No campus erupted in shrill protest against the mob that stripped a Tanzanian student in Bengaluru and paraded her.

Because she is black.

No Women’s association called for a dharna and demanded action.

Because she is black.

The great social platforms of Twitter and Facebook received no trains so to speak.

Because she was black.

No real-time rallying for the righteous, which is such a popular sport. Of course, we are racist. We have always been racist. It is part of our casteist culture that we need to look down on someone even as we look up to our ‘betters.’ This attitude confirms our affection for hierarchy.

Protests after the assault of a Tanzanian student in Bengaluru. PTI

Protests after the assault of a Tanzanian student in Bengaluru. PTI

In 1971, when I was a reporter with The Times of India in Delhi, the Commonwealth Youth delegation arrived with 16 white people and two black British delegates. I vividly recall Simon — one of them — telling me how he found it odd that not one Indian family invited these two to their homes, while happily hosting the other 16. In the two weeks they stayed in India, they never saw the inside of an Indian home. Par for the course.

Nothing has changed, Simon, we still won’t invite you, mate, you embarrass us.

In Mumbai, I had a very close friend from Uganda and whenever we would go out for a movie or into a shop, we would run a gauntlet of leering, sneering men. They would often give me that wink-wink, nod-nod grin as if to say, yaar mazaa le raha hai. It was so mind-bogglingly offensive. And Rona would turn to me and say, you people have a major problem, you actually feel superior.

Much of it is the fear of the stereotype. Africans, to us, are either into drugs or selling counterfeit currency or engaged in some scam. The men are horny and dangerous, the women cheap floozies. We don’t have to respect them, they are African. We are also deathly afraid of them, physically and sexually. Brainwashed by films and books, we see a black person on a street and we are reflexively scared.

Fear is a major element in spurring the contempt.

I had gone to South Africa to interview Nelson Mandela and the Indian community there has rightfully earned the wrath of the blacks. Their contempt for their darker brethren is pure bigotry. It is staggering to witness Indian prejudice slosh about in Africa — thick as soup. Even Mahatma Gandhi had been accused of showing disdain.

For years, the Indians across the continent conned the locals and saw them as inferior. The classic case related is of a shopkeeper who would sell one shoe to the natives and then the second after a week thereby doubling the price.

We call them habshis. We do, stop pretending we don’t.

My friend married an African-American in Houston. Stunning sculpture in ebony and a scientist to boot. Brought her home as a surprise for his family.

“Look Mum, your daughter-in-law”.

Mum rolled into bed, clutched her chest and rocked to the tune of “Woe is me”.

The neighbours fell over with laughter, “Ah, such comeuppance!”.

The couple left in two days and never came back again.

The state government is pretending it is not such a big deal, mobs are mobs, boys are boys.

Union Minister for Law Sadananada Gowda has called for the state to keep a close watch on those shifty foreign students.

The public doesn’t give a whistle in the wind, they are only Africans.

Parading a naked African in public for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, because the equation is simple: Aren’t they naked half the time anyway? What’s the big deal?

This is the mindset in a coloured nation and it is abhorrent.

It is for this reason that I refused to shake hands with film star Shah Rukh Khan, not that he cared… for selling fairness cream. Any man who makes money from pigmentation and feels no moral guilt in equating worth with skin colour doesn’t get my vote.

Part of the same package.


Tanzanian woman assaulted: Contempt for Africans has always been part of our narrow mindset