Racism, Indian style

From : Srinivas S Bangarbale

1999

Dear Sir/Madam:

As an NRI settled in the United States, I cannot but respectfully disagree with Chetan Dhruve's commentary. Yes, we know that there are laws in most western countries to protect people from discrimination based on nationality. Indeed I cannot recall being a victim of discrimination on that count. But, no country that I know of (other than India) allows a foreign-born naturalized citizen to become its Chief Executive or Head of State. The fact that most of us, in spite of being abroad, constantly think of India and side with our motherland on the most sensitive of issues, should be the thing that works towards precluding a foreign-born naturalized citizen from becoming the Prime Minister of India. We are not talking about a Member of Parliament or a career civil service position - rather it is the most powerful position in South Asia, the Prime Minister of India. It has to be borne in mind that citizenship through naturalization is a privilege, not a right. That being the fact, one does not become a racist by the mere fact of having raised this very relevant question of foreign origin! Indeed, regardless of the outcome, I believe that people should be asking such soul-searching questions - being apathetic is hardly the sign of a healthy democracy!

In any case, spending a whole lot of one's adult life in a certain country does not automatically qualify that someone to be the Prime Minister there. I am afraid even if Sonia Gandhi were to be a born-Indian citizen, she does not qualify to be a candidate for the Prime Minister's job, as do not many born-Indian citizens, including some former holders of that office. Indeed, Indians practice racism. Our racism comes in many forms - of choosing only fair skinned girls in marriage (in spite of our culture celebrating dark-skinned heroes like rAma, krishna and pArvathi); discriminating against a fellow Indian because he/she is not from the same caste; and yes, discriminating because he/she does not hail from the same region of India that one is from. Yes, we practice racism. People with white skin get preferential treatment on India's flagship carrier and the railways and Indians get third-class disdain. If anything, we practice racism with fellow Indians than with people of foreign (especially European) origin.

Sincerely,
Srinivas S Bangarbale
7828 Yankee Harbor Dr.
Montgomery Village MD 20886-5831 USA
Tel: (301) 548-0926

The views of this column are the author's own, and do not necessarily represent the views of NRI Online.

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