Friday, February 5, 2016

[Editorial # 58] A racist turn in Bengaluru : The Hindu

[Following editorial has been published in The Hindu on 5th February 2016. Read through it and try to answer the questions that follow. Please do not copy and paste answers. The objective of this exercise is to get you in the groove of answer-writing. Try to write in your own words. Don't hesitate to write in a bulleted-format, if you are uncomfortable in writing in paragraph form.]

Less than four months after an Australian man was violently harassed for sporting a tattoo of an Indian goddess, Bengaluru is in the news again, for sinking to new lows of bigotry and vigilantism. This time it was a Tanzanian woman at the receiving end of mob fury. It all reportedly began with an accident in which a Sudanese national drove his car over a 35-year-old woman, killing her. A mob quickly gathered, determined to mete out instant justice. When he managed to flee, his car was burnt down. Half an hour later, a Tanzanian student who happened to be passing by with her friends stopped by to inquire what was going on. The mob turned its ire on her and her three friends even though they were in no way connected to the Sudanese man involved in the accident — other than being, in the eyes of the mob, of the same race as the Sudanese, African. She was chased, assaulted, and had her clothes torn by the mob before being rescued. Her car, too, was torched. The incident occurred on Sunday, but the police did not register a complaint until Tuesday. The lackadaisical response of the law and order machinery prompted the Tanzanian High Commission to register a protest with the Indian government. This, in turn, prompted External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to write to Karnataka Chief Minister K. Siddaramaiah. By Thursday, four suspects had been arrested and investigations are currently on.

The entire episode raises a disturbing question: is it any longer possible, or even plausible, to express shock at what has happened? Such acts of violence are not peculiar to Bengaluru alone. Indeed, something like this did happen, not too long ago, in Delhi. Under the controversial guidance of a Law Minister of the State, African women were branded as ‘prostitutes’ and molested in a ‘midnight raid’. The Bengaluru mob, too, seems to have given free rein to racism. The repeated targeting of Africans suggests a case of pathological colourism — discrimination and hostility directed against dark-skinned people. Indians’ cultural preference for fair skin is well known, and amply attested by the vast market for fairness creams. It is quite common to find people remark admiringly on how ‘fair’ a newborn baby is. And matrimonial advertisements are notorious for seeking ‘fair’ brides. However, to reduce the depressing message from this episide to skin colour alone would be to underestimate the discrimination and violence in India against those who are visibly ‘different’. Some years ago, Bengaluru saw an exodus of young people from northeastern India residing in the city after rumours spread of violence targeting them. In the national capital, even as the megalopolis becomes more cosmopolitan, the periodicity of assaults on residents from the northeast is such that there appears to be a pattern. Certainly, both the citizenry and the law and order machinery need to be sensitised to the prejudices. But the task can only be achieved if strong political expression is given to the essential value of diversity and tolerance.


1. What is meant by race? What all races of humans are there in the world in general and India in particular?

2. What are the biological reasons behind racial differences?

3. What is meant by racism? How does it impact human society?

4. What instances of racism do we find in history? How have these been instrumental in changing the course of human history?

5. Does racism exist in India? Illustrate with examples.

6. What are various constitutional and legal provisions against racism in India?

7. Is racism followed in other parts of the world? Give examples.

8. Imagine yourself to be the administrator of a district which frequently witnesses racial discrimination. How would you tackle this issue? Suggest some practical measures.

9. Do you think Indian society, which had been the victim of racism in history itself, reinforces racism by various mechanisms? Explain with a few examples of such reinforcing mechanisms.


  1. 1. Race is primarily a categorization of human race, on the basis of their physical appearances, linguistic basis and on the basis of their multifarious cultural practices. Race is visually categorized according to skin color, eye color of an individual. It’s a line of decent of community’s culture and blood. Different countries have different races, but some countries share same race categorization. All men of whatever race are currently classified by the anthropologist or biologist as belonging to the one species, Homo sapiens. Countries like India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal shares same race and countries like China, Korea, Japan and extreme North-East India partially shares same race as per their physical appearances.
    Existing Human Races on Earth
    Currently on Earth, there are major 3 Races which could be further divided into more than 30 races. CUCASIAN, MONGOLIAN and NEGORITE are the major races in the world.
    Caucasian races are contained of Aryans, Hematite, and Semites.
    Mongolian race is carried of Chinese, Indo-Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Tibetans, Polynesian, Maori, Micronesian, Eskimo, and American Indian.
    Negroid Race is carrying African, Hottentots, Melanesian – Papua, Necrotizes, Australian (indigenous) Aborigine, Dravidian (South Indians) and Sinhalese. Indian is a amalgamation of Aryans and Dravidian and some sort of Sinhalese as well.

  2. 2. Biological explanation of Races deals with the natural, physical divisions among humans that are hereditary reflected in morphology but defined by terms like Black, White, and Asian (or Negroid, Caucasoid, and Mongoloid). Under this view, one’s ancestors and epidermis ineluctably determine membership in a genetically defined racial group. The connection between human physiognomy and racial status is concrete.
    Despite the prevalent belief in biological races, overwhelming evidence proves that race is not biological. Biological races like Negroid and Caucasoid simply do not exist. A newly popular argument among several scholars is that races are wholly illusory, whether as a biological or social concept. Under this thinking, if there is no natural link between faces and races, then no connection exists.

  3. 3. RACISM
    Racism is a foundational ideological phenomena or the basic belief of any Homo sapiens community towards the other Homo sapiens community. Racism is the ideology under which superior and inferior races are defined on the basis of their physical appearances and according to their cultural practices as cultured and barbaric. The feeling of hatred or liking for other community which are determined by prejudiced or pre-conceived notions by hereditary.
    Significant results and impacts of the racism ideology are very brutal and inhuman. Feelings of racism give birth to the beliefs of being superior and inferior. Such man-made feeling and prejudiced notions are root causes of widening the gap between different looking, speaking and practicing community. It creates divide amidst humanity. Humans naturally feel threatened when things we cherish most such as our culture, territory, family, and our identity are in danger of being harmed. Racism is what a human’s natural reaction in order to protect all of this. Anything that is not the same as one group of people is immediately perceived as inferior and prejudice.
    Humans naturally seek to protect their own kind, which means they fear for any loss of what makes them who they are; it can be anything including our jobs, status, territory, possessions, personal significance and even our own identity. Humans fear being replaced by anyone who is seen as more appealing and desirable than what they are. When someone is replaced by a person who is better than what they are this makes them feel unworthy. Fear is one of the biggest contributors of racism especially from loss, which causes a person to see difference between the two people and is seen as threatening of what as what they see as their rights. It’s a fear of collective loss and fear of displacement. What happened after 1972 war between Bangladesh and North Eastern states of India is the best example for the Fear of loss and displacement.
    Slavery in Africa, caste division, societal infrastructure of hierarchy and discrimination in all the economic, political and social aspects are the worth noting impacts of the Racism. In America, slavery was abolished in 1865 with the Thirteenth Amendment but blacks got voting rights in 1962. Scramble of Africa was done to encourage the slavery in European nations. Exploitation of Indians was done on the podium of Racist ideology. It took more than 500 long years for Africans to live with dignity. Asians were regarded as barbaric and inferior (both mentally and physically) until Japanese attacked and defeated westerners at the starting of WW2. Causes for all the Sino-Japanese wars, Russia-Sino war etc. are deeply rooted in the inhuman concept of Racism.

  4. 2. Color complexioned : dark and fair skin color

    Physical appearance : tall, stout, structure of organs like eyes, ears, face etc

    Xenophobia : fear of people who appear different as compared to oneself

  5. 4. Racism is not just whites discriminating against the blacks, to put it bluntly. Racism is the superiority complex about one’s own culture, religion or ethnic roots. This may also result in fanatically attacking other people of different roots on the grounds that they are inferior in some way in the eyes of the racial attacker. Though the whites have long been stereotyped as being the “Racist” folk but that was a thing of the past. This disease has not been cured but has in fact multiplied in its hosts across the globe now. Those whose forefathers once might have felt superior are now themselves victims of the rising instances of racial attacks
    In American history the famous Civil Rights movement is thought of as particular to the 1960s and Martin Luther King, but politicians, black and white, had been arguing for equal rights under the law since at least the founding of the country. But the reality around the country could not be ignored unless out of hatred or impudence, and this is precisely what the majority did until the Civil War compelled a change of government. And though the government changed, and blacks were given the rights to vote and hold office, racial thought would take much longer to right itself. Tied in with more than one of this list’s entries, slavery is the heart of quite a few problems of America’s past. It’s over, but the resentment felt by blacks toward whites still exists. This country was founded by a bunch of white men with European ancestry, who touted the principle of universal equality. But at the same time, they imported slaves from Africa in order to tend their own property, rather than doing so themselves.
    The black Italian minister, Cesile Kyenge had to suffer from racist remarks from fellow politicians, there was even news that some racists had even hung noose all over the place where she was due to arrive at to give a speech. Many Europeans condemned the attacks and called it intolerable. They even signed an anti-racist pact.
    Even the Arab world is not unaffected with the world wide racist tendencies. The Egyptian Nubian has been discriminated against to such an extent that a Lebanese singer actually released a music video with lyrics that label the Egyptian black people as Egyptian monkeys.
    Hindus are a minority in Canada but there were reports of a Hindu temple being ravaged and destroyed two people with baseball bats who entered the Lakshmi Narayan Temple forcibly. They smashed the windows with bats in British Columbia as revealed by the video footage of the same. The incident is being labeled as one of rising “hate crimes” incidents.
    Incidents in Australia where in Indians were attacked, be it daily bread earners or students in universities. Australia was badly black listed by Indian media for being unable to curb these instances when a twenty three year old Indian youth, was intercepted by a gang of racially motivated people who surrounded him and hacked him with racist remarks and slogans after which he was beaten up by them near Melbourne. Indians became further angered when other incidents of attack on Indian origin university students were reported in Australia.

  6. 5. Even after more than six decades of independence of the country, people are still in the clutches of brutal societal regime such as Racism, Cast system, discrimination on various grounds, especially regarding the north –south divide, north-eastern divide.
    India has Been Ranked as One of The Most Racist Countries in the World. Yes! Very certainly, racism exists in India till date. It would not be erroneous to mention that racial discrimination has been a vital cause when we talk about the payment discrimination in working sites, as laborer. Several students from north eastern seven sister regions face discrimination in central region of the country. Last year, there were reports when conflicts happened in Delhi University and FIR registration was refused by the police station for the student. The biggest gap within Indian society is between southern states and northern region. There is a structured mindset of northern people towards southern counterparts for their physical appearances, color, culture, behavior etc. There is always a clash while admissions of northern students in southern universities, and equally visa-versa.
    Since people from north eastern region are confined to their protective zone, and never visit to mainland India, faces humongous problems language vise, and for the employment in private companies. There is also racial discrimination in sports, within several parts of the country. Young player from south and north eastern region faces pure discrimination in sports team selection at every level. Since 80% of people in India speak Hindi, it acts as a tool for people from central region to use against other.
    Racism as an act of retaliation - The common notion of beauty is attached to fair and light skin, which is evident in the search for brides or grooms who are fair skinned. The persecution of Africans and black skinned people from Uganda and Nigeria in the past can be attributed to the deep seated contempt towards dark skin. Racism due to a lack of imbibing virtues of tolerance - Children, and even adults, isn’t being taught tolerance or the beauty of harmonious living. Since this is left as a grey area, people live on with persisting mindsets. They are given no stimulus to change the way they think and the importance of international help and support doesn’t trickle down to the masses. Furthermore, the government hasn’t put in place strong deterrence in instances of violence towards a particular community or racial abuse against foreigners who come to the country. A clear no tolerance policy towards racial intolerance must be put forth by the government and the message should be loud and clear.

  7. Race is a social construct which is used to indicate differences amongst large groups of people on the basis of physiology/ physical traits. Initially it was a classification based on different linguistic groups, but post the 17th century, phenotypes became the basis for classifying people into races. Race and race studies were also a colonial construct aimed at subjugating the colonized peoples and establishing the supremacy of the colonizers. In 1775, Johann Friedrich Blumenbach ( a German physician and anthropologist), proposed a five fold classification of people into : Caucasoid , Mongoloid, Negroid, American Indian and Malayan. Through the years alternative classifications have also been proposed after extensive studies on amalgamation and differentiation. For example the Australoid and Australo-Asian races have also been proposed. The Caucusoid race is thought to consist of the people indigenous to Europe, Western Asia and the greater part of America, usually with fairer skin, light hair and high noses etc.. The colonial powers often portrayed the Caucasian race as intellectually superior to all other races, by virtue of which they were able to dominate over other races. The Negroid race consists of the indigenous inhabitants of the African continent characterized by dark skin, curly hair, flat and broad nose, low foreheads etc.. The Mongoloid Race consisted mainly of the inhabitants of South and East Asia , comprising China, Indo-China, Malaya, Indonesia, etc.. and are characterized as small , slender, yellowish skin etc... By the nineteenth century another racial classification, by the name of Australoids were propounded, who were characterized as having wavy hair and dark skin. These Australoids are though to be spread over the Indian peninsula, Australia, Melanasia, Malaya, Philippines, Singapore etc.. The Australoids are thought to have evolved from the Proto-Australoids who inhabited Africa and probably began to reside in India after the continental shift that resulted in the creation of the Indian peninsula.

  8. 2. Although for a long time race was considered to be a mere social construct and a method of subordination or discrimination, the overt physical differences between different groups of people required scientific substantiation. There are also biological reasons for the prevalence of different races in the world. All human beings belong to the same species i.e. Homo sapien sapiens and share a common descent but began to diverge after a certain point in time. However the divergence has not been so much as to prevent co-breeding between the human species. i.e. they retain similar fundamental characteristics but display variations in terms of physiognomy. These biological differences could be due to both hereditary factors as well as the effect of natural and social environments. Genetic diversity is an axiom in the natural world and the existence of a pure race defined as genetically homogenous is highly doubtful. As a result of inter-breeding between different groups and the consequent gene flow, there are groups with varied physiognomic features.

  9. There are several provisions in the Constitution of India that lay down regulations against race-based discrimination. For example Article 15 of the Constitution states that no individual will be discriminated against on the basis of language, race, caste, religion etc..

  10. 6. There are three major anti-discrimination acts/laws under the Indian constitution. They are as follows;

    - Caste Disabilities Removal Act, 1850: Also known as the Freedom of Religion Act,emphasizes on the rights of every individual in performing their religion or caste.

    - Hindu Succession Act, 1956 : Enacted by the Parliament,is applicable only to Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists. This act provides a uniform system of inheritance and applies to persons governed by Mitaksara and Dayabhaga schools. (Later amended in 2005)

    - Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe( Prevention of atrocities),Act 1989: This act prevent atrocities against STs and SCs in the form of untouchability, or any other cruel and inhumane acts.

  11. The various instances of racism in the history is as follows:
    1.The beginning of slave trade from Africa to america and Britain in the 16th century.
    2.The Nazi Holocaust.
    3.Apartheid practice in Australia against the indigenous Aboriginal people.
    4.Apartheid practice in South Africa.

  12. Racism exists in India.
    people in India have liking towards fair skin which results in consumption of several fairness creams.
    Most of the actors in Bollywood have fair skin which reflects that it becomes a criteria to have fair skin to be a Bollywood actor.
    The existence of various legislation and provision in the constitution itself suggests that there are practices of racism in India had there been no practice there would not have been any law.
    Attack on people from bihar as an anti-migration policy.
    Attack on people from North-east India.(one was killed in Delhi in 2014 and three of them were assaulted in bengaluru for not speaking Kannada).
    Similar thing is practiced by the northeast Indians against the people from other part of India.

  13. Article 15 of the Constitution of India provides for prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth. Further Article 17 provides for abolition of Untouchability.

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