German professor’s remark to student on rape cases in India is going to be there till our mindset changes
Tarushikha Sarvesh | March 13, 2015
A German professor raises concern and the idea of statecraft and diplomacy gets a jolt. When Professor Annette Beck-Sickinger of Germany gave reasons for rejecting an Indian male student’s application for internship, it sent shock waves through the German diplomacy. Germany’s India ambassador Michael Steiner came out and condemned her action and the professor had to apologise.
The above-mentioned incident stirred a debate and strong reactions in favour of diplomacy and statecraft. On the one hand there were opinions that what the professor did cannot be done in a diplomatic world. On the other hand, the concerns were raised that this action is symbolic of something bigger as it gives us food for thought regarding the kind of message India is sending out about its attitude towards women. To bring out the concerns more clearly, it is better to put it in the format of the debate as it happened between two people by referring to them as ‘debater 1’ and ‘debater 2’.
Debater 1: This German professor is unbelievable. She rejected the Indian male student’s application saying he is from India where there is a lot of rape problem! This is sheer discrimination against Indian students.
Debater 2: Well, this might not exactly be discrimination but a real concern for her female students as she said she couldn’t support such attitude towards women. She said that the rejection of the application is a consequence of India’s attitude towards women and other female professors were also practicing her policy.
Debater 1: This shows that discrimination is happening on a wider scale.
Debater 2: Can’t it be seen from a different standpoint? Why don’t we see it as a consequence of India’s attitude? A nation projects a certain cultural mindset after all. Why can’t we see the professor’s action and concern as her reading of our mental image that we are giving out to the world as a collective entity?
Debater 1: In any case her action is wrong and unacceptable. She is accusing every Indian male for having rape on his mind! This is highly obnoxious! She is indulging in grave generalisation!
Debater 2: What I am trying to say is that if for once we forget about the action of this one particular professor and just think about her concerns for her female students. Why did she say what she said? It is not that she is rejecting all Indians. She is only apprehensive about Indian males. This definitely says a lot about the kind of image our society is portraying.
Debater 1: So you are suggesting that it is good that Indian males don’t get a chance to go out and broaden their horizon? You would be happy if me being an Indian male is rejected the opportunity to develop and progress? This calls for a protest.
Debater 2: Let us not make it personal and not cover the issue with the tag of discrimination or with the argument of hindering the progress of Indian males.
Debater 1: See I understand your point but the thing is you can’t do this in a diplomatic world.
Debater 2: You are still thinking on the lines of politics and the diplomatic world. You are still thinking about international relations when human dignity in your very own country and society is being brutally crushed.
This is the time to be reflexive instead of blaming other countries for discrimination against India.
You said it calls for protest. I say you should rather protest and come out on the roads to tell the people of India that because of their actions and mentality their own brethren is being stopped from availing good opportunities around the world. If at all anybody has to write, she or he should write to her own people and society for requesting them to make conditions worth living here, before registering protest against any other country. When things get worked out in your own country then the right kind of messages and attitudes will reach the world’s imagination about our society.
Gori chamari, gori meim, gori ko patana hai, gori____badi____cheez hoti hai...who says all these things? These are the kinds of messages that we are sending out and that is why we can't blame anyone who wishes to protect the females of her society from such mentality. India can’t keep sending out the image of a land of holy cows and rancid mindset.
We can't make the lawyers of the Delhi gangrape case perpetrators feel apologetic but end up feeling happy that the German professor has apologised! A country needs a moral standing before it blames the world!
If I can't say mera bharat mahan then I happen to be a traitor it seems! Our society has not even learnt to be a logical and reflexive critic. We need to accept our mistakes, at least when it concerns half the population of the country, before blaming others.
If there can be sanctions against countries breeding nuclear energy for war purposes why can't there be sanctions for better causes like not being able to control rapes and not being able to give dignity and respect to your own people.
Now another debate will come up about supranational organisations behaving as the moral bearers and campaigning against the nations under the garb of moralising the world. This is what happens most of the time and this is how the real issues get lost and buried for good.
We should thank both the Professor that she could raise such concerns for her female students and we couldn't raise such concerns even in our own institutions. Can’t we stop seeing it through the lens of discrimination? Can’t we see it from the perspective of a helpless cry for justice and dignity?
We can't let these issues get sacrificed at the altar of diplomacy. Let us not make our concerns diplomatic.
In your protest to ask for the rights of Indian male students to be allowed to expand and progress, I will stand with you but half-heartedly as I feel we need a bigger movement and social overhauling before we negotiate on equal footing with the world.
In the end I will also say that the professor was wrong in generalising and indirectly punishing individual cases on the basis of the image their country sends out. It is a valid point that those men might be real gems who are denied the opportunity to grow and expand but the fact that Indian women in India itself remain noticeably out of the imagination of progress and growth happens to be a pivotal point amidst all these concerns and arguments.
Even if we wish to keep the debate around international relations, we need to realise that gender discriminations within the society affect the creation of ‘global social capital’. The German professor’s incident is a reflection of how the global social capital gets affected on the basis of the image that a country portrays.
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