Is Indian diaspora really Indian?

Recent times have seen a constant outflow of citizens from India, who get settled in other States. The reasons behind this may be numerous, but are mostly monetary. This efflux of citizens from our country is often called ‘brain-drain’ because it is mostly the cream of the community that is employed by foreign countries. So we can see an increasing diaspora of Indians when we go for foreign visits.

The question that I am concerned with today: Is Indian diaspora really Indian? Or do our cousins become as foreign as foreigners when they leave our mother’s soil? Should we we give them a helping hand in dangerous times when all they have done is to leave our country for good, never to return, never to help us is in distress? To answer these questions I have to delve into that very material that makes one an Indian.

What is it to be an Indian? Article 5-8 of Part-II of the Indian Constitution conferred citizenship on each person who met the criteria below at the commencement of the Constitution :

  • Domiciled in India and born in India
  • domiciled not born in India but either of whose parents was born in India
  • domiciled, not born in India but ordinarily resident for more than five years
  • resident in India but migrated to Pakistan after 1 March 1947 and later returned to India on resettlement permit
  • resident in Pakistan but who migrated to India after 19 July 1948 or who came after that date but had resided for more than six months and got registered in prescribed manner
  • resident outside India but who or either of whose parents or grand parents were born in India

So basically the Constitution gives rights to those who live in foreign lands a right to call themselves Indian citizens. Does that make them Indian? Some people like to label NRIs as unpatriotic and traitors to their soil. People who should have given their sweat and blood to develop India are helping richer countries become richer. To them I ask, is the simple wish to give one’s family a possibly better and luxurious life a folly?   We migrate from state to state within India in search for better opportunities. In similar context, is there something wrong with migrating from our State to another?

What is a country but a piece of land? Does stepping beyond this piece of land to explore possibly better opportunities make an Indian someone else. What makes one an Indian? The country or the culture?

Indians who grow up in India inherit traditions from their ancestors. An Indian anywhere remains an Indian. A certain culture is imbibed into him/her.

What do you think changes about people when you cross the Wagah border. Certainly not the body structure. Then what? Perhaps the level of tolerance. I am not saying Indians are all accepting. Yet, tolerance has become a tradition in India. The unequivocal nature of adapting to anybody. There is an understanding that ‘difference exists but it is not necessarily bad’. You may point out at the riots that often occur in India to disprove my point. You may point out at the rumors of assault against African community in India. You may point out at the still not demolished caste system. Before that, please review the points you are making. Most Indians are in a state of borderline violence. The fact remains that violence does not usually take shape. India is not torn in Civil War despite the diversity that exists within it.  Occurrences of violence on a large scale are few and far between.

What else does make Indian culture unique? Maybe its mixed culture. Languages intermix as we speak. A person may speak a mixed version of Hindi, English, Sanskrit, Urdu and any other modern Indian language. An Indian learns to speak more than one language from birth. An average middle class kid can fluently speak 3 to 4 languages.

Also, there is a mixture among religious ideologies. Many Hindu and Muslim students attend Catholic schools. They know more of the Bible than of Gita or Quran. Often a religion borrows concepts from another. One is the concept of Bhagwan and Shaitan (God and Satan). In Hindu scriptures the concept of evil and good does not exist.We often see Sura as Good and Asura as bad. This view is essentially wrong. For example, in Ramayana Ravana is Asura and evil while his brother Vibheeshana is in the service of God Rama.

Indians are born out of these differences and similarities. This is what differentiates Sunita Williams from her American peers. This is what makes Jhumpa Lahiri or Salman Rushdie turn to India to write. This is what makes a Bengali man search for Hilsa wherever on the planet he may go.Wherever we live, our way of seeing the world does not change. Yes, this cultural influence may get quaint as generations progress. Yet, for the first generation NRI these values, ethics, education, beliefs remain the same and absolute. They remain essentially Indian with the same upbringing as you and I.

I used to object to being called an Indian writer, and would always say I was a writer who happened to be an Indian, and who happened to write about Indians.“- James Welch

I would love to know your opinion on this particular topic.


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