Attention – Due To Allegations of Plagiarism, This Article Is Highly Suspect

For years, we have labeled our fellow country men. Post partition, the Muslim has always been the traitor with his body in India and his soul in Pakistan. And if he had a long henna dyed beard; he cut a more sinister figure. For most of the 80s, the Sikhs were terrorists with a turbaned scalp. The Christians were out there only to seduce and harvest your souls and set up a Christian home land with its ethos and currency firmly pegged to the dollar by seceding from India at some point. To the liberal Indian, the saffron tilak sporting Hindu was probably a member of the Bajrang Dal with the welfare of cows on his lips and the murder of Muslims in his heart. Thus we have divided and thus we have classified.

Then there are the ethnic boxes the chinky eyed North Easterners, the dark Madrasis, the wily Malayali, the lazy Bengali, the money hungry Marwari and so on – we have boxes and labels for every one and every one fits—or so we think. We judge and evaluate people on the basis of these labels we have pasted on them and if need be, we crucify people based on those stereotyped pictures and some times very unjustly. In the political boundaries of the country it happens all the time and so subliminally that we do not even notice them for what they are. The Santa Banta jokes are good fun to share in parties but what does it say about the community it portrays? As dumb clods, right?

Some times the genie escapes out of the box we have locked him in and it gives the nation sleepless nights as it did Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recently. When after the involvement of two Indian doctors in the Glasgow airport car bomb attack, it looks that the whole nation might be labeled. Although the UK does not have a system like the US where the State Department after thorough interpretation and analysis of the information available to it can recommend to the President to label a particular nation a terrorist state that is by itself, more discouraging than encouraging. Formal labels can be removed- as for instance Libya, once a terrorist state in American eyes but now no longer. But who is to remove the stigma and the shame that no one formally pasted? They tend to stick and stay on longer than one would wish.

Even as British Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced ominous background checks on doctors, particularly the ones choosing to enter the National Health Service and it was ominously clear as to what kind of background would be particularly taken up for screening, Manmohan Singh invoked his own Sikh identity to say that as a Sikh, he had seen the trauma of labeling any community or country (as a terrorist)…true enough. He went on to say that “Terrorists are terrorists. They have no particular religion or community. Labels are best avoided because if you do that you create a new set of grievances.” Also true enough. Except that all these messages sound a bit pedantic considering the amount of labeling and classification of communities that goes on in our own country.

Next month is Independence Day. When the Prime Minister is required to give us a speech from the ramparts of the Red Fort. I guess that is the closest we have to a State of the Union speech spiked with lots of populism. May be in his speech this year, he can remind us all of what he has been telling the world. That labeling and classifying a human being is wrong. It does more harm than help. Always. Every time.

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