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RIP Madiba - Is society replacing state as agent of apartheid?

We all woke up to the news of sad demise of Nelson Mandela today morning. The great fighter who took on the age-old practice of apartheid – discrimination against the entire race of colored people - finally succumbed to his long drawn lung infections. The person who spent over 2 decades in captivity and was titled as one of the most heinous terrorists of his time for taking on the deep-rooted practice was not only a role model for South Africa but for many generations across the globe and is a source of inspiration for any revolution against injustice. From captivity to becoming the first black President of South Africa is no cakewalk and is truly a story to follow. However, today when he is no longer with us, and we in India are officially mourning his death I was simply tempted to think over if all his sacrifices fighting against the deep roots of racism actually bore fruits.

Well, for one thing, we cannot discount the fact that it was efforts of this great leader that we have, to a large extent, removed the discrimination against an entire race being undertaken by the state. Most nations today as a policy extend similar rights and equality in principle to their citizens irrespective of how they look. This by no means is a lesser feat in itself and the being that made this happen, for the most part, does deserve our gratitude. But though the ill is not followed by the state, but the practice is not extinct from the system. Well, am not sure about South Africa but at least not in India and I believe that Mr. Mandela had a narrow view of freeing only his country from the menace of this state-sponsored discrimination.

While we have laws against the discrimination, it widely prevents implicitly in the society and ruining lives of many under the societal pressures. For ages, it has been ingrained in our thinking that fairer is superior by definition and hence we inherently aim to belong to the higher class. The long history of invasions in India from Aryans, through Portuguese and up-to English, we have always been ruled by the race that is fairer in appearance by nature. This is led by our subconscious mind establishing a belief in the supremacy of white and is being passed through generations. Look at any of the matrimonial advertisement and you cannot miss the highlighted part of requirements starting with the groom or bride being fair in complexion.

This belief has further been strengthened over years by various cosmetics companies showcasing fairer to be a key to success and claiming to make their users succeed using this key. Our daily soaps and Bollywood movies never fail to find their protagonist who is fairest of the breed they belong to and in case they find a story with a lead in a not-so-fair avatar, the story would in most probability highlight how an “unfair” girl goes on to become a wife of a successful businessman. Well, why should it anyway be a consideration is, what I would like to ask them. 

On this day, I would hope some, if not many would give this societal tradition a thought and would realize that it is important to be fair in behavior and judgement rather than in looks and complexion and that would be the truest of tribute to this great leader, person par-excellence – our Madiba – Mr. Nelson Mandela.
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