Sunday, August 25, 2019

UGANDA: Racist Asians have learned nothing from 2007 Mabira protests

<<socio-political discourse in Uganda still sees “Abayindi” as a loathsome and abhorred group of people in Uganda>>



Ugandan, Asians have learned nothing from 2007 Mabira blues

By THE OBSERVER

A picture of a man of Asian descent bleeding heavily with a shirt soaked in blood dripping from his head, as he was being helped to safety has not left me ten years on.

So are protestors holding placards reading, “Asians Must Go” and “For Every One Tree Cut, Five Asians Dead.”

I have neither forgotten the gruesome murder of an Asian man who was pulled off his scooter before being bludgeoned to death with stones and thick sticks. All these happened in one day, April 11, 2007.

On this same day, a group of over 40 Asians had to be evacuated from of an Indian temple under heavy security. An angry mob of natives was waiting outside to assault them for their Asian-ness, which had become synonymous with the plan to cut down Mabira forest – for just sugarcane growing.

These incidents were quickly branded racist and condemned. I do not intend to downplay or appear to condone their racist undertones. But I want to extend the ways in which we thought about this “racism” in the aftermaths of violence.

My contention is that violence has often been instructive – as it never happens in a vacuum but builds upon a series of events. First, the poor cannot be racist. Racism is an infrastructure which privileges one group over another – and is often set into motion by the powerful.

Racism has material benefit which is often either denial of access to resources or is a method of stealing labour. It is not merely labelling and name-calling. Second, in moments of exploitation – say, the attempt to cut down a country’s largest natural forest with potential to damage an entire ecosystem – those protesting against exploitation cannot be called racist when they target the exploiter and the entire political-cultural system upon which the exploiter thrives.

One would then ask, why did the Save-Mabira forest protestors target an entire community – Indians/Asians – and not the individual exploiters, that is, Mehta Group/family or SCOUL?

This question can only be answered through the context of Uganda’s colonial history. At the conclusion of colonialism, the slaves of the British – often euphemised as “indentured labour” – who had been ferried into East Africa from India/Bangladesh were actually left privileged at independence.

These yesterday’s slaves had become plantation owners, manufacturers and monopoly traders – to the absolute disadvantage of natives. Left in firm control of Uganda’s economy – controlling 97.5 percent of retail trade in Kampala, and 92 percent countrywide; banking in British banks and selling British-manufactured products, Indians/Asians came to be seen in the same light as the colonisers.

Matters were not helped with their acute racism and absolute bad manners shouting and ridiculing the natives they employed as hands.

Stories of Indians spitting, throwing rocks, and constantly berating their native workers were too common across East Africa. To this end, native Ugandans felt truly independent only after 1972 when Indians had been expelled – a matter even confirmed by the Ugandan-Asian academic, Mahmood Mamdani who has made a career writing and theorising their eviction.

[His major book, Citizen and Subject, is so embarrassingly biographical that, for his lack of ethnic rootedness in the land, he spends copious amounts of time fictionalising that there were no ethnic natives in colonies – and tribes were an invention of colonialists].

The events described above ought to be rudely instructive to our Asian-Indian compatriots (less to native-Ugandans) for they have gambled a lot. By the way, this is not an effort to bundle an entire community into the crimes of a few.

As a Muslim, I know first-hand, how dangerous generalisations and broad-brushes can be. Sadly, however, our Indian compatriots have created all those discriminative and self-group-profiling institutions projecting themselves not only as a singular group, but one that is also distinct, and exotic: the Indian Association in Uganda; Indian Community in Uganda; magazines such as Indi-Vision.

These groupings are nothing but racist self-profiling and self-alienation in the name of uniqueness. To this end, the crimes of one Indian are seen as the crime of the group – already self-identified and defined.

Is it not absurd, that in addition to living in secluded and secretive circles, these Ugandan-Asians still celebrate independence of the Republic of India – yet they seek to relate as integrated citizens.

Ten years on, the socio-political discourse in Uganda still sees “Abayindi” as a loathsome and abhorred group of people in Uganda. As I argued last week, our privileged Indian compatriots continue to project themselves – in overtly racist terms – as special and different.

They forget that privilege and exploitation tend to mean one and the same, and the exploited will often seek for an opportunity to bring them down. I will return with part three on the theft of re-appropriation after expulsion.

yusufkajura@gmail.com

The author is a PhD fellow at Makerere Institute of Social Research.

READER COMMENTS

#22 Logan 2019-08-24 18:07
I have read the article and read all the comments thus far.

I am a Ugandan that happens to stay in the US but will never describe myself as American simply because I can trace my roots back to Uganda.

The same doesn't apply to all Ugandans here and I can say they identify as Americans. Ofcourse the Black Americans can never identify as Africans since they cant trace themselves back to anywhere in Africa.

Now I also have lived in India for four years and anyone who has been in india will attest to the fact that Indians are racist to the bone.
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0#23 Logan 2019-08-24 18:08
Have u ever wondered why the majority of Ugandans who got to seek education in India can't speak their language?

The simple answer is there is little or no association.
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0#24 Logan 2019-08-24 18:10
I used to take a fully packed bus to school but was lucky to be among the many got boarded on the first stop so I always found a seat but even wen the bus got full, no Indian would share a seat with me but would rather stand all the way.

On several occasions I could hear them referring to me as BHOOT meaning satan/devil and thats why they wd not share a seat with me. I have seen and experienced similar behavior here in the US.
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0#25 Logan 2019-08-24 18:11
In the neighborhood that comprises several housing units, the white kids play with the black kids but the Indian kids always keep to themselves..Wish I cud post a pic about this.

The indian kids are not allowed to visit friends that are not indian and so the story goes on, My humble question is....How many Indians in Uganda are married to Ugandans and how many employees of these indians know where their homes are or have visited them say on a holiday or weekend?

Why do we have schools like Delhi public school in Naguru that is exclusive to Indians in Uganda? Why was I new to my classmates every single day four the four years I was at school so much so that they had to gather everyday to watch me walk into the school compound?

Why is it that blacks that wanted to buy flats in India always found it impossible to accomplish ? Indians hate blacks thats why they discriminate against even the dark skinned indians.
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0#26 Logan 2019-08-24 18:11
So it okay in my view, for one to defend them but the question is, Would they defend you if you needed them too?

Remember two kenyan or was it Tanzanian female students in India wereseverely beaten and stripped naked in public simply because a suspected black guy had knocked a peedestrian.

The entire black community in India is always hunted down and they are quick to kill, if just one black person makes a mistake that indians feel is punishable by death.

Now to conclude this, my housemate, a kenyan was severely beaten for accepting a ride to school from an Indian gal who wasnt actually so Indian because she was from Seychelles. The rest is for you to judge. God bless you all
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0#27 Stewart 2019-08-24 19:01
Winne, you just sound a desperate lower caste indian with no alternative but to cling to Uganda, I asked you, why did your "holy" Indians murderd a young boy in Lira, you dodged it and called all Ugandans idiots, is murdering the citizens by leeces what should make them adore you?

How many Ugandans have been registered murdering citizens of the coutries they live in?
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0#28 Akao 2019-08-25 00:08
It's because of the current useless government that is letting the useless Indians urinate on poor Ugandans. Indians are racist wherever they are.

Do you think a Ugandan, even the so called privilege Ugandans, who work for the regime and have abundant stolen money can go buy a small meter of land in India?

I had a first hand experience with these people, they have that colonial mentality that anybody more darker skin than they are should be below them.

I pity Ugandans who work for Indians. I can't wait for the second Amin to come get them off our country as they have failed to respect the natives.
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0#29 sula 2019-08-25 12:32
What is most painful about Uganda is : Given that the country was hijacked and now under the occupation of foreigners of all sorts , many of them claiming to be bona fide Ugandans , it is very difficult to have a sober discussion based on Uganda's interests.

In any debate about Uganda, they jump up first and disorganize the discussion.

Hmmm, just look at the Presidential aspirants in the Ugandan Elections : Gen Biraro,Gen. Mugisha Muntu,Gen Tunyefunza,Gen.Kaguta, Gen. Kalekezi, even Tumwiine/Saleh see themselves as a potential candidates ;hey !

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