New Zealand massacre: Lack of racial empathy a major cause of concern for Asians

File photo -Flowers are placed outside Al Noor mosque in Christchurch Photograph:( Reuters )

Gurgaon, Haryana, India Mar 18, 2019, 12.54 PM (IST) Written By: Pushpesh Pant

The carnage in Christchurch has sent shock waves across the Indian Ocean. Distant New Zealand suddenly has unmasked the horribly ugly face of racism that is on the rise almost everywhere in the western world and is often married to religious bigotry of the worst kind. Unfortunately, the demonisation of ‘Islamic Terror’ has diverted our attention from brutalities perpetrated by White psychopaths. After, the attack on the Noor Masjid it is impossible to turn a blind eye to the ghastliness that threatens to target us.  

Let there be no mistake we, the people of the sub-continent, are the primary target of those who can no longer be dismissed as the mentally disturbed, socially dysfunctional microscopic minority. Descendants of those who perpetrated genocide against indigenous people now have assumed the responsibility of cleansing ‘their land’ of outsiders/interlopers/immigrants. They daren’t incur the wrath of China but the open season has been declared on Asians-mostly Indians and Pakistanis. True, Turks are mentioned in the same breath but it is south Asians who comprise the largest section of visible aliens- hard working, irritatingly, prosperous, upwardly mobile. In New Zealand alone Indian population approximates 200,000 of which 20,000 are students. Australia is the first choice of those Indians looking in the South Easterly direction and understandably these numbers are larger there. 

What is disturbing is that our government has been working overtime to forge closer economic and strategic ties with countries in this region. The QUAD is conceived as a counterpoise to China and we have been happily opening our markets to produce from Australia. Synergies in diverse fields from mining to technology are repeatedly harped upon.

But can any real progress be made in the face of violent racial prejudice and climate of hate? It may be argued that what happened is an unfortunate accident and its unfair to hold the country responsible for it. It must be admitted that the New Zealand prime minister has promptly condemned the atrocity as an act of terrorism and made it clear that all who dwell in that country ‘are our own’. Still, it is not easy to be reassured. The fair-skinned imperialists who colonised Asia and Africa in the 18th-19th century are extremely reluctant to treat those with darker skin and practising a different faith as equals. The only language they understand is of power. 

A few years back the Skull Heads and Punks in London bragged about ‘Dot Busting’ and ‘Paki Bashing.’ Then started the attacks on Mom and Pop stores in US towns and cities. Nor have the university campuses remained safe for Indian students. Most regrettably the election of Donald Trump as the POTUS has aggravated the situation drastically. All this talk of building a wall to keep away the Mexicans, Cubans and sundry Hispanics has only fuelled racist prejudices. Tidal waves of Syrian and other refugees hitting European shores has unnerved many governments. 

No one, however, has the time to recall what has rendered these wretched people homeless. Hadn’t the US so ruthlessly implemented a policy of regime change in the Middle East/West Asia the ‘White Christian Civilisation’ wouldn’t have been imperilled. Climate Change is a reality that has triggered a Tsunamis of Hate. From Germany to Sweden, from the US to Australia White Supremacists have been emboldened to embark on a reckless path of revenge and retribution. Restraint and reconciliation are for the meek and weak. 

Distance for most of us remains a geographical concept. Countries situated far away are not viewed as neighbours or significant in bilateral relations. Emotional distance is no less problematic. Neighbours next-door (Pakistan and China, for instance) often are perceived (and act) as enemies. This makes it almost impossible to resolve inherited disputes or irritants that crop up in the to time. Friends far away appear attractive allies.

Why the tragic events in New Zealand have agitated us so much is for this reason that geographical distance should not lull us into a false sense of security. This time it was the Bangladeshi Cricket Team that had a narrow escape. Next time someone from India may not be so lucky. The Bell that is tolling is tolling for us. 

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL.)

Pushpesh Pant

Pushpesh Pant is a noted Indian academic and historian.

Story highlights

The demonisation of ‘Islamic Terror’ has diverted our attention from brutalities perpetrated by White psychopaths.