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India’s Fairness Battle: Does this show deep-rooted Racism in the Country?

The color biased mentality is so strong in India that fair n lovely/handsome ads to people not getting jobs because of their complexion seems to be way too normal

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Actress Nandita Das. Wikimedia

October 13, 2016: Greek philosopher Plato believed that ‘beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder’. Well, it seems more of a phrase now, as the world has created a check-list for determining the degree of beauty!

Anyone who doesn’t follow or fit in the criteria, people indulge in name-calling them, and in Indian society, the carnival of racism and sexism is an open secret.

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The colour biased mentality is so strong in India that fair n lovely/handsome ads to people not getting jobs because of their complexion seems to be way too normal. The issue is so deep-seated that every matrimonial advert are seen to be demanding for a fair bride or groom. Dark skinned are dirty and dirty enough to be treated as dirt. As the dirt is wiped out to make a place clean, the skin lightening products or cosmetics are provided widely in the market to wipe out the dirt from the skin. A report in The Guardian mentions that Indians consumed 233 tonnes of skin whitening products in 2012.

Poulami Nag, a journalist in Delhi, said, “I developed an inferiority complex when I was young. Repeated comments on my skin colour made me feel bad, which gradually faded with time.” She added, “More or less, the most common question I faced was, how will you even marry if you are so dark-skinned?”

The carnival of racism and sexism is an open secret in India. Click To Tweet

Slowly, the self-confidence starts chipping away with every comment and so-called ‘good suggestions’ that people give.

“Classmates would go on to say, the only thing I do not like about you is your skin colour; it’s so dark,” she said.

A few years back, a commercial for an “intimate wash” to whiten vaginas emerged, showing how a young Indian woman can use the product to successfully regain the attention of her boyfriend/husband.

The advertisement was widely panned, but matrimonial websites or newspaper columns clearly suggests the obsession India has for fair skin, at least on a woman’s face, as it remains one of the major keys to getting attention.

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The mass market whitening pioneer of India was “Fair & Lovely”, which was launched in 1975 by the Hindustan Unilever. Emami, an Indian consumer group came up with “Fair and Teen” for the teenage girls and “Fair and Handsome” for the men.

And, ‘Fair and handsome’ is promoted by one of the biggest superstars of Bollywood, Shah Rukh Khan.

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Shabarni Basu, Assistant Professor of Kalyani University

Shabarni Basu, assistant professor of Kalyani university, Kolkata while talking to NewsGram said, “It is sad that in our country beauty is synonymous with fair skin. Fair skin is a pre-requisite when you get married or in other social engagements. I am a firm believer that in no way skin tone has got any role to play in how you look. It is your personality and the way you carry yourself matters.”

She further added, “It’s high time society rises above these prejudices and embrace people for who they are and not discriminate on some goddamn issues over which one has no control. Such objectification, especially in the case of women in modern society, has no place.”

Recently, actor Tannishtha Chatterjee was present at a popular Tv show, Comedy Nights Bachao to promote her film, Parched.

The actress thought it would be a regular TV affair and some random jokes but it almost turned out to be a nightmare for her.

Apparently, the hosts felt it was funny or an act of ‘roast’ to make jibes at Tannishtha’s complexion. In a national television, the host referred to her as ‘kali kalooti’ and felt nothing inappropriate or wrong in asking if the actress has been eating jamun (blackberries) since childhood because of which mooh kala hai (she is dark skinned).

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This shows how deeply embedded this issue is. It seems absolutely normal to make fun of something over which one has no control.

That being said, there is an urgent need to inculcate the self-acceptance in ourselves before blaming the world. Consciously or unconsciously one need to stop catering to the demands of others. Be it celebrities or common people, one need to accept their plus-size body, dark skin, crooked teeth, birthmark on the face, without trying to fit the criteria of beauty by doing plastic or cosmetic surgeries.

– reported by Pinaz Kazi of NewsGram. Twitter: @PinazKazi

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Listening for Well-being : Arun Maira Talks About a Democracy in Crisis, Unsafe Social Media and More in his Latest Book

Maira asserts that we must learn to listen more deeply to 'people who are not like us' in our country because of their history, their culture, their religion, or their race.

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Arun Maira
Arun Maira (extreme left), during a public event in 2009. Wikimedia
  • Former Planning Commission member Arun Maira’s latest book is titled ‘Listening for Well-Being’
  • Maira observes that physical and verbal violence in the world and on social media is continuously growing
  • He also highlights the importance of ‘hearing each other’ in order to create truly inclusive and democratic societies

New Delhi, September 5, 2017 : Former Planning Commission member Arun Maira contends that “physical violence” in the real world and “verbal violence” on social media against people whom “we do not approve of” are increasing today. With such trends on the rise, the very idea of democracy finds itself in a crisis.

The solution?

“We need to listen more deeply to people who are not like us,” said the much-respected management consultant, talking of his latest book, “Listening for Well-Being”, and sharing his perspective on a wide range of issues that he deals with.

“Violence by people against those they dislike, for whatever reason, is increasing. It has become dangerous to post a personal view on any matter on social media. Responses are abusive. There is no respect for another’s dignity. People are also repeatedly threatened with physical violence.”

He said that gangs of trolls go after their victims viciously. “Social media has become a very violent space. Like the streets of a run-down city at night… not a safe space to roam around in.”

At the same time, streets in the physical world are becoming less safe too. “Any car or truck on the road can suddenly become a weapon of mass destruction in a ‘civilised’ country: in London, Berlin, Nice, or Barcelona,” Maira told IANS in an interview.

Maira said that with the rise of right-wing parties that are racist and anti-immigrant, there is great concern in the Western democratic world — in the US, the UK and Europe — that democracy is in a crisis.

In the US, for example, supporters of Donald Trump, Maira said, believe only what Trump says and watch only the news channels that share a similar ideology. On the other side are large numbers of US citizens who don’t believe what Trump says but they too have their own preferred news sources.

“They should listen to each other, and understand each other’s concerns. Only then can the country be inclusive. And also truly democratic — which means that everyone has an equal stake and an equal voice,” he noted.

In “Listening for Well-Being” (Rupa/Rs 500/182 Pages), Arun Maira shows his readers ways to use the power of listening. He analyses the causes for the decline in listening and proposes solutions to increase its depth in private and public discourse.

Drawing from his extensive experience as a leading strategist, he emphasises that by listening deeply, especially to people who are not like us, we can create a more inclusive, just, harmonious and sustainable world for everyone.

But it would be wrong to say that the decline in listening is only restricted to the Western world.

“We have the same issues in India too. We are a country with many diverse people. We are proud of our diversity. However, for our country to be truly democratic, all people must feel they are equal citizens.

“The need for citizens to listen to each other is much greater in India than in any other country because we are the most diverse country, and we want to be democratic. So, we must learn to listen more deeply to ‘people who are not like us’ in our country because of their history, their culture, their religion, or their race,” he maintained.

Maira also said that India is a country with a very long and rich history. And within the present boundaries of India are diverse people, with different cultures, different religions, and of different races.

“So, we cannot put too sharp a definition on who is an ‘Indian’ — the language they must speak, the religion they must follow, or the customs they must adopt. Because, then we will exclude many who do not have the same profiles, and say they are not Indians. Thus we can falsely, and dangerously, divide the country into ‘real Indians’ and those who are supposedly non-Indians. Indeed, such forces are rising in India,” he added.

Maira, 74, hoped that all his readers will appreciate that listening is essential to improve the world for everyone. He also maintained that it is not a complete solution to any of the world’s complex problems but by listening to other points of view, we can prevent conflict and also devise better solutions.

Born in Lahore, Arun Maira received his M.Sc. and B.Sc. in Physics from Delhi University’s St Stephen’s College. He has also authored two bestselling books previously, “Aeroplane While Flying: Reforming Institutions” and “Upstart in Government: Journeys of Change and Learning”. (IANS)

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Nazi Protests in American Soil and Obsession with Jews: “Unite the Right” Rally in Charlottesville (US) suffuses with Anti-Semitism and Anti-Black Racism Logic

This Saturday, However, was not like the usual Saturdays. In the world outside, Swastikas were being displayed and slogans were being shouted

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A man holding up a sign reading "Deplorables and Alt-Right Unite". Wikimedia
  • “Unite the Right” rally on August 12 in Charlottesville, Virginia was about protecting a statue of Robert E. Lee
  • The rally soon suffused with anti-black racism and anti-Semitism
  • President Trump blamed both the sides for the violence 

New Delhi, August 23, 2017: The “Unite the Right” rally On Saturday, August 12, in Charlottesville, Virginia, which was seemingly about protecting a statue of Robert E. Lee, spreading the message of white supremacy, was soon suffused with anti-black racism and anti-Semitism.

Saturday evening in a Jewish home is a sight to watch. Some look forward to restart their work, others pleased to use their cell phones again. Whatever it be, the end of Sabbath is an auspicious time when the holiness leaves, giving way to the regular week again. One makes the best of this time, to be able to deliver the approaching week happily, the reason why people at this time wish each other a “Shauva Tov,” or a good week.

This Saturday, However, was not like the usual Saturdays. In the world outside, Swastikas were being displayed and slogans were being shouted.

“I was in Israel and as I breathed the spices our sages teach us to comfort our soul while we lose our Shabbat spirits, this ritual barely prepared me for the news that was waiting on the other side. I turned my phone on, only to learn that a rally of White Supremacists and neo-Nazis took place in Charlottesville, Virginia and that those in attendance were shouting that ‘Jews will not replace us’ I realized immediately that it was not, in fact, going to be a shavua tov,” Said Jessica Spengler in a report published in Manhattan Jewish Experience website.

President Trump, two days later, blamed both the sides for the violence in Charlottesville. “I think there is blame on both sides. You had a group on one side that was bad. You had a group on the other side that was also very violent. Nobody wants to say that. I’ll say it right now,” He said, according to The New York Times report.

In a reaction to which, “Our president not only held counter-protesters to the same moral deficiency as the Nazis themselves but also claimed that not all people at the Unite The Right rally were antisemites. That might technically be true but not the kind of unequivocal condemnation of racism and bigotry we need to hear from the top,” Jessica mentioned.

ALSO READ: Jewish cemetery becomes the fresh hunt of rising Antisemitism in US

“I rarely speak of Israel as a safe haven also since America has been a safe option for Jews for as long as I’ve been alive. The 1800’s saw large waves of immigration to the land of Israel due to the pogroms occurring in Eastern Europe. The rising anti-Semitism reinforced in Europe by 20th century Fascism brought, even more, refugees to what would eventually become the Jewish State. But here’s the kicker: as a Jewish American, I never had to put myself in their shoes. After all, we live in America! But the images of white supremacists and neo-Nazis marching with swastikas in America in 2017 jolted me and got me thinking…maybe Israel is still needed as a safe haven even for us?” Jessica who’s herself a Jew living in America added.

Jessica believes it’s our responsibility to confront racism and all forms of bigotry, particularly anti-Semitism. She finds it important to speak against the bigotry in America but holds, that to continue to strengthen Israel is equally essential.

– prepared by Samiksha Goel of NewsGram. Twitter @goel_samiksha

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Book on Discrimination Against Dalits Creates Buzz in the US

The book details memories of growing up as a Dalit woman in India

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Dalit or Untouchable Woman of Bombay (Mumbai) according to Indian Caste System - 1942. Wikimedia Commons
  • A highly touching account of caste-based discrimination in India is creating a buzz in publishing circles in the United States
  • The author of the book “Ants among Elephants”, Sujatha Gidla is an alumnus of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Madras and is currently working as a conductor with the New York subway
  • The book details memories of growing up as a Dalit woman in India and lists many instances of “discrimination and humiliations”.

New York, July 31, 2017: A highly anecdotal and touching account of caste-based discrimination in India by an “untouchable born in Andhra Pradesh”, who emigrated to the United States at the age of 26, is creating a buzz in publishing circles here.

The book, titled “Ants among Elephants”, has been written by Sujatha Gidla, an alumnus of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Madras, who is currently working as a conductor with the New York subway. The book details memories of growing up as a Dalit woman in India. Gidla also lists many instances of “discrimination and humiliations” that Dalits in India are customarily subjected to.

In the introduction of the book, the author writes that she was born in Kazipet, a small town in the then state of Andhra Pradesh. Her parents were college lecturers but they were “untouchables”.

According to excerpts available on the publisher’s website, Gidla compares the case of “untouchables” in India to the racism against blacks in the US.

Also ReadEssence of freedom: What independence means to dalits of India

“The untouchables, whose special role — whose hereditary duty — is to labour in the fields of others or to do other work that Hindu society considers filthy, are not allowed to live in the village at all. They must live outside the boundaries of the village proper. They are not allowed to enter temples.

“Not allowed to come near sources of drinking water used by other castes. Not allowed to eat sitting next to a caste Hindu or to use the same utensils. There are thousands of other such restrictions and indignities that vary from place to place. Every day in an Indian newspaper you can read of an untouchable beaten or killed for wearing sandals, for riding a bicycle,” Gidla writes.

Major US publications, including the New York Times, have reviewed the book and have commented on its “insightful” understanding of India’s social and cultural fabric.

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According to a news report in NBC-2.com, Gidla’s grandparents converted to Christianity at the onset of the 20th century and were educated at Canadian missionary schools.

Gidla, too, with the help of Canadian missionaries, studied physics at the Regional Engineering College in Warangal, in what is Telangana today. She also pursued a researcher course in applied physics at IIT-Madras.

In the US, she initially worked as a developer in software design, then moved to banking but lost her job in 2009 during the economic crisis. Finally, she took up the job of a conductor at the New York subway.

The book has been published in the US by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, an imprint of Macmillan publishers, and is yet to enter the Indian market. (IANS)