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See gora, will salaam

It's hardly news that a lot of White people look on other ethnic groups with suspicion and derision, writes Samrat.

india Updated: Aug 30, 2006 02:35 IST
Samrat

It's hardly news that a lot of White people look on other ethnic groups with suspicion and derision. Those prejudices, nurtured over hundreds of years, can't disappear in 60 years. If it were so easy to get rid of ingrained prejudices, today's India wouldn't have caste.

Racism, like casteism, continues to exist. It's perhaps less blatant than it used to be. No one throws Black and Brown people out of train compartments any more. But it's still there. To understand how true this is, look at the only honest means of communication in these politically correct times: jokes.

The only 'terrorist' jokes on the web are about Osama bin Laden, the Taliban and George W Bush. If you're Dean Jones, you might find all of them hilarious. If you're Hashim Amla, you might not laugh as much. Amla, after all, has just been called a terrorist by Jones, because he is a Muslim and sports a beard. The average firang seems to associate Brown skin, beards and turbans with Osama, which is why Sikhs were also attacked in the US in the aftermath of 9/11.

Of course, Sikhs have been attacked here in Delhi as well. And Muslims were targets in Gujarat. After the rise of global terrorism, suspicion towards Muslims is on the rise in India as well. Since there is no clear difference in skin colour between a Hindu Indian and a Muslim Indian, the issue here is 'communalism' rather than 'racism'.

This is not to say we do not practise racism as well. Discrimination on the basis of appearance and skin colour in India perhaps exceeds that in Western Europe. Black and Mongoloid populations, including those from India - like the Siddhis of Gujarat and the peoples of the North-east - have to deal with discrimination everywhere in 'mainland' India. They are called 'kalu' and 'chinky' by millions of clods in this country. The same clods are immediately respectful if they see a White man or woman. Everyone speaks in a different tone to the White person - not the brusque, suspicious one they use for all but the rich among their countrymen. The rich inhabit a protected world of their own where geography hardly matters. The Raj may have ended, but then, it may not have either.

The generation before us was truly bilingual, but increasingly, we are becoming monolingual. If you live in a posh colony in India, just walk up to children in the park and listen to the language of their play. It's probably English. Their cultural references come from the West. They are more confident of being Indian than the previous generation - the country is doing better - but their touch with the realities of this country is tenuous at best.

These 'coconuts' (brown outside and white inside) are most amazed when they are subjected to racism in the West. After all, they are quite Western themselves. But the fact of the matter is that they are nowhere people.

One bomb plot involving people with skin like theirs is all it takes to prove this to them.