India makes monkey of racism row
Peter Lalor, Mumbai | October 18, 2007
SILLY us, here we were thinking Indian crowds making monkey gestures
to Andrew Symonds was something that fell under the International
Cricket Council's anti-racism code.
It has now been explained as a cultural misunderstanding. The crowds
at Vadodara and Nagpur weren't being racist, they were worshipping the
monkey god, Hanuman. Symonds wasn't vilified, the local police
commissioner says, he just happened to wander down to the boundary as
the crowd at Vadodara indulged in some impromptu prayer.
As you do midway through a one-day match.
Symonds mistakenly thought they might have been abusing him because he
has black skin and had been at the centre of a number of disputes with
the Indian players early in the series.
Indian denials of the racist incident contain a number of lines of
thought that range from ridiculous to ignorant. The level of debate
continually degenerates to "well, look at them, they're worse to us".
But claims yesterday by the Vadodra police commissioner CP Thakur that
the punters were praying to the monkey-featured Hanuman take the
"Symonds mistook their chanting for racial abuse because he couldn't
understand what they're saying. Obviously, he can't understand
Gujarati and Hindi languages," Thakur said.
Indian cricket board secretary Niranjan Shah made a similar bid for
the defence in The Australian yesterday. A number of Indians have
suggested the same.
Praying to Hanuman at the cricket is not an isolated thing. How else
do you explain sightings of a man leading a section of the crowd in
the next game in a tragi-comic display of monkey gestures and noises?
This incident was revealed in The Australian last week. There is film
footage of it.
Indians claim that monkey chanting is unknown as a racist slur in this
country. But it's commonly used in Europe and even Australia, where
black English bowler Gladstone Small was once thrown a banana.
Soccer crowds are notorious for monkey chants to black players. Last
year, Leipzig's Nigerian midfielder Adebowale Ogungbure was called
*** and ape and subjected to monkey noises in Germany. It happened
in April in Slovakia. It happens in Spain, Scotland, everywhere,
apparently, but India. Rich and even lower middle-class Indians would
know this. English soccer is a staple on television here.
In 2002, the West Indies suffered racial abuse from ignorant crowds
and one player privately admitted it was the worst he had received in
the world. The Indian board and the Indian media want this issue to go
away and so does everybody else, but it won't go away until the locals
accept it is a serious issue and something that needs to be dealt
Yesterday, some Indian papers leapt with glee on a Human Rights and
Equal Opportunities report into racism in Australian sport. The
existence of an Australian government-backed report is the critical
point here and that's what many don't understand. Rather than denying
or making ridiculous excuses, there is an attempt to acknowledge the
problem and address it.
Racism will never be eliminated, but it should never be excused. If
this could be acknowledged, everybody could get on with the cricket.