The Punjab and Haryana high court has rebuked the Punjab Police for using the term ‘nigro’ while referring to an African person in police documents. In a strongly-worded order passed on June 12, the court said that use of derogatory terms like “Kalla” or “negro” to address black people of African-origin is highly offensive and acceptable.
Taking strong exception to the police force normalising everyday racism, the court said that black people deserve dignity and respect in foreign land and police officials should be immediately sensitised about the issue.
“The Director General of Police, Punjab is requested to consider the entire issue and notify instructions in this regard to the police force calling upon them never to use the offensive term ‘nigro’ or ‘negro’ while referring to “black” persons in case papers”, justice Rajiv Narain Raina ordered during the hearing related to a drug case.
The matter has been listed for further hearing on June 18 when the court will consider the limited aspect of the action proposed to be taken by the police to address this issue.
“This aspect needs to be corrected by sanction of the law by ordering strict action against the policemen who indulge in this character assassination based on physical features”, the court said.
The Punjab police had used the term ‘nigro’ while referring to an African person in the challan papers presented before the trial court while filing the charge sheet in a case under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act.
“I am appalled to find the term ‘Nigro’ used while referring to an African national in the challan papers…This is a highly offensive word across the globe and no one has any business to use it, and much less the police. The police appear to have assumed that every black is a drug peddler and should be treated as such. This is terrible thinking”, justice Raina said in his order.
There have been many instances of racism against African people in India in the recent past.
Former West Indies captain Darren Sammy recently revealed that he faced racial comments while playing for the Sunrisers Hyderabad in the Indian Premier League (IPL). He alleged that he was called ‘Kalu’ by some of his team mates during the 2013 and 2014 seasons.
“I just learnt what that kalu meant when I played for Sunrisers in the IPL. They called me and Perera (Sri Lankan cricketer Thisara Perera) by that name. I thought it meant strong Stallion. My previous post tells me something different and I am angry,” Sammy’s post on Instagram read.
Many people from African countries have also been subject to racist attacks in the national capital, Delhi over the past few years.
The Punjab and Haryana HC said that despite (India) being a “sub-continent of browns in all its shades, we display a perverted and primitive mind-set of looking down on others.”
“We are, professedly, a tolerant sub-continent of “browns” in all its shades, but more often than not, display a perverted and primitive mind-set looking down on others without looking within ourselves. For many centuries we have been slaves. Freedom does not lend its wings to our countrymen to fly anywhere they wish and in any manner they like and abuse foreigners on the street calling them ‘kalla’”, the Punjab and Haryana high court said.
The court also said that black people should be referred to only by their country of origin in case papers.
“All Africans are our friends and when they come to India either as visitors or students they are our valuable guests and we should be reminded that India is rich in its traditions of ‘mehman nawazi’ and ‘attithi sanskar/satkar’ and prides itself on this”, the order said.