One of my cousin living in Australia forwarded an open letter to Amitabh Bachan written by an Australian married to an Indian , to which I had to respond. The letter from her friend was written in good intention of supporting her country but opened another dimension of what many of the westerners feel and know about India.
Below is the letter and my response,
Please allow me to point out some misconceptions about the recent discussion of how Australians treat Indians:
Australians in general are NOT racist. True, there have been attacks against Indians in Australia; there have also been attacks against many other people in Australia who do not have the support of a separate ethnic group to publicise their plight. Many “Anglo” Australians suffer similar plights as those Indian students who have been attacked eg. my brother is 184cm tall and was robbed of his telephone and wallet in the central business district at 7pm one night. My sister had her handbag stolen by two girls who punched her repeatedly on the train and then ran away at the next station. Neither of these incidents were reported in the mainstream media in Australia.
A female friend of my family was attacked and badly injured by a stranger when working/touring in Rajasthan; a man that I work with was beaten senseless in Mumbai. These incidents were not reported in the media in India or Australia. When the female friend reported the incident to the police, she was told that it was her fault. That was the thanks she received for teaching orphans. Go out for a meal in a restaurant in Melbourne or Sydney; go to the cinema – and you will see many racially mixed couples.
My husband was born in Punjab and his family moved to Australia 20 years ago, yet when my husband brought me and my family to meet his parents (when we became engaged), his father would not open the door to his son and his mother screamed abuse from the window. My sister-in-law came outside and slapped me “for making his family ashamed” – because I am not an Indian. Gora and gori were the main adjectives used in the abuse by all, despite that I had begun studying to read and write Punjabi as well as taking my husband’s religion. At weddings we are generally accepted by the families of friends but there are still people in the community who build and maintain rumours about our marriage. My family does not look at the colour of my husband’s skin or hear his accent. My mother now cooks aloo mattar, saag paneer, daal, etc. Our children have not learned the wisdom of their Punjabi ancestry from their Punjabi grandparents and aunts who will not see them.
We have no caste system in Australia, we have no Dalets or “untouchables”, it is against the law to discriminate against anyone.
It is a shame that you have refused an honour to be bestowed upon you by an Australian University, based on the flawed logic and lack of knowledge of some readers who really know nothing about Australia. If Australia was a racist country, such an honour would not have been offered to you.
In Australia, everyone has the right to demonstrate. If a similar demonstration had been held in Delhi – by “Anglo” women protesting the treatment of their parents-in-law, I doubt that protestors would have escaped without serious injury from police batons or the crowd.
It is terrible that anyone is brutally attacked under any circumstance, in any country. I would suggest that those who verbally attack Australia – and Australians generally, should look at the mess in their own yard beforehand. There are horrible people and good people in every nation and every country. Australia wished to honour the good that Mr Bachan has given to the world; and it has been rejected – sadly.
My response to the above :
Though I appreciate the POV, I think there is a flaw in the argument. The writer is trying to equate the caste system to a racist issue when it is not and is unncessarily diluting her point. She should focus on talking about lack of racism in Australia and close.
The jaati vyvastha ( wrongly equated with the caste system of the West) is purely a Hindu phenomenon and she is unncessarily dragging the Hindu way of life into the issue. What is her knowledge about the Jaati vyastha (caste system )?
How come Christian socieites discriminated against women, blacks & encouraged slavery ? How come they killed millions of women branding them as witches in the 17-19th century under the canons of the Pope ? Did the Hindu jaati vyvastha prompt them to do it ? It would do them good to confront these issues rather than talking about the caste system. It is fashionable in the western circles to speak about caste system when they know nothing about it.
The jaati vyvastha in India evolved as a socio-cultural set up with professions as the nucleus. It later stratified into an extended family set up and I think it is nobody’s business to comment on how the Hindus live their lives. It is for the Hindus to decide whether they want the jaati vyvastha or not.
Just as she says that it is against the law to discriminate against anyone in Australia, so also it is in India.So much so that calling a so-called Dalit by his caste name is a non-bailable offence.Untouchability has no sanction by any of the hindu texts..it is purely a social problem that is being tackled not only by the Hindu leaders and organisations but also by the government.
In the last 60 years, we have had a President, a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, hundreds of MP’s, Chief Ministers, Governors from the Scheduled castes ( called as Dalits by some) . Can any other nation equal this where the most oppressed sections have got so much representation and that too by free electoral process ?
So the equation of equating racism to caste does not work.
Considering the heat of the moment, it is perfectly acceptable for a lady to voice her views defending her own nation. But, if the only point she has is to deplore the other community, there is no case.
If you read Amitabh’s refusal, he used an important clause viz., ” it would be inappropriate to accept it at this point of time ” which is fair I think considering the current moment.
Though I do not subscribe to many of Amitabh bachan’s political views, I think this is one moment, where he has taken a right stance. His views and Queensland University’s response are blogged at