Rosy Hype of Globalisation vs Realities of Recession and Racism
Tapas Ranjan Saha
The continuing spate of attacks and violence against Indians and Indian students in particular in Australia has once again exploded the much touted myth that globalisation promotes and respects pluralism and multiculturalism.
The Australian government initially tried to cover up and even deny the racist dimensions of the attack, terming them as just routine robberies and muggings. If that were so, why do Indians constitute a disproportionate share of the victims – 30% in Melbourne? One of the important demands of the protesting Indian students is to make the records of the assaults public - which would bring out the actual extent and dimension of these racist crimes. It is revealing that while the Australian police swooped down on the Indian students to thwart their protests against racist violence, the same police hardly displayed any urgency or sensitivity to stop the spate of crimes and violence.
The Australian authorities deny racism – but their own pronouncements and assumptions are racist. Take for example the “advice” of one Inspector Scott Mahony of the Melbourne police force, who asked Indians “not to talk loudly in their native language in public or travel around with expensive items such as mp3 players on display.” Is it not racist to blame the victims for the “display” of their “native language” and their electronic equipment?! Even more shocking is the fact that such racist “advice” has been echoed by the Indian authorities too! The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), in guidelines issued by it in the wake of the attack, advised Indian students in Australia not to venture out alone at night, to avoid flaunting gizmos and, curiously, to keep their homes clean. The implication – that Indians provoke attacks by being unclean, and that the attacks would stop of Indians would only keep their heads down and avoid flaunting their identity or presence – could not be more offensive.
Attacks on Indians, though not a new phenomenon in Australia, have been especially violent during the last few weeks. There have been at least 60 to 70 incidents of serious nature. According to police records at least three cases of crime against Indian students are registered on a daily basis. Partly, of course, Indian students are being targeted for shining academically and because they are perceived as getting better jobs than local Australian unemployed youth. But that is not all the story.
Remember that not long ago, taxi drivers of Indian and Pakistani origin had protested against the Australian police’s indifference to a series of attacks on them. That story had not been highlighted much by the corporate Indian media because it made less interesting copy for elite India than the attacks on “people like us.”
The truth is that racism is deeply entrenched in Australia’s state policy: the worst of its racism is directed at its Aborigine population, from whom the country itself was stolen by colonial Europeans. Today, a disproportionate percentage of Aborigines are jailed, or killed in ‘encounters’ on the streets, and there is no Aborigine representation in Australian parliament. Australian Ministers have time and again got away with racist remarks against immigrants – the “boat people” who come seeking refuge to Australia. Australian policy treats such immigrant refugees as criminals – penning them into jail-like detention centres for months. And of course, that is not to mention the rampant and rising racism against Muslims in Australia, in the wake of the “war on terror.” The episode of Dr. Hanif was only the tip of the iceberg – the Australian Government’s racism today is reinforced by its role in the occupation of Iraq, and its partnership with the US in sponsoring Islamophobia. The attacks on Indian students are no aberration – they are part and parcel of the deep-seated racism in Australian society and politics finding renewed expression in the wake of the globalisation, war and recession.
Commentators have dubbed the recent developments as the “present day Pauline Hanson phenomenon." Pauline Hanson was the conservative politician who got elected to the Australian Parliament in 1996, who spoke openly of the "swamping" of Australia by people from Asia and the consequent unemployment of "Aussie battlers".
Racism is a simmering phenomenon not just in Australia, but also in other countries like the US and the UK which are championing globalisation. For them, globalization means the free mobility of capital to usurp the land and livelihood of people of developing countries; it has never meant the free movement of labour to their countries. It is important to note that within the framework of globalisation, immigration laws act not to prevent migration but to control it to meet the needs of capital. This is achieved particularly by creating the phenomenon of 'undocumented', and 'illegal' workers who can be denied all rights - and it is these workers who are doing the crucial but undervalued, lowest paid jobs; jobs like care work of various kinds which cannot be outsourced. Predictably, in the wake of the current economic recession spawned by their disastrous policies, we are seeing a renewed offensive of racism against migrant workers from the third world in these countries – from attacks on Sikh cab drivers and retrenchment of Asian teachers in the US, to Gordon Brown’s call for “British jobs for British people”, the drum of racism is clearly being beaten by the ruling class to divert and mislead the anxiety of the working class in the face of recession.
Some quarters in Australia have raised the demand for a multi-racial police force. It must be emphasized that such measures cannot change the institutionalized racism of the police in the West (emanating from the political economy) – against which there has been a long history of struggles. 2009 marks 30 years the Southall Uprisings in Britain where Asian (mainly Indian Punjabi) working class youth took to the streets to protest against violence by the neo-Nazi National Front, and specifically to stop the National Front marching through Southall. The police brutally attacked the protestors, killing Blair Peach, a teacher and left activist from New Zealand.
While the Indian media has extensively covered the racist assaults on Indian students, it has failed even to mention racial harassment of Pakistani students in Britain in the name of “anti-terror” actions (see accompanying story). The British police has, shockingly, evolved a phrase – ‘clean skin,’ to connote those who have “blameless backgrounds” and show no sign of terrorist involvement, but who are nevertheless “highly trained professional killers.” This definition allows the police to brand any and every Muslim as a “terrorist” without having to furnish any evidence. When we speak of racism against those of ‘brown skin,’ we cannot ignore the linkages with the racism levelled against ‘clean skin’ – innocent Muslims targeted not by racist individuals or groups but by the might of the state.
As we protest against the attacks on Indians in Australia, we must also, however, remind ourselves of India’s own homespun variant of ‘anti-migrant’ chauvinism – such as the violence unleashed by MNS and Shiv Sena against North Indian migrants in Mumbai, or the ethnic targeting of students from the North East India in India’s capital city of Delhi.
It is high time that the people of the third world and the working class all over the world speak out against the present spate of racist assaults and the politics of hate and chauvinism in which the promoters of recession-hit globalisation are seeking a convenient refuge.