Police brutality and institutionalised racism are tragic problems that beset American society. At least, in the US, there is open discussion on the subject. Something that does not happen in China’s Xinjiang province, which used to be called East Turkestan in the not so distant past. The American problems, I am convinced, are definitely worth protesting about. There is every likelihood that some reform will take place. Brutality will reduce. Racism will get less egregious. The pace will be glacial and for every two steps forward, there will be one step back for sure. History does not lend itself to too optimistic a prognosis. But in any event, the disease will at least get marginally better, not worse. That hope remains.
But when the protest moves from the US to Britain, it looks like the beginnings of a farcical comedy. Britain is one country that has repeatedly, openly and constructively tried to address institutional racism in law enforcement. Royal Commissions and other committees have gone into the Notting Hill Riots, the death of a young Black man in north London and the mistaken killing of a Brazilian in the London Underground. All these specific occurrences and many more have been thoroughly investigated, analysed, discussed and acted upon within the realms of the practical. (Contrast this with India where three Police Reform Commission reports continue to gather dust). Britain, in fact, seems to have acquired a tradition of ‘reverse racism’. In Rotherham, the police authorities failed young, vulnerable, White girls and protected their predators just to avoid being seen as racist or politically incorrect.
To start protesting about police brutality or racism is not just unfair to Britain, it also takes away attention from the specific American problem. When you make inane statements that everyone is racist or brutal, you let off the real brutes. They become part of an anonymous inchoate mass that can be excoriated — but ironically, need not be reformed.
Leftists will dismiss my “anecdotal” evidence. But I have lived in London and in Los Angeles. I can vouch for the fact that the Los Angeles police are brusque, officious, rude and quite obviously racist. The London police invariably treated me with courtesy, punctiliousness and respect. When we fail to praise, where praise is due, we risk creating a situation where we remove the incentives for London police personnel to be sensitive and courteous. I think the focus should be on fixing Los Angeles and Minneapolis, not on protesting in London.
But whether in Britain or India, Leftists are caught in their own bubble.
Foolishness of British Left
Not satisfied with diluting their protests by moving the action from the US to Britain, the protesters have introduced the bizarre “statue” motif into their movement. Protesting against statues of long-dead historical figures has nothing to do with current police brutality and very little to do, if that, with contemporary racism. Why are the Leftists foolish enough not to see this? What is worse is that this needless diversion towards statues is going to strengthen racists and alienate middle of the road, decent anti-racist Whites and even Indians. Now, why embark on actions that will turn your potential allies into sullen neutrals or even antagonists? The only answer has to be that it is impossible to understand Leftists. They always pitch their demands too high, embrace destructive extremism, love self-inflicted injuries and end up scoring a series of massive self goals.
And then there is the ultimate comedian: Mayor Sadiq Khan. If I had been in Khan’s place, I would have repeatedly thanked my parents for making sure that I was born in London and not in Karachi. I would have openly praised British society for giving me welcoming opportunities. The least Khan can do is to tell his supporters that attacking the statues of Winston Churchill and Mahatma Gandhi is wrong, intolerable, stupid and counter-productive. Instead, he makes a blatantly disingenuous statement exhibiting a complete lack of balance and perspective when it comes to history as well as to current reality. His sympathies are quite obviously with the vandals.
Khan is not at fault. He simply represents the great unwashed, Leftie, pretentious, pseudo-intelligentsia that unfortunately has disproportionate influence. It is true that Churchill has gone on record about his distaste for Indians, natives, Hindus, and so on. But Churchill was also a staunch anti-Nazi. Does that not count for something? Gandhi followed the vocabulary of his time when he used expressions like “kaffir”. He was fighting for the rights of Indians and, in that context, was less sympathetic to Black concerns. Despite knowing all this, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela were sober and understanding enough to be admirers of Gandhi. Does this too not count for anything?
The Leftists don’t get it. By driving away the admirers of Churchill and Gandhi, they are weakening the movement against American racism and police brutality. But then, I sometimes wonder if that is their intent. By discrediting and weakening a legitimate protest movement are they trying to ensure that constructive reform and incremental progress do not take place? They perhaps prefer no improvements, so that they can continue with inane projects like vandalising statues and quixotically tilting at the windmills of history.
On ‘Muslim Lives Matter’
And we now have a new group: expatriate (NRI) Indians of the Leftist persuasion. (As an aside, here is a question worth researching: Why do European universities produce so many Leftists?).They are now planning to start a movement (or in keeping with their asinine nature, at least a hashtag) called “Muslim Lives Matter”. This is of course worse than disingenuous with zero respect for history. Blacks were forcibly transported across the Atlantic as slaves. They were kept as slaves for several centuries. Even after slavery ended, they continued to suffer persecution. For a thousand years and more, till 1765, Muslims were rulers and conquerors in India, by no means slaves. In fact, Hindus were the objects of the lucrative slave market that extended from India all the way to Tashkent, Samarkand and Baghdad. To compare the position of Indian Muslims to American Blacks is so self-evidently absurd that one wonders how anyone could have dreamt it up.
It is true that in contemporary India, Muslims constitute a religious minority, the largest one as it happens. But that does not make their position even remotely analogous to that of African-Americans. Despite Gandhi’s prescriptions, there is a fair amount of political, religious and ethnic violence in India. But such violence is by no means directed only against Muslims. Just ask a Meitei or a Bor or for that matter a PETA activist who opposed Jallikattu in Tamil Nadu. It might also be worthwhile to note that Muslims in India of all sectarian dispositions: Sunni, Shia, Sufi, Ahmadiyya (and I list the last group as a Muslim sect with some justified trepidation), feel safer and in fact are safer than their fellow-religionists in ostensibly Muslim countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Yemen, and Libya — all countries where Muslim Lives do not seem to Matter.
The Sachar Committee — appointed by the Indian government, not by European Leftists — analysed the social and economic position of Indian Muslims. Thoughtful Indian Muslims are still trying to work out the relative importance of state policies and Muslim community agency, apropos of the fact that despite the existence of significant exceptions and outliers, in the aggregate, Indian Muslims have not leveraged the opportunities of modern India as much as say, the Dalits have.
The Sachar Committee actually revealed that Communist-ruled West Bengal had given the worst breaks to its Muslims. So complete and absolutist (Stalinist?) is the domination of academia by the Left that one does not run into too many citations of the official Sachar Committee report in academic journals. Be that as it may. This foolish attempt to equate the Indian Muslim experience with that of African-Americans is likely to backfire, alienate thoughtful Indians and actually become an albatross around the necks of Indian Muslims. But then it just shows that Leftists are not interested in the welfare of Indian Muslims. They are only interested in inflaming the sense of victimhood and grievance-mongering among Indian Muslims, even as sensible Indian Muslims are busy rejecting this narrative of victimhood and working to improve their community’s educational and economic outcomes. Constructive progress would, no doubt, anger the Lefties.
Net-net, it seems safe to predict that Leftists will continue to pursue a policy of foolishness and absurd extremism. Why they do so is not a mystery once one realises that it’s just in their DNA.
The author is an entrepreneur and writer. Views are personal.