Battles with racism in India's own backyard

CHENNAI, India — It has long been known that India has its own brand of racism, manifested in a number of ways. Largely out of sight from the rest of the world, the malaise needed the gutsy chief minister of India's northeastern state of Mizoram, Pu Lalthanhawla, to get dramatic exposure.

1)When I go south (India), people ask "if I am an Indian", "They ask me if I am from Nepal or elsewhere." They forget that the northeast is part of India.

2)For a long time, men and women from the northeastern states have found themselves alienated because of their facial features, which are very different from the rest of Indians.

3)Studentsfound it harder to get college or university seats or to find living accommodations. They have also been victimized by fraud.

4)Prejudice against color and caste is a serious issue in a nation that essentially consists of three races — the Aryans of generally fair complexions from northern States, the usually dark-skinned Dravidians from the south and the light-colored people with Mongoloid features from the northeast.

5)Indians who fight against color bias are themselves practitioners of it.

6)Most matrimonial advertisements in the media ask for fair brides. Dark girls are often discriminated against, and it is not rare to find their families being forced to part with a huge dowry to find a groom.

7)Wheatish-looking actress and social activist Nandita Das felt harassed for a long time because of the way her makeup men tried to paint her face a deathly white.

8)Lately, Indian men appear increasingly conscious of their skin color. A range of cosmetic products promise to make them fairer and "more handsome," clearly indicating an unhealthy link between complexion and the image of beauty. The dangers of such advertising cannot be underestimated in a nation where various forms of racism create havoc that threaten the very fabric of a peaceful society.

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