Cant fight racism by soft power alone

At a discussion on Doordarshan in the studio at Mandi House in New Delhi on Friday, several students and professionals from the Northeast spoke with anger and sadness about the discrimination they face on a daily level.

Words which are barred by court edicts such as “Chinky” still remain in common use, filling them with anger, but also a sense of despair.

That they continue to work, study and live in metros like Delhi redounds to their credit and to the city’s shame. This issue is not unique to the region or its people; they live in a country and societies steeped in prejudice, where Dalits, women, religious minorities and tribals are constant targets of violence, abuse and harm; this is happening as communities and individuals rise against the repressive behaviour that has characterised social conduct for centuries.

This is the broader narrative in which the sporadic violence and daily abuse against so many of those from the Northeast takes place. What is important to recognise is that so many of them are speaking out courageously, mobilising and standing for their rights. Yet, few turn to the state for succour or protection. A survey conducted recently by my Centre on challenges faced by women from the region in Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Calcutta says that few of the women who faced molestation, harassment, humiliation or intimidation of any kind wanted to go to the police for help. Many said they did not think it would be of any use while others said they didn’t want to be further humiliated.

This stinging perception of law enforcers underlines a basic principle: that police forces in metropolitan cities must be more representative of demography and sensitive to concerns of different ethnic, religious and language groups, not the “local” majority. Thus, while behavioural change is crucial, it will take time. So does changing laws. But, recruitment rules can be changed, as can retraining police.

One way of dealing with ignorance on an issue like this is to spread knowledge, especially through curricula in schools, colleges and universities. The school and university networks need to do this rigourously. Too many committees have written on these issues; very little has been implemented.

This is not going to be an easy task. Take the case of the United States: there was a time there when the pejorative “ni**er” word was used extensively when referring to Afro-Americans. Anyone who uses it these days there runs the risk of being hustled away by police and a jail term for racial abuse. It took decades for this to happen, to upturn people’s views, to end segregation in the “land of the free and the brave”. It took courageous men and women to do that, black and white, who braved police batons and dogs — leaders like Martin Luther King, who held no office as he pursued his dream of freedom and equality, and fell to an assassin’s bullet. Presidents and politicians supported him as did cultural icons like Pete Seeger. Laws were necessary to end discrimination, but this couldn’t happen in isolation without a robust human rights movement, the role of media and educators.

For times, tides and attitudes to change, the democratic deficit can be bridged with a combination of the power of justice and the widest dissemination of cultural, historic and social knowledge. There must be the sure understanding that the use of the word “Chinky” can mean jail. Use the Prevention of Atrocities against Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Act. We shall overcome, but not by soft power alone: meet the sting of discrimination with the full force of the law.

Sanjoy Hazarika is Director of the Centre for North East Studies and Policy Research, Jamia Millia Islamia, and author, columnist and documentary film maker. Views espressed are personal.

Source: Deccan Chronicle, Hyderabad 11/02/2014

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments not related to the topic will be removed immediately.

Recent Posts

Popular Posts



Thangkhal Bible in Mobile

Mobile phone a Thangkhal NT Bible koih ding dan

Read Thangkhal NT Bible




TBCWD TOUR 24-Sept-2022
Kulhvum Prayer

Blog Archive