So you’re armed, you dirty Gypsy?

Jan Horváth Sr. StudénkaAugust 2000 I am going to tell you what happened to our Indian friend Kumar Vishwanathan, who is well known for helping Roma in the Ostrava region.
His organization called Vzájemné souzití (Co-Existence) arranged a summer camp for two groups of Romany children from Ostrava in the beautiful country of the Beskydy Mountains in Hustopece nad Becvou, near the town of Prerov. The children were living in tents. As I saw for myself, about a hundred kids were having a great time at the camp. They loved swimming, hikes to a nearby cave, games and competitions: the kids very happy.
Until the moment when a police car drove up.
Several policemen jumped out of the car, and a drama started to unfold before the little children’s eyes. Although there was a group of non-Romany camp wardens standing next to him, the policemen approached Kumar and asked him to show his personal ID. Of course, he didn’t show them anything. He was astonished at how the policemen behaved and insisted that he wouldn’t show his ID under these circumstances.
But the policemen shoved Kumar into the car.
Kids started crying.
The police drove Kumar to Valasské Meziricí for interrogation. They were searching for a group of refugees, they said, and Kumar was a suspect because of his appearance. As Kumar told us later, he was kept at the police station till the evening. He asked for an explanation as to why they detained him. But they were arrogant and even searched him. When they found a pocket knife – something every camper has – one of them said: "So you’re armed, you dirty Gypsy!”
In the end, Kumar was released without apology and taken back to the place he had been detained. From there he had to walk three kilometers through the night back to the camp. Everyone was impatiently awaiting his return. I have known this man for some time now. He is one of those who dedicate all their time to the Roma, especially to the children. He has set up several community centers in Ostrava and has been given many awards for his work, including the Kriegel Award of Charter 77.
He completed his studies in the Czech Republic, started a family here and rightfully regards this country as his new home. Yet it happens – quite often, he says – that the police require him to produce his ID when he commutes by train to work.
He is quite annoyed about how the Czech police behave to people with dark skins. They see all dark people as suspicious and it’s not at all surprising that Roma are victims of repressive attacks. What to say in conclusion? Kumar won’t be discouraged by this unfortunate incident. He will demand an explanation from the police authorities. He refuses to put up with this improper behavior which is common among Czech policemen.
Laws apply to everyone with no exception, but the way the police treat people like Kumar Vishwanathan is totally unacceptable.
Kumar, on the other hand, deserves respect and admiration from everybody interested in the well-being of Romany children and young people.
[see another story about Kumar in this menu, “Being a Citizen”: “They forced me into the car and took me to the police station.”

No Responses to “So you’re armed, you dirty Gypsy?”

  1. A Story well told.
    We have to be constantly reminded of the fact that, for a society to progress, people should not be biased on racial differences. Children every where should be educated to think themselves as one big human race. Today’s Romany Kids could be tomorrow’s Police Force, thanks to the efforts of people like Mr.Kumar.

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