It was a Thursday. Just a normal Thursday in Delhi, India until Nido Taniam stepped into a crowded store front.
As the 18 year old son of a local politician from Arunachal Pradesh, Taniam exhibited the lighter complexion of a Northeast Indian. As he entered the store front looking for addresses, Taniam began to be mocked by local shopkeepers about his northeastern features and blonde tipped hair. As a fight erupted, Taniam was beaten by the shopkeepers. Immediately taken away by police, he was arrested and the shopkeepers were fined. Later he returned and was again beaten. This would be Taniam’s last Thursday; his last Thursday alive.
Who knew that this particular Thursday would spark a racism debate addressing the rest of India’s perception and treatment of individuals from the Northeast region of the country? Throughout the coming days, many cases were reported of discrimination against Northeastern individuals. Their features compared to the majority of Indians, combined with the ignorance these individuals face, often make them easy targets for ridicule and racial discrimination. Buzzfeed mentioned an article in the Hindu titled, “Let’s stop pretending there’s no racism in India,” discusses the irony in how most Indians see racism as a phenomenon that does not affect them; they see themselves as the victim of racism rather than the one responsible. They do not see how their attitudes and behavior affect others. With this being said, many Indians took to social media sites to voice their unjust. The hashtag #KilledbyRacism trended on Twitter days after Taniam’s death with several Indians condemning the racial discrimination in India. What is surprising however, is that this hashtag was rarely used to discuss Nido Taniam’s death. Being #KilledbyRacism was simply implied.
On Friday, Ekta Kapur posted on Twitter:
I feel this tweet is expressing a major problem in India. A problem that many Indians never seem to acknowledge; colorblindness of race. Colorblindness is an idea referring to the ignorance a person or a group of people may exhibit in regard to the racial characteristics of another individual. In order to understand the severity of colorblindness, we must truly recognize how India plays into the double standard of race. With the colorblind mentality, most Indians believe that racism only happens in the west. As seen with Taniam’s death however, racism is very real in much of India and affects many people. So, why do we discriminate against our own kind? If India is truly blessed with diversity, why does it come with such a hefty price tag? The answer to this question can be found within the frame of colorblindness known as minimization of racism. This frame suggests that “discrimination is no longer a central factor affecting minorities”(29). And so, I believe this is what Kapur is trying to say in her twitter post. It is difficult to fathom that such a country, whose citizens worked hard to have a diverse population, is controlled by individuals who hold the colorblind mentality that discrimination does not affect minorities. Kapur is shining a light on this issue and uses Twitter to not only show how Nido Taniam was literally #KilledByRacism but how Indians can be #KilledByThierOwnRacism because race holds a double standard in India.
Also taking to Twitter, Prerna posts,
While analyzing this tweet, I find it interesting how Prerna believes that racism separates Indian states. This belief can be connected to a frame of colorblindness known as naturalization. As discussed in Bomilla-Silva, naturalization is a frame that allows whites to explain away racial phenomena by suggesting they are natural occurrences(29). Looking at Prerna’s tweet through a naturalization lens, I see how she is expressing the idea that racism naturally segregates India. Indians believe they can continue to explain how segregation of race in their country is a natural occurrence; no one is at fault but the races themselves. As we learned before, colorblindness has consumed the Indian mindset. Until “borders” begin separating Indian states, Indians will continue to hold this mindset. The diversity of India is a feat that should be rejoiced, but is never given the time of day. Naturalization is a very real topic that is affecting Indian states, and Prerna illustrates this idea very powerfully through his/her twitter post.
It was a Thursday. Just a normal Thursday in Delhi, India until Nido Taniam’s death sparked a national debate addressing the rest of India’s perception and treatment of individuals from the Northeast region of the country. People took their frustrations to Twitter and fought against the racist acts of their fellow Indians. As the hashtag #KilledbyRacism appeared on countless timelines, it was clear that the death of a local boy sparked a much bigger issue. People like Ekta Kapur and Prerna, who used social media to show their unjust were able to uncover an underlying problem within Indian society: colorblindness. Most of the Twitter posts I read about Taniam’s death addressed the issue of colorblindness unknowingly, but for the purpose of this blog post, I chose to only introduce the tweets by Kapur and Prerna. Both individuals, probably of racial minorities, used social media on the same Friday to notify the world that they too have been affected by the racism in India
So, why does #KilledbyRacism play such a prominent role in these Twitter posts?Nowhere in the posts I discussed above, did it mention Nido Tanium and his death directly. Why was this? It was because it was implied. Reading about Taniam’s death, we know that he was killed because of his race. #KilledbyRacism trended on Twitter because people wanted to fight racism. Indians did not want to stand back and watch their neighbors being figuratively killed by the colorblind racism in their country. They wanted a voice and social media provides this for many people. This being said, I would like to conclude this blog post by stating that colorblindness has always been a real issue in India and without Nido Taniam walking into the town square that Thursday, we still may not realize the its seriousness. Thursday, January 30th, will be a day marked down in the record books, not just for the death of one man but the “death” of so many others who have been affected by India’s racism. Racism is very much alive.
Bonilla-Silva, Eduardo(2010). Racism Without Racists: Color-Blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in America. 3rd Ed. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield,
Ekta Kapur(2014, January 31).India is blessed with diverse races, Mongolians, Dravidians, Aryans.. and yet we are probably the worst racists! shock and shame! #killedbyracism[Twitter Post]. Retrieved fromhttps://twitter.com/ektacapor/status/429322260709515264
Malik, Surabhi.(2014). New Delhi: Activists protesting against the death of Nido Taniam, a 20-year student from Arunachal Pradesh who died allegedly after he was beaten at South Delhi’s Lajpat Nagar market, plan to hold a candle light vigil at Jantar Mantar in Delhi this evening.[Photograph]. Retrieved on March 4, 2014 from http://www.ndtv.com/article/cheat-sheet/arunachal-pradesh-student-nido-taniam-s-death-candle-light-vigil-at-jantar-mantar-today-478344
Nashrulla, Tasneem. (2014).Student who was allegedly beaten to death after being taunted for his hair style sparks racism debate in India. Retrieved from http://www.buzzfeed.com/tasneemnashrulla/student-who-was-allegedly-beaten-to-death-after-being-taunte
Prerna(2014, January 31).Not borders but racism separate Indian states. When will Indians learn to revel in India’s rich diversity?! #killedbyracism.[Twitter Post]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/FortuitousTeen/status/429315726659166209