As a person from the North East of India, bearing Mongoloid stature, feature and colour I cannot help but say that my personal experiences in Delhi, the capital city of India, have witnessed numerous slurs of racist fork. They were not soft ones. I am not alone to be subjected to such indignities.
Everyone from the region has his or her own stories and experiences, which have been rather silently buried. I know such vocal attacks have, on many occasions, resulted in violent anger, arguments and fights between the so-called “mainstream” people and the people from the North East. Mother, they are racist lot. Unfortunately, I have actually accepted the inhumane practice as a part of the culture of the “mainstream” people. A culture cultivated by the “sink of localism and den of ignorance”. But that doesn’t mean I accept racism.
The outrage explosion over the “racist attacks” on one Bollywood actress, Shilpa Shetty by her white housemates on British reality TV show are an exaggerated one, even when racism ought to be condemned everywhere. The drama that has been unfolding for about two weeks made it obvious that Indians are ready to talk about Indians being racially discriminated outside India. But what about the equally serious condemnable racial discrimination within India?
Did we ever care to raise the issue and put a question to ourselves? Are we blind to it because we practise it indignantly? If Shilpa Shetty was called a “Paki” by her white’s housemates, the Indian citizens from the North East states are still called “Chinese”, “Chinky”, “Japanese”, “Koreans” or “Nepalese.” If Shilpa Shetty was poked for her poor chicken cooking style, the North Easterners are poked for their “dirty”, “foul smell”, “stinking”, and “junglee” food habits. There were times when North East students living in the Capital city of India had to actually ask their landlords or hostel warden, “What smell is allowed to cook and what is not?”
Through all these years, it was not an easy ride. I realised that it resulted out of the much-celebrated diversity of India, which is quenched by ignorance and chauvinism. As culture clash, the ride demanded tolerance and understanding, which was not an easy one. I have accepted the discrimination that is, otherwise, getting negatively popular in the ancient city. Day in and day out, friends, acquaintances or people who are new to the city would narrate their experiences, which are more than enough to put the nation to shame. I was lately wishing there was some sort of reactive internal ministry, like the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) that reacted immediately for Shilpa Shetty, to look into the disturbing situation of racial discrimination in India.
I wonder if the media, general public who overflow with sympathy and empathy for Shilpa Shetty, or the authorities in the government are aware about the pubs, restaurants and discotheques in Delhi showing no entry to people from the North East of India? The grim situation does not care even if you have money. They care about your colour. That’s how they made the judgement and decision. You bear the Mongoloid look and the door is closed before you. So don’t be surprised when those bouncers did not let you in. India’s democracy has too big a space that it grows racism too.
When I was first told about these public places and their sick practise in Delhi some four years back, I was taken aback. Shocked actually. But I said to myself who cares when I will never be seeking comfort or chilling out at these places even if I have money for the purpose. On the other hand, my second thought resulted in anger, desperation and helplessness over such harsh inhumane practice. It is still alive and going strong. For me it is not about these places, but the racial discrimination practised in these places, which is getting more popular than before. It affects me as I also bear the same colour, feature and stature, which are used to judge a person. If you don’t fit into their scheme of colour, you cannot be a customer. In the growing urban Indian market the password is defined by the colour of your skin. I thought it would be colourblind. I thought it would be race-blind.
So I asked how they made their options. They told me that they have to find a place that accept and admit them despite the colour of their skin. Even then, how can we enter, eat, sit, and dance away as if we never care? As if it is nothing. Is this a surrender to racial discrimination? When we learn to accept that one cannot enter that place, eat there, dance there, or sit there because the colour of one’s skin is different, we realized that the other Indian is much alive. The others in the village.
The situation is grimmer for the girls and women from the North East. Due to the colour of their skin, they were popularly believed and supposed to be an “easy” and “cheap” sex prey. They were victimized lot. Delhi is a living witness to that. Asked them? Everyone has a story. A story untold. A story filled with shame and anger. They represent the silent untold stories. My cousin’s white husband was shocked and surprised when he found that his wife and her friends, all from the North East of India, were not allowed to enter to eat and dance in one of the city’s public places during one of their visit to Delhi recently. The reason was out of a judgement where the colour of their skin was already used to decide them to be a customer or not. Delhi never seems to care as places like these multiply with inhumane norms and rules defined by race and colour.
I am not talking about stray or isolated incident. This is about everyday life and struggle in Delhi. Shilpa Shetty’s experiences and the feelings and sympathy that we have, as concerned citizens, exported to England should be immediately imported back to Delhi to understand and redress the racial bruises of the other Indians. They are being discriminated more than what Shilpa Shetty could imagine. Worst, they are not paid for it. It is beyond the MEA’s jurisdiction to talk about the racial discrimination that is seriously taking place in India. But on moral and humanitarian ground, it could if it is so concerned about racial discrimination and not just Shilpa Shetty. If not, authorities of the several internal ministries, media, NGO’s and concerned activists should immediately step in to kill the colourful game that has already become shamelessly popular and dirty. The celebration of diversity has no meaning if the nation remains silent to the domestic realities of racial abuse and discrimination. India is no stranger to racism.