A few days ago, the Seattle City Council approved a resolution condemning the CAA and NRC, both creations of the ruling BJP government in India. People involved in the creation and support of the resolution speak clearly of the splenetic reaction of many Indian-Americans to the resolution and of their searing rhetoric offered in defense of the CAA and NRC. The Indian Consul-General on the West Coast, Sanjay Panda, suggested that the resolution “is dividing” the Indian-American community in Seattle.
The viewpoints expressed- for and against the resolution- are not surprising. Many Indian-Americans –this author amongst them- are appalled at the CAA and NRC and the general movement of the Indian polity to the Right, as regards religious tolerance and economic equality. Others- a larger and typically louder community- support the CAA and NRC and- vocally- support the Modi government and its rhetoric and policies.
That large percentages of Indian-Americans are strident followers of the Modi government should hardly be a surprise. Immigrants rarely if ever represent the composition of their countries of origin. In the case of Indians moving to the metropole, the social and economic biases extant in India inform the composition of emigrants who are, in the case of those destined for the US, largely caste Hindus from privileged economic backgrounds. Add to this that in cities like Seattle, large swaths of this section of the population are employed in rich industries and thus boast high average incomes; as such they are doubly privileged- culturally and economically. Further, immigration does nothing to diminish the bias against Muslims so commonplace in India that its embedded in everyday language; in fact, it might even enhance the bias given the phenomenon so common in immigrant communities of holding onto a fossilized and extreme ideology when it comes to the home country.
So, the stridence of the pro-CAA Indian-Americans is not surprising.
Nor really is the response by Mr. Panda. And though unsurprising, the response certainly betrays the mottled logic of power.
The matter is simple: To suggest that condemning policies that are themselves divisive is “dividing the community” is simultaneously disingenuous and indeed very true. When a policy or practice, a culture or social construct, an economic system, or any social form that is predicated on division (like, for instance, one that excludes Muslims) is attacked then in fact the attackers are attempting not to divide but to unify. To suggest otherwise is to indulge the Orwellianism and obfuscation. Now, it is true that if the anti-CAA activists simply “lay down” and let their fellow citizens be trammeled upon then there would be – in that very moment and in that very moment only- less “division” but what would it mean in the bigger picture? It would mean that division and segregation is granted permanent status and that an already divided community would stay divided indefinitely.
If one is accused of “dividing” the community then the implication is that the community is united in the first place. And that, when it comes to Indians at home or in the US, is hogwash.
It is easy to lay down and let the locomotive of majoritarianism run over us. It is easy to succumb to the notion that all Indian-Americans must blindly support the Indian government. Those decisions are easy as is employing the mottled logic of power.
Since when has easy been right?
Romi Mahajan in an Author, Marketer, Investor, and Activist