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Mainstream, VOL 60 No 38 September 10, 2022

Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, Sept 10, 2022

Friday 9 September 2022

Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, September 10, 2022

There was much talk recently in sections of the Indian media over the leadership contest in the Britain’s ruling Conservative party, where Indian origin politician Rishi Sunak was among the top contestants. Sunak finally lost the race but won some 42.6% of the vote in the conservative Party; Had he won the numbers he would have been the Prime Minister of England. Sunak along with many others from the South Asian Diaspora have already been prominent figures in British politics from many years and are well represented in the Parliament. There had been similar such high media coverage in India when Kamala Harriss, Indian origin American became the Vice President of the United States in 2021. Many commentators in Indian media see these in a narrow manner as personal social achievements by people of Indian origin and fail to recognise these as a result of socially advanced possibilities of representation of minorities in modern societies. And this is despite the racism that continues to exist in both Britain and USA.

As India runs past it 75th year of independence, it is worth remembering that a high-profile figure like Sonia Gandhi who had been married to the former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and has been a naturalised citizen of India for decades and who has been leader of the Indian National Congress for years continues to treated as an outsider, faces overt xenophobia due to her Italian origin, from prominent politicians of the right and center. Views of our racist and communal politicians resonate widely in society. The Indian Home minister has openly described Bangladeshi migrants into India as termites and infiltrators at many election campaign public rallies across India. This sort of language is normalised. Recently a Sikh cricketer was pointed fingers at in the most obnoxious way by internet trolls for dropping a catch in a game of cricket against Pakistan. Foreign nationals from African countries studying or working in India face widespread discrimination. People of different religious minorities in India face everyday discrimination despite the law of the land giving equal rights to all. Racism, xenophobia, and casteism are alive in kicking in our society, but we remain silent over them and freely point fingers at other societies over discrimination. Our current rulers come from a sectarian and divisive political strand of opinion that never participated in the freedom movement against colonialism, but they advertise, dress up & speak a flag-waving hyper-nationalist language to take pot shots at all ‘others’, ‘outsiders’, critics and blame them for all that’s wrong. Let us hope our resident communalists may go out of power and out of fashion in the future and that in the next 75 years India can become a more open and egalitarian place that is less obsessed with caste, religion, skin-colour and identity, and national origins. Not bad to dream of getting there.

September 10, 2022 - HK

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