If I was African, I would be scared to live in India: What Masonda's murder tells us

If I was an African, I would have been afraid to live in India.

After the brutal killing of the Congolese national Masonda Ketada Olivier — a French teacher, who has been in India on a student visa since 2012 — in New Delhi, who was savagely chased by three drunken men at the dead of night on Friday, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) is in fire-fighting mode to do as much damage control as possible. African countries demanded concrete steps against "racism and Afro-phobia" and sought deferment of the celebrations of Africa Day by India.

Once that news came in, the MEA rushed to appease the African community. In fact, the ministry said that they will meet African envoys once every three months to discuss their grievances. Amid all this diplomacy to appease the really angry (and justifiably so) black community in Africa, what the ministry and the Indian government is missing is the deep-seated racist mentality in India.

The killing of the Congolese national, or the recent attack on the Tanzanian woman in Bengaluru, or people commonly dubbing everyone hailing from the Northeast as 'chinki' is merely the tip of the huge civilisational iceberg.

 If I was African, I would be scared to live in India: What Masondas murder tells us

Representational image. Reuters

Oh, I  forgot to mention AAP leader Somnath Bharti spearheading a raid into the home of four Ugandan women in New Delhi without a warrant. This is how racist we are. We deem it perfectly fine to barge into a person's home just because they are dark-skinned. Although, it is not as much as racism as our inherent prejudice against the 'others'.

As Firstpost's Karan Pradhan explains in this piece, 'others' can be an other class, caste, religion, region, political leanings, wealth, nationality, appearance, and skin colour. "But, whether it's an old man in Dadri, Dalit children near Faridabad, two men from Nagaland in Gurgaon, a woman in Birbhum district or now, this woman in Bengaluru, we treat them all with exactly the same amount of courtesy."

One of the most provocative books on Mahatma Gandhi — The South African Gandhi: Stretcher-Bearer Of Empire — co-authored by South Africans Ashwin Desai and Goolam Vahed, introduced a term to explain a factor embedded deeply in India's cultural heritage that underpins its complex hierarchical social relations: Indo-Aryanism.

The book further adds that this particular idea influenced Gandhi immensely and led to his partiality towards "Indo-Aryan bloodlines."

"There was a feeling among some British colonial officials that Indians were positioned higher up the chain of civilisation than Africans as they originated from the same Aryan root."

Sample this:

'Which is the most racist country you visited as a tourist?' was the question posted on Quora in April this year. An African American person called Dave Adali shed some light on this matter.

"I am an African-American in the IT field and I have thus far had the good fortune to live and travel extensively throughout Western and parts of Eastern Europe and many countries in Asia. I have lived or traveled in the UK and most of the EU countries as well as Taiwan, Korea, the Philippines, Thailand, Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia and several other Asian countries including India. Of all the countries I have been to, India ranks way up there among the most 'racist', IMHO. Indians aren't so much 'racist' as they are intolerant. Indians discriminate against fellow citizens to a degree that I have NEVER encountered in ANY other country. Without a doubt, Indians are the the most color obsessed people I have ever encountered anywhere in the world. No doubt because of all that saturation advertisements for 'Fair and Lovely', 'Fair and Handsome' and all manners of skin-whitening creams, lotions, soaps etc. Even if you are 100% Indian, your fellow Indians might still discriminate against you on the basis of the color of your skin, which region of India you come from, what language you speak, your religion, your caste etc, etc."

Read the full answer here.

Adali's candid assertion puts the whole Indo-Aryanism into a context. Now, add how unprotected and vulnerable are the minorities in the country. And yes, foreigners (whichever skin colour) constitute as a minority population. So, when minister of external affairs Sushma Swaraj addressed the fears of African nations and assured them that meetings will be held with African students in metro cities for their "safety and security," it was too little and too late. Worse of all, this is not the first time a racial crime has happened in India's National Capital.

Following Swaraj's lead, when Delhi Lieutenant Governor Naseeb Jung termed the "incident" as "unfortunate and painful," it was almost laughable because the statement after the brutal killing of the Congolese professor was not the first and it won't be last. After a couple of diplomatic statements and solemn tweets, the situation will swiftly return to square one.

Meanwhile, as the LG of Delhi promised "speedy justice", reports said that the police is yet to arrest the third accused.

India's civilisational fractures of caste, colour and creed, you and me, have gotten worse. New features, like reverse racism, have bee added to the vocabulary. The hostility between North Indians and their southern counterparts is palpable.

While this nasty game of superior race is being played out in the foreground, the damage it does to India, which is projecting itself as one of the growing regional powers, is unimaginable. Francis A Kornegay Jr in this op-ed wrote, "The cases of horrendous violence against women, minorities and foreigners expose intractably combustible contradictions in an ancient civilisational culture under strain as external and internal forces of change test leadership and governing capacities to manage such challenges."

While Prime Minister Narendra Modi is trying to upscale the diplomacy dialogue with Africa, such racial crimes, and brutal attacks and hate crimes will only complicate New Delhi's agenda.

A video, released in April 2015, chronicled how Africans, living in India feel and it might shock some but they don't paint a very happy picture. It actually is quite the antithesis of all those commercials preaching atithi devo bhava to a nation which resorts to revolting acts like discriminating based on skin colour.

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Updated Date: May 26, 2016 14:04:32 IST