So, What Are You Chinese Or African?

So, What Are You Chinese Or African?

PM pounces on Pitroda's off-colour remarks on Indians even as Congress distances itself from the distasteful analogies.

Gaurav Vivek BhatnagarUpdated: Thursday, May 09, 2024, 03:01 PM IST
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Senior Congress leader Sam Pitroda surely suffers from a foot-in-the mouth syndrome. Close on the heels of his inheritance tax analogy, much to the embarrassment of his party, he has now pontificated on how "we have held a country together, as diverse as India, where people in the east look like the Chinese, people in the West look like the Arab, people in the North look like Whites and maybe people in the South look like Africans."

Even as Pitroda squinted through coloured glasses, PM Narendra Modi and others in the BJP lost no time in latching onto the remarks and ran him down and his entire party as "racist". Pitroda made these remarks in an interview to 'The Statesman', after premising that "we have survived 75 years in a very happy environment where people could live together, leave aside a few fights here and there."

Taking on the Congress leadership at a rally in Warangal in Telangana, PM Modi, his words dripping with sarcasm, described Pitroda, who is the chairperson of the Indian Overseas Congress, as Rahul Gandhi's "uncle, guide and philosopher" who resides in the United States.

Stretching the analogy, Modi said he had learnt that "there is an uncle in America who is the philosophical guide of 'Shehzada' (a moniker he often uses for Gandhi)" and from whom he takes advice as if "from the third umpire". He added that “such an insult on the basis of skin colour” amounted to abusing the people of the country.

The Prime Minister also attacked Pitroda for suggesting that “those who are black (in colour) are from Africa”. He argued that “this means that you are abusing several people in the country on the basis of their skin colour.”

Modi then dwelt on how traditionally people of darker skin colour have been revered in the country. “As your PM and one of you, I affirm that we are all children of Lord Shri Krishna, and we are all equal, regardless of race or creed,” he added.

To buttress his contention, he cited the case of Droupadi Murmu whom the Congress had opposed, when she was nominated for the post of President, because of her skin colour. “Now I realise that they indeed believed that Droupadi Murmu is also African and because her skin colour is black, she should be defeated,” he was quoted as saying. Modi said most countrymen have black skin. He reminded that Lord Krishna's colour was blue and black.

“I can tolerate it when abuses are hurled at me, but not when they are hurled at my people. We will not accept this racist mentality,” the prime minister said.

As regards the Congress belief that the people of western India resemble Arabs, he asked if this notion was acceptable to Uddhav Thakarey and the people of Maharashtra.

"Congress divided India for power and it has now stooped to the level of making racial comments about Indians. What has happened to the Congress," he asked the gathering.

As BJP leaders rushed in to attack, the Congress distanced itself from the comments. Senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh tweeted on X that “the analogies given by Sam Pitroda about India's diversity are extremely wrong and unacceptable. The Indian National Congress completely disassociates itself from these analogies.”

Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma ridiculed the stereotype being sought to be reinforced, by posting on X, “Sam bhai, I am from the North-East, and I look like an Indian. We are a diverse country - we may look different, but we are all one.”

Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh also remarked that the Congress has a hidden agenda to divide the country on religious lines and asked “how can he (Pitroda) make such a racist comment?”

Terming the comments as “very irresponsible”, he asserted that the Congress has been taking recourse to a “divide and rule policy” for some time. He said he would “consult legal experts” to see if Pitroda could be sued for his comments.

Actor-turned-politician and BJP candidate from Mandi in Himachal Pradesh, Kangana Ranaut, described the comments of Pitroda as “racist and a divisive jibe for Indians”. She added that it was “sickening to call fellow Indians Chinese and African.”

Union Minister Kiren Rijuju was quoted as saying. "We should not take Sam Pitroda's statement lightly.... What Pitroda thinks and says is what the Congress party is actually saying. Pitroda has a foreign mindset. His ideas and thinking are very alien to the Indian system and culture, and that is what Rahul Gandhi is also all about."

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