Sunday, June 14, 2020

Elephant lives matter more in India!

June 15, 2020, 9:18 AM IST  in The WriteClick | IndiapoliticsWorld | TOI

PC: India Today
America is presently engulfed in nationwide protests, a few months before the presidential election, over the death of a black American in the hands, under the knees to be precise, of white police officials. The instance was not the first of such kinds, though everyone hopes it is the last. But why is Mr. Floyd’s death spawning a movement which now spreads throughout the world that even groups of people more discriminated than the Blacks are shouting ‘Black lives matter’?    There could be various reasons; the impact of social media, political motive, and the hate for Donald Trump, etc. What certainly is certain though is that the blacks have had it enough. 

Racial discrimination exists mostly everywhere. It is all about the intensity. The US has for centuries been a destination for people worldwide to live ‘the American dream’. So when that country has its state machinery discriminating a section of people in full public glare in today’s world of Social media, what is witnessed is even less than the expected scale. All lives should matter, at least in America. 

While it is colours that dominate racism in the West, it is more to do with regionalism and looks in India. At least here in India, the state forces do not kill in public view. In a country where the death of an elephant catches more attention and discussion than the death of a thousand farmers, it is confusing what to expect from the people of the largest democracy.

When one talks about racism in India, a country with diverse people not just in terms of economy but of looks, languages, and religion, the first thing that comes into people’s mind, at least in the minds of Northeasterners, is the discriminations against North East People. In fact, people have upped the ante by now calling the NE people, ‘Corona’- a new term added to the lists of chowmein, momo, and Chinese. A girl from Manipur had been stabbed to death at Gateway of India 15 years ago and a boy, Nido Tania from Arunachal Pradesh was beaten to death in 2015 at Lajpat Nagar, Delhi after he reportedly raised voice against discriminatory remarks thrown at him by a few shopkeepers. Many incidents of abuses against the Northeasterners-  both verbally and physically have been reported in various cities of the country over the years.

The NE people were the first to battle the virus duo of racism and Covid-19. Instances of people being physically assaulted, denied entries in shopping malls, and abused verbally even when identifying themselves as Indians have left a big hole, amidst  the pandemic, in the hearts of NE people residing in cities outside the NE region. Government, in so far as discrimination on the NE people is concerned has done its part by installing dedicated North East helplines in a few select cities to attend the concerns of Northeasterners specifically. However, most people are yet to appreciate the diversity of the Country by acknowledging the existence of an Indian who looks different. It is sad to admit but the Northeasterners and the religious minorities are the blacks of India. It is said that Cricket, Bollywood, and Religion are the ‘Big Three’ that defines India and its people. Not surprisingly, North East India does not feature in all the three. A thousand Bollywood films have only a couple of movies made, related to  North East India, and the region has no national cricket player. As for religion, NE India has 4 of the 7 states with a population of predominant Christian followers. The feeling of alienation thence felt by the people is not without reason. It is worth being sentient that, a strategically important region like NE-India, if its people feel alienated, poses a graver threat than  nationwide protests.

The news of a 14-year-old Christian boy, Mr. Samaru Madkami from Orissa being hacked to death on the 5th of June 2020,  was reported in various media . The local police reportedly have registered cases under IPC 1860 sections 295-A,367,506,34, FIR NO: 0180, dated 05/06/2020, on a complaint filed by Mr. Unga Madkami, the father of the victim. I was glad to read about it. Why? Hear me out; the fact that media has finally turned its pens, if not lens,  to the minorities has brought me a glimpse of hope that, perhaps our boy from Jharkhand could be the Mr. Floyd of the Christians in India. Of course, the incidents, both in America and India are condemnable at the highest level. But their sacrifices, with no justification whatsoever to the perpetrators, could possibly open the general  conscience and thereby save many more lives. They give their today's for the tomorrows of the coloured and minorities

In America, things will see a sea-change. Everyone will think twice before getting their hands on a black person. As in India, the fact that the state is not directly responsible makes the situation a bit more tricky when setting accountability. Had it been the state actors that have taken the lives of Mr. Samaru Madkami, incrimination thereof could have been directed to the Government with all the stops out. But now, it is the public whose mind-set needs to be changed. It is a tough question to ask whose actions are easier corrected; the state or the public. Theoretically, in a democratic country, power lies with people. In that thought, the fight against discrimination in India is against the more powerful block.

In all likeliness, there will be no candlelight march; no trending hashtags, and no mention of it again in the media about the death of the Christian boy in Orissa. This is why I envy the ‘discriminated blacks’ of the US. At least they have the whole country shaking, if not the world. But it is worth remembering that before Mr. Floyd, the black Americans who were killed too had only faint voices of protests like those witnessed now in the death of the Orissa Christian boy. It is clear that oppressions are well collected in memories and when they burst- it is hard to ignore the flames. Graham Staines’ has seen no country-wide protest. This too will not. But the fact that we all look up to America should send a strong message that there will be a time when people say, “enough is enough.”

While the west is worried about racial discrimination, we have religious discrimination, caste discrimination, and discrimination based on looks to deal with. As the world look west and supply consolations to the Americans, albeit the possibility of some people envying the state of people raising their voices against the state, it will not be a tall tale to tell that we are standing on a sleeping volcano; the earlier we change our stance, the better is our chance of avoiding the flame. Of course, right now we have better things to mind in our minds;  Elephant Lives Matter more in India.

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