Us versus them, in Australia or India

IF YOU are different, get whacked, maimed, killed or ejected. Anywhere on earth.

All Australians, I’m sure, don’t hate Indians. Not even Andrew Symonds after Monkeygate and all that. The ones that do – with scary screwdrivers – could very well be Raj Thackeray’s men. Or Paresh Barua’s.

Or Slobodan Milosevic’s, Saddam Hussein’s, Adolf Hitler’s.

Pundits Down Under have attributed Aussie hooliganism against Indian students to economic downturn. Could be, but history reveals those who are dissimilar or belong to a stock different from the majority can sometimes get it real bad. Worse, if they are a prosperous minority.

Maybe the Chinese who preceded Indians to Australia have had similar nightmares. And we all know how the blacks fared in the United States ages before the onset of the Obama era.

Visuals of career-pursuing Indian students on TV, battered in Melbourne, reminded me of Biharis/North Indians who were bashed up by Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navanirman Sena in Mumbai. They also brought back images of Hindi-speaking laborers Barua’s “soldiers” in the United Liberation Front of Asom had gunned down.

Not so long ago, Bengalis were an intolerable community in Assam. Non-tribal or tribal people different from the dominant indigenous tribes were occasionally victimized as dkhars (outsiders) in Meghalaya. And as vais in Mizoram.

Conversely, Northeast Indian students and workers pursuing studies and jobs in New Delhi, Mumbai and other “mainland” cities have often been targeted for racial attacks, raped, molested, walloped, burgled. And taunted as ‘chinks’.

This isn’t a case only of khilonjia – son of the soil in Assamese – versus outsiders, or an earlier set of migrants against a new group of settlers. Ethnically diverse groups inhabiting the same region for ages have fought each other too, the dominating ones more often than not crushing those numerically weaker. Hitler’s pogrom against the Jews, Milosevic’s against Bosnians and Kosovar Muslims, Hussein’s against the Kurds are too well known. The ethnic animosity between the dominant Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda, and the majority Sinhalese and Tamils closer home, as well.

And we aren’t even talking Taliban here.

Nor the Hindu caste system. (Sikhs have it too, as the Vienna attacks reveal. So do Muslims and Christians in India, or how else do you explain their Dalit class?)

In India, you have had the Pandits driven out of Kashmir. In at least three districts of Assam, a fifth or sixth of the population is in relief camps or displaced from their homes. A battle, for instance, is raging in North Cachar Hills between the dominant Dimasa tribe and Nagas. These hills have earlier had clashes between the Dimasas and Hmars and the Dimasas and Karbis, each trying to create space towards greater homogeneity and homeland.

Deep down, I guess, we are all feral animals (apologies to all non-human vertebrae and non-vertebrae) stopping short of marking territories with urine but preying on other species, hungry or not.


About rahconteur

A mid-career journalist who's worked horizontally across India - from Arunachal Pradesh to Gujarat
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8 Responses to Us versus them, in Australia or India

  1. agnes says:

    Hi Rahul,
    You are very right.Worse is happening in our very backyard. And to top it all we have just Ghost HUMAN RIGHTS who just exist for the funds. They are least bothered, if a fellow human is torched and burnt. They dont want to disappoint the Government. And can you believe it, I am talking for what is happenning in meghalaya, where there are more Christians, on Sundays we sit like Angels in Church and pray for Gods blessings and forgiveness. Poor souls ,maybe they read the Bible upside down. Yes, stray incidents of violence in Australia cannot be attributted to all Australians. But maybe these are all politically created by pressure groups. why cant we realize that when we die God will not say only a Hindu or a Christian or a Muslim should go to Heaven.He will call only the souls that have been doing what God wants and one of the teachings of God is to love one another.

    • rahconteur says:

      Thanks Kong Agnes. I have always been a believer in the (biblical?) saying: When you point a finger at others, remember three fingers are pointing back at you.

  2. Sanjay says:

    The Bible says no such thing, if we are talking about the same tome, RK.

    What it does say, along these lines is: (and I paraphrase) – let him who is without sin (fault) throw the first stone – in the context of stoning to death, someone who had rocked the moralistic boat back in Biblical times.

  3. Rajib says:

    Rahul Da,

    Indians down under is having a tough time with their mites (Australian pronunciation of the word “mate” i.e. the letter “a” is pronounced as “i”), but the majority in that country, I guess, does not feel, think or act like these screwdrivers mites. A great piece indeed and the mentioning of almost all the “at the receiving end walas” i.e. to say, the bengalis, the biharis, the tribals of northeast in the story makes it more interesting.

  4. Sushmita says:

    Great piece Rahul, and I couldn’t agree with you more. We are definitely the most racist and colour-conscious bunch of people in the world, and these days it’s become fashionable to confer the ‘racist’ slur on anything that doesn’t suit our purposes. And if we want to put an end to racism, we should first stop sniggering at the “Chinese people” from Mizoram or Nagaland.

    • rahconteur says:

      Thanks. I agree. Isn’t it funny those who talk of Hindutva would rather maintain a distance from the lower castes? And what about the “fair girl” syndrome? Every matrimonial seeks a girl with multiple qualities, fair complexion being one of the prime requisites.

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