Prejudices take different hues – caste, complexion, language, region and religion.
Students from Africa coming to India for education may have left some wondering what draws them to the country. Wouldn’t they be better off going to, say, Russia or China where education is cheaper and better – factors which are making Indian students themselves go there?
But this is not a new phenomenon. During 1978-83, when I was at the Madras Christian College (MCC), the only foreign students there were some from Africa – barring those from Sri Lanka who were of Indian origin.
The students from Africa were a hit with some of the Indian female students there. Skin colour was hardly an issue.
All that mattered was they were foreigners. That was an opportunity for them to demonstrate how friendly and welcoming they were!
The Africa of today is also different, with Islam having made deep inroads into the continent.
Friend (or Fiend) of Africa: Back in the 80s (and even earlier) India was a great friend of all of Africa, fighting apartheid with all its might, harking back to the days when Mahatma Gandhi took up their cause and strongly resisted discrimination. That may have been a factor influencing African students to come to India for studies.
That was also a period when Indians did not have much exposure to white foreigners or Caucasians.
Now, though, the country is witness to foreigners from Europe and North America work in India – and Indians themselves travel to the West, many taking up citizenship there.
Dark Themselves: Indians being pathologically racist and skin conscious, despite most of them being dark complexioned themselves, they are now open about their prejudices.
This is reflected in the attacks on African students in the country, more recently in Bangalore. The city has also seen attacks in the recent past against people from the North-East of India.
These have largely been seen as the result of perceived threats to local cultures.
Intelligentsia Driving Insularity and Intolerance, Frightening Part: Prejudices take different hues – caste, complexion, language, region and religion. These are getting more pronounced now than ever before because of the BJP’s divisive, insular politics that have found acceptance among the country’s elite and the intelligentsia.
That’s the frightening part – communalism in the past had been led by the illiterate prone to indoctrination. With the Indian intelligentsia now leading the fight for majoritarianism in the garb of nationalism, spawning a culture of intolerance, the future of the country in an increasingly open and interdependent world is at stake.
Generally, North Indians are the biggest culprits because that is a region blessed with more fair-complexioned people than those in the South.
Bollywood Beauties: Beauties from the South have always dominated Bollywood – from Hemamalini and Sridevi to Aishwarya Rai and Deepika Padukhone. But they are exceptions as cinema picks only the best-looking girls. I am personally happy it remains that way as cinema is a visual medium and, therefore, looking good on screen is important.
The South of India, Kollywood and Tollywood, is happy with ugly-looking heroes, because audiences like to relate to them, but ensures only the bold and beautiful among women make it big in cinema.
I consider Bangalore as the best Indian city to live in. But I cannot be blind to the fact that it was one of the first cities in India to launch a “sons-of-the-soil” policy decades ago – a policy that Maharashtra and many States in the North try to follow.
What is clear to me from the recent attacks and the reactions from political leaders is that neither the Congress nor the BJP is fit to run the country. Both parties only indulge in petty, political rhetoric and do what suits their own selfish interests, even if that meant perpetuation of the woes facing India.
G Joslin Vethakumar