Racism In India: An Issue We Must Discuss

Unity in diversity is the core value of Indians, People from different religions and regions respect each others. But the World Values Survey in 2013 and 2016 found that 25.6% of indian people would not prefer to have neighbors of a different race.

Is Racism a real problem in India, the most diverse country in the world? 

Racism has an extended history all over the world, and it is also responsible for the most terrorizing phenomena, like the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade in colonial times and later the American Civil War.

The United Nations has declared 21 March as the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination to commemorate the Sharpeville massacre of 1960.

For the year 2021, the theme was “Youth standing up against racism,” and the trending hashtag “#FightRacism” engaged the public, with the aim to foster a global culture of tolerance, equality, and anti-discrimination and called on every one of us to stand up against racial intolerant attitudes and prejudice.

Last year in 2020, Young people massively showed their support in Black Lives Matter marches, which drew the attention of world leaders and millions of demonstrators worldwide.

Racial discrimination was faced in various parts of the world and was not only limited to people from Africa.


However, Asians and South Asians also had an unpleasant history. In the last decade, racism received a resurrection due to some popular leaders like Donald Trump and Victor Orban who ran racist campaigns.

Though Indians historically have victimized themselves of racism as owing the colonial past, we still do suffer from racism. As a social issue, racism had limited visibility in the Indian public domain. But, it is still a general and deep-rooted problem, especially in the Hindi province. We have seen racism for ages do not even realize it on a daily basis.

However, in India, racism, colorism, and casteism do not completely but mutually overlap in general. The independence of India in 1947 facilitated a new constitution that outlawed caste-based discrimination, but it is still widespread in parts of India.

Human Rights Watch (World Report 2019) recognized that previously, Dalits were acknowledged as “untouchables and continued to be discriminated in the education field and jobs.”

In the recent pandemic situation of COVID-19, with the virus spreading rapidly across the world, the cases of anti-Asian racism have been spike too, specifically anti-Chinese racism; they risk facing racial and ethnic discrimination and being labeled as “Chinese.” 

North East Indians have been discriminated against with racial insults and stereotypes that question their Indianness. This is not a new problem, however. Several incidents have taken place in Delhi and other metro cities over the last decade, against people from North East India and from Africa.

Stereotyping of North-eastern Indians is so common. If a young man from North-east India has tattoos and a certain hairstyle, then they assume him to be an alcoholic or a drug addict, and if a woman from the North-east is wearing a certain dress, she is automatically considered cheap, which provokes unwanted incidents.

There are shameful criminal cases that have been notified in the last few years; nearly 10 to 15 women are found dead in their rented rooms every year in Delhi (NCR), Northeastern men and women are routinely attacked.

On 29 January 2014, the son of a Congress MLA, Nido Tania, 19, a first-year BA student, was beaten to death by shopkeepers in Delhi’s Lajpat Nagar.

09 February – Two Manipuri men were being beaten with sticks by a group of youths who called them “chinky” and “Nepali.”.
21 July – Akha Saloni (29) was beaten to death by a group of drunk men during a traffic dispute.
27 April 2016 – An auto-rickshaw driver was arrested by Bengaluru police for racially insulting and physically threatening a young 18-year-old woman from Mizoram. Her ordeal on Facebook went viral.
16 March 2017 – Higio Gungtey (20), a student from Arunachal Pradesh who was staying in Bengaluru, was beaten by his landlord and forced to lick his shoes.

26 March 2020 – A man was arrested for calling a Manipuri woman ‘Corona’ and spitting on her face.

Racial discrimination can also be state-based, as seen in the 2008 attacks on migrants of Uttar Pradesh and Bihari in Maharashtra; same year,the All-India Railway Recruitment Board examination attacks also took place. In 2018, there were attacks on Hindi-speaking migrants in Gujarat.

We have also noticed the rise of religion-based discrimination cases over the past few years. As we heard Sardar Ji jokes from our childhood to new trends on social media by mocking a Muslim person as MULLA or KATUA words.

Apart from these discrimination incidents that happened with ordinary people and students, our celebrities and sports persons have also faced the same racial inequality. India’s attitude towards fairness is a primeval concept. Fairness is revered and considered a sign of beauty and status.

Vijay Mishra, a Professor of English Literature and the author of “Bollywood Cinema: Temples of Desire,” said, “Indian cinema generally, had two remarkable antecedents: religious iconography and Parsi theater and “for both, ‘whiteness’ was essential.”

Ankita Konwar (wife of Milind Soman) shared her story through Facebook; she said that mostly every northeastern have suffered from racism, at least in its milder forms. They have been called Nepali, chowmein, chinky, momo, and more.

Nandita Das had a successful career in commercial cinema. The actress supports the ‘Dark is beautiful’ campaign that fights the obsession with fair complexion and always takes a firm stand over the racist aspect of Bollywood.

Abhay Deol, the Dev D actor, slammed Bollywood actors by posting ‘woke Indian celebrities’ on Instagram about the Black Lives Matter movement in support of George Floyd and ignoring domestic injustices. He took the stand for fairness obsession in the industry and shared data about the popularity of ‘fairness creams’ in India. After that, many celebrities came forward and took the stand for endorsing fairness and beauty products. listed 14 companies operating in bleach products and fairness creams. Mint pegged (2016) shared the report that the total market of fairness creams for men and women is 2000 crore.

Former India batsman Abhinav Mukund had said in 2017 “Fair isn’t the only lovely or handsome guys,” in a post on racism. Not just cricket, racism is well-entrenched in every sport.

Darren Sammy exclaims that mocking people for their dark-colored skin is a common and casual practice in Indian sports circles. Many African footballers would agree with Darren Sammy’s point of view as they witnessed at Kolkata stadium where fans mocked and address them as “Kalu”, “Kalia” or “Kala Aadmi”.

There are numerous instances of cases where discrimination against people based on color, ethnicity, and race has been witnessed. Racism does exist in India, but Indians have never taken it as a serious issue. But now we can bring the changes into our mindset and look forward to conveying the people to make a discrimination-free environment in society.

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