On April 1st, a video with Union Minister Giriraj Singh’s remark went viral. It was all over- social media, news channels, radio- everywhere. It was an off the record conversation the Minister was having with a few journalists and friends where he said that Congress would not have accepted if Rajiv Gandhi had married a Nigerian woman instead of Sonia Gandhi. He was trying to convey that dark skinned people are looked down upon. There is no denying the fact that this is racism in its purest form.
The matter is serious. The Nigerian Ambassador to India condemned the Minister’s statement. Sonia Gandhi termed Giriraj Singh a man of small thought. BJP President Amit Shah warned Giriraj Singh to be cautious about what he speaks. Giriraj Singh himself apologised for his ‘off the record’ remark.
While everybody criticises Giriraj Singh, we ignore an important point. Giriraj Singh, without even knowing, spoke an unbearable truth. If we introspect, we will have to face the fact that he was actually not wrong. Our recent past has many instances which show us that there is racism just beneath the surface in our society. In Delhi itself, people from African continent find it difficult to rent a home. The Somnath Bharti incident is fresh in our public memory when he accused few women of flesh trading in Khidki Extension area and raided with Aam Aadmi Party members without taking local police under confidence! Just a month back a woman from Nigeria was raped in Delhi’s Mayur Vihar area. The common term used by Delhites for people from Africa is ‘Habshi’, which is a derogatory slang! As a matter of fact ‘Negro’ is considered a sophisticated word by many!
When we term Giriraj Singh racist, we take a self righteous position as a society. Giriraj Singh is representative of the majoritarian sect of India. More than a year back, during Lok Sabha elections, he asked opponents of Narendra Modi to find refuge in Pakistan. Yes, we are communal enough to ask any voice of dissent to leave the country. Giriraj Singh is the reason why we as a society need to feel ashamed. He is the crude face of the majoritarian voice.
The racism is not new to us and our society. Promoted as a society we have promoted a certain sense of aesthetics. And if anybody does not fall within that image he or she is discriminated.
Though we must condemn Giriraj Singh’s statement, and demand his expulsion from the union council of Ministers, we must introspect and look at ourselves as a society. And just not introspect, but look for solutions to the threats that break the social fabric of our society. We need to acknowledge and address the racism that is deeply embedded in our society.
Looking forward to better tomorrow.
This article was first published in LokMarg, on April 5, 2015.