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Why ignorance is dangerous

Published Apr 08, 2013 01:38pm


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Let me confess that, like you, I’m tired of all the horrible things that are happening in the world. Earlier, it was the newspapers, then television and now Twitter. Now, the bad news is not just delivered to your doorstep each morning, it’s always breaking on the television screen and visible on your phone.

So, when I came across this, my mood lifted visibly. Here was a young Mizo from the state of Mizoram in northeast India, who was willing to engage his detractors and gently tell them that ignorance was dangerous.

Kima and his friends were racially abused by a Mumbai cop and told that “Nepalis” must return to Kathmandu while hanging out at a nimbu-paani stall on the pavement.

Mumbai (Bombay) can be unfriendly to the outsider. The Shiv Sena and its offshoots have made it their business to target “outsiders” from time-to-time to show who runs the megapolis and why they are relevant.

So, this is what Kima wrote in his blog – that he wasn’t a Nepali (and he didn’t have anything against Nepalis) but had no intention of quitting Mumbai since some policeman wanted Nepalis out of Mumbai. He and his friends were victims of racial abuse.

Kima did a super job of putting down he felt:

Yes, we are all aware of how different we look, the contrast in our cultures and traditions, the things that we like and don’t. You think it is easy for most of us to live here, work here, study here, everyday among a group of people so different from us? And yet, most of us have no other choice but to struggle and stay in this city for want of better education or better job opportunities or even because we have to support our families back home.

So dear police officer driving (car number) MH 01 BA 1089, you weren’t making things any easier for us with that outburst. Let’s sit down and have delicious tea or coffee together and talk about all the misconceptions you may have about us. Let’s clear all the stereotypes and hypes about us. Because if we don’t, you will never know the truth about us and continue with your blind hate and bigotry against us, and a poor fellow from the North East will be your next victim again. That person may even be more traumatised than some of those young Mizo girls you scared on Sunday. Let’s sit to prevent that, shall we? Peace.

And, lo and behold there was a response from a senior police officer and the tea-coffee actually did happen. And after the meeting, Kima tweeted:


Kima was satisfied that he had managed to get his point across. To a policeman who admitted that he didn’t know there were as many as seven states in the north-eastern part of India. Ignorance, clearly, was far from blissful bliss in this case.

Moral of the story: sometimes cops can be receptive. But you have to make the effort to arm them with general knowledge.

Prejudice, may I say, is not just pinned to appearance and ignorance. Its roots go much deeper.

Some years ago, I attended a breakfast press conference for senior editors with Nepal’s Prime Minister Prachanda, who was on his first visit to India after taking over the reins of his country.

To my horror, a senior editor started talking about the “trust” between Indians and Nepalis, by saying that Nepali workers in Delhi homes were even trusted with keys!

It was appalling. After a bit, the senior editor suggested that the PM of Nepal should take notes since he was part of an august gathering of top journalists.

I could bear it no longer and made it plain that I did not share the gentleman’s views.

If you don’t know better, just keep the big mouth shut.

Amit Baruah is an independent, Delhi-based journalist. He is the author of Dateline Islamabad and reported for The Hindu newspaper from Pakistan.

The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.


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Amit Baruah is an independent, Delhi-based journalist. He is the author of Dateline Islamabad and reported for The Hindu newspaper from Pakistan. He tweets @abaruah64.

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (12) Closed

aNY Apr 08, 2013 09:51am
An interesting episode. Don
kanak Apr 08, 2013 10:00am
Cops everywhere are over worked and contrary to what many people think, they are very friendly if you spare a little time to talk to them.I was asked to remove the sun control film in my car and fined by the police officer yesterday. After I paid the fine, the cop gave me address of the shop where I could get it removed cheap and also told me that a scribe had published a photo of his car with the film on.But he also told me that he had no right to implement the law since he had not followed it and I was the first one to be fined for this along with five others.But he was very polite and offered even tea to me and gave a receipt along with the traffic challan for the amount paid.
shuaib Apr 08, 2013 11:41am
By the way which part of Lahore do you live in. It must have been the one in U.K. You are a low mentality indian, pretending a Pakistani. I am living in Lahore and have not seen any such thing.
Asad Ali Shah Apr 08, 2013 02:37pm
I also agree with Mr. Shuaib. I have lived in Lahore for around last 13 years and I have never seen such a notice on any shop in Lahore. Mr. aNY's account seems to be a creation of his imagination with dubious intentions!
Sheeda Talli Apr 08, 2013 03:32pm
@ aNY I'd also like to know which part of LHR are you from and what kind of shops you talked about? I've never seen such signs posted anywhere and I've traveled across Pak.
Khizr Apr 08, 2013 05:04pm
A well written article on a very important toopic. Thanks Amit. Ignorance generates hate and makes co-existence difficult at all levels. Way to go Kima.
Khizr Apr 08, 2013 05:15pm
Shuaib, you might be right that Lahore may not have shops that post such hostile messages, but I do read in newspapers about discrimination and hate against minorities as well as among different sects. We share a similar problem as any big megapolis in the world does. Higher the ignorance, greater the problem is. We need Kima's courage and DSP Tamboli's responsiveness to start addressing the problem at large.
Pradip Apr 08, 2013 10:00pm
Lovely story, Amit! Alas, the good news is so infrequently "in the news". Oh, by the way, I have never met a real Asamese in person, despite having been a native of Bengal and as you know, even our written script is the same. So much for my knowing my own country.
P.R.Koduri Apr 08, 2013 10:46pm
The ignorance about Mera Bharat extends to many more than the police personnel. It speaks of the qualty of education today. Who cares for Geography when "Information Technology" can get you a sure job as a Computer Coolie. I might even wager that not many can name those 7 (yes seven) states of the Northeast. I am sure our own readership can attest of themselves.
smroofi Apr 09, 2013 06:46am
it is a fulgent article.
jspndy Apr 09, 2013 06:54am
Whether Pakistan or India ,or any other country,the essence of policing lies in respectful,sympathetic and sincere response,and not in crime-fighting.
rich Apr 09, 2013 07:33am
what does the author know abot mumbai, he just targets shiv sena. there is no issues in the street its all politics, and yes northest are viewd differently bec of their looks etc as they have just started entering the main street, it will take awhile for people to understand them in mumbai now there are many of them just a decade ago u could not see a single person for months, now they are everywhere, and as a mumbaikar they are more then welcome, they make mumbai that much richer by their presence. welcome my brother and sister from north east