Tackle racist prejudice strongly

Tackle racist prejudice strongly

Violence fuelled by racist prejudice has claimed the life of Congolese national Masonda Ketada Oliver in New Delhi. It appears that the victim was beaten to death by three men following a verbal argument. Close on the heels of that incident, six other Africans have been attacked in three separate incidents in Delhi. All the attacks were reportedly preceded by racist slurs. Violence targeting Africans has assumed alarming proportions across India. Bengaluru, a supposedly cosmopolitan city, witnessed multiple attacks on Africans over the past year. Not surprisingly, African nationals studying and staying in India are worried. It is evident that the patience of their governments too is fraying. Oliver’s murder evoked an angry response from African diplomats in Delhi, who threatened to boycott Africa Day celebrations in the capital. Indian politicians and officials rushed to allay their apprehensions to get the African diplomats to participate in the event. And the latter graciously spared India major embarrassment by showing up at the celebrations.

India urgently needs a long-term strategy to fight racism in the country. Many, including decision makers, are of the view that Indians aren’t racist. They are quick to point out that racism exists in the west and that Indians are victims of that racism. Indeed, we are. But Indians are racist too and actively discriminate against Africans and East Asians, and target them with racist insults and sexual and other violence. Even those from our Northeastern states are not spared the viciousness of racism. Underlying such violence are negative stereotypes of the other and a misplaced belief that we are superior. Such perceptions are not based on facts and are unacceptable. The Indian government and civil society, indeed every Indian, needs to tackle the racist in us. Besides stern punishment to those giving vent to racist prejudice against others, whether foreigner or Indian, the government needs to ensure that the police is educated on racism-related issues. Importantly, school curriculums must include discussions on racism, stereotyping, diversity etc. Children must be taught that India’s strength lies in its respect of diversity. For millennia, India provided a safe home to foreigners, especially those fleeing persecution. It is a pity that we have lost this quality in recent decades.

Africa has been the focus of India’s diplomacy in recent years. Interestingly, Indian investment in the continent is known to be people-centric and aimed at empowering the African masses. This commend-able approach is being negated by racist attacks on our African guests. Diplomacy to woo Africa can work only if we shed our prejudiced mindsets.
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