The Independent, a British newspaper will no longer call India's commercial capital "Mumbai", and is planning to revert to the colonial "Bombay" instead. The paper's editor, Amol Rajan, explained his rationale, thus: "If you call it what Hindu nationalists want you to call it, you essentially do their work for them."
This is not the first time Indians staying abroad have aired, silly, patronising, stereotyping and highly judgemental comments. Ever since the neoliberal Indian governments opened our doors for so-called diaspora dividends from this eminent community, what we have got are tons of tips and grams of gold. The bulk of the investments flowing in from NRIs/PIOs has been by way of bank deposits, portfolio investments or real estate. This is what is called hot money, which moves globally in search for higher returns. Universal economic logic used by persons of all nationalities. Despite decades of attractive schemes, investment in productive sectors has not reached even double digits, which is in stark contrast to China, where the investment by the Chinese diaspora is the major share of total foreign direct investment. This is not to say a self-seeking character is something special about Indians. Several studies of diaspora investment in the homeland show risk return trade off are far more important than home bias.
Ever since the neoliberal Indian governments opened our doors for so-called diaspora dividends, what we have got are tons of tips and grams of gold.
So, we do not grudge the India diaspora's economic behaviour towards their country of origin. Indeed, we Indians have been successful in our nation building since the 50s, and even when the older generation of today's NRIs got their highly subsidized education at IITs and IIMs and abandoned their motherland for creature comforts. So that's fine.
But we certainly object to their passing judgements that lack nuance (are in fact downright crude at times) over issues purely Indian. What's more their utterances seem frozen at the time they left the county. We don't really want to hear their take, unless of course they abandon their London-based imperial world view and do serious "home work" at the grass-roots level. I am not sure if my editor friend Amol Rajan, young as he is, (born 1983) , knows what Mumbai means to every Maharashtrian of any political affiliation. Has he even heard of the Samyukta Maharashtra movement, an all-party struggle with active participation by the left, through which the state of Maharashtra was created in 1960?
Regional identity is not necessary indicative of regressiveness or fundamentalism. If he is that opposed to it maybe he can take his ideological grandstanding to address the similar issues in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
I urge our editor friend to support Shashi Tharoor's demand for reparation - it's the least he can do to fulfill his commitment to leftist causes.
Further, it is a need of a large section of the Indian diaspora in the UK to selectively forget India's brutal colonial past and its exploitation by India. We in India don't have those compulsions. Rather, we would like this generation and the ones to come to remember it as vividly as possible and ensure that history never repeats itself. In fact, many of us wholeheartedly support the reparation demand made by Shashi Tharoor as compensation for our colonial exploitation during which India's share of the world economy dropped from 23% to 4%. I urge our editor friend to support that - it's the least he can do to fulfill his commitment to leftist causes.
In fact, this takes me to even larger issue. The Times Square and Wembley Stadium events where Prime Minister Narendra Modi was welcomed as some sort of rockstar-demigod are just as ridiculous, and is clearly an organised attempt by the saffron diaspora to influence Indian public opinion. In fact it is high time these "Chitthi ayee re, chitthi ayee", permanently nostalgic super-patriots restrict such acts of celebration to their palatial drawing rooms with a few pegs of single malt down their throat. They can even hug and cry as much as they want, using as a role model the PM they love so much. .
In the end, just a small clarification. I am not diaspora-phobic as many may be thinking by now. I admire each of our NRIs/PIOs for venturing out and exploring unknown lands. How I wish , we Indians had started doing it way back in the 15th and 16th centuries..
To all those bravehearts, all that I wish to say can best be summarized as "I don't miss you and you alone -- I miss you and me together."
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