Sunday, February 16, 2014

Our intolerance towards 'Outsiders': We are elated when fellow Indians grab top positions abroad but can't tolerate 'foreigners' or even those from other states

The moment an Indian reaches a top position in a foreign country, there is euphoria in the media, as well as in the society.

But isn't it in sharp contrast with our attitude towards foreigners. We love to see Satya Nadella or Indira Nooyi heading big corporate groups in the West.

We are ecstatic when a first generation Indian becomes a governor in a state in America or a second or third generation migrant from UP or Bihar becomes president in Fiji or Mauritius.

In some cases, those rising to high positions, don't even want to acknowledge their Indian connection, but we  still love these success stories.

We are proud and our media does its best to present it in such a manner that Indians are conquering the world. Now what is our attitude towards foreigners excelling in India?

Forget the opposition to Sonia Gandhi who hadn't come to India to become a politician and who lived decades here, also losing her husband, before entering into politics. She had seen the opposition and decided not to take up the post.


But this opposition to 'outsider' permeates every section of our society. In fact, we don't even tolerate people from other states excelling in our region. If a leader provokes us, we can go out beating fellow Indians from other regions, on the streets. The anger about Biharis growing in numbers is not limited to Maharashtra alone. 

There are conversations on the streets and in offices about how 'outsiders' are taking our jobs. This is visible in Assam as also in Delhi.

Even within states, people don't like if people from a particular region or district are more in proportion in an organisation or office.

In a private company, the moment there was talk about a foreigner, being hired for a senior position, there was unrest. 'Hindustani mar gaye hain kya', was the line heard repeatedly. The double standards are visible at all levels. 

Its not about the white skinned foreigners alone who come here from Britain, Germany, Japan, China or Vietnam. 

Further, do you think that our immediate neighbours--a Bangladeshi, Sri Lankan or Nepali have it easy in India? [Let's not talk about Pakistan]. The idea is perhaps that foreigner are good as long as they come for a tip, visit a few places, and go away.

We watch movies but our 'khaps' and even 'educated classes' disapprove marriages outside castes [and religions].

Though we are a nation of dark complexioned people but Africans face the worst racial prejudice in India. The treatment with domestic helps is another form of apartheid, which has social sanction.

In Delhi, the person from North East gets discriminated. In Bangalore, the North Indian is seen as someone who is snatching the jobs and who is behind the inflation because of them earning in software, BPOs and other new sectors.

There are prejudices and discrimination with every outsider.We are so proud of our talent when we leave the shores of India and become CEOs in multinational companies or top executives in Silicon Valley.

How come Americans digest the fact that foreigners [Indians and people from other countries] are grabbing top positions and doing well in their country, taking away local jobs?

Are they more large-hearted than us? Are we more parochial than them? Truly, there is need for a serious INTROSPECTION. But is our society in a mood to discuss it?


SPREADING PREJUDICES: Role of media in shaping public opinion in India

The role of media is critical as it shapes popular opinion. Unfortunately, the TV channels and newspapers amplify the biases in the society, rather than enlightening the viewer (and reader).

In any city in India, when there is a spate of crime, the first trend is to do reports on how 'outsiders' are involved in crimes. It then goes to how youngsters from other states who stay in rented accommodations are committing crimes and how outsiders settled in slums are affecting the crime scene.

The cops too parrot the same line. This happens even though the person writing the nonsense may have come to the city barely two to five years back. The belief is that the culture was great till a few years ago and our place was a paradise. 

Take the example of the city I live in. Those who came here 10-20 years back, feel that they are local. They blame the current stream of outsiders from certain states. In fact, the majority is now those who are settled here for 30-50 years.

Who is the original inhabitant or the native? In the region I live, a section of self-styled locals are those who are living here for 100-250 years. But before them, there were tribals in this area, and they now have no say and aren't considered as locals at all.

But the 'anger against outsider' suits everybody. Media, especially, the vernacular newspapers and local channels, love blaming the 'immigrants'.

Reports on how 'our culture' is being spoiled are common to see.
Media fuels the xenophobia. This helps them answer the reason for soaring crime.

Rather than simply accepting that there is tremendous violence in the society and that growth in population will naturally lead to more crime, we tend to put the blame on others. We don't want to accept that problems lie with us.

The truth is that we need to be more open, large-hearted and must learn to accept diversity. Media should have helped create such a society. But the kind of public discourse that is needed, doesn't take place. Isn't it sad?