row triggered over hiring of an autorickshaw. Prior to this incident, on the eve of Holi, a gang of 12 men brutalised two Nigerian nationals. The apparent provocation for this incident was that one of the Nigerians allegedly scolded a child for hurling a water balloon at him. If all these incidents didn’t make you feel disgusted, there was another incident in February that seemed to have surpassed all these incidents. In February, a Tanzanian woman was stripped and thrashed by an irate mob in Bangalore.
Yes, as Sushma Swaraj rightly said that these acts are not racial but criminal in nature, and I couldn’t agree more with her. However, are we to deny that there isn’t a single tint of racism involved?
Even as we bask in the glory of apparent ‘tolerance,’ we have always stoked the flames of hatred and intolerance on a daily basis. Our prejudices are highlighted in the treatment of minorities, women and the LGBT community, where we constantly bash them up because yes, we are incapable of tolerance and accepting the multi-layers of our cultured society. And, once we move beyond the atrocities that are stemmed out of gender based biasness, we are faced with the ugly truth of our inability of accepting different skin colour.
For a country that still wishes for a ‘fair-skinned’ girl for marriage, and bash and bully people for being dusky-shaded, we are racist to the core. People from various African nationalities who have lived in India have experienced the full brunt of India’s deep-seated racist mindset from time to time, and surprisingly we are not vague about the occurrence.
This prejudice against African people is of course, an extension of Indians’ natural deference towards white skin. In our cultural practices, we privilege dangerous combinations of colour and gendered discrimination. While patriarchy makes it somewhat easier for dark skinned men to get by, dark skinned girls and women face discrimination at every level of society.
Despite the blatant criticism of such racism that stems out of the aversion towards dark skin, the Indian fairness cream industry is worth $450 billion. And, this doesn’t shock me at all.
Sushma Swaraj saying that it is not a racial attack but a criminal one that strips one of their life, worse their dignity, is appreciable and can also be considered a bit progressive. In a country where ‘tolerance’ is just talked about and people are vying to kill people belonging from different religion or a minority one, her thought process has to be appreciated.
Though the act was not racial, but we Indians are. How deeply it is embedded in our culture, will be told in the future. For now, we can just praise the altar of Donald Trump, who apparently is nothing but racist and has a lot of supporters in our country, which of course strives on tolerance.