Notes from a small island
A weblog by Jonathan Ali

Saturday, January 18, 2003  

I've thought quite a lot about the recently-concluded Pravasi Bharatia Divas, the forum in New Delhi that centred on Indians of the Diaspora, but I haven't posted anything on it. A letter in today's Guardian from Michael Rahman touches on many of the things I've been thinking about, and do think about quite often, as a fourth-generation ethnic Indian in Trinidad. While I don't endorse all of Rahman's views, particularly his opinions on India, what he says is certainly food for much thought. Thus I reprint the letter here in full.

No apology due from New Delhi

It is not without interest that I read about Sat Maharaj’s pique when he revealed his feelings about India having alienated those who constitute her Diaspora.

He was commenting on New Delhi’s announcement last week that they were offering dual citizenship to selected ethnic Indians living abroad.

Mr Maharaj has always been either famously or notoriously vocal. His expressed sentiments, therefore, are revelatory in light of his earlier silence about one of Basdeo Panday’s pet piques.

Mr Panday has long complained about feelings of alienation felt by some in Trinidad society, alluding no doubt to his natural constituents that perennially return him to the office of representing them in Parliament.

When one examines another phenomenon, that is the naked and unsolicited support by many in the local Diaspora for Indian and Pakistani cricket teams visiting these parts, then one is forced to conclude that these folks are in the throes of some sort of identity crisis and dilemma.

Never having been expelled from India, their forebears, in straightened circumstances, left for these and other shores with hopes for a better life as the opportunity presented itself.

Their clinging to their culture ensured some stability in the midst of their tumultuous circumstances and contributed, no doubt, to some of the success that their descendants now seem to enjoy.

The Diaspora took its chance, mitigated its circumstances, and eventually succeeded in the quest for a better life.

The icing on the cake is that whatever longing there has been for the Indian homeland can at long last be realised without sacrifice to anything that was built up here. (The T&T Government allows dual citizenship, so nothing is standing in anyone’s way.)

The truth, therefore, is that there are no reparations or apologies due from New Delhi.

They never alienated anyone, but have been masterfully grappling with the problems of a vast and complex society, which at one time in recent years had been the home of starving masses, but due partly to better management, they have now mostly surmounted these problems.

They now have to deal with modern woes that have come with success, such as obesity in large sectors of the population, nuclear issues and others that will accompany their quest for total modernisation by 2020.

Further, the rampant AIDS epidemic, not confined to anyone country is something that will require much resource.

The Indian Government has shown that it has the determination to deal with its problems and, like China and Israel, has quite intelligently considered that a Diaspora scattered in 110 countries might prove to be a resource. It does not need any undeserved recriminations as it looks.

Let us join India in aspiring forward, and deal with our own dilemmas and demons silently.

Michael Rahman


posted by Jonathan | 7:51 PM 0 comments


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