This article is written by J.Suparna Rao from Ramaiah Institute of Legal Studies, Bangalore. This article discusses the topic of fighting racism with political and legal reforms.
Racism can be defined as discrimination based on race. It is believed that different races have distant qualities, characteristics, abilities, moral traits, behavioral traits, physical appearance, language on the basis of which are divided into superior or inferior. It is a belief that different races should remain apart from each other, which can also be called racial separatism. Its basic nature is that the hatred of one person by another person is less than human. However, it does not include violent acts or intimidating behavior. Racism has a lot to do with people’s actions as well as attitudes. It has a capacity to hurt the individual mental well-being or communities or society at large and inculcate feelings of sadness, anxiety, depression. The day of 21st March is celebrated as ‘International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
Historic evolution of racism
Racism has been existing since the very beginning of human existence and has raged many wars, slavery, the formation of various nations, and legal codes. It acts as a major barrier that prevents people from enjoying life with equal opportunities, dignity and diminishes the quality of life.
During the past 500-1000 years, the racism of the Western power for the non-westerners had a very significant impact on history. Racism popularly existed among Africans, Asians, Easterners. In the West, racism was by slavery, particularly the enslavement of the black Africans as they were believed to be less of human as compared to the white Europeans, their lineages, and descendants. This racism developed with time by the Portuguese sailors. The Portuguese sailors in the 15th and 16th centuries came to cities that they believed to be as advanced and civilized as their own. As the Africans failed in technological advances they considered Africans as their rivals and forced inhabitants of Africa to work as slaves in the new colonies. The Africans themselves were willing to sell their “dark people” to European as they believed them to be bad humans. Anti-Semites considered Jews as inferior. They considered them to be superhuman having differently skilled, evil, devilishly cunning, and more like a beast in humans. There are many other examples of racism such as racial segregation in the United States in the 19th century and early 20th century. It is firmly based on the false belief and understanding of the races evolved with time, development, and advancement of social culture.
Definition of racism
- Racism is identified by three common elements- Firstly, there exists a historical and hierarchical power relationship between different groups. Secondly, there exists a set of ideologies about racial differences. Thirdly, discriminatory actions and practices are followed. –(Garner)
- ‘Racial discrimination can be defined as a restriction, exclusion or distinction, preference based on national, race, sex, color, ethnic origin which can nullify or impair the exercise or recognition or enjoyment of natural human rights, equal footing, fundamental freedoms in various platforms of cultural, social, political, economic or of any other platforms of public life. –(International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, 1965 UN)
- The cultural sanctions which implied, involved, and defended the various advantages to the whites regardless of intention, due to the subordinate or inferior position of the racial minorities, is called racism. –(Wellman)
- Racism is a highly organized system of race that is particularly based on the group privilege that operates in every level and hierarchy of the society and is firmly held together by the so-called sophisticated ideology of race or supremacy of color. -(Cazenave and Maddern)
- A relationship that is highly moderated by racial ideology, beliefs, or social belief between racial discrimination and emotional distress is racism. –(Seller and Shelton)
Types and aspects of racism
Racism takes various forms in the social structure of society. Various types of racism are explained below:
1. Aversive racism
The strong dislike, unconscious negative evaluations towards a race or ethnic minorities is aversive racism. It can also be called implicit racism. In this, people tend to avoid interaction with such races or groups. This type of racism can be characterized by extreme, more complex contradictory ideas, expressions, and attitudes which results in unconscious discrimination. People practicing such racism are usually not aware of it and they tend to deny it. Such type of racism has a huge impact on the employment platforms, helping behaviors, and various other socially driven activities.
2. Colour blindness
People judge a group of people based on their skin color and segregate them as different. Many times a race is explicitly ignored in decision making and forming a part of the society. Colour blindness disregards such racism but the critics through studies have said that such refusal to attend and acknowledge racial disparities will lead to unconsciously produce racial inequality and reject the systematic policies intended to deal with institutional racism.
Cultural racism relates to discrimination based on language, beliefs, and traditions. It is a belief that one’s culture is superior to all the other cultures of the society. In other words, it can be explained as it is an assumption that products of certain cultural groups, cultural traditions, and language are superior to that of other cultures. It is somewhat similar to the phenomenon of ‘xenophobia’ which is fear of foreign or strange elements and desire to eliminate such elements.
The ancient history of social disparity or economic disparity has been a basis of discrimination among various sections of society. This has major effects in the areas of pursuing formal education, unconscious racist attitudes towards the people of society, and decline of opportunities to the group of certain classes of people. In this, even the importance of people in the society is judged and are treated inferior or superior accordingly.
It is also referred to as structural racism, state racism, or systematic racism. It can be defined as discrimination by the institutional authorities such as corporations, societies, government institutions, religious institutions, educational institutions, and other such large institutions. Due to this people may experience mental stress, which can be morally destructive and may hamper their capabilities. In other words, it can be said in simple words as the failure of the organizations and institutions to provide a professional and appropriate service to people because of their race, sex, origin, and culture.
6. Racial segregation
It exists within the socially segregated groups of humans created in day-to-day life. Such segregation may exist due to the social norms of the society. It can be seen in the activities such as eating at restaurants, using public toilets, going to theaters, visiting water parks, attending schools, rental residences, or purchasing homes.
In this, the group of people are excluded from the normal norms of society and are segregated into different groups. This is called ‘othering’. This type can be stated as an important aspect of racism which has a fundamental role in developing the concept of racism and its continuation. It brings light on the culture which has newly evolved and objectifies it as exotic and something different. Then, finally treating it as ‘not normal’.
8. Symbolic or modern racism
The new form of racism is referred to as modern racism. In this people tend to react unprejudiced but inwardly knowingly acting with prejudiced attitudes, opting for subtle prejudiced behaviors such as racial stereotypes and prejudices, treating people with different attitudes through either inclination towards one’s own race or discriminating to the other races by acting differently.
Racism is a global reality. No one is born racist, these are the choices which an individual makes. For the removal of such evil of racism from society, various organizations promote anti-racism. These organizations focus on focused action, sustained beliefs that tend to promote the inter-faith, multilingual group of people. They lay down a system with an intent to eliminate the idea of racism and to provide equal opportunity, unbiased choices, a society that is free from discrimination based on language, culture, sex, color, and race. Anti-racism requires the very reorientation of one’s consciousness.
Among the various organizations, some are namely:
- European Commission against Racism and Intolerance
- UN Human Rights Council Special Rapporteur on forms of racism, xenophobia, racial discrimination, and such related intolerance
- World Conference against Racism.
- SOS Racisme (France)
- Rock against racism (United Kingdom)
- Campaign against Racism and Fascism (United kingdom)
- Residents against racism (Ireland)
- Anti-Racism and Hate (United States)
- Black Lives Matter (United States)
- People’s Front of Anti-Racism (Japan)
- National Human Rights Commission (India)
Various political and social reforms in racism
It’s high time India has been denying the existence of ‘racism’ in the country. Day by day the rise of cases of discrimination against the North-East Indians are seen. The North-East women are often abused; termed as ‘easily available’; they are denied entry into shops, hotels; are forced to empty the residential areas, denied access to rented houses; are treated differently and inferior to others, are called by various names such as “chinky”, “momo” etc. Though they have been a part of the larger and permanent structure of the country, the racism by the homeland continues. The South Indians are judged and treated differently due to their black skin color. Transgenders are treated as an evil element of society and often portrayed as prostitutes. Sexual orientation and gender orientation is a major barrier for them to lead life normally. Also, the Indian caste system is among the world’s longest prevailing social hierarchy and order of the various social groups of the society. There exists a history of upper caste torture and brutality against the Dalits and Adivasis. The marginalized sections’ voices are always hampered and they have faced criticism for even raising their voice.
According to an Amnesty report, in 2018 more than 40,000 crimes are registered against the Scheduled Castes. In 2017, 17 Adivasis were killed in an unprovoked attack by the security forces in Chhattisgarh.
There is a serious need to address such racism but it is often ignored by the representatives of the people. There is a lack of redressal or even the recognition of such struggles. Let’s discuss certain cases which describe the existence of racism in the country India.
The Reingamphi Case
A.S. Reingamphi was a 22-year-old young woman from Manipur. She was from a family of rice cultivators in Manipur. She rented a house in Delhi. On 29th May 2013 her body was found in a pool of blood at her rented resident in Delhi. Her body was severely injured. There were various injuries to her eyes, nose, and legs. The police were of contention that the cause of death was suicide and such injuries were because of rodents. The four months went away, there was no investigation initiated, no one was arrested. Her friends and family contented that the cause of death was planned murder and sexual assault. They were not satisfied with the investigation done by the Delhi Crime branch. Even the forensic report by the Maulana Azad Medical College found no poison or drug in her body to name it as suicide. The report even stated that it can’t be said if the injuries in her body were before her death or after.
One of her cousins proceeded to Delhi High Court through a writ petition seeking an investigation of the case by CBI. He alleged her landlord and his brother-in-law of sexually harassing and stalking her. He laid stress on the point that the ‘histopathological report’ has found semen on her torn clothes. Amy Shukla, the worker of the human rights association network, stood up supporting the petition raised by her cousin by stating the procedure which was followed by the Delhi Police was itself at fault as they did not seal the area of crime, no fingerprints or pictures were taken from the crime scene.
The case was then finally transferred to CBI in June 2013 due to the intervention by Kiran Walia, Delhi’s Minister of Women and Child Development. The CBI held that she was raped and brutally murdered at her residence.
The Mary Ezung Case
In 2016, a woman from Nagaland was found dead at her rented residence in Safdarjung Enclave, Delhi. The circumstances of her death were mysterious due to the lack of investigation. Without any proper investigation, her death was concluded to be a natural death. She was among 11 Nagaland women who met the same fate in the same year.
The incident of Racial Discrimination on 25th July, 2017
Shri Ninong Ering, an Indian politician and former Lok Sabha Speaker representing Arunachal East addressed the incident in Tailin Lyngdoh, where a Meghalaya woman was denied entry into Delhi’s golf club because she was dressed in her traditional Khasi attire. He further stated that there have been many such instances earlier. The South Indians were mocked and are looked down on because of their dark skin color. In another such incident in Bangalore, where a group of people abused and thrashed an African couple, destroyed their vehicle due to their skin color.
The discrimination against the East Indians was mostly seen in North Indians stated and Delhi being the top in the list.
He stated that the Government should not only consider eliminating such discrimination but also concentrate on the National integration of India within its diversity.
Cbi v. Farman & Ors
Nido Tania was a 20-year-old student from Arunachal Pradesh. He got a telephonic call from his friend’s Larken Doye sister saying that his friend is not keeping well and was to be taken to hospital. His friend was staying in Lajpat Nagar, New Delhi. He went to Delhi with three of his cousins. As he was not aware of the exact location of his friend’s house, they divided themselves into two groups to search for the address. Nido Tania and his cousin went to a shop to get directions to the address. The shop was ‘Rajasthan Paneer Bhandar’. There were four people inside the shop. They started making fun of Nido Tania as soon as he entered the shop and they also provoked him by making racist comments against him and his cousin. Even after this Nido explained the emergency situation of his friend calmly. Regardless of this, those people continued laughing.
Nido Tania being extremely annoyed by their behavior broke the glass of the counter of Rajasthan paneer bhandar. The fight started and those four people got violent in their actions. They started beating Nido and his cousin with the stick and with his fist. His cousin tried to save Nido, but he was pushed away due to which he suffered major head injuries. Those four boys asked for compensation for Rs.10,000/- which was settled between them as Rs. 7000/- for breaking the glass. Nearby, he saw his other two cousins standing. He went to them and told them about the quarrel that happened with the shop boys. The accused with his associates came and again bashing Nido badly until his friends felt sorry for breaking the glass.
Later, they reached his friend’s house and sent him to the hospital. While returning back, Nido and his cousins took different routes to avoid crossing the shop. As they were passing by, they saw people gathered near the BSES office. They stopped there. One of the people among the crowd made a racist remark and also slapped Nido. Those shop people were also present there. Again, Nido was beaten up by the same four accused. The police came and took with them Nido, the four shop workers, and the man who slapped Nido.
The next day, the doctor at AIMS Hospital gave the news of Nido’s death due to severe lung and brain injuries to PS Lajpat Nagar. The court inflicted imprisonment with a fine on all the five accused.
Reforms and laws
In the year 2014, the Supreme Court issued guidelines to eliminate such racist acts against a particular group of people. More specifically racism against the North-Eastern citizens of the country. It stated various methods to curb the acts of racism by forming a committee solely to address such matters, to keep a check on the Government’s initiative to deal with such matters, to take strict actions timely, to suggest measures and controls, to receive and forward such matters to National Human Rights Commission or to the concerned authority to the earliest for necessary procedures and actions to be taken.
The court on its Own Motion v. Union of India & Ors
This case was a suo-moto case taken up by the Court due to the disturbing trends prevailing in the country. The court held racism as against the integrity of the country. It also stated that such acts are violative of Article 19(1)(d) and (e) of the Indian Constitution. This Article confers the right to reside in any part of the country and to move freely throughout the territory of India. Any Intolerance in the movement of people across the country is violative of the rights conferred in the Constitution of India. Article 301 of the Indian Constitution gives freedom to carry any business, trade, commerce throughout the territory of India free of cost. No individual of any state can intervene and can stop or harass any person of any other state, by any criminal act to carry any vocation therein.
Even though the international boundaries are disappearing, the internal societal norms and social cross-sections of various classes of people are acting as barriers for the country. India is divided into fragments which are considered as ‘Union of States. There ought to be different cultures, languages, customs in different states but that should be respected and should act as a ‘collective strength’ rather than the major source of inhumanity, hatred, and crimes. Every citizen has equal rights irrespective of their religion, caste, language, race, sex, and color. The judges finally suggested developing separate legislation to stop the natives of a state from harassing migrants of other states of the country.
K. Bezbaruah Committee
On 15th December 2016, the Supreme Court bench comprising three judges, namely Chief Justice T.S. Thakur, L. Nageshwara Rao, and D.Y. Chandrachud recommended the Government to form a nodal agency for dealing with the North-east crime victims. The Court gave this order after two years of acceptance of guidelines suggested by the M.K. Bezbaruah Committee by the Government. The report suggested appointing specific public prosecutors and lawyers for the legal counseling of the Northeast victims. It also recommended that any derogatory remark made against the Northeast citizens of the country will be a punishable offense. It emphasized three main points. Firstly, the offense should be a cognizable offense and also non-bailable. Secondly, the special cell should complete the investigation of the FIR within 60 days maximum. Lastly, the trial for such a crime should be completed within the time period of 90 days.
According to the report, the Government did emphasize Section 153 of the Indian Penal Code and Section 509 of the Indian Penal Code. Section 153 of IPC states provoking someone with an intent to cause rioting, or knowingly provoking someone to cause rioting or any action which results in riots shall be punished with one year of imprisonment or fine or both. If the rioting has not been committed, such a person will be punished with 6 months of imprisonment or fine or both for any such provocation. Section 509 of the Indian Penal Code states any person who intends to insult the modesty of women by any means, utters words, exhibits any questionable object, makes any sound, provided that object or any above-mentioned gesture must be seen by the women or should invade her privacy, shall be punished with imprisonment up to one year or with fine or both.
As per the orders, even now the Capital of the country ‘Delhi’ has a separate ‘Special Police Unit for North-Eastern region (SPUNER)’
Anti-Discrimination and Equality Bill, 2016 by MP Shashi Tharoor
Congress MP Shashi Tharoor is always known to be a revolutionary leader. He took a stand against all sought of discrimination and introduced the ‘Anti-Discrimination and Equality Bill’ as a private member bill. The words such as ‘intolerance’, ‘anti-national’ were trending in the political atmosphere which proved to be a threat to various sections of the society. He introduced the bill to provide a safeguard to each of the citizens as promised in the Indian Constitution. This bill includes racism as well as other factors of social discrimination which are direct or indirect in nature. This bill states what does constitute as discrimination, which is explained by dividing people into various groups. It accordingly defines certain characteristics which form the basis of discrimination such as bisexuals, minorities, transgenders, kothis, disadvantaged people, socially backward people, race, caste, class, racist attitude, language, HIV status, and disability.
International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD)
ICERD is a United Nations convention and it came into force on 4th January 1969. This convention was introduced and opened for signature on 21st December 1965. There are in total 88 signatories and India is one among them. The Charter is divided into three parts and 25 articles. It aims to form a society with principles of dignity and equality for all human beings. The signatories or the members have pledged to take the responsibility jointly and separately, to cooperate with the organization and its activities. The main purpose of forming such an organization is to ensure the observance, wellness, and respect of human rights and fundamental rights for all human beings without any discrimination based on sex, religion, race, class, color, nation, ethnic origin, or language as it believes that all human beings are born with dignity and are born free. It aims at speedy elimination of all types of discrimination as there isn’t any justification for the racist attitude towards one other, they morally destructive, mentally harassing, and socially dangerous. They work towards the upliftment of certain specific ethnic groups or individuals who require protection against such discrimination.
Under this charter, a committee is formed consisting of 18 experts who are extremely devoted, with high moral standards, acknowledge impartiality and believe in equality are elected by the State Parties of the various nationals. The meeting of State parties is organized at United Nations Headquarters for the purpose of election of members. The members shall hold an office in the committee for the tenure of four years. However, nine members, who are elected by the first election, their tenure shall expire by two years. The committee has to prepare a report annually and report to the Secretary-General. They can recommend suggestions, measures based on the examination and study of the annual report.
National Human Rights Commission India
The National Human Rights Commission was established in 1993 on 12th October. It is based on the statute ‘Protection of Human Rights Act (PHRA), 1993. This commission is responsible for the protection of Human Rights conferred in the Constitution of India and to protect the freedom, equality, dignity, and liberty of the Individual. It is a unique organization whose chairperson is the former Chief Justice of the country. They play a crucial role in combating xenophobia, racial discrimination, other social exclusion, and intolerance.
The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) has recognized NHRC as an important organization having the local knowledge about the source of racism and its impact on the victims. They play a vital role in eliminating racism from society through various extensive methods of their own expertise, tools to address, inform, create awareness, eliminate and prevent race-related problems in the country. It works on the broad mandate of racial equality and non-discrimination. NHRC also organized a national seminar on ‘Racism and Racial Intolerance’ on 11th August 2001. This seminar was organized to gather views and opinions of eminent lawyers, social workers, NGOs, judges, human rights activists, and other intellectual personalities on the issue of racism, racial discrimination, intolerance, xenophobia, and other related issues.
International legislations against racism
- Model National Legislation Released by the United Nations
- Racial Discrimination Act, 1975 (Australia)
- Racial and Religious Tolerance Act, 2001 (Australia)
- Anti-Racism Act, 1981 (Belgium)
- Law Against Racism and All Forms of Discrimination, 2010 (Bolivia)
- Race Relations Act,1965 (UK)
- Racial and Religious Hatred Act, 2006 (UK)
Racism can be defined as individual prejudice, dominant culture against the ethnic minorities, or a particular race of the society. Racism is morally condemnable, scientifically false, and socially unjust. There are various types of discrimination such as aversive racism, color blindness, cultural racism, economic racism, institutional racism, racial segregation, supremacism, symbolic or modern racism, subconscious basis, and others. Every human is born with dignity and is born free. Racial discrimination is that evil of the society which causes internal disturbance in the country leading to riots, hatred among the states. The internal peace of the country is of utmost importance to attain International harmony. When a person shows a racist attitude, he is indirectly questioning the creative work of God by creating such beings on earth.
Every human being shall be protected and shall enjoy the equality and quality of life conferred in the Constitution of the country. So, for this purpose various organization nationally and internationally, various NGOs and the Government is taking steps in an attempt to eliminate such racial discrimination and to promote harmony and unity of the country. The Government plays an essential role, apart from the political interest it must take speedy actions against the culprit and secure the fundamental rights of its citizens. No matter how big and powerful the nation is, it is never too strong than its weakest people. To soar at higher places it must stand together at one. In conclusion, it is rightly said by ‘Margaret Mead’, you should value every group of people as a thoughtful and committed group of citizens can change the world and indeed that’s the only thing that ever has made a big difference.
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