This article on ‘Laws against Racism in India: All you need to know‘ was written by an intern at Legal Upanishad.
“It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.” – Audre Lorde.
It would be incorrect to claim that racism doesn’t exist in India in the twenty-first century. Let’s use the example of a girl whose marriage is about to be fixed. If the girl has a dark complexion, she will likely encounter a lot of rejection. Our ancestors did not even support inter-caste marriage. We are going to concentrate on the specifics of racism in this article, including its history and the laws that forbid it.
What is Racism?
It is an ideology that either explicitly or implicitly claims that one species is naturally superior to another. It occurs when someone is subjected to poorer treatment, exclusion, disadvantage, harassment, bullying, humiliation, or degrading behaviour as a result of their race or ethnicity. People can reject by denying communicating with, conducting business with, or collaborating with members of a specific community.
Flashback to history
Since the Rig Veda period, racism has been a problem in India. The Mughal era and British Rule were later periods when racism was also prevalent.
Throughout the Rig Veda era, the stratification of the Indian caste system remained extremely complicated. The caste system was broken down into the following groups: Brahmins, Vaishyas, Kshatriyas, and Shudras. Following other lower castes, the Brahmins were regarded as the most affluent group of people. Due to their dark skin tone and ethnicity, the Shudras were regarded as untouchables. The Brahmins referred to them as impure. They are commonly known as the “black tribe” due to their dark skin tone.
Aryans and Dasyus were the other two groupings. The Dasyus were highly condoned and were considered rivals of the Aryans. However, there were no instances of racial discrimination in Ancient Mythology. The evil heroes received the same adoration as Lord Krishna.
Mughal period- There is no clear evidence of animosity or discrimination on the part of the Mughal monarchs during this time period based on caste, background, or skin colour.
British Raj – The worst racial persecution occurred during the British Raj. The British thought of themselves as the most powerful and superior. Indians were abused and harassed. Indians with relatively light complexion got a place in the Army others were barred from work because of their dark skin.
Laws prevailing in India
- Article 14, addresses the equal treatment of all people before the law.
- Non-discrimination is addressed in Article 15 of the Constitution. The state has the authority to alter existing laws or to enact new ones that will uplift women and children, especially those who are OBC, SC, or ST, in order to attain specific types of equality within society and the exceptions noted in article 15 of the constitution. According to the Article, no citizen should be excluded solely on the basis of a disability from any academic institution managed by the State or receiving additional funds from the State.
- Untouchability is prohibited by Article 17 of the Constitution.
- The Untouchability Offences Act of 1955 (later renamed the Protection of Civil Rights Act in 1976) makes practising untouchability illegal and makes those who do so subject to legal sanctions.
- Article 21: Protection of life and personal liberty declares that no one may be deprived of their life or personal liberty until doing so in accordance with legal procedures.
- Employers are required by the Equal Remuneration Act of 1976 to compensate workers equally for same or similarly sex-neutral labour. The Wage Code forbids discrimination based on gender when it comes to hiring new employees for similar or identical jobs as well as wage-related issues.
- Section 153 A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, makes it illegal to use language that encourages violence or discrimination against anyone based on their race, caste, sex, place of birth, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, or any other characteristic.
- Mental Healthcare Act, 2017 – No discrimination should be practised against mentally ill persons on the grounds of gender, sex, religion, culture, sexual orientation, caste, socioeconomic class, disability, or political convictions. People who are mentally sick have the right to secrecy regarding their physical and mental health treatments.
- The Hindu Succession Act of 1956 abolished the status of “limited owner” for women by granting them ownership of property, regardless of when they acquired it (before or after the Act’s inception). However, it wasn’t until the Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, of 2005, that it was determined that daughters would be granted an equal portion of the property as sons. The 2005 Amendment is a protector of women’s rights as a result.
- The Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, specifically addresses all forms of prejudice and hate crimes against people based on their gender identity and gender expression.
- The Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (Prevention and Control) Act of 2017 outlaws prejudice and the spread of hate against HIV-positive individuals.
- In 1968, India accepted the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which became domestic law in 1993 with the passage of the Protection of Human Rights Act (PHRA).
In spite of the fact that India is a country where people of all cultures and ethnicities live, not every group is given the same opportunities. The NCAT listed 30 instances of racial assaults against people with Tibeto-Mongoloid looks, particularly those from the Northeast, in connection with the COVID-19 epidemic. Indians who had a mongoloid appearance were labeled “coronavirus” and placed in quarantine; they were even forbidden access to food stores and residential complexes.
- Ms. Ayesha Khan, Racism In India available at https://www.legalserviceindia.com/legal/article-5786-racism-in-india.html
- Imstevan, List of anti-discrimination acts available at https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_anti-discrimination_acts#:~:text=Indian%20Penal%20Code%2C%201860%20(Section,orientation%20or%20any%20other%20category.
- Joshita Mohanty, Unfolding the Reality of Racism in India(June 10, 2020) ipleaders available at https://blog.ipleaders.in/unfolding-reality-racism-india/