India is not a racist country, no, it is not!

The niftiest thing about racism in India is that in the mind of its practitioners, it doesn’t exist. Racism in India, that is. Communalism, communism, vegetarianism, hooliganism, casteism, crony capitalism and Mughal-e-Ism, yes. But racism? Not in this country.

How can it, since we have, since the dawn of pre-post-colonialism and other malapropisms, been the victims, and, as far as nationalism goes, been glorious ‘tryst with destiny’ victors against it.

For Indians, who at least don’t ‘look Chinese’, it is that horrid thing that gets Indians beaten up in Australia, Sikhs mistaken for West Asian Islamists in the US, construction workers and maids in the Gulf leading miserable lives, and the Mahatma thrown off the train at Pietermaritzburg.

And in those rare cases when the Indian is actually not the victim, racism is what US President Donald Trump supporters ‘do’ against Mexicans, swathes of the US practised before Jay ‘Success is the Biggest Revenge’ Z became one of America’s B R Ambedkars, and why Nelson Mandela became famous for being the Indian Gandhi. (More on the Mahatma a bit later.)

Last Monday, four Nigerians — Nigerians being from a country in Africa, the way Srinivas Kuchibhotla, who was shot dead in a racist attack in Kansas in February, was from the Asian country of India — were brutally attacked in Greater Noida by a mob. The mob had morphed from a reported group of angry protesters who believed that a Class 12 (Indian) boy died of a drug overdose from drugs allegedly supplied by his Nigerian neighbours.

It is important to note that the four Nigerians beaten up on Monday — or the fifth Nigerian attacked in another part of Greater Noida on Wednesday —and a fifth were detained but released after the police found no evidence against them. Perhaps the mob and the cops can be forgiven, since it is really, really hard for Brown people to differentiate between Black Africans going about their own business and Black Africans peddling drugs. After all, when did another kind of -ism stop enough people from believing that Pakistan actor Fawad Khan also had a hand in the attack on the Indian Army headquarters in Uri, Kashmir?

Since last week’s racist attacks, much has been aired about the traditional Indian prejudice against dark skin, with the usual examples of marriage adverts putting a premium on fair skin and ‘whitening’ creams trotted out. That is, indeed, a prejudice, and a deeply embarrassing one. But not fundamentally different from the ‘traditional aesthetic’ bias for large breasts or — among the ‘hipster’ crowd — big beards.

Racism is both more toxic and, ironically, easier to stamp out. It is more toxic because it not only harbours a prejudice that is cooked in vats of noxious stereotypes, but it’s also regularly acted upon. Racist action can take the form of, as cited by Monday’s victims, name-calling and taunts, restricted entry and inflated prices to more violent forms.

South African social scientist Ashwin Desai and historian Goolam Vahed in their 2015 book, The South African Gandhi: Stretcher-Bearer of Empire, extensively collate Gandhiji’s own writing in the period in which the future Father of Another Nation lived in South Africa between 1893 and 1914.

In this startling work of scholarship, the writers quote passages where Gandhi had described Black Africans as “savage”, “raw” and living a life of “indolence and nakedness” and making a case through campaigns of being “treated differently” from the indigenous Black population.

So, the bull must be caught by the horns if racism in India is to be tackled with a little more seriousness than via parliamentary condemnation and tut-tuts about creating a bump in India-Africa trade, happy post-colonial ties and other pleasant things between the people of the ‘Great Continent’ and of the ‘Great Subcontinent’. Or rather, the bull must be caught by the horns and put before the cart: by cracking down on racist crime when it takes place in Mother India.

As Monday’s attacks — and countless other anecdotal evidence that goes beyond ‘Africans’ and includes fellow Indians from the northeastern part of the country — point to once again, the functionaries of law and order find these ‘crimes’ to be nothing but ‘incidents’ in a country where you don’t either have to be ‘kaalu’ or a ‘chinky’ to face a lynch mob. And ‘incidents’, as we all know, get taken as seriously as a prospective paying guest with a name that can be so hard to pronounce.


Nigerians attacked: African students demand security from ‘hate crime’

One of the injured Nigerians alleged that he was assaulted for no reason. One of the injured Nigerians alleged that he was assaulted for no reason.

Claiming that the Greater Noida incident was a “hate crime”, an association of African students on Tuesday demanded that they be provided adequate security in the country. “In Greater Noida, they (locals) say that Africans ‘we don’t want you to be here anymore’. These are actually hate crimes towards African community. Africans are not secure in this country,” Association of African Students President Samuel Jack said.

He said Africans may not come to India for studies due to safety concerns in the wake of such incidents. “I urge them (Africans), wherever they are, to stop making India their destination of study until and unless there is proper security,” he added.

Jack claimed that the alleged attack on African students last night was mobilised by local youths and police have arrested six of them while two others were absconding.

Four Nigerian students were allegedly attacked by residents who took out a candle-light march for a 17-year-old boy who had died last week due to suspected drug overdose. The boy’s parents had alleged that the foreigners had kidnapped him and given him drugs which led to his death.

One of the injured Nigerians alleged that he was assaulted for no reason. “I don’t go to club in this country. I don’t drink. They assaulted me for no reason. I don’t know what to say. They do not want us to be in this country,” he claimed.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said the central government was taking immediate action and that she had spoken to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath who had assured her of a fair and impartial investigation into this “unfortunate” incident.

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