Last Saturday, I had the most audacious of experiences as I watched a Premier League Football match engaged in a gruesome battle for the remote control with my sister who desired to switch over to a ‘Maha-Episode’ of some clichéd Indian soap; and, as with every other fight with a woman, a man is foolish enough to entangle himself, I lost. I could, however, take some pride in saying that I didn’t lose outright; in fact, I battled far and hard for 45 minutes as Liverpool did the same with their defensive follies on the screen but by the end of it, they were one goal down as usual and I had lost my spirit to witness the Reds’ massacre anymore, not with having to leap for the remote every three minutes. Nonetheless, I had the strength to avenge my dear Reds at EA FIFA and what a feeling that was! That night, however, I couldn’t sleep properly, not because the Reds lost (they often did), not because I thrashed the Gunners at EA (I always do) and also not because the melodramatic jingle of that idiotic soap played itself over and over again every other minute (that was creepy, though) but because of the words of an in-game banner flashing themselves as soon as I closed my eyes: ‘Say NO to Racism’. Usually, before going to sleep, I would dream of situations that are never going to happen in my life or engage myself in puny retrospective debates on some topic or the other; that night was one of the latter.
Racism is, as we all acknowledge, the unfair treatment of a certain group of people by another group of over-entitled primates having a superiority complex; and is, as we all won’t acknowledge, a guilty pleasure. Racism, speaking in terms of poetry, is but a double-edged sword. One edge of which becomes lethal when we are the group facing persecution and the other edge remains dormant this while, but as soon as the tables are turned and we are the bunch of over-entitled primates, the dormant edge swings back with as much as twice the ferocity with which the erstwhile active edge slashed. Beg your pardon for the hashed metaphor; hope I’m better with textual illustrations. For the record, I trace my line of descent from the Ahom kings of North-East India and as such have had the pleasure of being both at the receiving and conferring end of the sweet award that is racism. Now, as both the constitution and culture advises us to place our community before oneself and the country before the community itself, let’s talk about India, the incredible India.
India is, undoubtedly, one of the more diverse countries but no matter howsoever diverse, almost every other Indian would ratify that being Indian, among all other things, has its own little joys and its own little travails. One of such joys is, thanks to the ever-growing population, finding at least one Indian in any given country at any given time but, every joy comes with a price; the travail. As we are enlightened of the fact that there are round-about 200 or more countries in this great big world and since the mighty Indians have had accepted the challenge of inhabiting almost every corner of this round world, the number of Indians living in a particular country other than India itself, though large at times, forms a small proportion of the total population of that particular country or in other words, is a marginalised community prone to racism. Naturally, quite a number of Indians face racism abroad on various grounds and though it’s always a saddening sight, the swiftness and unity of all the other Indians in condemning such an act and demanding corrective measures at the earnest and quite vigorously at that, is heartening to notice. That’s all very well but for the sake of parity, if we do a long cut-scene as in the movies and shift to a scene when the tables are turned, the results are bemusing. A few months ago a Tanzanian girl was attacked by a mob in Bengaluru and whatever be the leading reasons, it surely was an act of racism which was labelled as a case of technical mismanagement. Any mass attack on an individual of a marginalised community should be considered racism no matter whatever the circumstances, but this wasn’t. The incident only went on to prove the immemorial testimony that an Indian student beaten up in Australia is an act of racism but a Tanzanian girl assaulted in India is not an act of racism according to the incredible Indians. Wow!
Moving on from the international scenario to the intra-national, being a proud resident of the Seven Sister States of North-East India, I, along with many others, cannot possibly forget the numerous reports of rapes and assaults on our North-Eastern brothers and sisters in the ‘mainland’, the more famous of them being the highly journalised case of Nido Tania, a young student butchered in Delhi, the capital of secular and anti-racist India. Whether this case deserved such an attention or not is for another debate but it wouldn’t be exaggerating to say that it compensated for most of the other cases which did not get their due by putting the spotlight on the racism prevailing against the North-Easterners in broad daylight by the folks of the mainland who consider us to be Tibetans or Chinese even when we have a Passport bearing the four lions on its front page. The misdoing evoked mass protests all around the country primarily flanked by the ‘Tibetans’ and ‘Chinese’ and supported by most of the other sane Indians. The protests and debates after such an incident are all very good and true to the sense of democracy but as a matter of fact, the harsh truth is that not only the people of the North-East but several other communities have been facing discrimination in the ‘mainland’ at some point or the other.
In criticising the mainland, however, I am definitely not defending the North-East because matters are not so different here either. Though amiable in present times, the seven states which carved themselves out of undivided Assam have had a notorious history of division from Assam. The primary reason of division of Assam was racism; racism practiced by the privileged ‘upper castes’ against aboriginal tribal folks: one which has already divided Assam and is threatening to divide it again in the near future. The no-longer-newly formed states and sisters of Assam do not have a bed of roses either as the same issue threatens their existence every single day. Moreover, the racism prevailing in the North-East also has another shade to it which is illuminated in the racist activities against people whose mother tongue is Hindi rather than any language of the North-East as some sort of symbolic revenge for what the North-Easterners face in the mainland at times. The interesting aspect of such a practice, however, is that most of the people who protested earlier when a North-Easterner was assaulted in Delhi often deciding to remain mum when a Bihari is raped in the North-East. How righteous men we are, aren’t we?
Putting things into perspective, though I spoke of India in specific, racism seems to be ingrained in the human nature in general, wherever one group is in majority it discriminates against the one in minority. The minority protests against such acts of banality but as soon as they become the majority, all conscience is but lost and they take pleasures in the act once they had despised. As such, it could be inferred that we all are anti-racists superficially as we defend our own but not anti-racists wholly as racism is one of the sweetest pleasures; bullying and harassing, a pleasure indeed. The government can pass anti-racism laws and other organisations could do a lot of other things but as long as the urge doesn’t evoke from the inner self, one couldn’t be a anti-racist no matter how many protests he takes part as long as he undermines his inferiors; at least as long as an Indian calls a North-Easterner a ‘Tibetan’ or a North-Easterner calls a folk of the Tea-Tribe a ‘Dhengor’. It is but hypocrisy, which has, in due course of time, successful in consummating Racism and leading an arduous and blissful married life.
Turns out, I’m pathetic at textual illustrations too.
Arunabh Debendranath Konwar