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Discrimination Runs Deep In India And It's Time We Accepted It

15/06/2016 8:42 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:27 AM IST
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Indian girl at Village school trip near Ahmedabad

It was accepting that enslaving another human being is callous that led to the abolishment of the Atlantic slave trade. But it took nearly four centuries to get there. It was accepting that denying women the right to vote was bigotry that led to universal female suffrage. This time, it took a century of struggle. It was accepting that Sati, where recently widowed women were forced to kill themselves on their husband's funeral pyre, was cruel and gratuitous, that led it to be outlawed; but only as late as in 1929. Throughout the recent and distant past, it has taken the extremely challenging but powerful act of acceptance for wrongs to be recognized and for steps to be initiated towards their correction. But it is always a long journey, where history is a continuous argument.

Modern India needs to concede and unflinchingly admit that racism and discrimination are in fact a public establishment. And with its great economic motivations and campaigns in the rest of the world, India cannot simply reschedule change for the next century, nor can it afford to endlessly debate its history to uncover what is and isn't certified by the Vedas. The foremost stride towards change is India's acceptance of the frightful nature of its inadequacies.

If constantly denying to the world that nothing is wrong would actually set things right, then Indian politicians are doing a fabulous job.

India has to accept that it is capable of cruelty towards its own people, when Dalits are refused access to water, such as in Kadoli village, Karnataka. It has to accept that it openly degrades humanity when it expects a certain community of Dalits to only work as manual scavengers, tasked with physically removing human waste from dry latrines. It has to accept that it murders its female children, ending the lives of nearly 3 million girls in a decade, even as it worships and desires Bollywood actresses. It has to accept that there is secret prejudice and loathing beneath the hypocritical cloak of liberalism when it comes up with excuses for not renting homes to Muslims, and yet hoists Muslim film actors to divine heights. It has to accept that when it abuses foreigners, and asks them to go home it mistakes nationality for nationalism. Why, the very Idea of India and its hard-gained freedom is under threat of being stolen when it supports the existence of thieves who rob from their own.

Quoting Ambedkar:

"What are we having this liberty for? We are having this liberty in order to reform our social system, which is full of inequality, discrimination and other things, which conflict with our fundamental rights. "

[W]e accept, ignore or, worse, deny and therefore perpetuate the actuality of racism and discrimination, with the justification that it exists everywhere.

If constantly denying to the world that nothing is wrong would actually set things right, then Indian politicians are doing a fabulous job. A report on caste-based discrimination by the United Nations Human Right Council's Special Rapporteur for minority issues was dismissed by the Indian government, which even raised questions about the quality of work in the UN body. India's permanent representative to the UN in Geneva, Ajit Kumar, said that the report was a breach of the Special Rapporteur's mandate. Even after several unconcealed racial attacks on Africans in India, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, perhaps with the rationale of protecting her household and therefore herself from shame, chose to declare that Indians could never have a racist mindset. But how long will she pretend, when her compatriots brandish their hate and flash their blades out in the open?

It is astonishing how long we take to comprehend that some of our behaviours defy what it means to be human. We may be intrinsically aware of how wrong this is, but we accept, ignore or, worse, deny and therefore perpetuate the actuality of racism and discrimination, with the justification that it exists everywhere. When overwhelmed by the intensity of it, we may take a step back, but we still safeguard ourselves by saying that it survives in varying degrees outside of India, so we are not the only ones.

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