NEED FOR CRIMINALISATION OF RACIISM IN CONTEMPORARY INDIA

                                             

                            

Reading time : 8 minutes

ABSTRACT

Racism is a dreadful act where one sets prejudices against other people because they belong to some other race or ethnicity. Racism can also be used to describe the social, legal, cultural, economic, and political processes that are the result of such beliefs. India is a diverse nation and with diversity, there also comes differences. Leaders and social reformers have also fought the age-old differences and discrimination in terms of caste, color, creed, race, languages, etc. Today all the differences are believed to have been resolved but what leaves one in an utter shock of distraught is when they find their own countrymen discriminating them for their features and color of their skin. The research covers some major events of racism and the ignorant attitude towards it. The researcher has covered some dreadful incidents of Racism caused over the passed few decades, majorly observed by the people of the Northeastern region and the African Nationals. The research further covers how migrants of Bihar are treated as they go about their daily grind, often working for a pittance.  The researcher also mentions a series of attacks on these people especially in the national capital of Delhi.

  1. INTRODUCTION

Racism, prejudices and xenophobia is widespread in India at an extent that it also leads to murder and assault. This is basically the result of age-old prejudices and ignorance about sentiments of others and the discriminating practices, when communities kept to themselves and there were dining taboos based on caste. Different cultural practices at different knock and corner makes India a mysterious land. Each state is like a different country with diverse languages, cuisines, clothes, customs, climate. All these differences made people fairly suspicious of those who were not like them. Communities are naturally full of prejudices towards, the other, the outsider.  Every state considers itself superior. There could be a millions of reason for any layman to understand why racism exist at all but no one can justify it. Despite witnessing the immediate rise of racial discrimination and violence including torture and other in human treatment towards a certain sect, India has failed to criminalize racial offences. The media houses fail to cover such stories as it would not give them enough TRP. India is still living in the remnants of its colonial past of class, caste and systemic racism. Just as the history of slavery and criminalization of the Black race is part of the American political system, India’s political system is incomplete without the marginalized histories of the Schedule Tribes, Schedule Castes, Other Backward Castes, Dalits, Adivasis and religious minorities. And any denial of that is a denial of civil, social and political rights to us.

  1. STATEMENT OF PROBLEM

According to a survey conducted by world population review, India was rank amongst one of the most racist countries. Determining racist behavior in different countries around the world can be difficult, and the results might not be consistent from one study to the next. The problem with racism is that it is a challenging variable to measure. Although there is no complexity within the trait of racism, it can be quite challenging to determine if someone is racist or not based on mere surveys by conducting interviews or by distributing questionnaires.

In a diverse country like India, with a population of 1.35 million, and with a variety in terms of ethnicity, community, language, religion, etc., the majority groups fail to understand the sentiments of the ones from the minority groups. Another reason could be the fact that a number of stereotypes are imposed even before an interaction takes place. Majority of the Indian population is not aware about the Northeaster India’s history, culture and tradition. Similarly, they are also not aware about the African-Originated Siddhi community inhabiting in parts of Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Gujarat.

Africans are negatively addressed as “Habshis”, drug dealers, cannibals, kallu, etc. Northeast Indians are denied living accommodation, entry in grocery stores and other public places. It is even more shallow is that these people have to prove their nationality in their own motherland. Because of their nonvegetarian eating habits, the northeast Indians are assumed to be cannibals, rented accommodations are denied as the owners believe that their house might be no longer be pure. Media houses tends to turn their backs when it comes to telecasting such incidents. Despite increasing number of racial attacks on Africans and Northeast Indians, there is no acknowledgment of the fact that racism does really exist.

  1. OBJECTIVES

The main objective of the study is to sensitize people and to create an awareness that racism is practiced. It is practiced is some quarters. Just because not everyone falls into the pray of racism,  the fact that it really exist cannot be ignored.

Racism can be evident when people who look supposedly different from the masses, are viewed with suspicion and are treated as foreigners in their own land. It has been extended to such a pint that heinous crimes like murder is also reported. The cause is extended so much that a person can even be murdered on the basis of their looks. In addition to it, these cases are not even believed to have been racially encouraged.

Just like the Indians have a fair share of support the recent ‘BLACK LIVES MATTER’ movement, they should also not be ignorant about what is happening to their own countrymen. Following the George Floyd incident and the ‘Black Lives Matter’ protests, not only the gained momentum in the United States but the whole world. People and governments across the globe came forth against the prevailing racial discrimination worldwide. Indians can be seen supporting the protests by sharing their thoughts and opinions regarding it on the social media portals like Instagram and Twitter. Here lies the irony. Just because the US protest have turned into a social pressure, immense support has been showered whereas the same racial prejudices are highly embedded in the society. This makes it look like India is still living in the remnants of its past that believed in stereotypes.

 It is high time the government should take action against such incidents and make strict laws to amend the same.

  1. RESEARCH QUESTIONS

The study aims at understanding the extent one would attribute racism to racial mythologies while living in a modern society. The study aims to understand as to why India has still not been able to do away with the brutal stereotypes practiced in the past.

Keeping the prevailing discrimination in mind, the researcher has also tried to trace out the measures for the extent to which one’s race is perceived.

Furthermore, the researcher has also tried to check if racism is subconsciously practiced and if there is any unfair treatment created without even realizing it.

  • HYPOTHESIS

One reason behind racist behavior can be the popular Hindutva ideology. Hindutva is an Ideology of Violence that has so far impacted the minorities in India in a very negative way. Christians and other minorities have been accused for many wrong reasons. Thus, has become a threat for the existence of the minorities in a pluralistic country like India.

While looking for proper statistics of racially encouraged incidents, one of the most pertinent details is the extent to which people have traits that may lead to others stereotyping them. It is essential to understand how the people who fall into pray of racism are treated. In a diverse country like India, many races exist. These are the Indo-Aryans, Indo-Iranians, Scytho-Dravidians, Aryo-Dravidians, the Mongol Dravidians, the Mongoloid and the Dravidians. Racism and racial relations in India have historically been complex. (It refers to attitudes and behaviors toward people of other ethnicities or races.) India is ethnically diverse, with more than 2,000 different ethnic groups.[1] There is also significant diversity within regions, and almost every province has its own distinct mixture of ethnicities, traditions, and culture. Throughout the history of India, ethnic relations have been both constructive (as with mutual cultural influences) and destructive (as with discrimination against other ethnicities). The traces of race of the northeast Indians comes from Tibet and Mongolia, making them look similar to that of the Chinese, Korean, Japanese and Nepali races. The northeastern history and culture is not showcased much in the mainstream India. Many don’t even know that there are 8 states in the northeast. In addition to that the dressing style of the northeastern women are a little less conservative than the mainstream India, also the food habits are very different. Northeast Indians are core nonvegetarians. These differences in culture and habits might have led to racist behaviors. In recent years discrimination against people from Northeast India has been reported. In 2007, the North East Support Centre & Helpline (NESC&H) was started as a separate wing of All India Christian Council. Its stated goal is to increase awareness regarding prejudice and attacks against people from North-East India.

  • SYSTEMATIC RACISM IN INDIA

Equality before law is guaranteed by the notion of social justice and our constitution affords us the right to voice our opinions, taking into account the country’s chequered past. However, prevalent cases of systematic racist act are something that many are not familiar with because it happens to a particular section of the society. Not every individual fall into pray of racism. In India racism is majorly faced by the people of African origin and the northeast, for having mongoloid features. Everyday acts of racism are destructive, and it impedes one from living a healthy, prosperous and dignified life. It is sometimes enforced by violence, like assaults and murder, and often with casual bigoted attitudes such as racial slurs or gaze.

“India is the land of Gandhi and Buddha….we can never have a racist mindset.”

The above statement was given by Late Sushma Swaraj, Minister of External Affairs. It has been evident that in the past, kingship and kingdoms have been welcoming and accepting towards people from the other races. This can be better understood by Mughal Emperor Akbar’s marriage with a Hindu princess from India. But the sad reality is that it is not the same now. The society’s inability to understand the crime and the government’s inactivity regarding such incidents is the reason why racism is still not criminalized.

  • RACISM AGAINST AFRICANS

The behavior of using racist slurs is so internalized and normalized among the masses that there is no realization regarding it. For example, Africans are mockingly and negatively addressed as “Habshi”. But Habshis were basically those Africans who were brought to India as military slaves. In fact, there were many Africans who held important political positions for many rulers. Ikhlas Khan, an African had the position of the Prime Minister for the Sultanate of Bijapur. Another African, namely Malik Ambar was the Prime Minister of Ahmadnagar. The descendants of this African community can still be found some villages of Gujarat, Karnataka, and Maharashtra. This community is called “Siddhis”. Unfortunately, the xenophobic behavior of Indian refrains them from embracing there vast historical diversity. Over the past few years, such incidents have risen barefacedly. After multiple incidents of racial attacks, Africans have started to live in fear and uncertainty. There has been increasing cases of mobs attacking Africans and shouting “Bharat Mata Ki Jay”. People have been so blinded by patriotism that they can even do away with humanity. Surprisingly, the authority would consider such act as only criminal acts but not racist. Lack of empathy and understanding also fuels such events.

On the 27th of March 2017, some Nigerian nationals residing in Noida found themselves in the middle of a series of brutal attacks which even included life threats. The attacks were triggered by the death of Manish Khatri, a resident of Greater Noida. It was later revealed that the cause of death was an unfortunate case of drug overdose. The neighborhood where the deceased resided believed that the cause of death of Manish Khatri was the Nigerians as they assumed they were cannibals and had eaten Manish. To add on, people from the same neighborhood deliberately entered the houses of the Nigerians and even checked their refrigerators. The victim was the 24 year old Nigerian national, Imran Uba, a student of Noida International University. Although the investigation into Manish Khari’s death is stalled, awaiting the results of post-mortem testing.

In another case, Abdou Brahim Mahamat, AASI senior adviser and former president, had little doubt it was a necessary caution. When he got word that the protest march for Manish Khari had “degenerated”, Abdou paid the nearest rickshaw driver whatever he asked for to rush him home along the back roads. Since Abdou began his architecture degree at Sharda University in Greater Noida four years ago, he has been a kind of distant witness to severalattacks on Africans by Indians. In 2014, a New Delhi mob cornered and thrashed three students from Gabon and Burkina Faso in a metro station, accusing them of harassing Indian women. In May, he was in meetings with representatives of the Ministry of External Affairs after a 23-year-old Congolese man called Masonda Ketanda Olivier was beaten to death in an upscale Delhi neighborhood. A week after his murder, a spate of assaults left seven Africans injured in Delhi’s Chhatarpur area.After the latest attacks, Abdou and his fellow AASI officers were in crisis management mode, liaising between the police and stranded students, handling calls from reporters, communicating with embassy staff.

These are few incidents of racism but unfortunately there are many. But these stories were told in another way, again and again, in different words: a match was struck in a racist tinderbox in the backyard of India’s capital. But that’s not a version the Indian government seems likely to accept. At the time of writing, the Ministry of External Affairs and police representatives stand by an official denial of the racial character of the attacks.

  • RACISM AGAINST NORTHEAST INDIANS

Racism in India barefacedly intensifies toward the Northeastern people of India, the reason being their tibeto-mongoloid/oriental features which is very similar to that of Chinese, Korean, and Japanese. The northeast of India consists of a variety of communities and tribes who generally belongs to a mix of different races. The rising incidents of racial motivated attacks and crimes have made it very difficult for these people, who come out of their small towns and villages in search of better prospects.  

The NCAT provided 30 incidents of racial attacks on Tibeto-mongoloid looking individuals, especially from the northeast related to COVID-19 pandemic from across the country. However, this is not the first-time northeast is subjected to such a treatment. Apart from tolerating something as small as being called “Chinki”, “Corona”, “Chinese”, etc., or something being as big as publicly glared, stared, molested while walking in the streets or sitting in a public transport, these people have suffered it all. The northeast people are even in denied apartment complexes and grocery stores, forced to leave apartment, threatened with eviction, forced to leave restaurants to make others fill comfortable, none wanting to share transport etc.

Nido Taniam a 20-year-old student from the northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh was murdered in the Lajpat Nagar area of Delhi, that triggered widespread protests. Nido Tania was the son of Arunachal Pradesh Congress legislator Nido Pavitra. He was studying in Lovely Professional UniversityJalandhar. Nido had gone to Lajpat Nagar with his friends looking for an address, shopkeepers at a sweet shop began mocking him for his features and his hair color. He died of severe lung and brain injuries from an attack inflicted upon him in a South Delhi market. The initial post-mortem did not reveal “much injury or aberration”. Tissue samples were retained for further examination to help determine the cause of death. Delhi Police has registered a case of murder and nabbed the two accused. The Bezbaruah Committee was set up by the Ministry of Home Affairs in the aftermath of this incident to gather information on issues raised by people from Northeast India who are living elsewhere in India, especially in metro cities.

  1. ANALYSIS

India ranks as number one for the most racist country of all countries included in the study. Located in Southern Asia, India has roughly 1.3 billion people. The most prevalent ethnicities in India are people of Tamil, Nepali, Gujarati, Bengali, Marathi, Punjabi, Malayalam, and Kashmiri descent. These ethnic groups are all ones that originate in India, meaning that most of the people who live in India are Indians themselves.

COUNTRYWITNESSED RACISMPREFER SAME RACE NEIGHBORS
Libya33.50%54.00%
Palestine32.00%44.00%
India64.30%43.60%
Thailand19.00%39.80%
Lebanon64.40%36.30%
Ecuador32.20%34.50%
Yemen31.20%34.00%
  • CONCLUSION AND SUGGESTION

There are remedies of the criminal law for racism. The Indian Penal Code, 1860, section 153 A- Criminalises the use of language that promotes discrimination or violence against people on the basis of race, caste, sex place of birth, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation or any other category. Shri Vicent H. Pala, of the Bezbaruah Committee in 2014 has suggested measures to tackle racial discrimination against the Northeast people and recommended severe punishment for the same. For that purpose, the committee recommended the the insertion of section 153C and 509A in the Indian Penal Code. But these laws are not enough. The Ministry of Home Affairs should make stricter laws that would totally criminalize racism. We live in a diverse country and to embrace the diversity, we must do away with such differences leading to heinous crimes.  

Acknowledgement is the key to resolve such differences. At a time when there is a global turmoil after the murder of George Floyd, and there is a call for demolishing the culture of systemic racism in the U.S., India still lives in denial as they don’t realize their own countrymen suffering the same. Just as the history of slavery and criminalisation of the Black race is part of the American political system, India’s political system is incomplete without the history of the marginalized groups of the Schedule Tribes, Schedule Castes, Other Backward Castes, Dalits, Adivasis and religious minorities. And any denial of that is a denial of civil, social and political rights to them. As the mainstream India is less aware about the culture and history of the northeastern region, the government must work on to include the same in the NCERT textbooks. If these textbooks can mention the Cheras, Cholas and Pandyas of the sudden states, the Mughals and the Sultanates of the North, the Nawabs of Lucknow, Bhopal and Hyderabad, the Rajputs of the Western India, the northeastern legacy should also not be diminishing from the history of India.

Author: MADHUSNEHA BARMAN, MANIPAL UNIVERSITY JAIPUR

Editor: Kanishka VaishSenior Editor, LexLife India.

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