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Sunday, August 30, 2015

India's intellectual diaspora: When anti-Modi transforms itself into anti-India

By Swapan Dasgupta


The election of the Narendra Modi government in May 2014 has seen many changes in governance, the economy and even society. The question often asked is: how much?


Those who believe that the mandate was revolutionary—a vote to effect a radical break with the past—have often complained that the government is too wedded to continuity. There has, for example, been an interesting debate on whether the government should have opted for ‘big bang’ economic reforms—including the dismantling of the public sector and massive subsidy cuts—or pursued incremental changes that can be managed by an essentially status quo-loving bureaucracy. 


Likewise, there are Left-inclined individuals and those affected by the curbs on the foreign-funding of NGOs who feel that the India of 2015 is different from the one bequeathed to his successor by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Some have described the shifts as moves towards authoritarianism or even fascism, while still others have detected a creeping erosion of state secularism. 


The debate has inevitably spilled over into foreign policy where Modi’s aggressive global outreach with a strong economic underpinning has been favourably juxtaposed with the unending muddle over the nuisance along the western borders. That Modi is determined to use India’s economic potential to emerge as a major regional power (with a global footprint) has been obvious. This despite the cussed comments his foreign visits have invited from courtiers of the former durbar for who the history of Independent India is the history of one family. 


One feature of Modi’s global outreach has been India’s deepening engagement with its diaspora and a conscious bid to make Overseas Indians co-partners in the larger mission of nation reconstruction. Whether in New York, Toronto, Sydney and Dubai, the Prime Minister has spoken to packed gatherings of Indians elated by the knowledge that the Prime Minister acknowledges their importance. For many Overseas Indians, detached from home, Modi has created an environment that permits a deep emotional bonding with the cultural motherland. 


The response to the Prime Minister has been nothing short of overwhelming. After the Dubai event that touched a chord among Indian workers accustomed to being shabbily treated both by their employers and the country that benefits immeasurably from their remittances, it will be the turn of San Francisco and London. Modi will speak to the large, prosperous and influential Indian diaspora in the Silicon Valley on September 27. Then, just after Diwali, he will address Overseas Indians (including a large contingent of Gujaratis who came to Britain from East Africa but still maintain their India connections) at the iconic Wembley Stadium that can accommodate nearly 80,000 people. Both occasions will be an opportunity to simultaneously demonstrate the political clout of the diaspora in California and the United Kingdom. 


The linkage made between India’s economy and culture with a diaspora that, for a change, feels proud to be linked to India, is important in the larger diplomatic game. By making it clear to the world that it regards the diaspora as an extension of its soul, it is assuming some moral responsibility for their larger well-being. This, in turn, will enhance the stature of the Indian diaspora in their respective countries, not least because India now counts as a force for the good and a rising economic power. The image problem faced by Pakistan in the non-Islamic world doesn’t extend to India. 


The engagement with the diaspora has an additional dimension. By facilitating the emotional connect with India and, not least, the Prime Minister, India is preparing the ground for elevating the diaspora to the status of a permanent India lobby. It was Atal Behari Vajpayee’s government that first utilised the diaspora to offset some of the sustained pressure on India after the Pokran-II tests in 1998. The story of how the US sanctions were neutralised using the good offices of Overseas Indians is a story that needs to be documented and narrated. It is reassuring that Modi is building on this legacy and, indeed, enlarging its scope. 


It is in this context that a petition signed by various US-based academics to many Silicon Valley technology companies assumes some significance. Ever since the likelihood of Modi winning the 2014 general election sunk in, various petitions by the Left-liberal lobby to like-minded newspapers painting him as the Indian incarnation of Attila the Hun and Vlad the Impaler did the rounds. Earlier, some academics at the University of Pennsylvania forced the cancellation of a video talk by Modi to students. What marked these interventions was that the attacks were directed against Modi the individual. It was their visceral hatred of him that was paramount. 


This time it is different. The galaxy of historians, post-modernists, gender studies experts and sociologists—I didn’t detect physicists or other ‘science types’ in the long list—have basically called upon IT companies in the Silicon Valley to opt out of any engagement with the ‘Digital India’ programme of the Indian government. These guys are unhappy with the developments in Nalanda University, with the ICHR appointment and “constriction of the space of civic engagement, ongoing violations of religious freedom and a steady impingement on the independence of the judiciary.” Therefore, “these alarming trends require that we, as educators, remain vigilant not only about the modes of e-governance in India but about the political future of the country.” Their solution: US companies must shun business links with the Indian state. 


The academics-imposed sanctions on India will in all likelihood not even be seriously considered. But that is not the point. What we are witnessing is the willingness of an intellectual diaspora to actually wage war on India’s development. From political opposition to Modi they have moved to sabotaging India in the world. 


If I didn’t think their paranoia suggest a deep disconnect with Indian realities, I would have called them treacherous. In any case, it is always worth remembering the names of all those who are ready to subvert India because they didn’t like the way Indians voted. 

Sunday Pioneer, August 30, 2015


proud indian said...

My take is Becoz Modi did not took action on all traitors of nation they are energized by his weakness softness and avoidance of such unworthy son of soil in foreign countries. These NRI have no right to write petition against a elected PM of India.They ought know it is treason and violation of COI.Also no foreign govt ought take their letters to value.These letters for waste paper basket.We want India govt enacts US types law in India Patriot Act,Homeland security act and POTA.Thse law can save our unity integrity and sovereignty. If these so called intellectuals run by a fraud fake academician Amartya Sen then they are doomed and US govt ought remove them from US for treason against India, their original country.No country tolerates traitors.WE want these traitors be tried in courts of law for treason against indian democracy sovereignty integrity .

iyer said...

Thesr negative springboards will vanish.I recall his firt address in Sriram college N DELHI which was protested against .The 50 odd parliamentarians who signed a paper requesting the Obama administration to deny
Modi visa had nowhere to hide thror face .

magguu said...

There are three forces outside India who are engaged in this war - the NRIs mentioned by swapan and, the Western media and the western academics. Of these the credibility of media and academics are at an all time low ... so much so that any issue they choose to espouse automatically loses relevance. The first group is also mainly academics but of Indian origin.

Whatever relevance these three groups have Vis-a-Vis India is derived from their association from resident indians .. mostly congress sponsored/beholden academics and journos.. and their best weapon is Muslim victimization ...

It speaks a lot when the best weapons an army can procure are rusted swords while fighting against howitzer.

Ajit said...

Swapan -

While I applaud your indirectly coming to Modi's aid, I don't think you have it quite right in this column. The Indian intelligentsia in the U. S. is not waging a war on India's development -- at least, not deliberately. I've moved to India recently after more than four decades as an American citizen and, until recently, used terms like "the butcher of Godhra" to describe Modi. In the last few years, however, I have come to the evaluation that he was given a fraudulently bad rap by the "lefties" and the Congress government. The point being: Picking up secular, liberal attitudes -- even when they're not based on facts -- is far too easy as a first-gen American.

So these fellow American Indians may be bad for India, but they're probably not doing it on purpose; they're just not well-informed and are acting on their expansive values alone. (I'm disappointed that Wendy Doniger has joined them. I like her writings -- including "Hindus".)


- Ajit.

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Anonymous said...

You said "So these fellow American Indians may be bad for India, but they're probably not doing it on purpose; they're just not well-informed and are acting on their expansive values alone."

Swapan, in his last para, said "If I didn’t think their paranoia suggest a deep disconnect with Indian realities, I would have called them treacherous."

I think both these mean the same.

Suramya said...

you have hit the nail in the head!

Anonymous said...

Indian intelligentsia, within and without Indian borders have developed -- thanks to Nehruvian diffidence and cowardice -- the art of second guessing and predicting western squeamishness about everything Indian and "native". Their advocacy of a ban on Modi's Digital India project should be seen in that light. If these intellectuals could change their skin color to hide their Indianness they certainly would've opted for that; but that being impossible, they opt for this route. Like trash they must be discarded.

Unknown said...

Sunday, August 30, 2015
India's intellectual diaspora: When anti-Modi transforms itself into anti-India
By Swapan Dasgupta,
Really can not even subscribe to this insane thinkings .Thanks