[Editor’s Note: This column is in response to the death of Nido Taniam, a student from Arunachal Pradesh, believed to be the victim of a race-related hate crime in Delhi.]
I have witnessed many parents lament their child’s misbehavior with the phrase, “Where did we go wrong?”. This is usually when their child talks back to them, or gets into a fight, or falls in love without their permission. But I have never, ever, witnessed any parent ask, where they went wrong, when their child expressed hatred for a person from a different ethnic group. I have never seen a parent scold their child over a racist remark, let alone give it a thought or wonder, where did they go wrong in their child’s upbringing.
This happens simply because we are too proud of ourselves. Visit any website or facebook page of any religious, regional or cultural group and it will tell you why they are better than everybody else. And the means they use to manifest their superiority is through hatred, ridicule and lies about the other. It doesn’t matters to them that the constitution gives everyone an equal status; they don’t care if their false ego leads to someone’s death.
Children are quite impressionable, and hence, are often compared with clay, which in my eyes is an accurate comparison because it is the environment a child grows up in that shapes his personality. Since so many of us grow up surrounded with an atmosphere of ethnocentrism, with people making fun of Northeasterners, black people, Sardars, people from Nepal, South India, and not to mention the hatred towards Biharis and U.P. wallas, expressed violently by so many political leaders, I am not surprised that there are so many racists, bigots and xenophobes amongst us.
Nido Taniam, the boy who was beaten to death by residents of Lajpat Nagar in Delhi, was a bundle of immense possibilities; a source of joy for his parents; maybe somebody’s love of life; a teacher’s favorite student; many people’s friend; someone’s inspiration. Maybe he had planned a trip with friends this weekend; maybe his parents were waiting for him at dinner; maybe someone was planning to ask him out. But just because some self-righteous people thought he looked weird, they felt it was okay to mock him and beat him to death. Just because he looked different from them, he lost his life. And with him, we all lost something. Some lost their source of joy, some lost their friend, some lost the love of their lives, some lost their dreams, and this entire country lost a good man.
When you grow up with a particular belief seeded and nourished in your personality, its hard to remove it. But, it’s high time we learn to unlearn those prejudices. Trust me, it’s possible. All you need to do is, remove those ethnocentric glasses, and respect the world as it is — diverse and beautiful.
[Editor’s Note: In the wake of Nido Taniam’s death, students of Jamia have organize a demonstration at Jantar Mantar on Saturday, Feb. 1, at 5 p.m. For more information, visit their event page on facebook here, or contact Mohd Zakir Riyaz at 8802519419]