Innocent Victims

In the last part of chapter 17 of the autobiography Growing Up Untouchable in India, Vasant Moon mentions the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi from his perspective as an Indian Dalit. Despite the opposition of Baba Sahib Ambedkar to him, Moon, along with many other untouchables, regrets the loss of such a great man from the history of his country. However, the important fact about Dalits’ fear of the possibility of an Untouchable being the murderer of Gandhi and the unbelievable consequences that untouchable community might face in that case doesn’t leave Moon’s mind. He feels relieved upon hearing the murderer is a Brahman.

Moon’s experience as a member of an oppressed minority is natural. In many societies, even the societies that consider themselves most civilized and tolerant to pluralism, minority groups are not treated fairly whenever there is a suspicion that a member of such groups might be guilty of an unforgivable crime such as raping a woman or committing mass murder. Until the source of crime is not confirmed, a great amount of fear shades over the minority communities. They are usually subject of unfair accusation or harassments. If the source of crime is confirmed to be a member, then the whole community waits for the upcoming revenge in fear.

Although not personally, but as an Afghan refugee I have witnessed a similar situation. I remember I went to primary school when the news about a chain murder with female victims became the first title of all the newspapers in Iran. The unknown murderer, know as “the bats of night,” was first assumed to be an Afghan. Though it was not proved by the officials,  even the press mentioned that and increased xenophobia against Afghan refugees in Iran. I heard most Afghan men in big cities avoided going out of their houses for several days due to the fear of being harassed, robbed, or beaten to death. My relatives reported that they took a woman with themselves when they wanted to go out of the house. My brother and my cousin in that time were in the capital city, and were arrested and sent to jail with no reason. They were beaten and forced to clean the jail by Iranian prisoners. My brother said it was very hard to bear such humiliation while being innocent. However, they preferred to swallow their pain rather than making the situation more complicated by arguing with the police. However, they were released shortly after. Later, the murderer’s identity was introduced as an Iranian man. In a relatively similar situation, many Muslim communities in western countries faced unfair treatment or even violence after 11th September attack.

With globalization accelerating migration and actualizing multi-cultural and multi-national societies, citizens’ social and religious tolerance toward minority groups should be reinforced by raising awareness among people. Mass media, educational institutions, and government officials can play a positive role by having an impartial approach to the issue.