…and which is my land?


Racism is the belief that race is a primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race. As a practice, it means the same thing as racial discrimination. In the case of institutional racism, certain racial groups may be denied rights or benefits, or receive preferential treatment.

Racial discrimination typically points out taxonomic differences between different groups of people, although anyone may be discriminated against on an ethnic or cultural basis, independently of their somatic differences. According to the United Nations conventions, there is no distinction between the term racial discrimination and ethnic discrimination.

I am a Sikh born in Calcutta, where I grew up hearing that Bengal is for Bengalis and people of all other cast must leave Bengal someday. Although there were never any serious communal riots as such, however, it was the talk on air, especially during our childhood days. Similarly, in Bihar, the Binaries have a similar thinking and the same goes to other states of India too. Of late, India has seen several communal riots too on this regards. This debate was at its peak when activists in Maharashtra had beaten few immigrants from another state of India, and few of them even died. The state of Punjab in India, is ideally for Punjabis, but does it mean that, me being a Sikh Punjabi is welcomed in my state? The answer is … NO … because the Punjabis in Punjab, seem to demand that, the state belongs to them and that, we Sikhs (the Sikhs are a different cast if we were to sub-cast in Punjabis) do not belong to Punjab either! So which is my land?

Since October 2000, my work has taken me to several countries. While I was in The Caribbean, in Suriname, the Surinamese had a very similar tone, that, Suriname belongs to the Surinamese and all foreigners should leave. Whereas, if we were to look into the history of Suriname then we might find that, today, more than 90% of the Surinamese are actually immigrants. Around the 18th century, slaves from Africa and India were imported to Suriname to work in the plantations. Over the years, the blacks have dominated the society as if Suriname is their grandfather’s land, since their grandfathers were there as slaves and they even threaten the Indian Surinamese (those Indians who were immigrated from India to Suriname as slaves). Ideally, Suriname was a country of the Amerindians. However, most of the Amerindians live deep in the forests and never seem to have any such claims on the land. Therefore, considering the facts of the slaves who were immigrated there, Suriname is as for the blacks from Africa as for the Indians from India. And today, its economy depends either on imports from other countries and yet, some people there claim it to be their land. A very similar debate is in the other islands of The Caribbean. And it comes from the blacks from the African origin. Most of who do not work, are highly into crime while the Indians are into business. 

It was different in the USA. Thats where I felt like a human. For the first time, I had a feeling while in The Caribbean that, as a human, I have some rights. Rights to live, express myself, chose the kind of job I want. And, people around me, seemed different. The blacks were as friendly as the Chinese or the Koreans for that matter. People seemed to know how to live, respect and work with people of different cast and religion. Unlike in the Caribbean.

My work took me to Europe, to Netherlands, where dark skinned people are called as ‘allochtoon’. It is more like a slang, just like, we might call a person as ‘Black’ or ‘Negro’ from Africa, in Netherlands, if you are not white, you are an allochtoon. Its that simple. Yet the Dutch boldly say that, there is no racism in Netherlands. Although the Turkish and the Moroccans are very aggressive with their demands and rights, which might be the reason for the hatred towards all colored people. Not to mention the entire Western European belt has a similar air about racism. Maybe, we can exclude UK for a while, as not being so strong a country on the matter for racism, as countries like France, Netherlands and Germany! In UK, the color does not matter, as the person. Although, over the years, UK too has had several communal hard talks.

The last few years, I have been traveling between Poland, Netherlands and France and surprisingly, in Poland, some Poles believe that, Poland is all theirs to live and work. People of all other nationalities should leave, or at least not work in Poland because, it takes away job opportunities for the local Poles. In one such debate, I bluntly mentioned that, how come Poles feel free to work in the rest of Europe, especially since Poland became part of the EU, and, yet the Poles have such harsh feelings towards people of other nationalities? Its because many Poles leave their own land, in search of a job in another country, it thus, creates opportunities for others to come to Poland and work here. 

My point is, back home in my own country, if I get to hear, I do not belong to this state or the other, and, I hear a similar talk from other countries too! Then which is my land, where I can live a life of peace, dignity and honor? I do not follow ideologies from a prophet who claims my religion to be the best and all others are not and neither, do I believe in any kind of war on humanity. All I believe in is, working to make money, make my family and, live in peace. So, which is my land, where I can live happily?

Submitted by; Elena Sousa

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