Saturday, 6 February 2016

Atithi Devo Bhava? Indian Intolerance is at 100% & Rising…

India has always denied claims of being racist and Indians absolutely hate the guts of those who dare to call us racist. The one argument – that we are a multi-cultural nation – is the defence used to thwart any racism related allegation upon our spotless robe tolerance and brotherhood.

A Tanzanian student was stripped and made to parade around the roads of Bengaluru, the place we proudly call the ‘Silicon Valley’ of India, because a Sudanese man ran over an Indian woman at that spot. She was harassed, beaten; her car set on fire and received no help from the police – all because she was from the same continent as the person who committed a crime.

Political leaders then even had the ever-present audacity to claim this was not a racist attack when African embassies came out in outrage of the horrific incident. Although Sushma Swaraj did condemn the incident, the damage is done and there is no guarantee that it will not happen again. This is not even an isolated incident. Media reports suggest that hate crimes are taking place all over the country.

What is even more appalling and shameful is that the 'Invest Karnataka 2016-Global Investors Meet’ took place in the same city just three days later where N R Narayana Murthy, founder of Infosys, made a statement at that forum which needs mention here because he said, “My request to the state chief minister (Siddaramaiah) and industries minister (R V Deshpande) is to help us make Bengaluru more liveable for all, especially youngsters, by improving its infrastructure and quality of life.”

While the world is moving forward, leaving behind discriminations of caste, creed and colour; our country seems to be regressing into the dark ages of witch hunts, lynching, racial profiling and mob justice. And if this has happened in one of the major cities of the nation, it is shuddering to think of what happens in other areas.

In the post, The Wrong Colour of Skin – I wrote of how hypocritical we Indians are of our skin colour, about how we blame foreigners for racism and how our brand of racism is much, much worse.

Monday, 1 February 2016

Stuck in Smoke: The Fear of Police Brutality

As a journalist, coming home late is so normal that no time is late anymore per se but by normal standards, yes it was. And by late, I mean almost midnight.

This was a good day and since I did come back fast, I hadn’t had anything to eat. So I went to get a vada pav, which in case you’re wondering is a fried potato patty stuffed inside a bun and heated on a pan, sometimes with cheese.

The Incident

I just wanted to get the vada pav and get back home but no, events have to conspire on the one day I get home fast and that’s what happened here.

I got to the shop, ordered my cheese vada pav and then started reading the menu because there really isn’t much you can do while you wait. By the time I read half of it, my order was done and as I reached over the counter to take the parcel, I heard the shutters come down. Turning around, I saw one of the workers signalling all of us customers to be quiet and loudly whisper – POLICE.

I saw the time and sure enough, it was 12:00 am. The police had obviously come to shut down everything and we had been unlucky to be inside the place at that time.

It was then that it began. One of the dozen or so customers asked if the police would beat us if they found us. I thought he must be joking but turning around I saw that he and his friends were earnestly discussing this possibility which amused and worried me at the same time. Then the employees shut the lights off and the murmurs grew louder.

It amused me because I believe that the police could not beat us up for being there but I was apprehensive because I didn’t know for sure what the police would do. ‘Could’ and ‘would’ – the difference between knowing how things ideally work and not knowing how things will actually take place.

Image Courtesy:

After ten minutes or so of this conversation, an employee got an all-clear phone call from the other side of the shutter and he opened it just a little and let us out in pairs. It reminded me of a couple of movies where people are trying to cross international borders.

And I thought to myself,

“Are things really so bad?”

“Why is there fear even on a normal day in a busy part of the city?”

“Are these people right in mistrusting the police?”

“Do we need to fear the very people in charge of protecting us?”

“Is this paranoia or years of ingrained reality?”

And the most important thought,

“Is this the fear of one person creeping into all in a distressing environment or is this a mutual repressed feeling being triggered by a mere mention of atrocity?”

The Implications

The latter thought is scarier than the former and if true, needs to be addressed by the Ahmedabad City Police at the earliest because if the people don’t trust their protectors, who are they going to put their faith into?

The Next Step

I hope this post reaches the police department because I figure they should be concerned even if this is an isolated incident, which isn’t very likely.