In recent times, sections of the public in our metros have shown themselves up for what they are — bigoted, prejudiced, small minded and insular cowards. The recent attack on a Manipuri man in Bangalore by a mob comes after a series of such atrocities on people from the Northeast and Africa, to mention just a few. We wonder how many of the bullies who beat up the hapless man for not speaking in Kannada could speak any northeastern language if they found themselves in any of those states. And why indeed should they? It is not necessary to speak any particular language to prove your nationalistic credentials. The attack on Africans stems from our ingrained prejudice against dark people, even if they are Indians.
India prides itself on its education system and so should be looking to become an attractive education destination for students from developing countries. But for this they need to assured of their safety. If they cannot step out in public without some lumpen trying to bash them up or make them speak a language to which they are not accustomed or they find that they are not given rental accommodation, then they will steer clear of India. In Delhi, we saw the ghastly sight of an AAP minister raiding the home of some African students, secure in the erroneous belief that some of the women were prostitutes.
If nothing else, in enlightened self-interest, the government should come down heavily on such offenders. Foreign students in the education sector could yield huge revenues as is the case in the US and Britain. Many students from developing countries prefer India because it offers quality and the cost of education is affordable. But, they are not likely to come if they are treated with such contempt and on occasion have to face violence. If India is trying to project itself as a modern inclusive nation, then this kind of racism goes against the grain. While we feel free to attack foreign nationals, even our own people who look different, we are touchy about any form of prejudice against our citizens in foreign countries.
At a time when we are inviting people to visit India as tourists, entrepreneurs, students and professionals, the least we can do is to treat people both within and from outside with respect and dignity and keep our biases to ourselves.