Recent attacks on African people in Noida and condemnation by African diplomats has again brought this issue of racism to the forefront. The diplomats say that we Indians are racist and xenophobic while the government say that these incidents are mere aberrations.So who is correct?
I think it is a mix of both. No doubt our society is obsessed with hierarchy (for example our caste system) but our discrimination is different from that of Western societies. While both forms are condemnable, I think in India repulsion for strange people is not as much as some countries like U.S..This is probably because India is a land of immigrants.Since Aryans, people kept thronging and made this land their home. We are such a diverse country that new or strange people do not create that sort of curiosity or fear.Hence, I presume that we are not xenophobic.
Nevertheless, we are obsessed with fair skin and African people don’t fit the bill in this case. Usually, the darker tone is seen with inferiority and contempt. Moreover, outsiders are often considered weak to resist bullying.In India, there is a saying- ‘apne gali mein kutta bhi sher hota hai’ (a dog considers himself tiger in his area). Hence, African (and foreigners of other nationalities) are much more vulnerable in case of conflicts.
Since African population in India is much more than people from other Continents/nationalities (I guess), their interface with locals is longer. Over time, people may develop a stereotypical image which culminates into events like the one which recently happened.
So, we can say that we are a kind of racist but not in a very strict sense.
The need of the hour is more people-to-people contact and educating people about African people and their culture. Besides, strict action should be taken against goons. India and Africa share a common history of colonial exploitation and struggle against it. The time has come that the warm feeling that existed among the top leadership of these two regions should penetrate the masses.