Monday, May 30, 2016

Shoaib Daniyal - VK Singh’s casual dismissal of attacks on Africans shows how racist we really are

NB: The Modi government and its ministers are solely concerned about their 'image' (incidentally, image means 'front', 'facade', 'mask', 'representation', or 'guise', in brief, something other than reality). For the MoS External Affairs to dismiss the murder of a human being as 'a minor scuffle', and then to attack the media for reporting a tragedy and a crime, is shameful. He and his cabinet colleagues seem to be less bothered about racism in our country, and more about their government's 'image'. The incidents of racism are disgraceful and inhuman, and the statement of this minister are obnoxious and uncalled for. Not just African visitors to India, but all self-respecting citizens are owed an apology from the MEA. But I wont be surprised if the minister concerned will now damn us all for being anti-national. DS

Last Friday, Congolese national Masunda Kitada Oliver was beaten to death by a group of Indian men after an argument in Delhi. A week after Oliver’s death, seven African nationals were attacked in three separate incidents in the city. So severe were the attacks that they caused a diplomatic crisis: African envoys threatened to boycott the Africa Day celebrations of the Indian government last week. 

But they eventually attended the function, after India assured them on the safety of their citizens. Unfortunately, it seems India’s assurances weren’t all that sincere. No less a person than the Minister of State of External Affairs, VK Singh, has casually dismissed the attacks on Africans as a “minor scuffle” and ironically blamed the media for reporting on the issue. “Had detailed discussion with Delhi Police and found that media blowing up minor scuffle as attack on African nationals in Rajpur Khud,” said Singh. “Why is media doing this? As responsible citizens let us question them and their motives."

So in a tragedy in which a man has been beaten to death, a Union minister wants to question not the killers but the media. In some ways, we must be thankful for Singh's frankness: he has exposed the terrible bigotry towards race that is commonplace in India. Only in Friday, Singh's colleague, the Union Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma on Friday said the killing of the Congolese man was unfortunate, but "even Africa is not safe". Maintaining the government's line that incidents like this are no good for India's image, Sharma added, "India is a large country and such incidents will give a bad name to India."

Days earlier, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had expressed her regret for the incident, not because murder is unacceptable but because it embarrassed India. In 2013, Nigerians suffered racist attacks across Goa, even as state Minister Dayanand Mandrekar called residents of that country a cancer. So severe was that episode that Nigerian diplomats warned of a backlash back in Nigeria against Indians working in their country. In 2014, a mob assaulted two Africans at a Metro station in Delhi. The incident, captured on camera, depicted a frightening picture of racism, as the mob tried to get at the two men cowering, ironically, inside a police booth. Earlier in Delhi, a state minister himself led vigilante justice against the city’s African residents.

People who have tried to bring attention to India’s frightening culture of majoritarian intolerance over the past two year have been shouted down, vilified and mocked. But pushing problems under the carpet usually makes things worse. India has multiple faultlines of bigotry already. To add race to that is an alarming prospect. The attacks on Africans in India have exposed another ugly face of the caste system writes Ranjit Hoskote. In fact, its so bad that Indians think Africans are "frauds and prostitutes" ‒ so why do they still come to India to study? And a photographer is training his lens on the racism suffered by Africans in India.