Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Say no to discrimination in India too

By Paritosh Chakma

We Indians and our government are red in anger and frustration as the Australian government refuses to acknowledge the racist attacks against Indian students in Australia. The attacks are unrelenting even as the Australian Prime Minister has promised to take prompt actions to ensure security of the foreign students. The Australian Police revealed that there have been at least 1,447 attacks against Indians in Australia in 2008-2009.

That the Indian students, and for that matter all foreigners staying in Australia with valid papers, must be given protection of the law and treated equally without any discrimination cannot be debated.

But there is a twist to the tale. Following India’s claims of racist attacks on its citizens in Australia, an high ranking official of Russia too has suggested that Russian citizens were as vulnerable in Goa (India) as Indians are in Australia. What the Russian official meant perhaps was that India was no different in terms of racist treatment towards foreigners.

Like Australia, India too never will accept accusations of racism. After all, “racism” is a forbidden word and ironically, “caste system” is India’s contribution to the lexicon of racism.

What is India’s and Indians’ take on racism in India? The debate on whether racism also exists in Indian soil or not has emerged now and then, the latest public debate I can remember being the one after alleged racial abuse of Bollywood actor Shilpa Shetty by co-participant of TV reality show Big Brother, Jade Goody who has now died of cancer.

Racism is very much part of India’s social veins. Some acts are visible while some are not; they are too subtle to be visible. Nonetheless they exist.

Racism in India is manifested in the matrimonial columns where the preferences for bribes or bridegrooms of particular castes are openly flashed in the newspapers; when dalits are punished for drawing water from the village well also used by socalled Brahmins; when fair-skin is the agenda in the TV commercial advertisements; when non-tribal teachers think teaching tribal boys and girls is like teaching to donkeys; and when people from the North-East are called 'chinky' or ‘Bahadur’ in Delhi and other metros.

India may be trying to send a positive signal by electing a dalit woman, Meira Kumar, as India’s first woman Lok Sabha Speaker, but the ground realities shall not change much in the years to come. Meira Kumar may be a symbol of women empowerment but it is unlikely that the atrocities against Dalits and women would change unless racism is accepted and attempts made to eradicate from our societies.

Every people of North East has surely encountered racist treatment in other parts of mainland India. However, racial discrimination also thrives within the North East itself.

Outsiders (meaning of course long-nose plains people) are called “vais” in Mizoram. “Vai” is a Mizo word and the term is used in contempt towards the people who look “different” from “us” in Mizoram. The people of Mizoram may contest my claim but I have seen how the socalled “vais” from Silchar and elsewhere are asked to take seat in the backside of the MST bus by the Mizos or for that matter even the Chakmas in Chakma dominated areas.

Prior to award of Bodo Territorial District Council in Assam, a Bodo friend of mine had told me how the Assamese majority discriminated against the Bodo tribals. Even the Mizos of Mizoram had similar grudge against the state of Assam prior to formation of Mizoram.

Now Chakmas allege discrimination of various kinds by the Mizoram government. For example see, “Chakmas face discrimination in Mizoram”, Merinews.com at http://www.merinews.com/catFull.jsp?articleID=15771276

In my previous post available at http://paritosh-chakma.blogspot.com/2009/05/outright-discrimination-against-chakmas.html , I have mentioned about one incident in which my friend (a Chakma) was asked by the Chairperson of the Interview Board to sing a Mizo song and harassed him on the ground that he did not speak Mizo during an interview for selection of Hindi teachers in Mizoram. I think this is purely racial discrimination. The European Commission's anti-discrimination website gives the following example of a more subtle form of discrimination: "An example of indirect discrimination is requiring all people who apply for a certain job to sit a test in a particular language, even though that language is not necessary for the job. The test might exclude more people who have a different mother tongue." http://www.stop-discrimination.info/46.0.html

Certainly, the requirement to speak and sing Mizo songs by non-Mizo candidates in an interview for the job of Hindi teacher in Mizoram ("even though that language, i.e. Mizo, is not necessary for the job, i.e. Hindi language teacher) is an act of racial discrimination.

Chakmas also face racial discrimination in Arunachal Pradesh. So says the Election Commission of India. Over 14,000 eligible Chakma and Hajong voters in Arunachal Pradesh continued to be denied enrollment in the electoral rolls. On 23 March 2005, the Election Commission of India passed specific guidelines (No 23/ARUN/2004-PLN-II of 23 March 2005) for enrollment of the eligible Chakma and Hajong voters during Intensive Revision. Instead of complying with those guidelines, the Electoral Registration Officers and Assistant Electoral Registration Officers and other electoral officers who are also employees of the State Government summarily rejected the applications of the Chakma and Hajong citizens for inclusion of their names. With regard to the exclusion of the Chakma and Hajong eligible voters from electoral rolls in Arunachal Pradesh, the Election Commission of India in its order No. 23/ARUN/2003 of 3 March 2004 held that they “have not been included in the electoral rolls mainly for the reason that they belong to the Chakma tribe/race (emphasis mine)”.

These are not my personal allegations. This is the finding of the Election Commission of India.

10 comments:

Zolengthe said...

Every Media in India wants the Australian Government to accept what is happening in their country as racism. Will they accept or not is unpredictable.

As the happening in Australia is unacceptable to every citizen of the world, it is also worth considering what is and was happening in our own country. This article reveals our true color of what we Indians are. Let us look at ourselves and try what we can do in our own country.

Every day we used to read a foreigner is being mis-treated or this and that.

Let there be peace on earth and respects to one and all, whatever they or we may be.

Jimmy L. S said...

Hello,

We have posted some excerpts of your post at lawrkhawm.com. Hope you don't mind.

Best,
Jimmy

H.Vangchhia said...

My name is Henry Vangchhia. I use to live in Chawngte "C" in the 80's. I have many Chakma friends and know a lot of them. I don't know why and how you came up with discrimination... when everybody knows so well there is nothing as such.

What the people of Mizoram does not like and hate is you people (The Chakmas) harboring Illegal Chakmas from Bangladesh... your people have tried to deny this always, but we all know the fact.

EPISTEMOLOGY said...

Brilliant! A great read.

What do you mean when you say "RACISM" especially in the context of North East India. Do we all have the same understanding of the concept of "racism" or "ethnic". Look, I’m not trying to claim any special political insight here. I think your argument about racism is flawed. Here, I believe you are confusing two separate issues- ethnicity and racism. Perhaps because you are too biased. (no offence o.k) *chuckle*

Why does the news media pretend that only Mizo can be racist but not the Chakma too? If so, you are already agreeing that racism aren't always the same as ethnicity, (NOT to be confused with the problems of "ethnicity" amongst ethnic minorities of North East India). I'm not saying don't compare them, just don't mistake the two as replacements for each other.

You seemed to require rather more advanced academic concepts than your "own" thought. o.k i like your outfit in this article. but i don't really like your boots.

Paritosh Chakma said...

@ Epistemology:
Article 1 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) of the United Nations defines the term "racial discrimination" as “any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life”. The ICERD came into force from 4 January 1969 and India ratified it on 3 Dec 1968.

Ratification means India is legally binding to the provisions of the ICERD. But the problem with India is it has reservation to Article 1. India is not ready to accept there is any racial discrimination in the country although India recognizes “diverse origin” of its peoples and India’s “ethnic, religious, linguistic and economic diversity”. But clearly, “ethnic origin” as defined in Article 1 of ICERD is one of the grounds of racial discrimination in India.

Hence, sorry, I do not buy your argument that I am confused between the concepts of "racism" and "ethnic". There is no confusion, my friend. Just read the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) of the United Nations again.

It also categorically states that “any doctrine of superiority based on racial differentiation is scientifically false, morally condemnable, socially unjust and dangerous, and that there is no justification for racial discrimination, in theory or in practice, anywhere”.

Paritosh Chakma said...

@H.Vangchhia: For reply please see,
http://paritosh-chakma.blogspot.com/2009/06/reply-to-henry-vangchhia.html

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hiramonichakma said...

there is a descrimination and i dont know whether this descrimination called to be RACISM or not? what I find, there is vast descrimination.for instance, the Chakmas areas could be accessed only by foot, no proper health sanitation, no Hospitals, no good school, no transport system and what i hate most is that in my village, there is a frequent Power cut -off. It is also a big funny to say that the POWER comes only during night time, where all the people almost die in sleep and in the morning or working hours, the power vanished like thunderstorms.

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H.Vangchhia said...

A population that grows by around 400% eh lol, even rats cannot do that :D i guess you surpass rat's population eh NOI