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The Journalist Who Asked Salman’s Co-Star A ‘Racist’ Question Is Irresponsible, Not Racist

The internet is abuzz with a video of Salman Khan’s child co-star from “Tubelight”, in which the co-star, Matin Rey Tangu, responds to a reporter who mistook him for belonging to another country.

In the video, upon being asked by a reporter if this is his first time coming to India, Tangu is seen playfully replying, “Main India par hi baitha hai to India ayega kaise (I stay in India, how can I come to India)?”

The reporter is being brutally trolled by social media users and words as strong as ‘shame’, ‘disgusting’, ‘racist’ are being thrown at her.

The entire scenario is a bit icky though. What happened is that the reporter asked Tangu, “Is it your first time in India?” A fellow reporter prompted from behind that the kid is actually from Arunachal Pradesh. On this, she immediately changed her question to, “Is it your first time in Mumbai?

But Salman Khan picked up on the initial question and presented it to Tangu, who then gave his much-celebrated reply.

The innocence of the eight-year-old is beautiful. He is not offended. He gives a strong reply.

But the approach of the trolls is problematic. 

It indeed is true that people of the northeast have been a victim of racist attacks forever. They are stereotyped and discriminated against. It is sad that we as a country fail to identify and accommodate our differences in certain ways. I myself hail from Bihar, I have lived in different cities and faced stereotypes like being denied a flat for being ‘Bihari’, seen people calling each other ‘Bihari’ like it’s an abuse, and got the age-old ‘you don’t look like a Bihari’ innumerable times (still no idea what that is supposed to mean). Needless to say, we have been attacked, humiliated, stereotyped and mocked over and over. So, I absolutely understand the pain that discrimination, stereotyping and trolling causes. Of course, the struggles people from the northeast face are different from my personal experiences.

My point here is, the journalist was neither racist nor discriminatory. Her fault? She didn’t do her homework, or probably got her facts jumbled up, because the Chinese actress Zhu Zhu is also a part of “Tubelight’s” cast.

I have been in the newsroom. The pressure to work, to know everything all the time, to ask the right questions, to be alert, to survive in the cut-throat competition and cultivate the biggest audience for your brand is not a simple challenge. One is bound to make mistakes and that is exactly what happened.

Yes, the journalist was wrong in asking what she did. It is sad she ended up asking a question that will be seen as discriminatory and racist by the larger audience. However, if you give it a second though, it was not racist. She was not deliberately attacking or humiliating Tangu. She was not making any ‘race’ specific remark. She may have stereotyped his physical appearance for a while and mistaken him for belonging to another country. But we must give her the benefit of the doubt and understand that it was not a thoughtful racist attack, but an honest mistake, a goof up.

We really need to relax and stop the trolling. Who knows how regretful she is, what circumstances she has faced in life, which part of the country she comes from and what her story is. A mistake like this is bound to be offensive, but let’s just try to be better, bigger people and forget it already. Is that so hard?