In the aftermath of the horrible attacks on Africans in Noida, there has been the usual outpouring of outrage and condemnation- official and unofficial; statements on behalf of one government or the other, opinions online and in the newspapers and panel discussions on television channels; same questions and same answers that have come tumbling down often before following similar horrors all over the country. And nothing much is ever different in these debates and nothing much changes after them.
In the melee of comments, criticisms and analysis much was attempted to be explained; in some cases returning to the arrival of the white Aryans; in others by tracing the reason for our racism to the whiteness of the British colonialists; and yet in others by invoking the “malecha” of our ancient past. Much was said, as usual, about our welcoming of strangers ancient to our shores and our capacity and history of making them our own. It all read and sounded normal, as normal as it had been on the previous such sorry occasions. That was until a television guest or anchor, I forget which and where, wrapping up a debate, clearly shocked at the racist attacks, their recent history and frequency, unable to wrap her/his head around our collective shame blurted painfully “but that is not who we are?”; meaning we aren’t racists or worse, violent racists.
We have much to be proud of in our ancient civilisation. But our ancient goodness mustn’t become a pretext, as it often does, for not boldly confronting the modern India’s reality. Our search for truth about our modern condition isn’t about any particular religion, political party, state or region. It is about the collective we proudly call India.
To the pained cry “this is not who we are” one has to unabashedly respond by asking the hard question: Are we sure we are not? Racists, that is?
Take a frank look at who we are:
Attacks on Africans are us.
Butchery in the name of religion is us.
Caste annihilating caste is us.
Attacks on our North Eastern citizens are us.
Despising our darker skin is us; shameless self loathing for most of us.
Killing scholars, rationalists and writers who believe different from us is us.
We kill others for worshipping and believing differently from us. The history of murdering, raping and sacrificing the so-called lower castes stretches from centuries past into the present. We have killed our citizens with different racial features and continue to do so. We kill the killers of cows and do so with religious and sometimes with implicit official sanction or acquiescence. We kill others for eating what we may not approve of. We refuse to marry dark skinned men and women; the matrimonial pages of newspapers and websites are filled with many looking for “gora” grooms and “gori” brides. We believe that white is beautiful; less than white and black definitely is not. Reciting and revering the blackness of Lord Krishna is just so much hypocrisy.
Our political and spiritual leaders never tire of reminding us that ours is the land of prophets– Apnee toh peeron, pagumbron aur faqeeron ke dharti hai! True but they came, tried changing us but we didn’t. Our incorrigibility confronted and bypassed their ethical and moral crusades. We worship them but observe their teachings only in breach; most of us are hollow; our worship is hollow.
In this writer’s reckoning India is a racist society. There are no two ways about it. India’s Truth is the truth of our racism, the truth of our killing in the name of religion and caste, the truth of our killing for writing, thinking, believing or eating differently. Bundled together, all these truths make up our Truth. India’s Truth needs altering. For that to happen, first we must acknowledge and embrace the Truth of who we really are: Imperfect and racist. Only then can the change begin.