It’s Not Racial Discrimination, It’s Lack of Clout

During the past month, random attacks on Indian students in Australia have made news headlines. The inference was clearly that the attacks were racially motivated. One of the participants, G Parthasarthy, a former Indian High Commissioner to Australia, wondered why Indians were being specifically targeted. After all, Australia has thousands of students from China and South East Asian countries. Yet one rarely hears of racial attacks on them. Over the past few months, a number of Indian students in the United States have been the victims of hate crimes, some resulting in fatalities.

A few days ago, a group of Indian passengers on an Air France flight back to India complained about being accorded shabby treatment during a forced layover at Paris airport. The incident received a lot of negative publicity for Air France in the press. Normally, international airlines are very conscious of their public image and would have been scurrying about to rectify the damage. However, Air France deemed it sufficient to offer a rather tame apology and, later, non-refundable flight coupons to the affected passengers. They are apparently not too worried about possible repercussions.

This raises the question: why are Indians receiving “special treatment” so often? In today’s world the old stereotype of racism no longer applies. It used to be that the white races considered themselves superior to everyone else; and were not afraid to demonstrate that fact. Possibly, in their minds, the whites still do consider themselves superior, but they are a lot more circumspect about it.

One probable reason is that Indians are treated shabbily because many nations believe they can get away with it. A significant percentage of the population in these countries have as much disdain for yellow and olive skins as they do for brown ones. One remembers the old adage about all Chinamen looking alike. Yet one rarely hears of a Chinaman being attacked, or a Korean, or and Indonesian.

Why is that? Probably because the overall perception is that the Indian government, apart from making a feeble protest, will not retaliate. It is ironical that despite being recognized as an emerging economic superpower – and the country with the world’s third largest military – India is generally not afforded its due importance in the global arena. When Indian citizens abroad come to grief, foreign government pay lip sympathy, but do not seem to be unduly perturbed.

And why should they be perturbed? The impression popularly generated by the Indian establishment’s wishy washy response is that the government is almost embarrassed to protest too loudly – especially if the offender is a “white” nation. It is more that six decades that India achieved its independence. It’s about time we Indians got over our colonial hangover.