Racial attack on Sonia Gandhi: Are Giriraj Singh’s comments the voice of India?



By Harshmeet Singh

Just when the public was about to forget and move over the scathing comments of Sharad Yadav regarding India’s infatuation towards white skin, Giriraj Singh, a Union Minister went a step further and hit out at the Congress party’s alleged obsession with fair skinned Sonia Gandhi. Here is what he said “If Rajiv Gandhi had married a Nigerian lady and not a white-skinned woman, then would the Congress have accepted her leadership?”  While the rising voices of dissent from all corners are inevitable, it would be worth questioning ourselves if Giriraj Singh is being despised just for saying what is actually the harsh reality of our country?

As expected, the minister’s statement was shaped as an attack on the Congress party by the BJP, when it was, in fact, much more than that. While we may raise slogans and put out placards against racist attacks on Indians in western countries, the fact remains that over the years, we, as a nation, knowingly or unknowingly, have imbibed racism deep into our veins. Right from our ‘preference’ for a very fair bride, as highlighted in our matrimonial ads, to the mentality that teaches us to see every African in India as a drug cartel, our love for fair skin and hostility towards dark skin is blatant. While trying to accuse the Congress of being a racist party and choosing their leadership on the basis of skin colour, Giriraj Singh presented the world with a piece of his own demonic thinking.

The loud applause that Singh received from his ‘exclusively men’ audience, after he made the comment, was a testimony to the fact that according to most Indian males, marrying a dark skinned woman would be an unimaginable sin. While the minister of state for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises offered an apology to Sonia Gandhi, interestingly, he is still in denial of the disrespect shelved out to the Nigerian women. The Nigerian envoy to India made no attempts to hide his displeasure over the minister’s remarks. Despite this, no official apology has been offered towards Nigeria. Coming months before the India – Africa summit to be held in New Delhi this year, his comments are sure to hurt India’s plans of coming closer to the African nations and enhancing trade engagement.

Don’t go out in the afternoon! You will turn black!

Multiple spheres of our society exemplify our affinity towards fair skin. Our past as a British colony played a major role in imbibing the superiority of fair skin into our minds. Questioning a white man with the same authority with which a dark skinned man is interrogated, is still a distinct possibility. There are still a number of professions where the colour of the skin is much more important than the qualification held by the person. The dark person, for instance, was considered a perfect choice for a villain in Bollywood movies, in contrast to a fair looking hero. People from the North East being beaten and discriminated in other parts of the country, workers from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh being cornered in Maharashtra and asked to go back, North Indians being sidelined when they visit South India, are some of the most brutal forms of racism we witness and yet choose to ignore, in our everyday life. The brutal mob attack on three African men at the heavily crowded Rajiv Chowk metro station last year was another rude reminder of what we have become as a society. With Indians giving offensive racial nick names such as ‘chinkee’, ‘mallu’ and ‘kallu’ to their own countrymen, they can’t be expected to do any better with the foreigners.

One of the best excuses made by the parents to stop their kids from going out of the home is ‘Don’t go out in the afternoon! You will turn black!’ A dark coloured skin is projected as a liability from the very childhood and once we grow up, there is no turning back. Many reports show that there are negligible foreign students studying in Indian Universities as compared to a number of other well known countries. This, in fact, is a major factor behind Indian institutions scoring low in world rankings. With India earning a reputation as an unsafe and hostile country for alien races, this number can’t be expected to rise anytime soon.

India is a racist country. Full stop. Did it hurt when you read this? It should. But rather than getting hurt and waiting for the next politician to come up with a similar comment, India would be served much better if our infatuation with fair skin dies and we accept people on the basis of their qualities and not colour. Let us not make Giriraj Singh’s voice the voice of India.