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Violence towards groups

Last summer, Tamil Nadu declared a bandh because of the dispute with Karnataka over water of the Kauvery River.  Aurovillians knew this was a day to lie low.  The guest house gate remained half closed, the town hall and all eating places closed, and whites were advised not to venture into the surrounding villages.  To do so would be to risk being hit by stone-throwers, or worse.

In almost every place in India where the writer has spent some time, there have been similar stories of violence. In Varkala there was a Swedish couple from whom local people attempted to extort money. In Meherabad there was the murder by goondas of Erico, and there have been several murders and rapes in and around Auroville.

Whites are not the only group to feel endangered. Almost every group is afraid of another. Low caste people fear high caste people, and sometimes the opposite. Muslims fear Hindus, and the opposite. There have been massacres of sikhs, attacks on Christians. Journalists are targeted by politicians. Some of these attacks are orchestrated simply as a matter of expediency, for political gains.

But India is not so unique with regard to group violence. There are parts of American cities where whites do not feel at ease, white neighborhoods where blacks have good reason to be scared.  In parts of Jerusalem Jews do not feel safe; in other areas Arabs feel in danger.  All around the world, refugees, immigrants and foreigners become targets of racism.

Sometimes, it is simply a matter of knowing when tensions are running high. Aurovillians knew that a bandh was such a time, whereas unfamiliar foreigners would not. When there is a strike by bus drivers or taxi drivers, Indians know that it might be ill advised to travel - they could be seen as strike breakers and therefore become targets of violence.

We inhabit a crazy world where we can be targeted simply because of our perceived group identity. Sometimes it is is the government itself that targets us, as in Trump's Muslim ban.  Taslima Nasreen, an atheist, asks why she is automatically lumped with Muslims when such arbitrary measures are taken. And as an atheist she is automatically the target of every murderous religious fanatic.  In times of trouble, no one has time for nuances with regard to group identity.  If one is born Muslim or Jewish or Christian, Japanese, German, or Armenian, it matters little what group identity one personally accepts.  One is classed with the group of one's birth.

If we don't wish to be a target for violence or persecution at the hands of individuals, mobs, politicians or governments, it is better that we keep a low profile, not place ourselves in situations of danger and not stand out in any way.  Lao Tsu and Chuang Tsu have some good advice in this area. They counsel to avoid ostentation, such as sporting valuable goods. Chuang Tsu points out that the tree that lives longest is the one that is of little value to a carpenter. Lao Tsu says that the man who has "lived out his years has enjoyed a long life".