Bharatiya Janata Party leader Tarun Vijay is facing criticism for responding to a question on the allegedly racist attacks on African nationals in Greater Noida by saying if India was, indeed, racist, we would not “live with” “black people around us”. “If we were racist, why would....all the entire South – you know, Kerala, Tamil, Andhra, Karnataka – why do we live with them?” He added, “We have blacks...black people around us.”
He made the statement during a discussion on TV channel Al Jazeera, while responding to another Indian panelist, Bengaluru-based photographer Mahesh Shantaram, who asked, “Why are people saying Indians are racist? Why are Indians saying Indians are racist? Why are people abroad and those who visit our beautiful nation feeling that Indians are racist?”
Vijay’s remarks triggered outrage soon after the interview was shared on social media. He took to Twitter to clarify his statement. “In many parts of the nation, we have different people, in colour and never, ever did we have any discrimination against them...My words, perhaps, were not enough to convey this,” he said, apologising to those who felt he spoke “differently from he meant”.
The BJP leader also said that Indians were the “first to oppose any racism and were, in fact, victims of the racist British”. Vijay explained that he had meant to convey how Indians did not face racism even though the country has “people with different colour and culture”. “I can die, but how can I ridicule my own culture, my own people and my own nation? Think before you misinterpret my badly-framed sentence,” he said, further claiming that he never called South Indians “black”.
You can hear his statement around the 7.42 mark:
The BJP leader made the remarks even as the Centre has maintained that the assaults on African nationals in Greater Noida could not be called racist yet. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Wednesday said an independent inquiry was already under way. Her response came after the African Group Head of Missions accredited to India called the recent attacks on expatriates from the continent in Greater Noida “xenophobic and racial”.