The foreign media is always quick to make headlines on anything that can discredit India. Even more so when cherry picking fringe case and amplifying them manifold.
The latest trend is to seek out cases of discrimination, even more so is to collect a stock pile of such cases across India, so that they can be paraded out in the media when the time is appropriate, i.e. when strategic to Western interests. For example, when India dares challenge Western powers in the UN, all sort of human rights violations will be slapped at them (when we all know that Western powers are some of the biggest promoter of human rights violations across the world, as well has having some of highest cases gun violence, rape, racism, etc. in their own countries).
Discrimination (based on race, culture, religion, etc) is not unique to India. It is everywhere. Only by projecting other countries as inferior, and keeping them on a leash, can Western civilization assert its power position in the world. It denigrates the nations and strips it of any voice in global politics. Such hypocrisy and imbalance in power can set a dangerous precedence for India as well as the world at large.
I will also add that we should welcome criticism by other nations, at least let each put each other to shame, so that they receive more attention. But this has to bidirectional. We need to return the favor as well. After all, we as human civilization as a whole are still trying to figure out things, still evolving as a whole.
This is not to show that one country is doing better than the other, but to show media bias.
India has throughout its history of over 5 millennium been unparalleled in its inclusion of different cultures: highly contrasting languages, attires, faiths, customs, spiritual practices, etc. Every culture is exhibited uninhibited, in its fullest expression, openly, without any shame or fear.
By and large, the level of discrimination in India is among the lowest in the world if you factor into account the stunning level of highly contrasting cultures, within a population of 1.2 billion squeezed into an area 1/3 the size of the USA.
Here are some interesting statistics, regarding elected officials (as it represents the people at large in a democracy). India has had:
- A Woman Prime Minister (Indira Gandhi, re-elected 3 times)
- A Hindu President (Pranab Mukherjee)
- A Muslim President (APJ Abdul Kalam)
- A Muslim Vice President (M. Hamid Ansari)
- A Sikh Prime Minister (Manmohan Singh)
- A Parsi Supreme Court Chief of Justice (S. H. Kapadia)
- A Zorastrian Chief of Air Force (Fali H. Major)
- A Christian Defence Minister (George Fernandes)
- An Atheist Defence Minister (A. K. Antony)
- A Catholic head of India’s largest political party the Indian National Congress (Sonia Gandhi) of foreign-born (Italian) origin.
- Largest number of elected women representatives of state and central government.
- Out of the 12 Presidents of India since Independence, three have been from minority religions.
- Has the most far-reaching affirmative action plan in the world (no country even comes close to it) to help its minorities.
The above list does not even take into account people coming from dramatically different faiths and spiritual traditions within Hindu culture (different bhakti traditions Shiva, Krishna, Murugan, Aiyappa, etc and different spiritual denominations: Ramana Maharshi, Sai Baba, Shridi Sai Baba, Baba Ramdev, Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, Mata Amritanandamayi, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Nityananda, Sivananda, etc).
Can you imagine the USA having a woman President? a Muslim President? A Hindu Secretary of Defense? A Muslim Supreme Court Justice?
Still as of today, you simply cannot become the President of the United States, if you do not pass the criteria of being a Christian. A litmus test showing how strongly this is entrenched is in the way the media openly demanded Obama to clarify his identity as a Christian (which he did), and not as a Muslim (because of his name, Barack Hussein Obama). Imagine the Indian media demanding for anyone running for Prime Minister (or for any other position in the above list) to openly declare they are Hindu before even being considered for that office??
Not to mention it took more than 200 years of USA’s Independence for the USA to elect and accept a Black President. That too, literally celebrating something as mundane as one’s skin color as “a great victory” of progress. In my list above, something as foolish as skin color does not even figure into the picture!
The level of diversity found in Indian Governmental positions (where you retain and wear your culture and faith on your sleeve) is not as established in US Government positions, as it is in India. In the USA such political diversity is more of the exception. It is changing, but that is how it stands today, even 200 years after independence. The USA has a long way to go when it comes to the culture of acceptance.
What makes Indians far ahead in culture of acceptance?
India is diverse because of its substrate of Hindu culture whose core operating principle is unprecedented pluralism. To Hindus pluralism is just common-sense. As a comparison, Christianity and Islam have been mono-cultures (with mono-faiths) from their beginnings. The fact that Hindu culture from the start found it simple common-sense that people seek Truth/God according to their temperament (whether it be some sort of theism, atheism, agnostic, metaphysics, scientific inquiry,…), the fact they have the common-sense to realize that there is no “one-size-fits-all”, and have the common-sense to be able to see just how insane the Christian/Muslim concept of “my-way-or-the-highway” is.
Diversity in India
India has hundreds of cultures, over 20,000 sub-cultures, over 28 distinct languages, over a thousand dialects, and thousands of faiths and spiritual traditions.
On top of that, all of the above listed attributes are profoundly rich in their expression, with unparalleled freedom of expression. If there were any form of rampant discrimination then none of these would have come to bear the level of richness they are today. In comparison, most other countries are far behind in achieving that level of maturation of acceptance, and hence pluralism.
For example, if you walk down the street in India, you’ll find people of different cultures, exhibiting dramatically contrasting attires, customs, faiths, languages, foods, etc.
“Diversity” in the USA
Contrast this with the USA where in most parts, with the exception of a few multicultural cities (primarily in the West and East coast), if you wear a turban/dhoti/lungi/sari and walk down the street, you will get some strange looks. Even in multicultural cities, just try wearing a dhoti/lungi in your own front-porch… and watch the real-estate value go down in that area. I’m reminded of a home owners association in even the multicultural city of Northern Virginia, sent a notice to a Hindu resident requiring him to remove a kolam decoration from his own driveway (see Banning Kolams).
This is changing in the USA, but only in the last two decades, and even then, most of what is called diversity is very platonic. It is one where you have been sufficiently stripped, scrubbed, and sanitized from your native culture and usurped into a monoculture (which is a fragile synthetic market driven consumer-culture), leaving only the thin vestiges of your original culture remaining (like the different cuisines, or allocating special days to celebrate diversity).