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Pluralistic society

Pluralistic society
Highlights

Pluralistic society. More than 540 persons, mostly non-Whites, have been killed by the police administration in the United States since August last year.

Over two centuries of American nationhood and democracy and nearly seven decades of freedom in India have not been able to evolve the desirable level of inclusion of the minorities – religious, regional, ethnic and linguistic

More than 540 persons, mostly non-Whites, have been killed by the police administration in the United States since August last year. The incident is having an alarming cascading effect. The latest case is of Freddie Gray, who was nabbed by the police. Ironically, in a nation that prides in owning and using of gun, Gray was arrested for possessing a switchblade knife – no more.

Gray died in police custody with 80 per cent of his spine severed at the neck, lawyers for his family say, portraying him as just the latest young African American to die at the hands of the police in the USA. It is hardly surprising that several cities, including New York, Baltimore and Chicago are witnessing street demonstrations. They cannot but be spontaneous the way the participants include those who have been subjected to police violence or have lost their kin in such incidents.

The authorities are pleading patience and even all-Black juries being formed have failed to assuage the sentiments. It took wide-spread protests for the administration to wake up to the reality. Finally, the judiciary stepped in to provide justice when the six White policemen involved in Freddie Gray’s death had to face charges.

Taking in a larger picture, viewed from outside with concern but without antagonism, it is possible to talk of the ongoing racial violence in the USA in the context of the nation being led for over six years by its first Black president. He is obviously pained and is speaking up. But then, the US has a long history of violence perpetrated on non-Whites by a White-dominated administration.

It is also possible to argue against the report of an influential US Congressional body passing harsh judgment on religious freedom in India, even making personalised statements on Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This is despite the warm relations that not just India and the US, but also the personal vibes that Barack Obama and Modi enjoy.

But then, two wrongs do not make one right. And both India and the USA are vibrant, even complex societies where, proverbially, the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing. Not just the African-Americans but non-Whites in general remain the underdog. Their basic rights are violated and they are looked upon with suspicion. Peaceful Sikh community, preparing for a ‘langar’ (free food distribution) in an American town was attacked two years ago, killing five.

The attack came as part of a misplaced and misinformed perception about Sikhs, who spot beard and wear turbans, being mistaken for Muslims in the wake of post 9/11 Islamphobia. Only last month, an Indian-American grandfather was beaten so badly by a policeman that he has since been paralysed. It must be noted that prosecution and action, in this case at least, was swift and the punishment, even if considered inadequate, was handed down.

Both are pluralistic societies. Over two centuries of American nationhood and democracy and nearly seven decades of freedom in India have not been able to evolve the desirable level of inclusion of the minorities – religious, regional, ethnic and linguistic. There are no time limits and the process of evolution would need to be carried diligently and endlessly.

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