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THE RECENT RIOTS & YOUR VISIT TO FRANCE !!

Dear friends and well-wishers,

In the past week, I have received numerous messages and inquiries about the situation in France, expressing your concerns. While some of these concerns were genuine, influenced by the media’s thirst for ratings and their tendency to exaggerate events beyond their journalistic credentials, others bordered on fake sympathies, linking the situation with a particular community in India or mocking my decision to move to France six years ago, making me feel guilty about leaving India despite my success there. I would like to address these points in four key areas:

1) Situation on the ground: I want to assure my friends and well-wishers that during these riots, which mainly occurred at night after 9 PM, I was overseeing three groups of Indian students in cities such as Paris, Lyon, Grenoble, and Geneva. Two of these groups were comprised of minors, while the other was a university student group participating in an exchange program and a 30-day skill development program, respectively. We did not witness a single incident during our visits to famous landmarks, schools, metros, parks, or even during normal guided street walks. Our students had a wonderful time and moved freely without fear under the watchful eyes of the Le Frehindi team in Europe. The only inconvenience we experienced was the tramways or metros halting after 8 PM, a precautionary measure taken by local mayors’ offices in some cities due to disturbances caused by North African immigrant youth on the outskirts. However, Le Frehindipossesses advanced knowledge and works closely with local authorities, ensuring that we returned to our safe and secure residences before 8 PM. Thus, the situation on the ground was not what was portrayed on television globally, especially in India, where all our groups originated.

2) Reasons for the riots and their extent: The riots in the outskirts of major cities were limited to specific geographic locations, particularly in Paris, where the incident involving the wrongful killing of the immigrant boy occurred. I am not justifying the act, but it was the only killing that took place throughout this episode. No one was killed during the subsequent riots and arson attacks, which targeted government buildings, banks, and commercial shops. The youth expressed their anger towards the government’s perceived apathy towards such a killing by a police officer, which I agree had elements of racism. However, I condemn the response of riots and arson, as it is not the answer to such an unfortunate incident. Instead, the authorities should be confronted with difficult questions about racism within certain pockets of the police force, their ineffective training, and the employment opportunities for immigrant youth, who account for approximately 10% of the French population and are concentrated in specific areas. I would like to add a light-hearted note that it is part of French culture to engage in protests and riots, whether it’s the Yellow Vest movement demanding higher wages or protesting against an increase in the retirement age, or simply expressing dissatisfaction with the cultural and theatrical offerings. Just as we witnessed at the end of the recent pandemic, it seems that the French are always ready to voice their complaints. However, it is important to acknowledge that it is this spirit of protest that has historically shaped the world we see today. From the French Revolution to individuals like Napoleon, who overthrew the monarchy and became emperor centuries ago, France has played a significant role in shaping history. So, let’s not forget that even commoners like you and me can make a difference.

3) What lies ahead: Looking to the future, I believe that the European Union, especially France, must address the issue of racism within the police force by providing better training on cultural and community issues. Moreover, granting asylum should not be a blanket approval for all applicants, especially those coming from troubled North African countries or Syria. However, I must highlight that many immigrants of North African descent, such as Algeria, Morocco, or Tunisia, have integrated well into French society, embracing the principle of laïcité established by the 1905 law. This principle prohibits the French government from recognizing any religion and displaying it in public institutions. French society upholds values such as liberty for women and the LGBT community, as well as the principles of equality, brotherhood, and freedom. I personally know many individuals from these communities who are doing well and are employed in various sectors, including banks, airports, prestigious universities, and even the French football team. The successful integration of immigrants can also be seen in the examples of Indians, Vietnamese, and Chinese who have thrived in France, benefiting from free healthcare and education opportunities available to all, regardless of their immigrant or native status. It is essential for immigrants to understand and embrace the principles of the French constitution, which prioritize equality, freedom, and brotherhood, while keeping religious practices private within their homes.

4) My decision to come to France in my 40s: Many of my friends have questioned this decision, and their concerns are sometimes valid. However, I have no regrets about my choice, as it has provided me and my family with a sense of security and relief from the daily worries about safety, infrastructure issues, healthcare, and education savings. In India, I witnessed friends and acquaintances succumbing to heart attacks, brain haemorrhages, or health issues caused by stress and constant struggle. It is not only the middle class who faces such challenges but even the super-rich, as they grapple with ever-changing regulations, corruption, and challenges in conducting business. Employees are uncertain about their job security due to slow labour reforms dictated by political considerations. Moreover, unlike many, it was easy for me to move my base to France professionally as since 2012 my projects were adding a lot of value to Indo-French people & students to students connections & institutional partnerships which are immensely benefiting the youth of both nations. This is more true for India as my projects help Indian students learn the concept of skill development & productivity better through our programs – So, this makes me work for India out of France which is a win-win situation. Hence, my decision to move to France has been a positive one for my personal well-being and that of my family. 

I expect that mature friends like you will refrain from being swayed by media and WhatsApp universities in the future, and respond in a mature manner as true global citizens. I believe the above points have provided a clear perspective to my audiences, addressing their concerns and fostering a deeper understanding without any sense of guilt associated with my decision to come to France.

The only thing I miss is the taste of Indian food, which is not readily available here. As we prepare to welcome new batches of students to France from 1st October 2023, I would like to share some pictures of the fun our students have had. 

You are all welcome to France !! 

Warm Regards,

Haru MEHRA 
Le Frehindi

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