Holier-than-thou that Indians are, there are times when a reality check is mandated.
One such moment is now. The Australian cricket team, steamrolling the home team on the field, has encountered racist abuse on the field, though not from the Indian players. Spectators in Vadodhara shouted at Andrew Symonds, the dynamic allrounder (who is an Aboriginal), calling him a ‘monkey’. Similar episodes had occurred in Pakistan as well. Clearly, the subcontinent is not presenting a decent face of itself.
Of course, the Indian authorities have denied this complaint. After all, this is India: how can there be racism in the land of Gandhi?
Indian men are well known to prefer to wed fair virgin brides, even if they are the exact opposite of the same. In fact, looking at the matrimonial ads, one could be forgiven for thinking that dark women are condemned to live in perpetual, wretched spinsterhood. In addition, Indians are instant friends or foes with their countrymen depending on whether they meet others of the same caste or sect.
For years, India has protested the racism of the apartheid regime in South Africa, and every individual racist attack in ‘white’ countries like Germany or the UK. In the meanwhile, the dark, lowly, and oppressed poor in India continued to be at the receiving end of organised racism. The upper castes kept driving the lower out, to trudge in the scorching sun to far-away segregated wells to fetch water. Harijan villages were burnt when these castes dared to come in contact with the upper caste people. Couples have traditionally been stripped, burnt, and killed for having violated the water-tight compartments of castes. None of this is merely historic. We see this every now and then, even today.
Indian society, by its history, is racist and divisive. The varnas and jatis of ancient Hindu society were social stratification systems that led to the growth of alternate religions like Islam, Buddhism and Jainism. These latter faiths were lacking in caste-based profiling, and attracted lower castes.
Of course, the Indian apologist will point out that the Government does not sanction this.
Unfortunately, this is far from the truth. Every official form profiles a citizen’s caste or religion. The state does not rise above the irrationality of collectivist profiling; it refines it, and tries to engineer society by increasing caste-based reservations in education and industry.
Till such time as the terms ‘caste’ or ‘religion’ are struck off official records, there is no hope for the racist Indian society to reform itself. If anything, the polarisation will keep getting sharper, with newer collectives being formed to take a bite off the reservation pie.
For a permanent solution, I can’t think of a better answer than Ayn Rand’s espousal of rational individualism, and the abandonment of collectivism.