Transfer from one place to another is always a matter of excitement for me. But this time the sadness of leaving West Bengal, over powered my excitement. I have not been able to forget the tearful eyes of all my friends and neighbors who came to say their good bye while leaving West Bengal.
After a long travel while entering into the border of Rajasthan I was amazed to see the golden brown colored huge rally of beautiful sand dunes both side of roads which seems like huge mountains of gold poured from sky. Vegetation was only in a form of cactus plants and huge trees of babul (acacia nilotica) with thorns, with limited shadow for resting. People with colorful cloths are pleasure to watch. Ladies in bright colored dress ‘Ghagra-Cholies’ ( one of Indian dress like long skirt and short top) with bright colored ‘odani’ ( a long fine wrapping cloth, which women wear to cover their head and use as veil on face, they was wearing traditional silver jewellery in their upper arm called ‘chura’, thick bangles in wrist, a round necklace, heavy anklets and ‘bodla’ ( round shaped jewellery wore on forehead) on their forehead which was adding charm to their innocent beauty. Gents in Dhoti-Kurta (long Wrapping cloths wore by men with shirt) with Pagri (turban), sitting under the huge shrubs of kikar (a tree with thorns, found generally in Rajasthan area) smoking hookah pipe (Marra pipe) and some are playing cards. Camels pulling loaded carts and sand all over the areas were totally new scene for my eyes. On seeing beauty and colors all over, I understood that why Rajasthan is known as “Rangelo Rajisthan” (an Indian state of colors). The only thing that was hard to bear was sunny day in the month of May! We realized that our stock of water is totally finished, the thirst of summer makes us search for drinking water. Soon we saw a well very far from the main road, we parked our car at the side and went near that with our empty water bottle. But we were surprised when villagers standing nearby asked our religion, caste and region and refused to give water to us because we were different from them. I was very sad not because of thirst but for their rudeness and attitude towards us and suddenly my colorful experience became faded over this differences between similar human beings in the name of religion, caste region etc.
Although I had spent seven important years of my life in Rajasthan and met many different people who showered their love and blessings on me and still are in my touch as we have become everlasting friends and more than my family members but that incident is still fresh in my mind and always forces me to think it over that how and why such type of incidents take place? Why some human-beings feel superior or inferior to others? And is it correct to feel this difference for others, even when we are similar to each other and have been made by the same almighty? In India we see the mixed culture going on over the centuries but after a close look we can see clearly that we all are divided into different groups and there is a social distance between different groups in the name of religion, caste, state, society, color, culture etc. And this is not only in India but it happens all over the world. Racism is one of the ugliest faces of our planet which includes discriminatory behaviors and beliefs based on cultural, national, ethnic, caste, or religious stereotypes. Let us try to find out why this social distance and what are the true reasons behind it.
A sociologist stated that “Social distance is dealing with the observed fact that the relative intimacy and understanding between members of given group and other group vary.” A famous sociologist Park (1923) says “The idea of gradation of one group and its values vary with respect to those of other group”.
The psychological reasons behind social distance for instance ‘attitude’, which is a specific mental state of the individual towards something according to which his behavior is molded. For example- attitudes of the Hindus and other communities are different towards cow slaughter, because of their myths. The a attitude that human races have distinctive characteristics which determine their respective cultures, usually involving the idea that one’s own race is superior and has the right to rule or dominate others. We can also define attitude as a ‘mental or neutral set’ of readiness, system or disposition in which the motivational effective and perceptual thought processes are included and due to which the individual’s positive or negative activity is directed to the objects, individuals and groups surroundings. Racism is a type of cancer in this world which is existed though out human history. It may be defined as the hatred of one person by another -- or the belief that another person is less than human -- because of skin color, language, customs, and place of birth or any factor that supposedly reveals the basic nature of that person. It has influenced wars, slavery, the formation of nations, and legal codes. During the past years, racism on the part of western powers towards non westerners has had a far more significant impact on history than any other form of racism (such as racism among Western groups or among Easterners, such as Asians, Africans, and others). The most notorious example of racism by the West has been slavery, particularly the enslavement of Africans in the New World (slavery itself dates back thousands of years). This enslavement was accomplished because of the racist belief that Black Africans were less fully human than white Europeans and their descendants
‘Prejudice’ can be said to be another psychological reason which is preconceived attitude towards some subject or some individual. The world prejudice denotes the activity of formulating an opinion concerning something without any attempt at investigation to find out its true nature evidently. Prejudices are improper and unintelligent. James Drever says, ‘Prejudice is an attitude usually with an emotional coloring, hostile to, or in favor of action or object of a certain kind, certain persons and certain doctrines.’ In this definition prejudice has been shown to be an attitude joined to which is some emotion. For example – People belong to higher castes or status looks down on those who belong to lower castes or status.
Prejudice has been described as the attitude and believes of an individual or a group towards an object, either favorable or hostile. Racial prejudice is an excellent example of it.
A person can be having psychological factors on being prejudiced like ‘abnormal personality’, for example- In communal riots the abnormal tendencies of individual are expressed in the form of aggression or pugnacity, whatever the argument he puts forward to justify his behavior. Many kinds of mental diseases are also the cause of prejudice. For example- A person affected by ‘Paranoia’ tends to look upon all those surrounding him as his enemies. ‘Personal frustration’ can be one of the reasons for prejudice because every individual has many kinds of physical and psychological needs and if they are not satisfied, they become frustrated and this frustration is manifested in the form of hatred, disgust, pugnacity etc. Maladjustment is also one of the reasons because every individual wishes to acquire perfect adjustment between himself, his circumstances and the other individuals in society. As a result of many causes, mental complexes of various different kinds are formed in them. Their life becomes marked by discontent and hopelessness. They also fail to sublimate their anti-social tendencies. Hence, they become possessed with tendencies of hatred, fear, disgust etc, for other individuals and groups and as a further consequence of it; they form all kinds of prejudices.
‘Self defence’ is also one of the reasons because every individual wants to protect himself and his ego. If it is injured he reacts violently. In this reaction the develops emotions of hatred, disgust etc, for the individual or group that is responsible for his injury and consequently forms all kinds of prejudices concerning them. All individuals want to maintain their self respect and regard.
‘Social conformity’ is another reason because in every society some customs, laws, superstitions, notions etc are prevalent. In this desire for ‘social conformity’ the individual accepts these without reflecting upon them and adopts them in the form of prejudices. One very important cause of prejudice is learning. The individual often learns or acquires his prejudice from society. For example- The children of Hindu family learn prejudice from his parents as he matures and a white child learns to keep distance from black on the bases of color.
Some social factors are also responsible for social distance. In every society different groups possess specific status within the social strata. Some are higher and other is at lower level. These social statuses are separated by proper social distance. To take example of Brahmins (a caste in Hinduism) are believed to possess the highest and Shudras (a caste in Hinduism) the lowest status in the social stratification of the Hindu society. The social distance between these social caste is so great that Brahmin look upon the Shudras as lowly and impure creatures. If a Brahmin child or man touches the child of some Shudra the former is given bath to rid him of the supposed defilement caused by his touch.
Cultural difference can be said to be another social factor because every individual regards his own culture as the most superior and regards every other culture as inferior by virtue of its being different from his own. In this way, the distance between different individuals influenced by different cultures increases because there is no meeting point between the two. This distance ultimately assumes the form of hatred and develops prejudices against each other.
Many groups are characterized by taboos and restrictions upon mutual behavior between the individuals for example- among the Hindus a person of a particular caste is not permitted to marry someone belonging to a different caste.There are some social circumstances and social phenomena that cause the formation of certain prejudices for example- Communal tensions not only cause communal riots and conflicts but also prejudices in the minds of Hindus, Muslim, Sikhs and so on.
After discussing psychological and social factors behind social distance, how can we ignore political factors which are made or produced with planning for citizens, under divide and rule policy and these type of differences are made with the help of professional criminals by creating riots in the name of religion, caste, region, color, country etc by giving controversial speeches by providing special facilities or reservation in the name of caste or by providing special facilities to any particular group or country. Due to all this the illiterate or innocent people become puppets in the hands of our so called politicians or powerful countries. And this all occurs just to gain personal power and profit. All of these arguments are based on a false understanding of race; in fact, contemporary scientists are not agreed on whether race is a valid way to classify people. What may seem to be significant "racial" differences to some people - skin color, hair, facial shape - are not of much scientific significance. In fact, genetic differences within a so-called race may be greater than those between races.
There is need to think broadly by coming out from the boundaries of different groups in the name of humanity, love, equality, brotherhood etc. A friendly atmosphere will unite us for the successful journey in twenty first century and remove this black spot of ‘Social Distance’ from the face of our beautiful world. Come let us try to overcome these psychological, social and political factors that are prevalent in our society, country and world or are created with planning to divide us in the name of region, religion, caste, culture, group, country etc. We must promise to end this social distance by creating friendly atmosphere and living together with love by exchanging different types of cultures by conducting sports, cultural programs, arranging feasts with different people belongs to different class, religion, region, caste and countries.