Democracies can’t breathe without responding to Race and Caste discrimination

George Floyd

Two of the biggest democracies in the world now face the biggest challenges in their political history. Yes, I am speaking about United States and India. One has failed to accommodate the huge Black population victim of the racism in that country while the other has failed to include the Dalits in the decision making as caste hatred and caste related violence and discrimination is on the rise in India. In fact, Indians take their caste identities along with them when they travel to US as well as other countries such as UK, and Canada.

First let us speak about, United States, which claimed to be the ‘greatest’ democracies of the world actually getting exposed with the growing anxiety among its African American or Black people who remained excluded in the large part of the American life. The brutal murder of a black man George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota on May 25th, 2020 sparked an unprecedented outrage in the entire United States and it look as if the level of tolerance and patience shown by the huge black population was now over. Over the years, we have seen American police killing youth of the African American origins at will and the discrimination and exclusion was growing. With President Donald Trump openly siding with white supremacists, it was clear that unless the huge black population does not rise in revolt things wont change.

The way George Floyd was murdered shows the deep rooted prejudices against the African American. Today, a situation has arisen when black youth does not know whether he will return home safe or not. Just a few days ago, there was a video of a white woman calling police in a park where a black youth has just asked her to put her dog on a leash as was required when you bring a pet in the park. Just on this, the woman named Amy Cooper, who worked with Franklin Templeton, called the police that this man whose name is Christian Cooper and hailing from African American origin, is threatening her. Now, can you imagine what happens in the united states when a black man or woman face the police?

George Floyd begged the police officer that he has health issues, he cant breath.. if you watch the video, he is in pain, begging to the police officer Derek Chauvin kept his knee over his neck for nearly 8 minutes resulting in painful death. Other police officers too were holding him in such a way that there was no way. George Floyd was arrested for giving fake USD 20 currency in a Deli i.e. Grocery Store combined with a restaurant. Police accused him of not cooperating though the video which was shot by some one shows Floyd begging that he has problem in breathing, dont push your knee on his neck but then the American police has does it that way.

Anyone who saw the video was actually pained. Good thing is that people across community lines including media, the Hollywood as well as big corporations have now started speaking against racism which is a good sign but this is not going to get resolved without the fair representation and participation of the African American in the American power structure. A huge country like America can not have two white dominated corporate funded political parties. The American system has this problem and now the issue of race relations has put the biggest challenge before them. An incompetent leadership which is encouraging white supremacists in the name of ‘America First’ has created such a deep divide that it will need a lot of perseverance and nation building exercise again. You need statesman. Often, the political leadership quote Martin Luther King Jr whenever such crisis comes but African American at the moment seem to tilt more towards the assertive Malcolm X.

India and Indians are not in a good position to preach the United States about ‘democracy’ and ‘equality’. If the police stations, FIRs and killing in the custody is concern, the caste pattern of our forces come out in open. Prejudices are high and in the last one decade situation has worsened. Corona has created more fears among the marginalised while anti CAA protests and subsequent cases being framed against activists belonging to minorities as well as marginalised sections clearly reflect the pattern that powers here too are working on an agenda to strengthen the Savarna monopoly over our administration, judiciary, media and polity. Democracy is not merely voting in five years but in real sense democracy is accepting diversity and divergent views but in today’s India it is difficult to have a dissenting view because you fear the repercussion. You write anything and somebody feel ‘hurt’ in jhumaritalllaiyaa and file a case against you. You dont know the place and dont have the resources but the police can come knocking your door any time and behave the same way as the American do, perhaps worst than them as policing is a colonial system in this country.

But in terms of participation in political structure is concern, thank to Baba Saheb Ambedkar the spaces for the Dalits and other sections is far better than America as Congress there does not have enough Black representative. More over, it is difficult to have political parties in the US without corporate support and there are lobbies. The African American population is not fairly represented. There are no welfare programmes unlike India where we have not only political reservation but also job reservation. But what makes United States better and greater is that it provided opportunities to all. It learnt its lessons from every mistake. The African American people fought and got their dues though not enough but society is individuals and you dont find khap panchayats or a religious rights group threatening to kill you. You can eat what you like, whether Jhatka or Halal, pork or beef and go anywhere, meet any one and enjoy your life. We have so many moral guardians here that life has become more difficult.

So, in the US they have better system and a better social order and that is why even corporate houses like NIke condemn it and Frenklin Templton actually dismissed the woman who called police to falsely implicate the black man in the park. In India such things are rare. In fact, the companies are completely brahmanical dominated by Banias and Jains. All these companies lack diversity at their managerial level. They would not even like to have diversity in their offices. Our news offices are dominated by a few savarna communities and so is the social life where prejudices run deep.

Things were turning better but then we have the onslaught of the right wing supremacists who felt that it is time to deepen their hegemony. The two great democracies are now facing the biggest challenge but it will continue unless they become inclusive embrace dialogue and respect divergent views. If political protest are considered anti nationals and sought to be handled through ‘administrative’ methods where minorities, Dalits, Adivasis, Blacks, African American are considered as criminal or terrorists then situation will turn explosive. Political leadership has to speak up and put a healing touch as the scars are deep. Mature democracies believe in dialogues and resolution through discussions, debate and inclusion. It is time our political leadership show maturity and initiate a dialogue and protect our democracies.

Vidya Bhushan Rawat is a social activist.

Follow me on Facebook at

twitter @freetohumanity



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Vidya Bhushan Rawat

Vidya Bhushan Rawat is a social and human rights activist. He blogs at twitter @freetohumanity Email: [email protected]

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