Racism sans borders
There is no place for mob justice, presumed guilt and a self-delusional discourse
Science has long held that among humans, race has no taxonomic significance. But on the evidence of what went down in south Delhi in the last week of September, all living humans patently do not belong to the same species. What else can explain the sheer brutality of the attack last month (the mobile video clips of the assault were released on Monday) on a Nigerian man accused of theft who was tied to a pole, punched, kicked and beaten with lathis in the Malviya Nagar area, from where such incidents have been reported in the past too? A local resident is reported to have accused the Nigerian of having broken into his house and stolen cash and valuables and that was apparently enough for area residents to mete out mob justice. In fact, one resident has been quoted as saying that “(suspected) burglars need a beating because thefts are on the rise in the locality.” While staying away from generalisations on the racial aspect of both suspected crimes — that of theft and the far more evident assault — which have often been used by self-loathing Indians especially among the chatterati to indulge in breast-beating and issue a dire prognosis on our collective moral health, a few points do need to be made clear.
First, Indians, especially in the north of the country, do have a huge problem with darker-skinned human beings and this bias is accentuated when it comes to people of African origin. That's venal, period. Secondly, the good residents of Malviya Nagar and some of their political leaders who are very vocal in their antipathy towards the so-called “lifestyle” of African students, professionals, business people and, yes, some who may or may not be involved in illegal and/or criminal activity (as would some from any community) continue to line up to rent accommodation to the expatriates. Obviously, the colour of money, unlike the colour of skin, is not a problem. Lastly, the only acceptable course of action when a suspect is apprehended whether “red-handed” or not is to use force if required to restrain him/her till the police arrive and then allow the law to take over. Leadership is not about standing at the head of a mob, or being in denial, but about having the courage to tell it like it is even to one's own constituency. For a comparison, take a dekko at the unqualified apology issued on Tuesday by the manufacturers of Dove soap in the US, a country that has a far worse record of race relations than most, for a three-second advertisement released on Facebook that was considered racist by some. The soap company could easily have explained away the offence-causing advertisement as a creative that missed the mark, which would not have been inaccurate, and left it at that but it went the whole hog. It's these small things that matter in the battle to sensitize our fellow citizens and if there is an accompanying loss of revenue from rentals it may drive the point home more effectively. Additionally, India's image does take a beating with African countries due to such incidents at a time when we are trying to contain Chinese influence on that continent. The Malviya Nagar sort of people-to-people contact is not what was envisaged when the term was coined.
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