|HOME | NEWS | COLUMNISTS | AMBERISH K DIWANJI|
|March 20, 2002||
Amberish K Diwanji
NRIs need a new mantraWhy are so many Indians who now reside or are settled abroad so vehemently opposed to India's policy of secularism? Many appear to believe that Muslims in the country and India's secularism are two reasons for the country's "sad" state of affairs. Of course, not all Indians living abroad have such views and I have no intention of tarnishing everyone with the same brush, but certainly quite a few do, though it is impossible to say what proportion.
Perhaps the numbers of such Indians abroad is no more or less than the numbers in India, but there is something rather wrong when these highly qualified and often well-off Indians hold views that are so bigoted and narrow-minded. These outdated views are reflected in the number of caste-based associations that Indians abroad form or who continue to take pride in belonging to a specific caste, harking to a form of identification that modern India is trying to destroy.
One would have thought that after settling abroad, a person would become more liberal, tolerant and outgrow such narrow notions. That, alas, is not the case. On the contrary, there is clearly a section of non-resident Indians -- or persons of Indian origin who have acquired the citizenship of their new adopted lands -- who hold views so extreme that it can only harm, not help, India.
Perhaps such a perspective develops due to the inherent insecurity of living in an alien land, among an alien culture that distorts one's comprehension of religion and nationality.
Yet, this jingoism, while distasteful, can still be tolerated if the outpouring is positive rather than negative. What is unacceptable is such long-distance patriotism taking an anti-Muslim [or similar] stance, a position that lets some Hindus believe that Muslims in India are harmful to the country and must therefore be driven out once and for all.
Such NRIs need to do some serious soul-searching. It is strange that these very NRIs who harp on the rights of minorities in the US are so against Muslims and minorities in India. It is tragic that those who hail the US for its open society seek to make India a closed society where Muslims are shut out. The same NRIs who criticise Muslims for living in ghettos in India never think twice of living among fellow Indians (and often with people from the same region) in specific localities such as Jackson Heights in New York and Wembley outside London, failing to understand why that happens. And then hypocritically state that when they stay in clusters, it is because they are seeking to preserve their culture, but when Muslims stay in ghettos it is because they don't want to merge into the mainstream.
This is not to say that Indian society has no problems. On the contrary, there are major problems that need to be resolved within the communities and among them. But the solution that India needs is one that seeks to take all along, not a remedy that is worse than the disease. The answers lie in liberty, equality, fraternity and justice for all, not in communal prejudice and narrow caste bigotry.
The NRIs who so love to hate the Muslims would do well to remember that they too are minorities and should show some empathy for others. If they seriously believe that the Muslims of Ahmedadad deserved what happened to them because of the criminals in Godhra, then on that premise would they support being killed tomorrow if, God forbid, some goddamn lunatic Indian does some dastardly act [never let us assume that such a situation may not arise]?
As Dilip D'Souza pointed out so succinctly in his column, the difference between Narendra Modi and Rudy Giuliani (and by extension, India and the US) is the way minorities were saved from society's backlash by the State. Giuliani and the US ensured that the retaliation against Arabs and Indians remained just scattered attacks. In India, Modi and the Indian government let mobs murder over 600 people across the state. Can India ever aspire to greatness when it can't even control its own mobs?
[On another note, the BJP proved no different from the Congress, which did nothing in 1992-93 when the Babri mosque was broken and when riots broke out all over India, especially Bombay. How can the BJP even call itself a party with a difference? Surely we in India don't need a Congress clone in power?]
Last, it is strange that people who chose to leave India should complain about some people who chose to stay on in this country! Indians abroad can portray their ultra nationalism in a positive rather than negative sense, linking their patriotism to assisting India rise to the top of the world.
If NRIs really want to help India after having voted with their feet to leave their janmabhoomi, they should take a leaf from their Chinese counterparts and get involved in India's economic growth rather than try and shape a narrow, bigoted rightwing political ideology based on hatred for some.
NRIs do help in social and charitable works in India, often anonymously and diligently, but India needs more than the peanuts given in charity. It needs huge investments in key areas. Compared to the overseas Chinese investment in China, NRI contribution to India is shamefully pathetic. NRIs need to put their money where their mouths are. Preach less, invest more should be their mantra.
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