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

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Sonia-Gandhi

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.

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Democrats in Congress Ready To Take Control

This is about us lifting up the voices, the stories, the struggles, the innovation and the ideas of the people that we represent.

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Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, left, speaks at a small rally outside an orientation meeting for incoming members of Congress at Harvard University. Rep.-elect Ayanna Pressley, right, and Rep.-elect Lori Trahan, second from right, look on in Cambridge, Mass. VOA

Incoming members of the Democratic Party’s new U.S. House majority say they’re ready to turn the energy of their campaigns into real power on Capitol Hill.

Rep.-elects Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and a handful of other liberal-leaning incoming Democrats used an orientation event for freshman lawmakers Tuesday sponsored by the Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics to stake out some of their top issues – from gun violence to health care to climate change.

They say they’re ready to leverage their victories at the ballot box into victories in Congress — an institution that prizes seniority.

Pressley said power is about more than just how many terms a lawmaker has served.

“It’s a confluence of things. It’s about the committees that we’ll be appointed to. It’s about the values- and issues-based caucuses that we’ll serve on. And it’s about us simply leveraging the platform that we have available to us as well as our social media networks,” Pressley said.

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Democratic congressional candidate Ilhan Omar reacts after appearing at her midterm election night party in Minneapolis, Minnesota. VOA

Pressley won election to the House by beating a fellow Democrat – longtime U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano – in a September primary.

Ocasio-Cortez said like-minded incoming Democratic members of the House have the numbers needed to press their case for change.

“We have a magic number in the House … and it’s 218,” she said. “Two hundred and eighteen is the magic number to get things done and how many member Democratic freshmen do we have? Sixty Three. Sixty-three of that 218 is brand new and 35 of that 63 have rejected corporate PAC money, 35 of that 63 is not funded by opioid companies, not funded by the NRA, not funded by for-profit health care, not funded by fossil fuels. Thirty-five are independent of the interests of corporate influence.”

Like Pressley, Ocasio-Cortez also won election by defeating another veteran Democratic incumbent – Joe Crowley – in New York’s June primary.

Ocasio-Cortez said Democrats have to fight back against an opposition she said “is predicated on us being turned against each other, of us accepting the idea of zero-sum thinking that one community’s gain must be another community’s loss.”

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Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat-New York, talks during a news conference with members of the Progressive Caucus in Washington. VOA

“We know that all of our issues are tied and are the same,” she added. “There is no health care justice without gun violence reform.”

Ocasio-Cortez and Pressley have both pledged to support Nancy Pelosi as House Speaker after Democrats take control of the House in January.

Other new and incoming Democratic House members who spoke at Tuesday’s event include Lori Trahan of Massachusetts, Mary Gay Scanlon of Pennsylvania and Andy Levin of Michigan.

Pressley said the timing of Tuesday’s press conference wasn’t meant as a rejection of the Harvard orientation event.

Also Read: Political Ads Under Scrutiny By Google Before The EU Elections

On its website the school says the sessions are designed to help incoming House members “forge bipartisan relationships and learn practical skills of lawmaking just one month prior to taking the oath of office.” Since 1972, the program has hosted nearly 700 current and new member of Congress.

“There is nothing adversarial,” Pressley said. “This is about us lifting up the voices, the stories, the struggles, the innovation and the ideas of the people that we represent. So I think it’s a good thing.” (VOA)