Racist attacks on Indians in Australia continue. The press continues to raise a hue and cry. And Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has been forced to denounce the attacks to safeguard the interests of the education sector that is Australia's second biggest export revenue earner after iron ore.
But now questions are being asked here if we Indians are racist as well. Speaking at a seminar in Singapore on June 25, Mizoram chief minister Pu Lalthanhawla startled delegates to conference on water by claiming he too was a victim of racism – in India!
“In India, people ask me if I am an Indian. When I go south, people ask me such questions. They ask me if I am from Nepal or elsewhere. They forget that the northeast is part of India. I have told many that see, I am an Indian like you. I am a victim of racism,” he said. Indians consist of three races - “Dravidians, Aryans and we in the northeast,” Lalthanhawla said, airing his angst.
Lalthanhawla has certainly touched a raw nerve. How good are we in treating our fellow citizens? In a recent article, an assistant professor at AIIMS Dr Shah Alam Khan wondered whether Indians practice equality at all.
He points out we take the wrong sides in our strife against dalits. Protests against the killing of harijans in Haryana and UP in the recent past don't go beyond a few gratuitous editorials. The Khairlanji massacre is only an “dalit atrocity”.
Indeed, very few upper caste Indian are willing to eat on the same table with an “untouchable”. (Working in AIIMS - the epicentre of the anti-reservation protests and where SC/ST students are forced to stay in separate wings and are discriminated against by the upper caste faculty members who fail them regularly – Shah Alam should know.)
In fact, inequalities are a common or rather a daily occurrence in our country. Abhorrence of people of different faith, low caste and different races is incredible and phenomenal and we even believe and differentiate on the basis of colour.
On the other hand, “fair and lovely” brides are much sought after in a land which was once dominated by the Dravidians, the real inhabitants of India whose DNA can be traced to black Africa.
Shah Alam laments we live through these atrocities as if they are a natural consequence of race and creed. “Unfortunately, our belief in inequalities of caste, creed and religion are so strong that we refuse to raise questions and protest. It is an abject submission to the power of inequality which is rampant in India.”
Contradictions in the Indian society are not new. We preach morality but rank highest amongst the most corrupt nations of the world. We preach Gandhism but stage pogroms to annihilate ethnic minorities (that too in the land of Gandhi!). We claim we have never attacked another country, but we were busy attacking our own churches, our own dalits, our own adivasis, our own peasants, our own men, women and children in the name of caste, religion and race.
These are very important questions. Maybe once things cool down in Australia, we can get down to providing answers to ourselves.