Monday, February 03, 2014

Edited version of speech delivered at a student protest on 3 February, Jadavpur University, on the issue of the murder of Nido Taniam

I had come to this meeting, not to speak, but to express my solidarity with those of you who are protesting. I agree with you that racism, casteism, are among the most frightening forms of hierarchies, oppressions, that still exist among us. It is necessary for each of us to stand up and be counted in our protest, our resistance to such oppression.
We all like to think that racism, like halitosis, is something only others have. We are quick to point fingers at US and European whites at all real or perceived cases of racism. But we ignore the racist behaviour found among us.
In India, all Indians are not equal. Apart from issues of class and gender, though intersecting with them, there is the issue of who is a real or proper Indian and who is not. If you are an adivasi from almost anywhere in India, you are less of an equal Indian. And if you are from the North East, you are less of an Indian. Those of you who are by birth Indians from the non-North East – all of you studied history in school. Think, if the North East is truly an integral part of India, when did you ever study its history? The only occasion you get its name is when the Azad Hind Fauz, under the leadership of Subhas Chandra Bose, enters India. We are all gung ho about Arunachal Pradesh, bitterly complaining at the perfidious Chinese, when they issue visas with a different look for people who live in Arunachal Pradesh. But the man or woman from Arunachal is suspect, a figure of fun, in Delhi.
Racism is not restricted to Delhi. But because it is the capital, it has the biggest concentration of India’s elite. And their values and outlook are transmitted lower down as well. The Delhi middle class is ideologically conditioned to believe that it alone matters in India. So the vices, including racism, are also present in large doses.
We have two governments in Delhi. The one in charge of the cops is supposedly a fresh broom that will sweep away all the muck of ages. So we need to question it – why had the police, instead of taking the complaint and putting the boy to hospital, asked him to go back and pay a fine? A lot of bull is being said and written about how since he was the son of an MLA there must have been other considerations as otherwise the cops would never have done something like this. So did he have a red light on his head, that he would be instantly recognised as the son of a VIP? He was racially profiled, twice beaten up, murdered. And why has the officer in charge of that particular Police Station not been suspended yet? Where are Kejriwal’s histrionics here? Or is it the case that the so called aam aadmi of Kejriwal is also an upper caste Hindu from lands that do not suffer the AFSPA, do not suffer from being called chink or targeted by army, police, all as fair game?

Those of you, who have gathered to protest, let this be, not the end, but just the beginning of a process. Please ask yourselves, if India’s vaunted democracy fails to live even by its own rules, why would it be wrong for the people whose rights, dignities, even their very existence, are constantly under threat, to rise in protest and use any form of struggle? If you are really concerned about that, fight for the equality of all Indians, for the annihilation of the oppressive system.


Thank you again for joining this protest.

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