Vaiju Naravane

“Paksitanis are giving us a bad name”, say Indian expatriates

The term is meaningless and its use is unfortunate, says journalist

Paris: French police arrested six Pakistanis, including one woman, after the killing of a French off-duty policeman late Saturday in the Paris suburb of Courneuve. The policeman’s service revolver was found near the garbage bins of the building in which the six Pakistanis live.

However, media — including newspapers, radio and television — citing police sources identified the six arrested people as belonging to the “Indo-Pakistani community”, a term which has angered the Indian community here.

Angry calls

As a result, The Hindu’s office in Paris was flooded with angry calls from the Indian community. “I take great offence at the use of the term “Indo-Pakistani community” to describe people who are purely Pakistani nationals,” said a caller who identified himself as Naresh. “It would be the same if a French or German person arrested in India were to be referred to as belonging to ‘Franco-German or Franco British community’ simply because the two countries happen to be neighbours. The Indian community is completely separate from the Pakistani community and the two have nothing in common. We belong to different sovereign countries.”

A woman caller said: “The Pakistanis here are giving us a bad name. They are involved in all kinds of trafficking and it is suspected that this policeman was in some way linked to an extortion racket with those arrested. We should not be lumped with the Pakistanis simply because we come from roughly the same geographical area.”

Gilles Poux, Communist Mayor of Courneuve, was quoted as saying: “There appeared to be a quarrel between people belonging to the Indo-Pakistani community. Many shops in this busy locality have been bought by members of this community.”

Police authorities in France could not be reached and this reporter was sent back and forth between police headquarters in Paris and La Courneuve.

When contacted, the Indian embassy said it would be taking up the matter with the French Interior Ministry.

Stephane Sellami, a journalist from the Le Parisien newspaper told The Hindu: “I agree the term ‘Indo-Pakistani’ is meaningless and its use is unfortunate. But there seems to be some confusion as to the exact origin of the six arrested persons. Fresh reports indicate that they might be from Sri Lanka. But we have no confirmation yet. The paper has used the term in order to give our readers an idea of the general geographical area to which the suspects belong. But I agree it is not satisfactory and we shall make changes to the copy.”

The circumstances of the policeman’s death remain mysterious and authorities are looking into why the man was in the locality in civilian clothing on his day off while carrying his service revolver.

“The arrested persons are not dangerous criminals. They come from the Sri Lankan or Pakistani milieu and often engage in commercial fraud,” Frederic Lagache, an official from the Alliance policemen’s union told AFP.

Cuisine link

The term “Indo-Pakistani” was coined in France by Pakistani restaurant owners wishing to take advantage of the fame of Indian cuisine. That term has now been extended to the entire sub-continental community encompassing Indians, Pakistanis and Sri Lankans, much to the annoyance of Indians who say both the Sri Lankans and the Pakistanis engage in illegal activities, giving them a bad name.

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