India is a country in denial. We talk against the injustices of apartheid and slavery and then of racism like it is an alien concept. But the irony of it all is that our never-ending conquest for fairer skin, the race for a fairer bride, the demand for fairer heroines are extremely mainstream in ‘brown’ India. India as a country has been dancing around the big ‘R’ word for long enough. If we refuse to acknowledge the existence of a problem, how can we ever expect to find a solution?
The recent attack against a young Tanzanian girl in the city of Bangalore, India has been terribly distressing. Maybe it is because I have spent several years of my life in Africa and have nothing but memories and admiration for their friendliness and hospitality. Or maybe because I have always seen Bangalore as a model city for us in India. Or maybe because I am just human and respect the life of others and will not tolerate the violation of another.
Imagine this. It is a Sunday night and a Sudanese man runs over and kills a 35 year old woman in a fatal road accident in the outskirts of Bangalore, India. The man is arrested and placed in custody. A short while later, another car with a 21year old Tanzanian female student along with some friends who are completely oblivious to what had happened just a little while earlier, drive by the same road. A blood thirsty mob decides to take matters into their own hands. The Tanzanian girl is assaulted, stripped and paraded. Her car set ablaze. The reason? Revenge against the color of her skin. In an attempt to escape the raging mob, she tries to get onto a bus only to be thrown back to the vultures by the bus passengers. What’s most aggravating is that police officers were present at the scene but decided to keep clear and simply watch.
Government officials are doing their best to avoid any mention of this being a racial attack. Fueled by the international outcry that the news has received, the police are in full swing arresting those involved, including the officers on watch that night. No amount of apologies will be enough to make up for what the young victim had to suffer. Sure her external wounds will heal in time, but the humiliation and horror she was made to face will be scars she will always carry.
This is not the first discriminatory attack and will likely not be the last. A frightful thought is that these perpetuators are completely ignorant about what kind of reactions these attacks can ignite and how innocent Indians living in other parts of the world may be affected.
When the word ‘intolerant’ was mentioned over the past few months, the entire nation was up in arms revolting and challenging that thought. Is it not bigotry when we refuse to see people for who they are but rather victimize them based on their race, gender or color? Or when a large list of movies and books are banned even before they are released? Is it not intolerance when the government decides what we can eat and when?
It is not to say that India is the only country drowning itself in the perils of racism. And certainly not every Indian in India is a culprit to this line of thinking. The difference though is that while most other countries have recognized their pitfall and are bringing it to the forefront of their discussions, India still refuses to accept that there is a problem. It is however time to now face up to the elephant in the room.