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India and the West: Deliberate double standards, cultural appropriation, and discrimination

opinionIndia and the West: Deliberate double standards, cultural appropriation, and discrimination

For the one week that I was elected President of the Oxford University Students’ Union, idol worship was publicly and internationally mocked and appropriated by a member of the teaching staff at the university.

Since its independence from the abusive and colonial British regime 75 years ago, the Republic of India has advanced by leaps and bounds. Then why is India still the country of “snake-charmers” for the West?
As of 25 October 2021, 244,512,570 people have been affected by the Covid pandemic and 4,965,637 people have died worldwide. India only features at ranks 127 in terms of deaths per million people and has vaccinated over a billion people now. Any unbiased person would conclude that India has done extremely well under the circumstances that the world is in today.
But some of the popular New York Times headlines over India’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic have been:
* “Death is the Only Truth.” Watching India’s Funeral Pyres Burn
* Just How Big Could India’s True Covid Toll Be?
* The Ganges Is Returning The Dead. It Does Not Lie
* India’s True Pandemic Death Toll Likely To Be Well Over 3 Million
* India’s Covid-19 Numbers Have Fallen. A Third Wave Still Looms
* India Hits A Vaccination Milestone
* As India’s Lethal Covid Wave Neared, Politics Overrode Science
* India Plans to Resume Vaccine Exports Starting Next Month
* India’s Covid Vaccine Campaign Hits 1 Billion Doses
Whilst the origin of coronavirus remains murky to date and bodies have piled high in cold storage for over a year in New York now, the West has selectively found joy in glorifying India’s misfortunes during times that were tragic to all. One standard for the world. Another standard for India. The United States went as far as placing an embargo on the export of commodities essential for the manufacture of Indian vaccines under elaborate pretexts, United Kingdom introduced preposterous quarantine regulations for fully-vaccinated Indians separate from people vaccinated elsewhere in the world. No part of this discrimination was considered newsworthy, however, they did not miss a beat in airing images of Hindu funeral pyres on their front pages.
Unfortunately for India and the occasional Indian, the double standards neither began nor ended with just the pandemic or the vaccines. From being debated multiple times in the House of Commons to being sponsored topics in multiple international forums, the human rights of religious minorities have been the next double standard. In the 75 years since Independence and the painful division of India into three different parts based on the principle of religion, there has been an increase of minority population from a mere 7% to over twice the number at 15% in India. In harsh contrast to this, the population of religious minorities has been violently chopped down to 3% from 15% in Pakistan and to 9% from 23% in Bangladesh. Every year over 1,000 minor girls are abducted, raped, forcefully converted, and married off by radical terrorists in these regions. Uyghur Muslims are being violently persecuted in China. Yet, nobody champions their human rights, or questions regimes enabling these blatant violations of human rights, but the Indian government is singlehandedly slandered. Over and over again.
India was amongst the first countries to unconditionally welcome refugees from Afghanistan during the horrific Taliban takeover of the country. Whilst many countries left their own people behind, India welcomed countless Afghans who would otherwise be violently persecuted or severely restricted in their personal liberties by the terror outfit currently controlling the region of Afghanistan. As videos of brutal beheadings of erstwhile female leaders, icons of the country, and fresh news of the horrendously patriarchal Taliban regime emerge, we see countries and conglomerates turning a stern blind eye and practically engaging in legitimising a terror outfit takeover by giving them a mainstream platform. I remember being beside myself at a particular video shot describing the day in the life of the Taliban as if they were some sort of influencers and not terrorists.
Only a few days ago, the Indian film Udham Singh was redacted from the 2022 Oscar nominations for “portraying the British in a bad light”. The film centred around the real story of a man who sought justice for the Jallianwala Bagh massacre of 1919, where scores of peacefully protesting Indians including children, were mercilessly butchered by the British officers in cold blood. It is however very interesting to note that in 2009, an Indian film called Slumdog Millionaire was nominated for Best Picture despite being a film that slickly confirmed colonial stereotypes of India and essentially portrayed the country in a very bad light.
In a world where cultural appropriation is called out loudly and almost instantly cancelled, the ancient practice of Yoga has been internationally stripped of its Indian roots within Sanatana Dharma. Cultural appropriation is defined as “The unacknowledged or inappropriate adoption of the customs, practices, ideas…”. What is being done to Yoga is no less than that. It has been reduced to a form of a trendy set of exercises with no acknowledgment of its origins or respect for its customs. The West has monetised and taken advantage of the mindfulness of Yoga, meditation and re-packaged it within neo-colonial frameworks.
For the one week that I was elected President of the Oxford University Students’ Union, idol worship was publicly and internationally mocked and appropriated by a member of the teaching staff at the university. The imagery was not limited to just breaking idols but a severe disregard for everything my religion stood for. Unfortunately for me, this was just the beginning of the incessant attacks with everything from my upbringing, hometown, race, educational background to food habits being humiliated. In a world where it is progressive to be vegan and vegetarian, I was branded a “regressive supremacist”, because my vegetarianism was inspired by the Indian-origin ancient Sanatani principles and not some Western fad. There was a clear discriminating line drawn between me and the rest. But suddenly, nobody could see the inconvenient truth until they were eventually forced to do so.
Unfortunately, we live in a world where neo-colonialism among other factors enables—one rule for the West and one more for the rest on the world stage.

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