Roots of "Curry Bashing" and the way forward

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Though we still call recent incidents in Australia as "alleged racist attacks", one cannot deny the involvement of "racist elements" in such incidents, especially when it happens so often. According to some long term observers, the problem of so called "curry bashing" is nothing new in Australia [The term 'curry bashing' is generally used for describing verbal or physical attacks on Indians]. "Outside the classroom, Indian students are said to have been subjected to either verbal abuse or robbery by apparent gangsters. The brutal attack on Sravan Kumar Theerthala in a Melbourne suburb outraged Indian students [frontline]" which led to widespread protests on the streets of Melbourne and the subsequent events immediately caught the attention of rest of the world. Every event of "curry bashing" becoming much more than a cameraman's delight.

Ever since Australian shores started attracting Indians for higher studies and jobs, alleged racist attacks have been reported in Australia. The situation is not so unique in Australia. Such incidents have been taking place in countries like US, UK, Germany, France and some African and Gulf countries also. Alleged racial attacks in Australia have raised the same old question for which every one of us would like to know the answer: Why such attacks? Is it because every continent has it's own "Homo Sapien" species? Is it because our history hasn't taught us the value of peaceful coexistence? Is it because Darwinian theory of "Struggle for existence" still apply to humans?

The answer to such questions is deep rooted in educational, economical, historical and sociological factors.

Firstly, We have IITs, IIMs, and many other reputed universities, but they are simply not sufficient. There is no dearth of talent in India but we need institutes like those in Australia, US, UK etc to channelize our talent so that it can benefit not only the individuals but also the society as a whole. Recently ASSOCHAM has reported that, Students’ exodus costs India a foreign exchange (forex) outflow of $10 billion which is sufficient to setup 20 more premier institutions like IITs and IIMs. UPA government's initiative to set up new IITs and central universities is a welcome move but if those new institutions do not get significant funds for any reason, we cannot obviate the need of students going abroad for higher studies.

Secondly, our growing economy has enabled more people to pursue higher studies abroad if they don't get into their dream universities in India. More over, our knowledge workers have turned out to be cheap labors and they have deprived the job opportunities in foreign countries for their own people. And hence the hatred unconsciously finds it's expression in terms of racial abuse in many plural societies like Australia.

Thirdly, our history has taught us to be proud of our past. We don't want to believe that one country's historical past is just as important as our own. "Their past had been excellent but future is full of intense competition which is extra-individualistic. In the present global financial regime, every one, may it be individual or nation has to find a place for itself not on the basis of its past but on the basis of its present [source]." Surge of Chinese and Indian economy is shaping the contemporary economic history. The lenders (developed countries) of past are becoming borrowers at present. The resultant feeling attached to it, whatever form it may take, cannot be ruled out.

Fourthly, our sociological identity has gained significant importance ever since the colonial rule was uprooted. "The European Countries are finding their erstwhile colonies rubbing shoulders in gatherings at International forums. The sense of hatred which had these centuries been harboring unconsciously precipitates in their mind and find expression in such abhorrable acts of racial attacks [source]."

Finally, our ethics and morality finds no place in our quest for "more". The questions of ethics and morality float only when we start contemplating about an event (like those in Australia) which shouldn't have happened. Unfortunately thats the harsh reality of life.

The way forward:
We are living in a society where physical boundaries have no meaning, thanks to information revolution. Though we cannot rule out the need to go abroad for studies, we must be conscious of foreign country's culture, customs and law of the land. Our own constitution denies many rights to persons who are not citizens. It is obvious that other countries will have their own rules for those who come to their shores. As a result, in alien country, there are some things which we can do and some things we cannot. It is unacceptable for any student or a group to believe that they can take the law into their own hands and engage in so-called retribution attacks or vigilante action. Keeping those aspects in mind, those who go abroad for studies must focus on their primary objective, i.e. higher studies, rest all must be secondary. We may face certain situations where our tolerance will be tested. But, our balanced kind of mind can obviate provocation and hence prevent some serious events like racist attacks.

On the other hand, countries who encourage foreign students to study in their country must have a strong machinery or institution which can detect and prevent the incidents of racism. Fairness of legal system and judicial intervention alone cannot sort out the problems of students. Racist acts at public places like restaurants, entertainment avenues, or any place outside the classroom must be punished with stringent laws/actions. Creating round the clock helpline, grievance redressal forum, multicultural police force are a welcome move and should be strengthened further.

If a foreign country can treat visiting students with a sense of respect and if the visiting students can show a sense of tolerance, there cannot be a room for conflicts. Thus, there is a "need" for "some balance".

Read More:
  1. Anguish in Australia - Frontline.
  2. Assocham report.
  3. Racist attacks on Indians: Myth and reality.
  4. 'Curry bashing' time Down Under - Hindustan Times.
  5. 2009 attacks on Indian students in Australia - Wiki.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Sure! lets build more schools in India and have 90% reservation! If any, reservation is a huge factor why students leave the country to pursue greener pastures.

How about racism in India? The hostility against non Kannadigas in Bangalore or the pro-Marathi movement in Mumbai. They are all forms of racism. We are the worst racists in the world. We don't like our fellow citizens.

We need to get our act together before we dictate terms to other countries.

There is a saying "As you sow shall you reap"

Pangala Nagendra Rao said...

Nicely written macha!!
Providing world class education free from reservations and corruption will be one of the required solution for this

Manjunath Singe said...

@Anonymous:
1. Building more "quality" universities is what everyone wants for our own better future. If we are skeptical about that and of course about reservation, then probably we end up having nothing.
2. I don't agree with your assertion that hostility between kannadiga/marathis/tamils etc.. is a form of racism.
3. I think you are right on "getting our acts right in first place", thats what i said in the first paragraph of "the way forward".

Anonymous said...

Your closure statement is more practical resolution than saying that let us open more institutions in India. I think we have enough institutions, why not make the quality there good. I also think that folks can travel abroad for as it brings in a lot of global perspective through first-hand experience.

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This work by Manjunath Singe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License. The views and opinions expressed in this work are strictly those of the author and do not represent his employer's views in anyway.