Monday, October 01, 2007

Chp 142. Nepali: A racial slur in India?


I can bet my treasured Arsenal jersey that one of the most googled keywords in India and Nepal yesterday was about what the RJ from Delhi commented about our
new Indian Idol Prashant Tamang, that sparked off a riot in Siliguri resulting in at least 60 wounded.

Nah, none of the prominent news sites mentioned about the exact comment. They only mentioned about the incident, and that the RJ had apologized… The reason why none of them printed the statement was obvious: Why unnecessarily pour more fuel into the racial fire already burning since time immemorial when Mankind was created with different racial features.

I finally found the statement at one of my subscribed feeds Sepia Mutiny who in turn obtained it from BPO Tiger.

Quoting from the above site, this is what Red FM RJ Nitin supposedly said:
Aaj Prashant Tamang ‘Nepali ladka from Darjeeling’ [Today Prashant Tamang, Nepali boy from Darjeeling] has become Indian Idol [laughs sarcastically] and we have a [cricket] match tonight so we need to guard our house / malls / restaurants by ourselves as there will be no Nepali people to guard these place and whole night we need to say Jagtay Raho [stay awake].” The RJ also added that all the Footpath Momo shops will remain closed as Nepali guy has become Indian Idol.
I also found this article at another feed I subscribe to, The Great Indian Mutiny, written by mutineer and founder Chacko (Jacob Joseph), where he asked the “Nepalis/Gorkhas to GROW UP” in his post Gurkha Humour, that came off as a very insensitive article to the Nepali community. The consequence was quite expected: More than 220 replies to his post so far, most of them abusing and cussing Chacko and calling him a racist pig etc.

When any community is attacked online, members of that online community react to the post usually after somebody comes across it from somewhere on the net and posts it in that particular community’s discussion forum. Happens with my Mizo community too. I did a little sleuthing of my own, and I think in this case, the main source of commenters at Chacko’s post came from this particular thread “Foul comments against Nepali community and Prashant” from The Darjeeling forum.

By this of course I don’t mean to criticize the members of that forum or anything like that, and am simply trying to point out how that particular post became so popular over-night. There can be other sources too, just as how any site “dissing” the Mizo community will see an immediate retaliation from members of misual.com, lawrkhawm.com, mizoserver.com, buannel.com, zawlbuk.net etc Mizo discussion forums. In today’s cyber age, almost every community has their own online discussion forums, and yes, we all guard our community’s honor fiercely.

I am quite surprised at Chacko for that article of his. I too might have joined the bandwagon calling him insensitive and maybe a racist, had I not made an acquaintance with Chacko earlier. I came across him when I was writing my article Ethnocide: the Great Hibu Fiasco, protesting about IPS Hibu’s careless remark in his booklet/guide about us NE students “dressing provocatively and eating our smelly cultural delicacies”. Chacko commented:
Great post, we should have you on the Mutiny (that's www.mutiny.in incase you were wondering) :-)
People like Chacko do belong to the category of thinkers who fight against racism and seek a World void of any discrimination. I know he’s not a racist and stand by him, but in this particular post of his, he got careless and maybe didn’t do his homework well. He missed out on the real issue on why the Nepali community considers the RJ’s statement as an extremely derogatory slur.

Even though every community in India has their own undesirable stereotypes, the minority community (read: Indians of a mongoloid origin) will react much more harshly to such stereotypes about them compared to the rest of India, simply because of the fact that we are an extremely insecure lot, and that should never be mistaken as us not having any sense of humor.

The insecurity stems out from the fact that we are an extreme minority in India, the incessant racial abuses and slurs we face everyday, the fact that no matter how much “sense of belonging” we try to have with India, the attitude of most Indians seem to say otherwise, and last but not the least, no matter how much we assimilate with the language, culture and traditions of India, our facial features betrays all that and we are still looked upon as foreigners.

And Nepalis face the brunt of all racial abuses in India.

Mizos too have been abused a million times with the “Chinky” slur by Mainland Indians wherever we go, apart from the regular “Nepali” chants, just because of our similar racial features. And any Mizo who has been outside Mizoram for a long time will take it as an offense to be heckled a “Nepali” by Mainland Indians. This is not because of the word "Nepali" per se, but the way in which that word is uttered at us. There is a vast difference between “Hey you look like a Nepali” and “Oyee sala Nepali”. It’s all a matter of semantics.

Because in the second sentence, we all know too well what people actually infer to when they use the word “Nepali”. Somehow, people equate that with being a watchman.

Dear readers, you may not be insinuating all that when you use the word “Nepali”, probably because you are refined and brought up in a dignified manner. But if you have spent enough time on the streets or know such people who do, then you will truly know the ghastly hidden meaning of the word “Nepali”. Such insinuation is totally uncalled for.

And that’s exactly the nerve RJ Nitin touched with his seemingly “harmless” joke. Nepalis reacted in full fury because they are tired of that “Sharma” and “Bahadur” tag of being a gate-keeper or watchman. Because in India, calling somebody a gate-keeper (chowkidaar) is not just about a menial occupation. It relates to a whole lot of other factors like looking down upon him, treading over him, treating him as an inferior object, a third class citizen or even a pile of crap, and occupying the lowest rung in the social ladder. The practice of the jajmani system and the now-banned evil practice of untouchability still exist in many households even today, indiscrete as they may be. Yes, we all know too well how servants are treated in this country.

I find it ironic why Nepalis are associated with such a derogatory insult, when in fact they have one of the World’s bravest and most gallant armed forces, the famous and renowned Gurkha Regiment. How come the word “nepali” is never used to imply bravery? Especially when they play such a huge role in the defense of India…

I also find it strange and sad why people of Nepali origin in India who share a much more similarity with mainland Indians in terms of religion, language and culture, compared to most of the tribes in NE India who are a diversified lot of Christian, Buddhist and Hindu backgrounds, are treated with such disgust and animosity. It is as if the mere word “Nepali” itself has become a racial slur here in India.

All that builds up to the gross insecurity of the Nepali community, and that is one of the main reasons why they reacted in such a way to statements made by the RJ and also by Chacko. It’s not about not having any sense of humor or not growing up. It’s never about that. That sense of humor died a long time ago when the first Nepali was recruited as a gate-keeper or lured into the sex trade in India. And since then, Nepalis worldwide have been endlessly trying to break away from that stereotype.

Sikhs are crudely labeled as stupid in our Country. Yet, you and I know how clever most of them are. We have a Sikh PM, Sikh Army Chief, and Sikh leaders in the corporate world, Sikhs in the sporting world, Sikhs who have climbed up the social ladder in every walk of life and whom everybody respects. They have broken away from their stereotype moulds, and today, many Sikhs laugh at those “Santa & Banta” jokes. But just because they can take such jokes, don’t expect the Nepalis to laugh at “watchmen” jokes. There is a vast difference in their social standings here in India, just as how those “Santa & Banta” jokes would have never been funny for the Sikhs during the Anti-Sikh riot of 1984.

Even if a Sikh can take a sardar joke or a marwari can take a “kanjoosi” joke, it would be in our best interest not to take it for granted that Nepalis will take a “watchman” joke. By expecting others to behave the same way as we do is nothing but the highest form of ethnocentrism, which often crosses a line with Racism. And once we reach that point of racism, everything becomes ugly, for racism only begets racism and there’s no end to it unless one side stops.

Every culture is different from the other and the most important thing is to respect each other’s peculiarities and oddities. After all, diversity is what makes India unite and there is no unity if one does not respect such diversity.

30 comments:

Anonymous said...

RJ Nitin's should castrated and fed his own barbequed balls..i cant beleive that the capital's no 2 radio station has an idiot like this guy as an RJ..
- snm

jimmy said...

Nicely put up bro and a nice conclusion at that. The word, 'Nepali' IS used as a 'cuss' word in North-India(can't say about the rest of India though). I know because having been brought up and lived all my life in Delhi, I've faced it myself.
This Nitin's comment was, as most people put it, really 'reckless'!

illusionaire said...

@ snm and Jimmy:

This is one of the comments I've just read at mutiny.in by Hemant:

"Well i don't know whether its true or not but I just heard that RED FM to which the RJ belongs to is the official partner for "SA RE GA MA PA" on Star Plus which is the rival show of Indian Idol, and people feel that the comments made by the RJ were intentional to make fun of the rival show.

I know I'm not helping in any manner to resolve the issue but just wanted to share this"

If this is true (and not one of those conspiracy theories), then this is a really serious issue. Because at this point, we are way past the "ignorant and unintentional" clause and heading directly into the "intentional racial slur"...

Anonymous said...

"The consequence was quite expected: More than 220 replies to his post so far, most of them abusing and cussing Chacko and calling him a racist pig etc."

Not only is "Chacko" a pig, but he copied the name "Great Indian Mutiny" from Sepia Mutiny. He then started calling himself a "mutineer" just like them.

J@n!ce said...

Sandman, welcome back :)

So nice to "see" you once again.

Thanks for the shout that I know you are back.

A warm BIG HUG TO you :):):)

Miss you lah !!

Janice Ng

illusionaire said...

Yeah, thanx for the welcome :) Sorry if this post (and some of my upcoming posts) might not relate to you as they will be more Indian/Mizo centric issues, but I will be making a couple of "Global" posts too. :)

Pierre said...

Hi Sandman, great post. Our community need a person like you as a moderator between the "racial happenings" and "i love my country.all indians are my brothers and sisters".
Would like 2 meet u. Can you contact me?? U can get my email from zoram.com. I will be in delhi begnning Nov for 7 days.Sorry for using this blog to contact you,have tried other means but it seems you are one hell of a popular guy but hard to find.

Linda Mawii

Jean Chia said...

sandman, so happy you're back!! we missed you heaps!! how have you been?

Aqua said...

awesome! thanks Kima for that objective post on the "RJ Imbroglio". I have been through Chacko's post and was shocked at his responses to some of the commentors. I would like to believe that his id was being misused.

What RJ Nitin said cannot be condoned and I fully support the Nepali community's outrage at what he has said on air. To quote one commentor on Chacko's post, I wish "the RJ had said something like ‘Now that Gurkhas have taken to singing, who will guard our borders and die for us". Alas, I guess this will never happen as long as people like RJ Nitin and his ilk are there in maintream India.

illusionaire said...

@ jean: It was nice taking a break from technology. Everything was peaceful, calm, serene and unblemished. The modern world does make life easier but it is more chaotic. A sabbatical in the hills really does rejuvenate one's soul :)

@ Linda: Im a moderator of zoram.com but haven't logged into that site in quite sometime now because of the inactivity. Will definitely look up your email address from there and contact you. You can also mail me at my email id silv_kim[at]yahoo[dot]com if you want.

Would love to meet up and discuss our society's issues and other topics about our community.

illusionaire said...

@ aqua:

I wish the RJ had said something like "Now that Gurkhas have taken to singing, who will guard our borders and die for us"

That is deeep!!! I would love to get to know the person who wrote that. Its really strange when Gorkhas have been giving so much to our country, yet all we do is mock them as watchmen and housekeepers...

About Chacko's id being hacked or not, I dont know and I don't speak for him, but even if he had really typed back those harsh replies, I really don't blame him. You should see the high number of abuses he got (many of those comments are deleted, but for people like me who subscribed to his comments feed, we receive everything).

Thats the point I was trying to make, about Racism leading only to racism. It is just an endless ugly cycle that churns over and over again. It all starts with singling out an individual, and making fun of his community. People from that community in turn make fun of the other person's community. Then more people from the first community retaliate. See, that's what I was trying to say, what's the point in all these? When will it all end?

Aqua said...

Kima, Chacko could have just ended the debate on his blog by writing a quick apology and closing comments for that post. it seemed like he was quite enjoying the attention.

y're absolutely right when y say 'racism leading to racism". quite like reverse racism. Also, we cannot expect everyone to revert to an intellectual discourse or an objective analysis during times like this. Chacko's post touched a raw nerve and people unleashed their anger on his blog. To be very fair Chacko more or less invited such comments by referring to Nepali women on mumbai's streets etc. Chacko's blog post and the response to it could well be another case study in analyzing rascim in India and the responses to it.

Jinx said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jinx said...

I have a very simple conception of racism or war, terrorism etc. I strongly hold true to what the Bible says about what is to come at the end of days.

Not intending to sound like a pessimist, but I believe that racism is here to stay...in fact it's gonna be uglier.It'll never stop. By this, I don't mean to say that we should not fight against it.We must...and should fight strongly against it as best we can.

I just believe that we must take great deal of care in our fight against racism that we don't end up becoming one ourselves with what we are strongly against.

And if each of us can begin from ourselves,it means that the world will have one less racist person..which will be a good start :)

Philo said...

I just read Chacko's entry. Insensitivity is deplorable but more so an educated insensitivity as it smacks of condescending arrogance ( like in "grow up!")parading as a calculated legitimizer for (his) seemingly racialized sensibilities.
Weaning away from our 'heritage' of social order as against social equality seems to be difficult as ever. As much as the RJ's idiocy is to be condemned, it's an imperative for self-critique on how one views the other with the baggage of regional, caste, tribal, class differences one carries just because of one's default social location in India.
Chacko and Nitin are, i hope, mere specks of twisted sensibilities rather than THE emerging contour of a more inclusive, equitable and life affirming diversity.

Jinx said...

Sori,I posted twice.Had technical problem.Thought it didn't come through the first time and wrote it all over again and re-posted...checked again later to find both my comments :P

mnowluck said...

Great post!

Every culture is different from the other and the most important thing is to respect each other’s peculiarities and oddities. After all, diversity is what makes India unite and there is no unity if one does not respect such diversity

True so true.!!! AGAIN!!! SO TRUE SO TRUE SO TRUE!!! Nice line.

agree with jinx too...

illusionaire said...

@ aqua: Chacko's blog post and the response to it could well be another case study in analyzing racism in India and the responses to it.

I agree it will make a very interesting case study. Although at one point it proves how fiercely each of us guard our own community in India, at the same time it all shows that in spite of all these (not just the nepali vs indian but also, south vs north, mainland vs north-east, aryan vs dravidian, tamilians vs kannadigans, manipuris vs nagas, marathis vs gujjus etc etc) shows that we still come together as ONE when the occasion arises! Makes me more proud than ever to be an Indian :)

@ Jinx: Lolz about the double comment of yours. I don't have internet at my flat so some of my friends approve all the moderated comments on my blog from their computers (They have my login) as long as none of the comments are abusive or racist. I welcome criticism, any criticism. Maybe my friends didn't realize they were approving the same comment. lolz.

I completely agree with your theory jinxie.

@ Philo: At least one good thing that came off from all these is, it kept people busy :) One look at the sheer number of comments on that post prove it. lolz. Thanx for your insightful comment as always.

@ mnowluck: Thank you my ever agreeing brother from another mother :-P

Ujj said...

Wonderul post. Very neatly drawn out. I agree that minorities need to guard their honour and existence and its a fact no matter how many sikhs take sikh jokes or how many gujjus take gujju jokes.

The fact remains every sikh joke ought to hurt sikhs, no matter how they might take it and if in India a community has to take up with crap like that, we technically, still have not come out of our stereotypical shells. Chacko attempts to argue that we can be tolerant towards things like the RJs comments. His argument is valid, we can, but the question is, do we need to, I mean everytime?

Just for the record, I am also a writer for the mutiny, my agreeing with you does not speak for the mutiny.

SEKIBUHCHHUAK said...

Gurkha sipai chu Khawvelah pawh sipai tha leh huaisen a ngaih an ni.

Singapore ah pawh,an Priminister/minister vengtu te chu Gurkha sipai te an ni.Ka ngaisang teh mai nia .

Tin,Gurkha nula te an chhe lo hle bawk :P

hmelthatea said...

Off Topic lawk! Front page ah hian Summary dah dan i thiam em? Post zawng2 lang lo hian, min lo hrilh teha! he he ka thiam lova, chiang deuh in!

illusionaire said...

@ Ujj: Your well spoken words is the kind of comments that people should look up to. We live in a World where each of us have our own opinion, and we should never blame an entire community for the remark of one. I am a regular reader of mutiny and I know for sure that not all the mutineers share the same sentiments of Chacko. And I will ofcourse continue patronizing mutiny and look forward to the wonderful articles by Chacko too, but hopefully not on issues regarding race and community this time :)

@ Seki: Yes, I'll drink to that. Gurkhas are a brave lot, and I know why we Mizos look up to them more than anybody else, because of the belief in our culture that bravery is the highest honor one can achieve.

@ Hmelthatea: Please come to A new Template where we will discuss your query :)

krish said...

I am a nepali borned and broughtup in India from a Airforce background.

I think the only solution to all these problem is to have a state of our own. India is divided in regions according to language. State is an identitfy for an individual.

If a person says he is bengali people dont take him/her to Bengladesh, or if somebody says tamilian people don't take them to Srilanks. But if you say nepali, you are taken to Nepal.

I don't personally think that everybody thinks of Nepali as bad or low people. Everyone has their opinion.

In India people make fun of every culture sardarji, bihari, madrasi etc.

So, I would say we need a seperate state of our own.

illusionaire said...

Granting a State-status to the Nepalis will not prevent such racial attacks from occuring, as can be observe from the discrimination faced by others who have their own State.

Secondly, it has never been easy to grant State status to anybody, as that changes a lot in the Indian demography. Mizoram fought tooth and nail, and were finally granted a State status in 1987. Likewise, in the North-east, Bodos, kukis etc are still fighting for a State-status. NSCN (Nagaland) are still fighting for a Greater Nagaland State. In Andhra Pradesh, Telengana activists are still fighting for a separate Telengana State. These are just some of the few instances of such activities.

I'm not saying I support or don't support your call for a separate State. I'm just saying, it's definitely not going to be easy.

Anonymous said...

Great article. Indians, gven our caste and race based pst, still have a long way to go. I still remember that during my early childhood we used to see a lot of Nepali, Chinese and other people of similar origin as dentists and shoe hawkers and they were well liked. And I wondered where thye went as years went by.

On behalf of my fellow Indians, please accept my apologies.

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Santosh Thapa said...

Mutiny. the famous sepoy mutiny of 1857 where Nepali PM Jung Bahadur Kunwar Rana sent the Nepalese forces to kill the Indian soldiers in Uttara Pradesh who were fighting for freedom vs British. and Amritsar of 1917 where Nepalese killed many Indians. Indians are now revenging for the old historic attacks. And sorry my bro, chinky? what? are u out of your mind? Nepali and chinky? Do you even know what ethnic group rules Nepal? Who were PM and army generals? Come on google out. Nepal's bureaucracy, PM, Army Generals, civil offices, govt teachers, administrators, party leaders are 90% Brahmins and Kshetris. And history has it Nepali language was invented by Nepali pahade Brahmin(Bahun) and pahade Kshetriya(Chhetri) from old school Sanskrita. I never knew Nepal, country of 81.3% Hindus will be mocked by the name of few mongoloid minority. Mongolian and Maithilis Bhojpuris are minority in Nepal under JANJATI and MADHESHI reservation quotas. Nepali is demeaning word. Indians too have identity as panipuri vendors, labourers, rickshawpullers and new stereotypes rapists(by BBC and America). But we dont mock them like Indians do to the rest of the world. Plz know about others and make jokes. and diverse country like Nepal has no stereotypes if possible make it on BahunChhetri nasalized way of speaking. We thought foreigners are amused with nasalized NEPALIS but INDIANS are obsessed with MONGOLOID NEPALIS OF INDIAN STATES Sikkim, Darjeeling. I bet Indians havent seen real Nepalis(mothertongue Nepalese) are fairer Aryans than Negroid black indians.