Keeping alive the British Raj & ‘Brown Supremacy’, but at what cost? – Rules v/s Respect?


-Shweta Raj Kanwar

The concept of 'white supremacy' was one of the cornerstones of the British Raj, but why this jeopardy against our own brothers and sisters? Has the concept of 'Brown Supremacy' now come into play? The racial and social hierarchy so carefully cultivated in the British Empire was firmly rooted in the belief that a separation between 'whites' and Indians had to be maintained. Otherwise an over familiarity between the rulers and the ruled would subvert the relations underpinning imperial domination. But, today, who are the rulers and the ruled? 

Before you perceive this article to be one that sympathizes with the commonly encountered racial discrimination against Northeast Indians, let me tell you, this has nothing to do with 'Racial Discrimination' but, it definitely has a lot to deal with the recent offensive remarks made by the manager of a prestigious Delhi Golf Club to a lady and citing 'Dress code' as an excuse to met out offensive remarks which was totally unjustified to the so called 'Dress Code' rules prevailing there. As far as I assume that the readers are almost certainly aware of what I am talking about here, yet, for those of you who are not, this is what it is all about:

Tailin Lyngdoh, Delhi Golf Club (Right)

On June 25, member of the Delhi Golf Club hosted a lunch party wherein people from all walks of life ranging from doctors to philosophers, entrepreneurs to businessmen were invited. As expected, an elite club of this stature would definitely adhere to certain dress codes which would be applicable to every invitee. Among those invited dignitaries (with due respect to their educational qualification and where they stood in life) was Nivedita Barthakur, an entrepreneur and honorary advisor, Health department to the Government of Assam and Tailin Lyngdoh who also accompanied her and who was a governess to Nivedita's 9 yr old son, who had travelled the world with Nivedita and was very well aware of the societal norms.

To begin with, Nivedita's 9-yr-old son's entry into the club was questioned on account of him not wearing a collared shirt (Dress Code you see!). After some discussions and without further remarks on the boy's attire, they were allowed into the premise. Fifteen minutes into the lunch, the manager again approaches Nivedita and questions the presence of Tailin Lyngdoh. When Nivedita tells them that Tailin is with her, the manager remarks that the dress Tailin was wearing makes her look like a maid and that she looked like a Nepali, and that maids were not allowed to share the same space in the company of 'Esteemed Dignitaries".

Feeling obviously offended by these remarks, the trio leaves the venue- stripped off of their dignity and feeling Discriminated.

As this story started doing its rounds on social media as well as the National Media, amongst many people who strongly condemned the presence of the system of "British Raj" in post Independence India, there was a section of people who blamed the media as well as the people who supported their stance as trying to give this issue a 'Racial angle', while mentioning that the issue was not about discrimination but about not adhering to the code of conduct of the Delhi Golf Club. They also went on to say that media was playing foul by using this story as a 'Click Bait' mechanism and portraying the series of events as racial discrimination towards Northeast Indians by the so called 'Mainlanders'. Co-incidently, Tailin Lyngdoh belonged to the state of Meghalaya that is situated in the Northeastern part of India.

Like every coin has two sides, even this issue would have had 2 sides provided these things would not have happened:

1. If the problem was the dress code and Tailin's attire not being apt for the occasion, the manager could have politely stated the problem with her attire and asked her to leave the venue on grounds of her dress not being compatible to the Club Rules.

2.But what actually happened was, the manager went up to them and said that her attire made her look like a 'Maid' and that Tailin herself looked like a 'Nepali' and hence, maids were not allowed to share space with the dignitaries.

Now the obvious fact to be noted here is that, though it is very true that elite clubs in and around the country are still responsible for upholding the 'Elite Policies' pertaining to the dress codes and other norms, calling somebody a maid or questioning their ethnicity by deeming them as Nepali- if this is not racial discrimination then what is this?

Moreover, what is the point of the presence of a room full of 'Dignitories' when all they do is remain mere spectators to the entire 'Discriminatory Drama' and all they have to say is "Pata nahi kaha kaha sey atey hai" (God knows from where these people have come!). This matter is not about siding or judging anybody's actions, but this is about tackling the issue from its roots. It might be possible that the manager uttered these words without even realizing that it might be a discriminatory statement, but this is where the problem lies! People still live with a mindset that Nepalese (or tribes from Northeast India) have certain facial features and wear certain type of attire and that most of them are maids. Also, people with small eyes could belong to a certain ethnic tribe and all they do is clean houses and take care of others children.

While a section of Indians celebrate the Independence Day every year with pomp and fervor, it is very sad to see that they are still slaves to their ancient English colonial rulers, who once upon a time treated Indians like dust. No harm in imitating the English and trying to look good and imitating a lifestyle fit for the rulers, but why ape their discriminatory attitude towards your own fellow Indians?

Rationality is an important gift that is possessed by each and every human being, barring a few- and I guess these few are whom we encounter in situations like those at the Delhi Golf Club!

As of now, Nivedita Barthakur has sought assistance from the Meghalaya Chief Minister Mukul Sangma who has assured her of taking a lagal action into this. Also, Kiren Rijiju, Union Minister for Home has written to the MHA in this regard to apprise him of the situation. It may be mentioned that Barthakur was asked by the Delhi Golf Club to put down this issue and not make a political and cultural fuss out of it. Moreover, the so-called apology letter never reached Barthakur as informed by her. Hence, it was more of a formal move on the part of the organization to justify themselves that they did take some actions with respect to this.

As Barthakur puts it, "Delhi Golf Club, a hallowed precinct frequented by the good and the great of Delhi and one of the best bastions of colonialism and racism in its most perverted form".

More than Seventy years of freedom from the British rule but yet we remain slaves to the culture of slavery and discrimination, in this case discrimination against our own fellow Indians! Happy Independence Day my fellow Indians!!

DISCLAIMER: The opinion expressed in the article is the writer's own and TNT-The Northeast Today may not subscribe to the same views