The entire Gorkha community has been stereotyped as security guards for ages. Recently flipkart has reiterated this generalisation. Stereotyping is the most basic form of racism, and the Gorkha community is enraged at their portrayal.
Although very common, stereotyping of others, by relegating certain characteristics to groups of people on the basis of common ethnicity, religion or language is wrong and reflects unawareness. Persistent stereotyping of certain communities by the mainstream media runs the risk of reducing the community in its entirety to a mere image that has been propagated of them. With the enormous impact that Bollywood has on us Indians, we seldom fail to look beyond its generalising tendencies and accept whatever image of a community that it provides.
A recurring stock character in Bollywood movies is that of a Gorkha security guard, always named “Bahadur” for some reason, as if all Gorkhas are called by that name. In August, the retail giant Flipkart picked up this mothballed stereotype in two of its advertisement commercials. In both of them, a child dressed as a security guard wears a gorkha topi with a ‘khukuri’ insignia, and speaks in a ridiculous accent attributed to the Gorkhas who apparently cannot speak Hindi. This commercial received massive flak from the Gorkha community for being racist and highly insensitive. The Gorkha Youth and Students Assocition of India (GYASA) filed a police complaint against Flipkart in which they have said, “Stereotyping a community is the most basic forms of racism and by promoting their business using racist stereotyping; Flipkart has shown how insensitive they are and at the same time exposed the hypocrisy of our great nation. While we cry for blood when an Indian is ‘stereotyped and racially abused’ in foreign shores, we tend to silently accept stereotyping as an accepted form of comedy when it is done to the minorities of our own nation.”
After pressure was applied through social media sites, Flipkart did address the issue and made changes to their commercials, by removing the ‘khukuri’ from the child’s ‘topi’ and changing the voice of the characters. In its statement the company maintains, “Our intent has never been to stereotype or typecast any community and hurt their sentiments in any manner. Rather, it has always been to celebrate the diversity and nuances that are unique to us as Indians,” and very cheekily urges “Gorkha friends” to “enjoy the innocent humour of the communication”. The company has asserted the important role that security guards play in our lives and also highlighted the valour and bravery that the Gorkha community are associated with.
However, the problem is not so much with the portrayal of Gorkhas as security guards, but the persistent and repetitive manner in which it is done. Why do the media fail to perceive that besides being security guards, multitudes of Gorkhas are involved in many other fields as well? The captain of the Indian football team is a Gorkha for that matter! The stereotype, through its common usage, has become so accepted that we have come to think nothing of it and Flipkart has only capitalised on its ‘taken-for-granted’ nature.
Flipkart committed a highly racist act by feeding into this stereotype. The company should’ve considered the wide reach of its advertisement campaigns. It shouldn’t have negated the interest of a minority community, which is almost 10million strong.
The media’s regular portrayal of Gorkhas as security guards named ‘Bahadur’, or as Chinese surrogates or citizens from Nepal, and for that matter Anglo-Indians as English speaking old aunties, negates the multi-faceted nature of these communities and marginalises them as the ‘other’. We are all Indians, and it is our duty to be aware of our counterparts and not impose an image upon them with which we are most familiar and comfortable.
Image Credits : www.huffingtonpost.com