Mainstream, VOL LIV No 24 New Delhi June 4, 2016
Africans in Complexion-crazy India
Monday 6 June 2016, by
We are appalled that leaders of India’s ruling establishments and law enforcing agencies are not ashamed at what happened on January 31, 2016 night to a Tanzanian girl student of Bachelors of Business Administration in a college at Bangalore. The car in which she was returning in company of her friends to the city was attacked, she was dragged out, stripped and paraded naked in public for no rhyme or reason. When she ran to board a bus passing by the place of occurrence, its passengers did not extend a helping hand; rather they threw her out of the running public vehicle. Police personnel present on the scene of her humiliation did not intervene. A good Samaritan, who offered a shirt to the victim to cover herself, was subjected to physical torture. The wronged girl was asked to bring the driver responsible for a road accident to the police station when she went to lodge a complaint.1 She was absolutely unaware of what had happened half-an-hour before she was subjected to shame and humiliation by a mob on the same spot. The State Home Minister did not consider the ugly incident as a racist attack.
In the meanwhile another tragedy has struck a Congolese national in Delhi. A 23-year-old Masonda Ketanda Olivier, a French teacher of a private institute since 2012, was beaten to death by a group of men following a brawl over hiring an auto-rickshaw in the Capital.2 Why such enormous tragedy over a trivial issue for hiring an auto-rickshaw on a Delhi road must torment us. This suggests perhaps that our law-enforcers are incapable to touch the offenders if the victim(s), a native or a foreign national, is a disadvantaged one. The country has no proud record to provide justice and protection to the weak and vulnerable.
Many might recall a car accident that claimed six lives on the Gurgaon-Delhi road 17 years ago. In 1999, one Sanjeev Nanda, son of industrialist Suresh Nanda, had ran over six persons, including three police officers, killing them on the spot under the speeding wheels of his luxurious BMW car. The trial court had acquitted the accused and his accomplices in 1999. But Nanda was later found guilty in 2008 and sentenced to two years imprisonment, which was reduced to time served, a large fine, and two years of community service by the Supreme Court of India in 2012. The case had attracted extraordinary public and media attention. It was viewed as “a test of the judicial system’s ability to take on the powerful“.3 Strangely, no mob blocked the road, nor attacked any passing vehicle, nor pelted stones at anybody even hours after the fateful accident. India is a paradise for the rich and powerful offenders and lawbreakers who are pampered and handled with kid gloves. They can bend, break, twist or violate any system to their advantage with perfect immunity. Long ago this was candidly acknowledged by Andrew Jackson, (March 1767-June 1845), the seventh President of the USA (1829-1837): “The rich and the powerful too often bend the Acts of government to their own selfish purposes.” We, Indians, know too well the inherent significance President Jackson wanted us to appreciate. And the sufferers of injustice have witnessed miscarriage of justice helplessly over and over again all over India times without number.
The public stand taken by the Tanzanian Embassy on the treatment of its student in Bangalore appeared to many as enigmatic, if not intriguing. According to a leading newspaper,
In what can only be seen as a volte-face, Tanzanian High Commissioner to India John W.H. Kijazi said in Bengaluru that the attack on the Tanzanian woman last Sunday was not racist. He told the media on Friday (January 31, 2016), after being briefed by the state govern-ment, “What has happened is very unfortunate. We had a meaningful discussion with the state government and I am happy with the action taken against the policemen and we were told nine persons have been arrested. I have got a clear picture of what happened prior to the accident and after that. It is not a racist attack. It is a case of friction between the local community and the students.
The indignity and humiliation of the victim, I am afraid, has been swept under the carpet. Would India be “happy” had such an incident happened to an Indian national abroad?
According to the 2012 census, Tanzania boasted of a total population of 44,928,923, which works out to 3.6 per cent of the Indian population. The African nation is too tiny to exert influence and get justice for its citizens humiliated, outraged or murdered in India. The countrymen have, by now, forgotten the whole episode. Some action is under way in the murder of the Congolese teacher in Delhi. Rendering justice to a victim of atrocities and injustice is not India’s forte.
Is telling Lies and making False Claims in Indian DNA?
A junior official of the External Affairs Ministry has blamed the media for hyping the incident as a racist attack. He advised the media to refrain from being judgmental and sending out a wrong message. Our government is very sensitive, if not scared, about its image abroad. They do not relish negative publicity on the social front getting public attention abroad. So resorting to lies or indulging in prevarication is a vital necessity. Our governments, State or Union, always shy away from admitting internal or domestic weaknesses, troubles or deficiencies in public or international fora. So lies or distortions are common.
India presented a pathetic show at the World Conference at Durban in 2002. There Omar Abdullah, the junior Minister of External Affairs, blatantly denied that Indians were racists or casteists. His statement then—and more parti-cularly even over a decade—now sounds like a bundle of blatant lies. The Minister’s statement read: “......in the run up to the world Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimi-nation, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance there has been propaganda, highly exaggerated and misleading, often based on anecdotal evidence, regarding caste-based discrimination in India. We in India have faced this evil squarely. We unequivocally condemn this and, indeed, any other form of discrimination. The issue has remained at the top of our national agenda.” Brave words to push truth beyond public eyes under a colourful tapestry.
Touching on “our constitutional, legislative and administrative framework” Omar claimed that “our affirmative action programmes for the uplift of the members of the historically disadvantaged castes” made “positive difference. The institutions of our democratic polity, the progressive removal of poverty and the spread of literacy have empowered and given a voice to millions of the weaker sections of our society. We are determined to continue this national endeavour..... there is no state-sponsored, institutionalised, discrimination against any individual citizen or groups of citizens.” This voluble script appears to have been prepared by gifted men, bereft of sensitivity, sitting in a safe haven of ivory towers. The Minister further roared: “We are here to ensure that states do not condone or encourage regressive social attitudes. We are not here to engage in social engineering within member-states.” And finally his script underlined: “We are firmly of the view that the issue of caste is not an appropriate subject for discussion at this Conference.... We are here to ensure that states do not condone or encourage regressive social attitudes.”4 What are regressive ‘social attitudes’? The Indian statement at the world conference was silent.
The cardinal principle of foreign policy of any nation is dictated by the interests and aspirations of the people at large. India did not have the honesty to tell the truth at the world conference at Durban how caste-based hatred, prejudice, discrimination and untouchability have enslaved about one-fourth of its population and they are treated worse than lepers. According to Patrick French, “To equal the number of Dalits in India, you would need to add together the populations of Albania, Australia, Belgium, Israel, Kuwait, Libya, the Netherlands, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.”5
The society then and even now is the home of extreme intolerance, violence, repression, vulnerability and discrimination against its underprivileged population. The wrong-doers, violators, murderers, rapists and arsonists, encroachers of properties of the weak are patronised and/or courted as well as sheltered more often than not by the powerful authorities from behind the screen. The judiciary fails to punish the criminals for providing justice to India’s victims from the disadvantaged sections. The deplorable record of administration of justice to the victims of massacres of Dalits by powerful upper castes from Tsundur in Andhra Pradesh to Laxmanpur Bathe in Bihar, Tamilnadu to Haryana tells the tale. Speaking factually, Indian policy-framers preach what they do not believe. Call it state-sponsored and institutionalised discrimination against any individual citizen or groups of citizensor not, this is undeniably the depiction of ground realities without any remedy.
Do the Africans know the Indian Ethos?
The Africans would do well to note and appreciate the dominant Indian ethos over caste and colour or complexion of skin. They suffer from compulsive obsession for caste superiority which they equate, by and large, with men and women of fair complexion. The autochthonous Indians are dark in complexion whereas the emigrants who colonised India in ancient times were fair complexioned. Their complexion is the basis of claiming superiority in every sphere of life. They created the fiction of caste with themselves at the summit of the heap. All those below it, in their eyes, are object of hatred, prejudice and discrimination. In every socio-cultural norm and practice, they evolved spaces in the top to ensconce themselves.
On Indian soil, justice is normally denied to the Dalit and tribal even for criminal actions by fair complexioned Indians. Injustice is the certainty in every situation. People all over the world would do well to note what is not acknowledged publicly is that they esteem white-skinned men and women in preference to dark-skinned natives. Africans have been subjected in the past to miserable treatment. I have no reason to believe they would not do otherwise as a mark of respect in future as well. The boys and girls from the North-Eastern States studying in the national Capital region as well as Bangalore received, as a routine, treatment no less worse than their African counterparts. (Refer ‘Requiem for Nido’ http://www.mainstreamweekly.net/article4748.html)
Their DNA Speaks
Only recently the Indian media reported the sad tale of Mahesh, a mining engineering student of IIT-Banaras Hindu University, Uttar Pradesh. He wanted to sell his kidney for repaying a loan worth Rs 2,70,000 he had taken to defray expenses for his technical education. Doctors in the hospitals had told him plainly that his kidney would have no takers. Nonetheless, he went ahead to sell his organ in five hospitals in Banaras and Alwar, Rajasthan.6 The prospective buyers, if any, would first of all ask to know his caste. A Balmiki, Mahesh is a Dalit, whose ancestral occupation is sweeping the streets and cleaning toilets. So his organ was not in demand. In dire straits, he dropped out of IIT and took to sweeping for a monthly salary of Rs 4000 with a view to augmenting the family income. Dejected and desperate, he once even contemplated committing suicide.
When in June 2015 news of two Dalit brothers—Raju and Brijesh of Pratapgarrh district, UP—cracking the IIT entrance exami-nations securing 167 and 410 positions respec-tively in merit were flashed, my spontaneous concern was about their security. In an online comment, I had written that the two Dalit stars needed security and protection more than media adulation, lest their envious villagers, neigh-bours and countrymen harmed them. Lo and behold! The next day, the media reported that their house was brickbatted by anti-social elements and miscreants obliging the authorities to deploy police for their security and protection. This happened much before they enrolled themselves in IITs where even graver danger might be in store for them.
All over the country, tragedies have struck Dalit and tribal students doing medical, engineering, management etc. in institutes of excellence or higher studies in other departments of knowledge. (Refer ‘Merit, a curse for dalit?’ http://www.mainstreamweekly.net/article3390.html) In campuses unsuspected underprivileged students have been driven to commit suicides in dozens. How can they be protected and secured from the predatory caste fanatics and supremacists in the garb of teachers, non-teachers and fellow students is the moot question. They must get security cover until they pass out of the institutional dark clouds hovering over their heads. Dead bodies have emerged from the laboratories, libraries and hostels, or classrooms of universities, IITs, IIMs, AIIMS, even IISc. which can be equated with glamorous morgues for underprivileged students. Those without an iota of conscience behind their deaths are infernal butchers. None of the heads of these institutions ever showed uprightness to assure justice for the vulnerable students. The case of the research scholar of Hyderabad Central University, Rohith Vemula, is still playing out in the public domain ever since his suicide.
No Buyers for Dalit Kidney?
The Indian organ market is a thriving one. The black market is expanding because the demand far outstrips the supply of organs. According to a World Health Organisation WHO report in 2007, the underground organ market is still resurgent in India, with around 2000 Indians selling kidney every year. Donors regularly put their lives at risk for just $ 5000 (£ 3000) from unscrupulous gangs who then sell the body parts for prices up to $ 200,000 (£ 130,000) a time. A Chennai based broker boasted in 2015: “If you have the money and want it (organ) fast, you come here. I will find you a donor and you can go home with a new kidney in a month.” Another was quoted as saying, “You can get a kidney for 1.7m rupees ($25,700) in West Bengal.” The WHO is of the view that South Asia is now the leading transplant tourism hub globally, with India among the top kidney exporters. “Each year more than 2000 Indians sell their kidneys, with many of them going to foreigners. The illicit kidney trade in South Asia has exploded as brokers use social media to find donors.”7 Yet another broker told the same electronic media that many agents in India and Bangladesh were working at the behest of individual doctors or hospitals based in Colombo who offered “complete packages” to foreign recipients, with prices ranging from $ 53,000 to $ 122,000. Higher demand pushes the market price for kidney prohibitively conforming to the simple norm of economics.
Nevertheless, Mahesh had no buyers. This exposes the bare truth: his low caste status. A kidney might be necessary for his healthy life, but he would abhor to breathe his last with an organ of a low-caste man. The Hindu pathology of hatred springs from their religious notion which is subordinate to caste rules. In this background, no African under the sun can expect better treatment from Hindus anywhere in the globe, not to speak of India. The emigrant Bengali bhadralok in the USA, it is pertinent to note, were not at all enamoured about Barak Obama when he contested and ultimately won the US Presidential election. They despised his dark skin much before they witnessed his quality of leadership and broad mindedness. These NRIs play a tremendous role in influencing India’s social, economic and political fabric. Britain had passed the Equality Law in 2012 by incorporating caste discrimination as a crime. But the financially affluent Hindu upper caste ganged up against the new provision of law and opposed its implementation to safeguard the numerically larger British Dalit population. The UK Government, under David Cameron, kowtowed majestically before the Hindu black-mail. What an about-turn of the British Govern-ment! Winston Churchill, we may remember, about 80 years ago had observed: “.......These Brahmans, who mouth and patter the principles of Western liberalism, and pose as philosophic and democratic politicians, are the same Brahmans who deny the primary rights of existence to nearly sixty millions of their own fellow countrymen whom they call ‘untouchable’, and whom they have by thousands of years of oppression actually taught to accept this sad position. They will not eat with these sixty millions, nor drink with them, nor treat them as human beings. They consider themselves contaminated even by their approach. And then in a moment they turn round and begin chopping logic with John Stuart Mill, or pleading the rights of man with Jean Jacques Rousseau.”8 Hypocrisy of the caste system of the Hindus cannot be better illustrated and more succinctly elaborated to match Churchill. The Indian intellectual class never rates Churchill anything other than an arrogant and imperialist British overlord. But the truth of this assessment can barely be brushed aside. The same Empire has become the guardian and protector of the caste system much to the chagrin of millions of British citizens.
On February 7, 2016, the media reported that the police had registered a case against the guide of a Dalit mathematics scholar who committed suicide at the Central University of Rajasthan (CURAJ). “The student, Mohit Kumar Chouhan, had alleged harassment by Vidyottma Jain.” Vidyottma was his guide.9 He had formally requested the Vice-Chancellor twice for replace-ment of his guide who had harassed him. Replacement of a research guide, it may be mentioned, is not unknown nor against the university statute. His requests did not receive the attention of the Vice-Chancellor.
The life of a Dalit, scholar or illiterate, is cheap in monetary terms. The Vice-Chancellor, Central University, Hyderabad had put a price tag of Rs 800,000 ($ 11,700) for Rohith Vemula who committed suicide in the University hostel room. Those who are responsible for driving Dalit and tribal students to commit suicide are also the people putting tags on their life. The scholars were not murdered by assassins; nor did they fall victim to the bullets of supari (contract) killers. They were not lynched in frenzied mob violence. Nor did extremists or terrorists have any hand in their deaths. These talented scholars ended their lives in laboratories, libraries or hostels in the face of unabated persecution from mostly their gurus. This underlines a game-plan befitting the pernicious Hindu philosophy. Harvard University Professor Myron Weiner (1931—June 3, 1999), an American political scientist and renowned scholar on India, ethnic conflict, child labour, democratisation, political demography, and the politics and policies of developing countries, had appropriately deciphered and diagnosed the cancer two-an-half decades ago. “The Indian position rests on deeply held belief that there is a division between people who work with their mind and rule and people who work with their hands and are ruled, and the education should reinforce rather than break down this division. These beliefs are closely tied to religious notions and to the premises that underlie India’s hierarchical caste system”.10
With this diabolical game-plan playing out in the educational field, we have reasons to believe and apprehend tragedies befalling Dalits and tribals have not come an end. More might be in the pipeline. Only time will reveal the continued ferocity against them.
The American scholar’s final verdict is further alarming. “Officials regarded education for the masses not as liberating but as destabilising.”11 What is at risk of destabilisation? What is at risk of destabilisation is the Hindu social set up created by long efforts of fabrication, suppression, domination, exploitation and, above all, total denial of opportunity for expression with the aid of education that facilitated wholesale prevarication. Denial of education is in the cardinal principle in Hindu religion. The tenacious attachment to caste for the Hindu arises from the chaturvarna vyavyastha.
The Dalits and tribals who went against this LOC (line of control), prescribed by the Hindu saints and sages, have hitherto paid heavy prices. Rohith, Mohit, Chuni, Pradeep, Jaspreet etc. are instances. Hindu India cannot yield space to Dalits and adivasis for their upward mobility in life with knowledge and skill which they believe and proclaim as their sole inheritances. They, therefore, encounter armed Hindu brigade like the German Fascist Gestapo everywhere. Not an inch of space is allowed for them voluntarily.
1. The Deccan Chronicle, “Mob strips Tanzanian girl, torches her car as police watch”, February 3, 2016.
2. The Huffington Post, “Congolese man beaten to death in Delhi over auto-rickshaw spat”, May 22, 2016.
4. Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India,
Statement by Omar Abdullah, Minister of State for External Affairs, India at The World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, Durban, September 2, 2001.
5. Patrick French, India: A Portrait.
6. The Times of India, “IIT pupil tries to sell kidney to repay loan, but no takers for ‘dalit organ’”, January 23, 2016.
7. Al Jazeera, “Need a kidney? Inside the world’s biggest organ market”, October 8, 2015.
8. Winston Churchill, Our Duty in India, March 18, 1931. Albert Hall, London.
9. The Times of India, “Guide ‘who harassed’ Rajasthan scholar booked”, February 7, 2016.
10. Myron Weiner, The Child and the State in India, OUP, 1991, pp. 4-5.
11. Ibid., p. 17.
The author is a retired IAS officer and former Vice-Chancellor, B.R. Ambedkar University, Muzaffarpur, Bihar. He can be contacted at email@example.com