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We outraged over Coldplay. But not the mob attack on an African woman

Ruchi Kumar | Updated on: 14 February 2017, 5:34 IST
  • Are Indians racists? In short, yes!
  • The racist nature amongst Indians stems from centuries of closely guarded casteist hierarchies
  • Why is there so little outrage over the case of the young Tanzanian girl who stripped and beaten by a mob in Bengaluru while police remained silent spectators to the incident

On Sunday, a 21-year-old Tanzanian girl was beaten stripped and molested by a senseless mob (is there another kind?) in the metropolitan city of Bengaluru in India.

Her crime?

She was foreign - of African origin.

She happened to pass by the same location where a Sudanese man had run over and killed a woman a while earlier.

It must be noted that she wasn't the mobs only victim. They chased and thrashed a Sudanese student and beat up four more Tanzanians, the Deccan Chronicle reported.

And neither is this incident the first of its kind against the African diaspora in India. Here's how the madness followed, wherein African students, irrespective of which nationality they belonged to, were targeted.

"The local residents went hunting for houses where Africans stayed and harassed them. They stopped vehicles to check if there were any Africans inside. Our students heard that there were messages floating around that the locals were planning to attack Acharya College cottages and all the hostel accommodations in the area, which are full of Africans," Bosco Kaweesi, legal adviser of All African Students in Bengaluru, told Deccan Chronicle.

So let's first get some facts straight.

The young lady had nothing to do with the accident. She was in no way related to the accused. Heck, Tanzania is over 2,000 kilometres away from Sudan. And yet, the mob picked her for a reason that few of us will admit to - she was African, the same race as the accused. The mob, comprising "righteous Indians" no doubt, victimised the girl simply for the colour of her skin, as Indian often do.

Secondly, the 'manhunt' and abuse of African students that followed, is very clearly a case of racial targeting. It may offend several Indians, but the lot of us are largely discriminatory at several levels.

And the undeniable fact remains that our racist nature stems from centuries of closely guarded casteist hierarchies. Even those educated and westernised amongst us, as I'm sure were present within the mob that brutally attacked the young girl, have often shown supremacist tendencies over those less like us.

Now it may be impossible to go around changing perspectives of a racist mob overnight, but we do live under Rule of Law, which categorically rejects any kind of violence, as well as all forms of discrimination. And yet, the local police not only failed to take action against the perpetrators but were also spectators to the incident.

Also, when the girl went to police for help, they asked her to first bring the Sudanese man into custody. The fact that she did not know who he was was of little concern to them.

Another point made across media and social media is that she was beaten for no fault of hers. I need to stress here that had it indeed been her fault, it would have been just as outrageous to beat her or any other person.

Burden of our hypocrisy

The horrendous incident was much akin to the violent mob in Kabul that beat and killed Farkhunda, a young Afghan woman, last April, on the false accusation of having burned the Koran. Both mobs considered themselves as protectors of their social order. Both wanted to defend a social space that they considered above others and, truth be told, something they did not earn. The only difference was that this woman survived, while Farkhunda was martyred.

Quite a few of my friends called in to check on me, when the Farkhunda case made headlines, out of love and concern, I'm sure. But it was also partly because it somehow validated their fears (for me) about my choice of country of residence -- because women in Afghanistan are expected to be not treated well.

And yet here we are - in the IT hub of India, where the life and dignity of a foreign woman is at stake, and the law refuses to protect her.

Hundreds of Indians were offended by Coldplay's portrayal of India in their latest song last week. They called it cultural appropriation and was considered hip to criticise them of earning profits off exotic heritage. Where are the critics who uphold the Indian culture now?

How about we first define what our culture is? The dignity of a woman, any woman, is compromised based on the colour of her skin - this is a cultural trait that is all too familiar to India. How is there so little outcry for this young Tanzanian girl, when it doesn't take a moment for us to gather against those who call us intolerant?

How can we claim to be a democracy when we can't implement the rule of law? Indians are quick in demanding rightful justice when faced with racism abroad. Our leaders, actors and parliamentarians are at the helm of parades asking foreign, especially western, governments act in defence of Indians wronged, and rightly so. But we also, need to be equally vocal about the rights of those foreign nationals among us, in our land.

Racism is just as much our burden as it is of the western societies.

First published: 3 February 2016, 9:55 IST
Ruchi Kumar @RuchiKumar

Ruchi Kumar is an Indian journalist living in Kabul with her cat Bukhari. On most days, she reports on the ongoings in the region. Rest of the time, she reads, writes and wanders around Kabul looking for people who will tell stories.