Sunday, April 16, 2017

No Pride in Prejudice

Ajay Kumar Dubey,

uncaptioned image from article
The combination of portrayal of Africans as criminals by the media and the discrimination based on colour gets aggravated by the poor awareness in India about Africa, its nationals, and the importance of that country for us. Africa is not a part of any school curriculum. Though India has many universities, barely three of them have small African Studies departments. The policy formulation of the Ministry of External Affairs is not based on the use of public diplomacy. People do not know the importance of Africa and Africans for India. ...
There is a sizable population of old and new Indian diaspora in Africa, which is an affluent community compared to the local population. They also maintain their identity by being endogamous — the custom of marrying within a particular social or cultural group. This affluence and social exclusivity is resented by the local African population. Any problem that Africans face in India is easily transmitted through social media in Africa, and this may pose serious threats to Indian interests and its diaspora settled there.
What can be done by the Government of India to stop all this? Has the Government done enough to stop such kind of violence? It is also partly a law and order problem, which falls within the jurisdiction of State Governments across the country. The Central Government can react and push the State Government to act fast. But the issue of attack on innocent African students should not be clubbed with as to whose responsibility it is — of the Centre or State Governments. There is a need to enact a law on the lines of the Protection of SC/ST Against Atrocities Act to keep a check on similar incidents at an all-India level. Though the SC/ST Protection Act has not completely stopped the mistreatment of the community, the law has drastically reduced the occurrences in urban areas, and made the law and order machinery across the States alert and responsive in such events.
An anti-racial law will also help protect the people from the North-East, who also become victims of stereotype identity. There are similar laws in many Western countries, including the UK, and though not completely successful, they have sharply reduced race-related violence, and sensitised the local community about serious repercussions of such violence.
The second initiative in this direction will be to spread knowledge by including African studies in school courses and in the larger public domain. The public diplomacy of the MEA needs to communicate with and sensitise Indians about our connection, solidarity, goodwill and serious national interest association with Africa. Thirdly, the media has to play an important role in reporting on Africans and Africa. The negative image which makes news should be balanced with positive write-ups about African students, Indian interests in Africa, and the warm welcome that India receives in African countries.

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