Below is a cut-copy-paste job of an article written by my uncle for the Pioneer..
WHAT ABOUT RACISM IN INDIA ?
A. SURYA PRAKASH
"British citizens have lost no time in exorcising the racist ghost that had suddenly come to haunt them after Jade Goody's inappropriate comments and conduct in the reality television show Celebrity Big Brother. Whatever be the views of persons like Goody, the desire of British society at large to distance itself from her remarks that were construed racist and offensive is indeed commendable.
While Indians are rejoicing over Shilpa Shetty's victory ( triumph of good over Goody ?), the celebrations would be meaningless if they were not accompanied by some soul-searching about racist attitudes within our own country. It is all very well to raise our voices against Jade Goody but like the British are we ready to face the issue squarely? The people of India belong to many races and cultures. Are we even aware of the prejudices we display and the cruelty we practice towards fellow citizens who happen to be dark skinned? Are we ready, like the British, to face the truth and initiate some corrective action?
If we are troubled by racism, we must begin the clean-up act with Hindi cinema which is full of situations and dialogues that can be described as racist. Millions of Indians have watched a lungi-clad Mehmood, his face daubed in black paint, prance around crazily to "Hum Kale Hai Tho Kya Hua, Dilwale Hai". This indeed is the racial stereotype that Hindi cinema has projected for decades. More recently, Satish Kaushik played the role of a South-Indian musician in a movie along side Govinda. Here too the make-up guys painted his face black. The dialogues in this movie too were loaded with crude racist remarks with Govinda and Khader Khan, another actor, heaping scorn on Satish Kaushik for being dark skinned.
I am appalled at the stereotypes that Hindi cinema and television seek to project all the time. Going by these stereotypes, all South-Indians are "black" and "ugly" and all North-Indians are "white" and "good-looking". The truth is that most Indians have a dark or light brown skin tone. This is the typical skin tone across a majority of the states in all regions be it Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharastra, West Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka or Andhra Pradesh. The tone gets lighter up north in Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand and darker in Tamil Nadu and Kerala. In fact, a good percentage of people in Eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are dark-skinned. It is therefore ironical and comical to find people from these states refer to the skin tone of South-Indians in a pejorative way. But the stereotypes run so deep that people from the North find it difficult to accept the fact that Indian women who have bagged the Miss World or Miss Universe titles like Aiswariya Rai and Sushmita Sen do not come from "white" northern stock. Though the Rais are from Karnataka, many in the North would like to believe that Aiswarya is a Bhoomihar from Uttar Pradesh !
Hindi television has carried this trend forward. The Great Indian Comedy Show often jokes about dark-skinned people. This prejudice against dark-skinned people then gets extended to other things which constitute the ingredients of culture. You first laugh at "Madrasis" because they are dark and then make a joke of other things associated with these "dark" people – their language, their dress and their food habits. Once the "madrasis" becomes the butt end of your jokes, you begin talking down to them. This is what racism is all about and for centuries the Caucasians believed that while everything about them was perfect, the black, brown and yellow races were imperfect. This attitude led to colonization and apartheid. It was only in the latter part of the twentieth century that the White Man recognized the need to stamp out racism and other such prejudices and to bring in political correctness in public discourse.
When will this process begin here? Such is the power of these prejudices that it impacts the work of even established film stars like Shahrukh Khan, who is now anchoring Kaun Banega Crorepati. I was distressed to find Shahrukh joke about the name of a contestant from Andhra Pradesh – Dr.Ramakrishna Guggila - and his companion, Mr.Venkateshwarlu Putta. Shahrukh joked about their names and hinted time and again that their names were unpronounceable. Then, without so much as a by your leave, Shahrukh told Dr.Guggila that he would call him "Guggi" or just "Guggs". As for the contestant's companion, Shahrukh was unaware that Venkateshwarlu was one word. He kept calling him Venkatesh Warlu and eventually, unilaterally decided to rechristen him as "Venky". But the anchor's patronizing attitude truly came out when he mockingly offered a prize to viewers who could say "Venkatesh Warlu Putta" five times without faltering. Shahrukh must learn political correctness quickly. It is foolish to rouse the "atmagouravam" of the Telugu-speaking people. In case Shahrukh does not know, an Andhra with an equally "unpronounceable" name – Potti Sriramulu – set Andhra on fire with his fast unto death to secure a separate Telugu state. Another Andhra with an even more "unpronounceable" name – Nandamuri Taraka Rama Rao – launched the Telugu Desam and ousted the Congress Party from power in that state in 1983. This he did after Rajiv Gandhi, like Shahrukh, behaved inappropriately with a fellow Andhra - Mr.Anjiah - who was then the Chief Minister of the state. Shahrukh's graceless conduct is in utter contrast to the great dignity and poise with which Mr.Amitabh Bachchan anchored this programme earlier. I regard Mr.Bachchan as the most evolved human being because life and professional experiences have purged his mind of prejudices and endowed him with sage like qualities. That is why he made every contestant before him feel like a king. Delhi-bred "King Khan" must shake-off his prejudices if he is to emulate the real King of Indian Cinema.
Finally, a word about matrimonial ads. Every groom wants a "fair" bride and therefore products which promise to lighten the colour of the skin are much in demand across India and bear names which seek to reinforce the view that only those who are "fair" are "lovely". So, let us cut out this hypocrisy vis-à-vis Jade Goody's conduct by initiating measures that will make us a humane and tolerant society. We can make a beginning by stamping out stereotypes in Hindi cinema and television. "
Think about it .. Racism is in every form - language, color, culture, food, art & craft... Are you pro-racist or anti? Its about time we all learn to respect all cultures, dont you think?