Racism in Mumbai!

Last week there has been series in HT on how we treat foreigners and those who might be different from us. Our racism is largely, but not exclusively, based on colour. Caste and ethnicity is the biggest factor in India’s racism. As a student and now as a professional, I have also felt sometime that we have some rooted prejudices. Mumbai, the largest city of India and having population of over 1.5 crores is perhaps very proud of its cosmopolitan culture. We have people from all parts of the country. Forget whether we are racist in treating blacks and whites from foreign countries as it has already been covered by this newspaper. Lets’ talk about racism that we have for our own country men on basis of their ethnic origin.
The identity politics of the state has further fueled this racism and is a dent on image of Mumbai worldwide. Politicians are trying to make each of us realize that we belong to  particular community, speak specific language, have different cultures and this is leading us to feel that we are not  ‘Indian’ first.
Some decades back we had a political propaganda against “Lungis” (South Indians), then Muslims and most recent “the Bhaiyyas”(North Indians especially from UP and Bihar). In our daily talks, I have heard many of us using phrases/slangs like  “Kya Marwari hai” for a person whom we consider miser, “typical Gujju mindset” for the one who is more interested in money,  “Chinkis” for any resident belonging to North Eastern part of the country. Maharshtrians are identified by the word “Ghati.” Though it is meant simply for the people living around Western Ghats but now this term is mostly used in derogatory manner.  Anyone south of the Vindhyas is a Madrasi, and never mind if it includes residents of Karnataka and Kerala. They are ridiculed for their accent. Once during my college, a batch mate asked a friend that if he is South Indian then How come he has “fair skin”?  A dark complexioned guy/gal is always jeered. We had a friend in hostel who was very dark skinned and automatically many of the hostelites started calling him “kalia” or “kallan”.
“The Bhaiyyas” is used as abusive slang. Recently I was in a garment store at Dadar. A customer and shopkeeper had heated argument on price of jacket. They were abusing each other and trying the customer was trying to make shopkeeper realize his “aukat”. Then as he was leaving he said “Bhaiyya hai saala.” I smiled because they both didn’t argue in Hindi Language and yet shopkeeper was “labeled bhaiyya”. :)

Similar sort of racism you will come across if you are caught by a traffic police. If you know the tongue of traffic police you are easily let off else you are in trouble. Yesterday I complained to my flat owner that their was problem with the ceiling of flat. He said sarcastically that this problem was all because of “ghati” living on the above floor.
One more thing which i have noticed in Mumbai is so many organizations entertaining only people belonging to particular caste/community. As long as these groups are for cultural purposes it is very fine but the moment they restrict the group to themselves ONLY, it becomes racist. We have several groups of Marathas, Uttar Bhartiyas, Gujratis, Jains, South Indians, etc. Most of these groups are headed by political leaders and are used in creating and mobilizing vote banks. We have various housing societies which allocate or don’t allocate flats to people belonging to particular community.
We become perfect in whatever we practice. And with my experience I can say that in Mumbai Knowingly/unknowingly we have become racist. We all use racist remarks in everyday life and don’t realize that too. Interestingly we are practicing racism against our own countrymen. Mumbai is known for its cosmopolitan culture. Cosmopolitan means free from local, provincial, or national ideas, prejudices, or attachments. But within this beautiful city we are creating local boundaries.
The concept of inclusive society is slowly becoming farce in our Mumbai.

We’re even more racist than Aussies

The attacks on Indians in Australia have once again raised the ugly head of racism. Once again India is caught up in the midst of a racist storm. A while ago, the Big Brother controversy launched Shilpa Shetty as an international anti-racism icon from India. This is entirely appropriate as Indians are arguably the biggest targets of racism in the world. And they are targeted not just by unlettered British yobs or Australian thugs but, first and foremost, by their own compatriots. It’s because we are so racist ourselves that we are so quick to react to a racist slur: it takes a racist to catch a racist. And our racism is colour-coded in black-and-white terms: white is intrinsically superior and desirable; black is inferior and undesirable.

In the Indian colour scheme of things, black is far from beautiful. The colloquial word for a black person of African origin is ‘habshi’, an epithet as offensive as the American ‘nigger’, both terms derived from the days of the slave trade.

For all India’s official championing of the anti-apartheid crusade in South Africa’s erstwhile white regime, north India at least is steeped in colour prejudice – ask any African student who’s had a taste of Delhi’s campus life. For the north Indian, fair is lovely, as those abominably tasteless TV commercials keep proclaiming: Don’t get sunburnt, use skin whitening creams, or you’ll end up dark and no one will marry you. (When did you last see a matrimonial ad seeking an ‘attractive, dark-complexioned life partner’?)

Why is dark literally beyond the pale for so many of us? Is it an atavistic throwback to the supposed superiority of ‘white’ Aryans vis-a-vis the ‘non-white’ original inhabitants of the subcontinent? Is it the result of 250 years of white rule under the British? Is a pale skin, as against a deep tan, a testimonial to social rank, segregating those who don’t have to toil under the sun from those who do? Is it an amalgam of all these?

Whatever the reason, ‘chitti chamri’ (fair skin) is a passport to fawning social acceptance — which might partly explain why an increasing number of Caucasians look for assignments in India, be it as MNC executives or bartenders in 5-star hotels.

Our racism is largely, but not exclusively, based on colour. Caste is India’s unique contribution to the lexicon of racial bigotry. Whether ‘caste’ – a result of cultural and social segmentation – can legitimately be conflated with ‘race’ – with its genetic and physiological underpinnings – is a matter of academic debate. However, as only too many horror stories testify, the average rural Dalit fares worse on the human-rights scale than her ‘kafir’ counterpart in the worst days of South African apartheid.

Caste apart, real or imagined ethnic traits compound our racism. People from the north-east are said to have ‘Chinky’ (Chinese) eyes and are routinely asked if they eat dogs. Even in so-called ‘mainstream’ India we sub-divide ourselves with pejoratives: ‘Panjus’, whose only culture is agriculture; stingy ‘Marrus’; mercenary ‘Gujjus’ who eat ‘heavy snakes’ for tea; lazy, shiftless ‘Bongs’; ‘Madrasis’, who all live south of the Vindhyas and speak a funny ‘Illay-po’ language. In our ingrained provincialism is our much-vaunted and illusory unity.

No wonder we can’t stand racism. It reminds us disquietingly of the face we see in our own mirror.

Source: TOI

Views of an Australian professor

Prof. Isaac Balbin is a programme director and professor at the school of computer science and IT at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia.
A regular visitor to India and a mentor to lots of overseas education seekers in India, Prof. Balkin expresses his views about the recent incidences in Australia.
As @Asfaq terms it, this is one of the most sensible & practical posts we have yet read about the issue.
This post was originally published in Indian Express (found via @Asfaq)

I have frequently visited India and have mentored Indian students for over two decades. I have supervised 11 Indian postgraduate research theses. Recent events compel me to pen these words.

The easiest part of my visits to India is convincing good students to join my school’s well-regarded programmes. My central aim is to speak with better students and offer these partial scholarships so that our school continues to flourish, and they may become global leaders in their profession. Indians proudly value quality education and the international experience.

I confess: I love India. I love the people. There is much goodwill and diversity and I am always treated with reverential respect. I have sat with family members and discussed their children’s prospects; I have always given an honest appraisal of their child’s suitability for overseas study. I am not a salesman. I advise with both a professorial and parental hat firmly on my head. Also, I have a keen perspective on racism, as I am visibly Jewish and the son of Holocaust survivors. People of my faith have been persecuted since their beginnings.

To be sure, there were times when I was not able to travel to Ahmedabad because of religious violence, and warned to avoid questionable Indian taxi drivers because foreigners had been robbed, murdered or abducted. I commonly read press warnings to female Indian university students about the possibility of rape upon returning to Delhi hostels in the evening. Pockets of violence are an unfortunate abnormity of our world, but my overall perspective, however, was and remains one of confidence and contentment.

I sojourned at Nariman House exactly 2 weeks before terrorists in cosmopolitan Mumbai murdered my good friends, Rabbi and Mrs Holtzberg. I saw the bullet-riddled and bloodied room that I had slept in. I frequented the Taj Hotel in Mumbai. In Melbourne I spoke and wrote about these events and my comments were reported in the Australian Parliament; they continue to shake my core. I know I will return to Mumbai soon, but this time, apart from the psychological trauma induced by that memory, I will have anxious parents asking me whether they should send their beloved to study in Melbourne, or indeed any other city in Australia.

It is counterproductive to generalise about Australians in the same way that it is counterproductive to generalise about Indians. Indian students in Australia are not all the same. Some are serious and highly motivated, seeking international educational excellence; some are opportunists who knowingly enrol in programs from nefarious institutions and whose primary concern is to find a way, any way, to stay in Australia. This second type of student can sometimes be seen congregating in centre of cities as if they have little to do — that is, until they commence night-time employment as taxi drivers, cleaners, guards or door-to-door salespeople. It is demeaning. Why do it? Students should come for real educations by all means, stay if they choose by all means — Australia is in need of qualified professionals — but “purchasing” paper diplomas is not a sound aim.

Some sober realities:

  • Australia is a great and relatively safe country with an exemplary but currently challenged police force. I consider it the multi-cultural success story of the world. Melbourne, in particular, is a rich tapestry of culture and tolerance.
  • There is a real problem with some members of “Generation Y”, especially in certain suburbs. This may relate to a lack of proper parenting, drugs and alcohol. One should not assume they are “white Anglo-Saxon Aussies.” They do not go after Indians per se, in my estimation. Rather, of late, if they identify someone as a “vulnerable target” they have exercised unjustified and mindless violence. Ironically, one member of a gang was himself clearly from the sub-continent and involved in perpetrating recent train violence against an Indian. Idiocy knows no racial boundaries.
  • Australians care. When a young Anglo-Saxon father came to the aid of someone in distress in the dead of night he was stabbed and later died. Where are those perpetrators? They immediately fled to Thailand. It is easy to guess their origin. We don’t blame their country per se. There are rotten eggs everywhere. To blame a people or besmirch a city can be construed as reverse racism.
  • Some student agents in the sub-continent are irresponsible. They send students overseas when they are well aware that the students don’t have the intellectual capacity and/or the parents don’t have the financial capacity. They make unpardonable promises that students can work (almost full time) to pay both their living and tuition fees. These agents should be exposed and marginalised.

It is great that Indian students protested both last night and this morning, but I think that they should not have done so solely as Indian students. Let’s stop the mindless sensationalising. There is a problem, yes. I am equally confident that this is a transient issue that will pass, perhaps even quicker than swine flu. Let’s enhance cooperation, not work against it. I’d like it if more local students spend a semester in India, at least performing quality work integrated learning. Are there any companies out there who are listening? This will help to further bilateral cultural exchange and mutual understanding.

In summary, this issue is primarily one of delinquency. It is not about a particular race. Surely, we are well past the spat between Harbhajan Singh and Andrew Symonds?

I can only speak for myself but I live in a wonderful, unique, multi-cultural, exciting and friendly melting pot. As a father of five children, two of whom have studied overseas, I am confident that any student who studies here will be in an environment that gushes tolerance and oozes love and respect. I will personally continue to “look after” any student that knocks on my door, be they Indian or otherwise. My campus has had, thankfully, close to zero incidents and we endeavour to keep it that way. This issue will pass if we stick together, forcefully and effectively, but without unnecessary rancour and aggressive finger pointing.

ICC and not Indians is racist

RACISM HAS many definitions, the most common and widely accepted being the belief that human beings are divided into more than one race, with members of some races being intrinsically superior or inferior to members of other races. As racism carries references to race-based prejudice, violence, or oppression, the term has varying and often hotly contested definitions.

Harbhajan SinghHarbhajan Singh has been handed a three-match ban for a supposedly racist slur made against Andrew Symonds. Isn’t this a well-judged decision?

That’s what ICC seems to believe. They have shown these double standards time and again thereby making an Asian cricket playing nation, a racist one. Let us consider the Indian team, and its history is full of such double standards followed by ICC. The sport cannot go forward until those two blocs (Asian and Non-Asian) are able to work together, and that can only be done when ICC is mainly less of a white Commonwealth club. For the past 20 years it has, by all appearances, been a cartel run by Australians. The Asian countries’ belief, that despite supplying two-thirds of the money in the global game they are endlessly patronised by white administrators, is the cankerous root of the current crisis. It had to be confronted Symondssome time; it might as well be now. The smell of racism is felt in the cricket atmosphere circle and many past and present test cricketers and experts are throwing their comments open for discussion to the masses.

We have history full of such biased decisions:

  • SlaterRemember the Australia-India test match, which was being played in Mumbai. Michael Slater caught Dravid on a bounce and third umpire gave the decision in favour of Dravid. Slater lost his control and had a spat with umpire S Venkata Raghavan. He then went to Dravid and threw some bad words towards him. But this was unnoticed by the match referee and Slater was let off without any fine.
  • During the 2001 tour of South Africa, six Indian players were banned for varying “crimes” such as excessive appealing, ball tampering and ban was also imposed on Sourav Ganguly for not having been able to control the team. So if Virender Sehwag was suspended in South Africa for appealing for taking a catch that wasn’t there, then shouldn’t Ricky Ponting, Adam Gilchrist, Andrew Symonds and Michael Clarke be? Or are the rules different for different sides? In the same match South Africans were behaving like hooligans and were abusing the Indian players but no action was taken against them.
  • SachinIn 2003-04 tour of Australia, Glenn McGrath verbally abused Sachin Tendulkar at least half a dozen times but was not reprimanded by ICC referee then.
  • In the recently concluded Sri Lanka-Australia series there was furore over bad decisions.
  • McgrathIf most of the sledging is OK but some terms are deemed racist therefore some forms of sledging are not acceptable while others are—then let the ICC publish the rulebook of sledging—what sledging is OK and what is not with examples. (For instance, it is apparently OK for Glenn McGrath to ask a West Indies batsman what a certain part of Brian Lara’s anatomy feels like because it was a non-racial macho thing to say – basically sic personal abuse is OK in the gentleman’s game but not anything to do with race). Or should action be taken against both forms of abuse?
  • Darrell HairThe ball-tampering row last year involving Pakistan and Darrell Hair made racism in cricket a debatable topic. In the midst of the match, he accused the Pakistan team of ball tampering. Inzamam-ul-Haq, the then captain of the Pakistan team, got offended and decided not to take the field after the lunch break. That led to a showdown between Hair and Haq, which eventually resulted in Pakistan forfeiting the match. As it turned out, there was no evidence of ball tampering, yet Inzi was imposed a ban.
  • To say that there was umpiring bias against Asian teams is to state the obvious. Everyone including non-Asians has made this observation. The only debate is whether this bias continues even now?The decision of banning Harbhajan is very sad and leaves a sour taste in our mouths. The picture we get is that—if a white player gives witness for something they were not close to—it must be true. No matter if a non-white player was present there on the pitch and says nothing happened. If a white man says he said it, he must have. If a white player says that the catch was clean – he can’t be lying… No matter what the TV cameras show. If Ricky picked a catch from turf or Clarke picked a bump ball, as long as they say it was clean – they must be correct. The truth be damned! To me – that is racism!!!

    But unfortunately all these things happened because WE ARE RACISTS!! Then,

    Speed ICC must be banned for owning such a racist game.