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Table of contents :
List of figures
List of contributors
1 Introduction: the politics of integration in Indian diaspora societies
Part I National integration
2 Durban Indians, substance abuse and the politics of self-help in South Africa’s democracy
3 Integrated lives? A reading of selected photographs as a phenotype for being Indian in South Africa
4 The NRI Gupta Waterkloof landing: implications for political integration of Persons of Indian Origin in South Africa
Part II Dualities in integration
5 Transnational identity and political integration in Trinidad and Tobago
6 Reconciling boundaries and identities: the world of Dr. Sudhindra Bose in early 20th-century America
Part III Global dimensions of integration
7 From cyber- Hindutva to Ab Ki Baar Trump Sarkar: (trans)national entanglements of Hindu diaspora political integration
8 The gift of diasporic citizenship: the Overseas Citizenship of India scheme as a tool for nation-building
9 Indo-Caribbean ethnicity and political integration
Political Integration in Indian Diaspora Societies
This book studies the political integration of Indian diaspora communities into their host societies. It argues that insertion occurs on an ethnic basis which enables these groups to utilise their clout and at the same time exert collective rights in matters like freedom of religion, organisation, and lifestyle. Drawing on case studies from South Africa, America, and the Caribbean, the volume analyses different forms, levels, and patterns of groupist political integration. It examines various instances of integration such as anti-Indian apartheid laws; the life and times of Dr Sudhindra Bose, one of the early Bengali intellectuals in the United States; and Hindutva organisations in the United States/United Kingdom; as well as the introduction of the Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) scheme by the Indian government. An important intervention in the study of ethnic groups and their integration, the book will be of interest to students and researchers of diaspora studies, globalisation and transnational migration, cultural studies, minority studies, sociology, political studies, international relations, and South Asian studies. Ruben Gowricharn is Professor of Indian Diaspora Studies at the VU University in Amsterdam, Netherlands. He has published extensively on diasporas, democracy, and the integration of ethnic minorities. He has edited several books, including Shifting Transnational Bonding in Indian Diaspora (2020). He is also the managing director of a doctoral program for adult migrant students in the Netherlands.
Political Integration in Indian Diaspora Societies
Edited by Ruben Gowricharn
First published 2021 by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN and by Routledge 52 Vanderbilt Avenue, New York, NY 10017 Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business © 2021 selection and editorial matter, Ruben Gowricharn; individual chapters, the contributors The right of Ruben Gowricharn to be identified as the author of the editorial material, and of the authors for their individual chapters, has been asserted in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Trademark notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe. British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data A catalog record for this book has been requested ISBN: 978-1-138-34685-7 (hbk) ISBN: 978-1-003-09215-5 (ebk) Typeset in Sabon by Apex CoVantage, LLC
List of figures List of contributors Preface 1
Introduction: the politics of integration in Indian diaspora societies
vii viii x
RU B E N G OW RICH ARN
National integration 2
Durban Indians, substance abuse and the politics of self-help in South Africa’s democracy
B O B B Y L U TH RA SIN H A A N D AN A N D SIN GH
Integrated lives? A reading of selected photographs as a phenotype for being Indian in South Africa
N A L I N I M O O DL E Y- DIA R
The NRI Gupta Waterkloof landing: implications for political integration of Persons of Indian Origin in South Africa
B R I J M A H A R AJ
Dualities in integration 5
Transnational identity and political integration in Trinidad and Tobago S U SA N J U L I A C H A N D AN D DAVID T CH AN D
Reconciling boundaries and identities: the world of Dr. Sudhindra Bose in early 20th-century America
KO U S H I K I DASGUP TA
Global dimensions of integration 7
From cyber-Hindutva to Ab Ki Baar Trump Sarkar: (trans)national entanglements of Hindu diaspora political integration
E V I A N E L E IDI G
The gift of diasporic citizenship: the Overseas Citizenship of India scheme as a tool for nation-building
J O H A N N SA L AZAR
Indo-Caribbean ethnicity and political integration
RU B E N G OWRI CH A RN
3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 3.8 3.9 3.10 3.11
Indian indenture in South Africa The arrival of Indians in Natal, South Africa – coming ashore Crossing the railway line on the way to the bluff Cane cutters Washerwomen Fresh produce sellers ‘Special servant’ dressed in a costume of choice Family portrait – family from Umzinto Untitled Indian Market, Warwick Junction, taken in the 1940s Passenger Indian-owned business
51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 61 62
David T Chand is an Assistant Professor in Curriculum and Instruction at the University of the Southern Caribbean (USC), Trinidad and Tobago. His research interests include integration of faith and learning, pedagogical beliefs, praedial larceny, diasporic studies, and academic optimism. Susan Julia Chand is currently a Professor of Anthropology and Director for Research and Innovation at the University of the Southern Caribbean (USC), Trinidad and Tobago. Her research interests include ethnomedicine, cross-cultural studies, diasporic studies, juvenile delinquency, and race and ethnicity. Koushiki Dasgupta is Professor of History at Vidyasagar University, West Bengal, India. She has been working on diaspora Hindu politics, environment, and ethnoreligious identity formation. Her recent publications include Electoral Politics and Hindu Nationalism in India (2020). Eviane Leidig is a PhD Research Fellow at the Center for Research on Extremism, an affiliate at the Center for the Study of Political Communication at the University of Oslo, Norway. She is also Head of Graduate Network at the Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right in the United Kingdom. Brij Maharaj is an Urban Political Geographer at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa. He is well known for his research on xenophobia and human rights, migration and diasporas, megaevents and social impacts, segregation, and local economic development and has published several papers on these themes. Nalini Moodley-Diar is Executive Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Design at the Tshwane University of Technology, South Africa. Her research focuses on the Indian experience and covers questions of indigeneity, identity, visual culture, and Hindu religious discourse in South Africa. Johann Salazar is an Independent Researcher and Photographer with a background in Sociology and Anthropology. His current interests include
Goan history and issues related to migration, identity, belonging, and citizenship. Anand Singh is Professor of Anthropology at the University of KwaZuluNatal, Howard College, Durban, South Africa. His research and publications generally focus on the South African Indian diaspora, with an emphasis on sociopolitical conditions in post-apartheid South Africa. Bobby Luthra Sinha is Senior Vice-President Research at Osianama Learning experience (OLE), Delhi, India, and Deputy Director, Centre for Asian, African and Latin American Studies (CAALAS), ISS, Delhi. An independent Social Scientist, she focuses on migration and ethnographic analysis.
Indians in the diaspora have become rooted in their host societies, loosely called ‘Indian diaspora societies’, not as individuals but as ethnic communities. Without such community formation, they would have been assimilated in host societies and become less visible and powerful. Because they are represented as a group, they can integrate into several domains of life, including into the domain of politics. This enables them to exert their clout and use collective rights such as freedom of religion, organisation, and lifestyle. The topic of integration as a group has hardly been touched upon. All over the Indian diaspora, the relation between ethnic group formation and political integration has been highly under-researched, although this kind of ‘ethnic politics’ has received scholarly attention for a few individual cases. This phenomenon of Indians integrating politically as an ethnic group into their host societies is the subject of this book. However, Indian groups are also integrated in the diaspora. This diaspora is highly segmented, consisting of many generations that left India in different historical epochs, from different regions and endowed with different forms and amounts of capital. Although they form different types of ethnic communities, they cannot be part of a ‘global community’ without being connected as a series of ethnic groups. Diasporas presuppose first that immigrants form an ethnic group that is integrated into the hostland and into the global world, a dual integration that is often contested from nationalist perspectives. One may argue, albeit a little exaggeratedly, that while assimilation prevails in the integration discourse in Europe and the United States, India (or most diasporas) teaches that integration as an ethnic group (whether organised as a separate group or as a compartment in a leading party) is quite common. Here two conceptions of the nation-state clash, one preferably monocultural and the other plural, accounting for different ideal types of integration. The example of political integration as an ethnic group broadens the prevailing scholarly scope in Western societies that focuses on individual integration. It addresses the normality of ethnic groups as well as a groupist integration in host societies and a connection with a diaspora home. In some
cases, the ethnic group is demographically large enough to run for elections; in other cases, the ethnic group joins the ranks of established political parties to look after its group interests. However, there is no one-to-one relation between ethnic formation and dual integration. Even in the case of a high degree of assimilation, individuals may identify culturally with the homeland, while some ethnic groups may feel superior vis-à-vis their co-ethnics because they are rooted in a Western society. Everyone familiar with diaspora tourism has likely encountered this behaviour of co-ethnics. Since the elements fostering the ethnic group and their dual integration vary, specifically the level of ethnic organisation, the degree of adjustment, the forms of integration, and their relation with the parental or personal homeland, the actual practice yields a large number of political integration patterns. This book attempts to discuss some of these patterns and the forces that determines the outcomes. The examples are by no means exhaustive, but they underscore the precondition of an ethnic group, the power to integrate in the host society, and the relationship with the diasporic homeland. It is a relationship that requires much more scholarly attention, especially since the integration involves global forces such as populism, which paradoxically focuses on the nation-state. Some of the chapters included in this book were originally presented at an international conference on the Indian diaspora in The Hague in October 2017, organised by the Lalla Rookh Chair on the Indian diaspora (VU University Amsterdam), in conjunction with the Institute of Social Studies and the Municipality of The Hague. They all address in one form or another the persistence of Indian ethnic groups and the way they may have become rooted in the host societies while preserving linkages with India. It is a duality in integration discourse that needs to become normalised in order to preserve and claim a basic democratic right for immigrants to live their own lives. Ruben Gowricharn
Introduction The politics of integration in Indian diaspora societies Ruben Gowricharn
1. The concept of groupist integration In the burgeoning literature on the Indian diaspora, a strong consensus has emerged that it is a highly fragmented whole, composed of people that migrated to Asian, African, Caribbean, and Western societies, as well as societies in the Pacific and Australia (Lal, Reeves, and Rai 2006; Clarke, Peach, and Vertovec 1990; Jayaram 2011; Chatterji and Washbrook 2013). These societies are labelled ‘Indian diaspora societies’. When settling in their societies of destination, emigrants have to come to terms with local conditions and organise a feeling of belonging. Nowadays, Indians are well integrated in most host societies (i.e. Clarke et al. 1990; Chakravorty, Kapur, and Singh 2017; Jayaram 2011; Lal et al. 2006; see also chapters in Chatterji and Washbrook 2013; Hedge and Sahoo 2018; Raghuram, Sahoo, Maharaj, and Sangha 2008). Their insertion in the host society has been determined by the historical period of departure, the demographic and cultural specificities of their communities, and the social and human capital they possessed, as well as by the opportunities provided by the host society. What does it mean to be integrated? In Western social science, the concept of integration is applied to individuals. The general idea is that immigrants enter a new society and obtain access to core institutions such as health services, labour markets, education, political rights, and shelter (Penninx 2013; Joppke 2007). Thus conceived, integration refers to participation in core institutions of the host society. It may be partial since a migrant can be well educated and unemployed at the same time. In this context, Schinkel (2017) argues that the integration discourse in Western societies reveals the dominant expectation of the host society rather than the specific problems of the immigrants. Considered from this perspective, integration cannot be defined without reference to the prevailing ideology of the host society. Integration in core institutions is established as citizenship. The concept of citizenship tends to assume the formal equality of individuals, ignoring the presence of groups and disparities in resources, even when it is differentiated into republican, liberal, and communitarist or civic and multicultural variants (Bloemraad 2015; Goodman 2015; cf. Schinkel 2017). But the
2 Ruben Gowricharn differentiation hardly touches on the limitations surrounding the concept itself. The major limitation consists of the ignorance of differences in classes and racial and ethnic backgrounds of citizens, although Western societies display a significant variety of national integration models (Bloemraad, Korteweg, and Yurdakul 2008; Soysal 2000; Van Reekum, Duyvendak, and Bertosi 2012). Citizenship is tied to a nation-state that regulates the allotment of the rights and duties of individuals and therefore the opportunity to become incorporated into the host society. Citizenship may include some rights that can only be exercised as a group, such as the freedom of religion and lifestyle, but the individualist design of the concept overrules. Thus conceived, political integration refers to access to political institutions, notably the allotment of political rights such as the right to run for office, to vote, and to appeal on political and legal provisions of the host society. When immigrants obtain these rights, they may be considered politically integrated. In European parlance, integration refers to individual and household independence of migrants, presupposing that they are employed, that their children attend school, and that they exercise their rights as citizens (Penninx 2013). In contrast, in the United States, the term ‘assimilation’ is in vogue and refers to a high degree of cultural blending with the lifestyles dominant in the host society (Alba and Nee 2003). Both concepts refer to a state in society, a position that reflects a degree of migrants in achieving independence and thus exercising citizenship rights. While integration and assimilation are conceptually distinct, they overlap. In both cases, some degree of cultural adoption, such as language, is a powerful requirement to perform in the host society. Moreover, in actual practice, in both continents, citizens as well as ethnic groups do exercise their rights to organise themselves collectively, as exemplified in ethnic ‘civil societies’ that include organisations ranging from religion and social welfare to transnational activities. Because of the dominant expectations in each society, the specific content, options, and limitations of citizenship vary from society to society (Schinkel 2017). In an older strand of political science literature, (ethnic) groups have been acknowledged as a collective force. Ethnicity has been studied as voter alignments based on class, ideology, and religion (Lipset and Rokkan 1967) or so-called pillars, characteristic of some European societies, notably in the Netherlands. The dissolution of these traditional groups has been framed as the decline of ethnic cleavages as elucidated in individualisation, rising levels of education, and increased welfare (Beck and Beck-Gernsheim 2001; Franklin, Mackie, and Valen 1992; Van der Eijck and Franklin 2009). In this context, Van Dam (2015) points out that this dissolution was not absolute, since relations between groups and institutions (such as the church) were preserved, although they became loose. However, generally, ethnicity is seen as detrimental to successful integration. Examples include the view that the positive educational performances of second-generation immigrants in Western societies are closely related to their declining ethnicity and increasing assimilation (Alba and Foner 2016; Alba and Nee 2003; see
also Gans 2007). This inverse relation between integration and ethnicity has become a dominant conception of Western societies and is adopted by migrants as well. Except for a few studies (i.e. Pfeffer 2015), the assumption of an ethnic group as a collective actor is contested in Western scholarly literature, most likely because of its prevailing individualistic ideology. An influential position is Brubakers’ (2004: 8), who has questioned ‘ethnic groupism’ and what he described as ‘the tendency to treat ethnic groups, nations and races as substantial entities to which interest and agency can be attributed’. However, denying ethnic groups as a collective actor, for example, in the field of politics, religion, and culture (think of community festivals), or as something treated by others as a single (racial or ethnic) entity to be excluded is quite an overreaction (Maharaj 2018; Reddy 2016). Brubakers overlooks that ethnic groupism has been a powerful force for creating provisions and services such as schools, temples and mosques, radio and television stations, entrepreneurship, orphanages, and political parties. This book departs from the citizenship approach typical of western studies on political integration. Instead, it highlights the political integration of Indian diasporic communities as a group, referred to as ethnic groupist political integration. The success of these communities presupposes ethnic group formation, notably the establishment of ethnic institutions. However, group formation, while sometimes being a spontaneous process, requires an ethnic ideology (most often some degree of ethnic chauvinism) and leadership in different domains of life such as religion, politics, and culture. Along with the prevailing political conceptions in the host society and the opportunities provided, these forces specify how Indian groups integrate into core institutions of receiving societies. Rather than the labour market or welfare arrangements being key to their integration, this book contends that the formation of an ethnic group is pivotal for the integration of Indian groups in the host society and can resist the dissolution of the group, as is often assumed in Western scholarship (Alba and Nee 2003; Favell 2001; Gans 2007). Consequently, political integration may be conceived at the individual and at the group level.
2. Indian diaspora societies The assumption of an ethnic group should not be taken for granted, however. In some host societies (Jamaica, the French territories in the Caribbean), Indians are assimilated and hardly constitute an ethnic group (cf. Clarke et al. 1990). Even where ethnic groups are established, the ethnicity may differ spatially and historically as leadership, group ideology, ethnic and environmental resources, and interracial relations may vary. Focusing on the political integration of Indian diaspora communities, basically two categories emerge, depending on the demographic size and the degree of ethnic cohesion.
4 Ruben Gowricharn The first category consists of relatively small ethnic minorities and falls apart in several subcategories, including: • •
Indian diaspora communities in Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Singapore (Lal et al. 2006); Indians in East African societies where communities managed to retain important institutions such as religion, family life, and public festivals (Younger 2010; Aiyer 2015; Reddy 2016). South Africa, which has a substantial population of Indian descent, represents a strong community and can be classified as an exception because of its historical ties in the British empire and relations with India; Post WWII emigrations from India to Western societies, notably the United Kingdom, Canada, United States, and Australia. Here, Indian emigrants have established groups based on known communities such as Gujarati, Sindhi, Bengali, etcetera, while ‘Indian’ is a nationalist label referring to an overarching identity (Mishra 2016; Jayaram 2011; Hedge and Sahoo 2018). This duality of identity contrasts with the ethnic group formation of the descendants of indentured labourers, who were also recruited from a diversity of communities but blended into one ethnic group in their new social environment (Gowricharn 2013). The second recent destination of Indian emigration is the Gulf States, almost exclusively a labour migration (Jain and Oommen 2017). These people are considered sojourns and deprived of major citizen rights. However, in many of these societies, such as Kuwait and Oman, Indian communities have emerged due to the permanent settlement of Indian migrants. Skilled labour (Information and Communication Technology) migration to the European Union, specifically from the southern part of India.
In some societies, Indian migrant communities may be curtailed in exercising citizens’ rights to practice their religion, speak their language, or conduct their lifestyle (Reddy 2016; Maharaj 2018; Aiyer 2015). As a result, not all Indian groups can be considered politically fully integrated, at least not in the same manner. Different forms of political integration need to be considered. The differences between the forms of representation may be accounted for by many preconditions, including the demographic size of the Indian group, the political system, the location of the group in the social stratifcation of the host society, the moral credit assigned to the immigrant group, the ambition of the group as exemplifed by its ideology, the social networks, the leadership, and the degree of entanglement of the group with the diaspora. In the second category of societies, including Suriname, Guyana, Trinidad, Mauritius, and Fiji, Indian groups constitute the largest ethnic group in the population. Indians in these societies consist predominantly of descendants of indentured labourers of which substantial parts have
migrated to North America, Europe, and Australia. They have established ethnic political parties in their second homeland and are formally represented at the national level (Lal et al. 2006; Jayaram 2011; Hedge and Sahoo 2018). In some societies, such as Mauritius and Suriname, they have participated in elections without being thwarted. If they ended up in the parliamentary opposition, that was a fair outcome, granted the skewness of the electoral system. In other societies, Guyana and Fiji being examples, Indian groups have been politically excluded for a long time, sometimes forcibly. Some societies fall in between, for example, when the Indian group is excluded at the level of symbolic representation, as in Trinidad (Munasinghe 2006). Groupism implies some involvement in the Indian diaspora, as the Indian group is somehow ‘tied’ to the parental or ancestral homeland. Cohen (2018) pointed out that the concept of diaspora requires two building blocks: an ethnic group and a homeland. To these two one can add a third: a host land into which the Indian group strives to integrate. The involvement with the ancestral homeland generates a persistent ambivalence since overseas Indians have to deal with two or more homelands: India and the society to which they have moved. This renders a different type of integration rather than a refusal to integrate, one that comprises both home and hostlands, while manifested as a group. This duality has a few consequences that impact their integration negatively (for debates on this issue, see Eisenlohr 2007; Munasinghe 2006; Gowricharn 2015; Aiyer 2015). Despite modern-day conceptions of belonging and citizenship, old European conceptions of (highly assimilated and more or less closed) nation-states prevail in many of these former colonial societies. In this concept, individuals are required to have one loyalty to one nation-state, assimilate in one culture, and be citizens of one state. Consequently, in many societies, transnationalism is considered at odds with the requirements of national belonging. This conception of citizenship and integration has made the maintenance of Indian diaspora relations harder when endeavouring for groupist integration. With the rise of nationalism and populism, which push for homogeneous lifestyles, many diasporic communities are increasingly suspected of being reluctant to integrate into the receiving society. Consequently, the dual and groupist integration of Indian communities represents a vexing political issue.
3. This book Political integration, as conceptualised in this book, requires an ethnic group, which can be formal and informal, may occur at the level of specific institutions as well as at the level of the group, and may be represented at the level of the state or detached from formal politics. In all cases, the group is rooted in the host society and connected with the diaspora, not necessarily
6 Ruben Gowricharn India. This focus on political integration applied to the Indian diaspora is novel. However, recently there have been a few studies that come close to the subject of this book. The work by Mishra (2016) called Desi Divided (the society or country divided), deals with Indians in the United States and the impact on India. Mishra convincingly outlines that the Indian community in the United States is internally fragmented, consisting of high-skilled and low-skilled people and people with parochial identities. Departing from the increasing visibility of Indians in mainstream society, as illuminated by individual Indians in high-ranking positions such as governors, senators, and chairmen of boards of universities and large banks or governance bodies such as trade unions, Mishra argues that the political mobilisation of Indians in the United States can only be accounted for by cleavages within the community. Desi Divided addresses the fragmentation and transnationalisation of Indian communities in the major Western societies and in India. It is an illuminating example of a bilateral transnational political connection. This integration, or mobilisation, as Mishra frames it, has not been depicted at the level of Indian communal institutions. Many groupist orientations exist among these communities, but their institutional representation at the political level remains in the dark. In contrast, this book attempts to focus on precisely this groupist representation at the political level rather than on the electoral mobilisation of individuals or categories of individuals. A similar country study is Aiyar’s Indians in Kenya. The Politics of Diaspora (2015). It is broad historical study of Indians spanning political homelands across the Indian Ocean and their connection between homeland India and host land Kenya, the latter denoted as a territorial homeland. Aiyer argues that while the relatively short distance to India fostered a diasporic consciousness, the Kenyan community had to distinguish itself from the local population. That resulted in paradoxical claims to racial solidarity and difference. While Indians in Kenya represent a case study, the tense relations between the indigenous Kenyans and Indians are intrinsic in many plural societies due to ethnic competition. However, political cooperation between ethnic groups, such as, for example, in Mauritius and Suriname, is not exceptional (Carroll and Carroll 2000; Dew 1978). A different perspective on political integration is Reddy’s account of Social Movements in the Indian Diaspora (2016) that focuses on societies harbouring former indentured labourers, notably Indo-Fijians, Indo-Trinidadians, Indo-Mauritians, and South Africans. She argues that the ‘home-host trope’, typical for diaspora communities, does not neatly align with states and can be better understood as situated in transnational localities, distinct at three levels: the group identity, the trans-state level, and the nation-state level. Reddy forcefully argues that diaspora communities are highly creolised, largely nationally based, and focusing on local issues. Moreover, Indians
have represented themselves as the opposite of mixed or creolised populations by emphasising their Indian origin. But these communities do not consist of ‘Indian Indians’, Reddy argues, since their Indianness is located outside India, in the transnational locality. Unfortunately, Reddy offers one framework for disparate forms and degrees of political integration. In this respect, Social Movements in the Indian Diaspora differs from the present book, which offers varied forms of political integration. A recent study on ‘political integration’ is The Other One Percent. Indians in America by Chakravorty, Kapur, and Singh (2017). This book focuses on the remarkable success of Indians, judged in terms of income and social mobility. The authors account for this success by pointing out the social, demographic and educational selection (both in India and the United States), and the selection in the entrance to America. In addition, assimilation and entrepreneurship account for the outcome. The authors are careful to distinguish between many Indian communities in the United States and their widely dispersed pattern of settlement, as well as the large variations in professional groups and income classes. However, their focus is mainly on social and economic success. They hardly deal with the modes of political integration or the contribution of the community (beyond marital choice and the family) to the success. While the works mentioned are useful and sometimes inspiring, the present work departs from its exclusive bilateral focus on India and some other society. The burgeoning literature on the Indian diaspora focuses on the United States as host land, most likely because of the size of the Indian population resident in that society, the exceptionally high degree of social mobility, the accumulated capital (including social and human capital), and the international predominance of the United States. However impressive the Indian record in the United States may be, the diversity in political integration of Indians in the diaspora and their different forms and degrees cannot be disclosed by focusing on one society. Considering the variety of modes of political integration, the central aim of this book is to provide cases that fill the void in this field of study. The presented cases do not the exhaust the range of possibilities, but they offer a first sight of the large variety of groupist integration in Indian diaspora societies. The present work offers a unique collection of case studies on the political integration in Indian diaspora societies, thereby distinguishing between institutional and national levels of integration, discussing transnational entanglements, and offering comparative perspectives. It is the first book to present such a collection of chapters. The book argues that the successful political integration of Indian overseas communities presupposes ethnic group formation, notably the establishment of ethnic institutions and the prevalence of an ethnic ideology and leadership in different domains of life. These variables, along with the ideology of the host society, as well as the opportunities provided or created, specify how Indian diaspora communities
integrate into core institutions of the receiving societies. The case of political integration of Indians in the diaspora teaches us that rather than the labour market, welfare arrangements, or assimilation being key, as assumed in Western scholarship, political integration is enabled by ethnic group formation and resists the dissolution of the ethnic group. In the literature on the Indian diaspora, as well as in Western scholarship, this focus on groupist political integration is rather absent. Even studies focusing on Indian diaspora, representing disparate perspectives, as covered by Clarke et al. (1990); Parekh, Singh, and Vertovec (2004); Kaur and Sinha (2005); and Chatterji and Washbrook (2013) on Indian groups in the diaspora, have hardly addressed their modes of political integration. This focus on groupist integration is a new area of study. Considering the large variety of diaspora communities and the disparate conditions fostering or hampering political integration, there is not one model accounting for the political integration of Indian diaspora communities or one prime mover for that matter. Hence, the chapters in this book provide a variety of examples of the intricacies of political integration in diaspora societies. The book focuses on the political integration of Indian diaspora communities and is divided into three parts: institutional integration, national struggles, and global dimensions of political integration. The first part focuses on the integration of specific Indian institutions in the newly adopted homeland. Institutional or groupist integration requires acceptance of the receiving population, which has not always been easy to achieve, as the cases in this part show. The second part of the book focuses on contestations at the national level. They highlight the struggle through which Indian communities conquered a place at the national level, displaying dualities and hybridities. Part III of the book focuses on global dimensions of national integration. Because of their ethnicity, ethnic groups are affiliated with the parental or ancestral homeland or with related ethnic groups in the diaspora. That entanglement exerts a reaction from other ethnic groups in the national realm, pressuring to assimilate or creolise. Most of the chapters in this book were originally presented at an international Indian diaspora conference, held on 5–7 October 2017 in The Hague. As usual, perspectives on the diaspora centre on the homeland, ignoring the development of overseas communities. This collection shifts away from that perspective, thus trying to encompass different segments of the Indian diaspora.
4. Chapters After this introduction, the chapters in the three parts convey the following messages.
Part I: national integration Bobby Luthra Sinha and Anand Singh deal with the input on Indian origin communities in Durban, South Africa, and their politics of self-help. Their research explores and interprets a few tangible and symbolic meanings visible in an initiative against substance abuse. Spearheaded by a set of concerned actors in Chatsworth, Durban, under the banner of an organisation called Anti-Drug Forum, there is a politics of self-help against illicit substances and their use. Having gained a critical support base from people of Indian origin in Durban since the early years of the 21st century, the home-grown effort brings about a liminal integration across inter- and intracommunity contexts. What comes to light through this ethnographic, actor-centric analysis is a democratic philosophy of action in addition to an entrenched protest in demand for security, well-being, and freedom from the soicopathies created by substance abuse in post-apartheid South Africa. Nalini Moodley-Diar argues that the visual representation of Indianness has far-reaching and complex implications that challenge the notion of South Africa as the rainbow nation as advocated by former president Nelson Mandela. This chapter engages the politicisation of Indian identity as experienced against the giants of colonialism and apartheid. Since indenture, the South African Indian was represented through visual forms, thereby resulting in a visual record that reflected the social engineering experiments in South Africa. This chapter explores a series of photographs to develop a thematic discussion on how the photographs of the Indians became more than just a memoir of cultural knowledge and understanding. The images become inscribed with tangible and intangible dimensions that are integral to the current characterisation of Indians in contemporary South Africa. The chapter thematically moves from a sense of alienhood to success and integration against the backdrop of the search for a place called home and a political agenda. Brij Maharaj examines the nature of the activities of the wealthy and influential Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) Gupta family and its consequences for political integration of People of Indian Origins (PIOs) of indentured stock in South Africa. More specifically, the focus of this chapter is on the controversies associated with the landing of the Gupta-chartered civilian Jet Airways airplane at the Waterkloof Military Air Force Base in Pretoria in April–May 2013. The chapter also reflects on the longer-term consequences for PIOs of the activities of NRIs and especially the political implications for South African Indians and local Indo-African relations. A key contention in the chapter is that the fallout from this incident inflamed racial tensions, with some Africans referring pejoratively to PIOs as ‘Guptas’, and undermined political integration and cohesion, with suggestions that Persons of Indian Origin born in South Africa should return to India. Racism continues to bedevil South Africa 25 years after the historic democratic elections.
Part II: dualities in integration Susan and David Chand focus on the challenge of people of Indian descent to integrate politically in probably the most creolised society in the Indian diaspora, Trinidad and Tobago. Despite Indians occupying significant ‘spaces’ in the country’s Afro-dominated political system, religion has been an anchoring element in keeping alive their ‘Indianness’. Considering the importance of religion, their chapter describes the perceptions of ‘Indianness’ of IndoTrinidadians along their religious affiliations and how these relate to their political integration into the mainstream society. Historical accounts and personal interviews of the fourth and fifth generations of Indo-Trinidadians are incorporated in developing this chapter. Findings reveal that ‘Indianness’ as a transnational identity is more closely associated with Hindus than with the Muslims or Christians, while religious hybridity is seen as a factor for integration in the political spaces. Religion as a transnational identity influencing the Indians’ integration in the political space is examined, along with Indians being active players in the political arena and still alienated. Koushiki Dasgupta explores the life and times of Dr. Sudhindra Bose, one of the early Bengali intellectuals in the United States, to understand as a nationalist intellectual, writer, and academic how he conceptualised his transnational visions and cross-cultural experiences. As a Professor of Oriental Politics at the University of Iowa, Bose wrote comprehensively on British colonialism in India, western imperialism in the world, and the position of the Indians in American society, as well on his own expectations of support and help from America in the Indian struggle for independence. Dasgupta has reflected mainly on the writings of Bose to reveal the challenges of diasporic nationalist consciousness faced at a level of political integration. While fighting for the citizenship rights of the Indians in America, Dasgupta addresses how Bose’s appreciation for America was balanced by his reservations regarding his anti-colonial stance and sporadic heart-rending personal accounts of being a outsider in an alien society. The chapter concludes by acknowledging the world-view of Bose as one of the early initiatives of integrating two unfamiliar boundaries for the interest of a transnational political culture.
Part III: global dimensions of integration Eviane Leidig explores how the Internet serves as a medium that creates new ideological hybridities between diasporic Hindutva and the radical right in Western societies. She begins with an overview of Modi’s 2014 election campaign in India, situating how the then-candidate’s social media outreach depended on significant diaspora support, especially with cyber-Hindutva. Yet cyber-Hindutva builds on a legacy of diasporic Hindutva organisations in the United Kingdom and United States.These organisations, which have flourished under the multiculturalism policies of ‘host societies’, reinforce the narrative that Muslims are ‘unassimilable’ vis-à-vis Hindus who are ‘well integrated’.
Given the Islamophobic sentiment of diasporic Hindutva, a lacuna exists in whether diasporic Hindutva translates into support for the radical right in the West. This is first explored in the Republican Hindu Coalition–sponsored Ab Ki Baar Trump Sarkar campaign, which marks a shift in political integration through mass media consumption. This chapter consequently draws on a year-long qualitative study of Hindu diaspora Twitter users in the United Kingdom and United States who support Brexit and Trump. For these individuals, online interactions occur at multiple levels of entanglement: between the ‘homeland’-diaspora, across diasporic communities, and within new alliances with Western radical right leaders. This last entanglement marks a new transition in Hindu diaspora political integration. Johann Salazar addresses the introduction of the Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) scheme in 2005 by the Indian government. Through the NRI, PIO, and OCI schemes, the Indian government progressively expanded the idea of belonging beyond the territorial borders of India by binding it more tightly with blood relations. They simultaneously effected a reconfiguration of the relationship among the members of diasporas and between them and their homelands to include the many Indian diasporas into a unified ‘Indian diaspora’. This chapter explores the Overseas Citizen of India scheme to understand the mechanics of these diaspora initiatives as tools for nation-building. It argues that by presenting the OCI scheme as a gift, the government of India set in motion both modern and premodern logics of reciprocity which can not only be recurrently translated into remittances, philanthropy, investment, and soft power but also used for political integration and policing the borders of belonging. The last chapter focuses on the differences in the ethnicity of IndoCaribbean groups and the impact on their political integration. The chapter aims to comparatively demonstrate that Indo-Caribbean ethnicity is dissimilar in terms of ethnic loyalties, creole nationalism, voting behaviour, and participation in government coalitions. It argues that the debate about Indo-Caribbean citizenship and national identity was limited since it was excessively focused on ‘national integration by means of Creolisation’, while ignoring the impact of the Indian diaspora, the agency of the substantial segments of the Indo-Caribbean communities, and participation in government coalitions. Moreover, the differences in environmental conditions and the colonial background and political history across the three societies also contributed to the differences in Indo-ethnicity. These differences across the region had most likely a varying impact on the political integration of the communities. The arguments contradict the assumption that Indian ethnicity is the same everywhere, especially when the communities geographically and historically seem to be closely related.
References Aiyer, Sana. 2015. Indians in Kenya: The Politics of Diaspora. Cambridge, MA/ London: Harvard University Press.
Alba, Richard and Nancy Foner. 2016. ‘Integration’s Challenges and Opportunities in the Wealthy West’, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 42(1): 3–22. Alba, Richard and Victor Nee. 2003. Remaking the American Mainstream: Assimilation and Contemporary Immigration. Harvard, MA: Harvard University Press. Beck, Ulrich and Elisabeth Beck-Gernsheim. 2001. Individualization: Institutionalised Individualism and Its Social and Political Consequences. London: SAGE Publishing. Bloemraad, Irene. 2015. ‘Theorizing and Analyzing Citizenship in Multicultural Societies’, The Sociological Quarterly, 56(4): 591–606. Bloemraad, Irene, Anna Korteweg, and Gökce Yurdakul. 2008. ‘Citizenship and Immigration: Multiculturalism, Assimilation and Challenges to the Nation-State’, Annual Review of Sociology, 53: 153–179 (no issue number). Brubaker, Rogers. 2004. Ethnicity Without Groups. Cambridge, MA/London: Harvard University Press. Carroll, Barbara and Terance Carroll. 2000. ‘Accommodating Ethnic Diversity in a Modernizing Democratic State: Theory and Practice in the Case of Mauritius’, Ethnic and Racial Studies, 23(1): 120–142. Chakravorty, Sanjoy, Devesh Kapur, and Nirvikar Singh. 2017. The Other One Percent: Indians in America. New York: Oxford University Press. Chatterji, Joya and David Washbrook (eds). 2013. Routledge Handbook of South Asian Diaspora. London/New York: Routledge. Clarke, Colin, Ceri Peach, and Steven Vertovec (eds.). 1990. South Asians Overseas: Migration and Ethnicity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Cohen, Robin. 2018. ‘Solid, Ductile and Liquid: Changing Notions of Homeland and Home in Diaspora Studies’, in Klaus Stierstorfer and Janet Wilson (eds.), The Routledge Diaspora Studies Reader. Oxon/New York: Routledge. Dew, Edward. 1978. The Difficult Flowering of Surinam: Ethnicity and Politics in a Plural Society. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff. Eisenlohr, Patrick. 2007. ‘Creole Publics: Language, Cultural Citizenship, and the Spread of the Nation in Mauritius’, Comparative Studies in Society and History, 49(4): 968–996. Favell, Adrian. 2001. Philosophies of Integration: Immigration and the Idea of Citizenship in France and Britain. Houndsmill: Palgrave. Franklin, Mark, Thomas Mackie, and Henry Valen. 1992. Electoral Change: Responses to Evolving Social and Attitudinal Structures in Western Countries. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Gans, Herbert. 2007. ‘Discussion Article: Acculturation, Assimilation and Mobility’, Ethnic and Racial Studies, 30(1): 152–164. Goodman, Sara. 2015. ‘Conceptualizing and Measuring Citizenship and Integration Policy: Past Lessons and New Approaches’, Comparative Political Studies, 48(14): 1905–1941. Gowricharn, Ruben. 2013. ‘Ethnogenesis: The Case of the British-Indians in the Caribbean’, Comparative Studies in Society and History, 55(2): 388–418. Gowricharn, Ruben. 2015. ‘Creole Hegemony in Caribbean Societies’, Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism, 15(2): 272−291. Gowricharn, Ruben. 2017. ‘Shopping in Mumbai. Transnational Sociability From the Netherlands’, Global Networks, 17(3): 349–365. Hedge, Radha and Ajaya Sahoo (eds.). 2018. Routledge Handbook of the Indian Diaspora. London/New York: Routledge.
Jain, Prakash and Zacharia Oommen. 2017. South Asian Migration to Gulf Countries: History, Policies, Development. New Delhi: Routledge. Jayaram, Narayaram. 2011. Diversity in the Indian Diaspora. Oxford/Delhi: Oxford University Press. Joppke, Christian. 2007. ‘Beyond National Models: Civic Integration Policies for Immigrants in Western Europe’, West European Politics, 30(1): 1–22. Kaur, Raminder and Ajay Sinha (eds.). 2005. Bollyworld: Popular Indian Cinema Through a Transnational Lens. Delhi: Thousand Oaks. Lal, Brij, Peter Reeves, and Rajesh Rai. 2006. The Encyclopedia of the Indian Diaspora. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet. Lipset, Martin and Stein Rokkan. 1967. Party Systems and Voter Alignments: CrossNational Perspectives. New York: Free Press. Maharaj, Brij. 2018. ‘Race, Ethnicity and Conflict in the Indian Diaspora’, in Radha Hedge and Ajaya Sahoo (eds.), Routledge Handbook of the Indian Diaspora (pp. 28–38). London/New York: Routledge. Mishra, Sangay. 2016. Desis Divided: The Political Lives of South Asian Americans. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Munasinghe, Viranjani. 2006. ‘Theorizing World Culture Through the New World: East Indians and Creolization’, American Ethnologist, 33(4): 549-562. Parekh, Bikhu, Gurharpal Singh, and Steven Vertovec. 2004. Culture and Economy in the Indian Diaspora. London: Taylor and Francis. Penninx, Rinus. 2013. Research on Migration and Integration in Europe: Achievements and Lessons. Amsterdam: Vossiuspress. Pfeffer, Dan. 2015. Group Integration and Multiculturalism: Theory, Policy and Practice. London: Palgrave MacMillan. Raghuram, Parvati, Ajaya Sahoo, Brij Maharaj, and Dave Sangha (eds.). 2008. Tracing an Indian Diaspora: Contexts, Memories, Representations. London/Delhi: Sage. Reddy, Movindri. 2016. Social Movement and the Indian Diaspora. London/New York: Routledge. Schinkel, Willem. 2017. Imagined Societies: A Critique of Immigrant Integration in Western Societies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Soysal, Yasmin. 2000. ‘Citizenship and Identity: Living in Diasporas in Post-War Europe?’, Ethnic and Racial Studies, 23(1): 1–15. Van Dam, Peter. 2015. ‘Constructing a Modern Society Through “Depillarization”: Understanding Post-War History as Gradual Change’, Journal of Historical Sociology, 28(3): 291–313. Van der Eijck, Cees and Mark Franklin. 2009. Elections and Votes. New York: Palgrave MacMillan. Van Reekum, Rogier, Jan Willem Duyvendak, and Christophe Bertosi. 2012. ‘National Models of Integration and the Crisis of Multiculturalism: A Critical Comparative Perspective’, Patterns of Prejudice, 46(5): 417–426. Younger, Paul. 2010. New Homelands. Hindu Communities in Mauritius, Guyana, Trinidad, South Africa, Fiji, and East Africa. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Durban Indians, substance abuse and the politics of self-help in South Africa’s democracy Bobby Luthra Sinha and Anand Singh
Introduction: Durban Indians, substance abuse and self-help In this case study from South Africa, we show how the imagination of Persons of Indian Origin around the ideals of self-help and democratic freedoms form the core of a people’s initiative against substance abuse in Durban. Headed by an organization known as the Anti-Drug Forum, this initiative operates through and uses a repertoire of processions, peaceful protest marches and placard demonstrations to project a voice and raise awareness against substance abuse among local community and state institutions. In its social welfare aims and struggles against the drug scourge, mainly among Indian South African and other communities living in Durban, the Anti-Drug Forum (ADF) plans its path as an organization as well as a community-based peoples’ movement (Luthra Sinha 2014; 2015; 2016a). Stemming from a collective consciousness around a sense of crisis owing to the presence and use of illicit drugs affecting their communities, their actions result in a meaningful form of political integration. South African democracy struggles with the nature and degree of escalating corruption, networked crime and street violence that add to its woes of abuse of power, economic inequality, unemployment and rising substance abuse (Singh 2017). Corruption and theft of public funds continue to impede attempts at correctional services and support for communities where substance abuse is endemic. A rising culture of secrecy and the re-emergence of securocrats within South African politics further mar the spirit of freedom and integrity that democracy was intended to herald post-apartheid (Ministerial Review Commission on Intelligence 2008; de Wet 2013). Against such a background, a small section of the Indian-origin communities – or people of Indian origin (PIO) – in Durban have put together a local yet growing network of self-help politics, the broader connotations of which are analysed in this chapter. Carrying a litany of social and political aspirations, social movements as civil society efforts are both a cause and effect of modern sociopolitical maladies (Kenny 2018). As communities of citizens linked by common aims and interests, civil society efforts such as the ADF, which this chapter analyses, open vast possibilities of dialoguing with the state, though
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topical differences contextualize and continue to shape these experiences in multiple ways (Kenny 2018) the world over. Literature on diverse South African social movements (Mngxitama, Alexander, and Gibson 2008) often alludes to this possibility of bridges that collective action and civil society build to carve niches for themselves within political systems. For this reason, research curiosity about collective social action and social movements strives to understand the regimes of diversity (of actors and institutions) and potentials of integration and/or otherwise (repertoires, symbols, meanings) that such action entails (White 2008; Friedman). The question that this research aims to answer is, ‘Can collective social action rooted in an anti–substance abuse positioning mitigate state lapses and promote interracial integration in the South African democracy’? In order to counter the sociopathy related to substance abuse in their communities, South African Indians affected by and concerned about the scourge in Durban articulate a political freedom, social alleviation and self-help in their country’s difficult but open democracy. Replete with supportive spaces for diversity despite its problems, a resilient media and an invigorated civil society (Greenstein 2003: 11; Vuuren 2014), the democracy functions as a springboard for grassroots politics that small organizations (such as the Durban-based ADF) have a potential to bring to the fore. Symbolizing a mix of civil society–based collective action akin to a social movement (see Luthra Sinha 2015), as well as community self-help, the ADF and its supportive networks indicate: a) how a discursive engagement with the ideas of freedom and empowerment becomes central to the self-help interventions of the Indianorigin communities and inspires them to engage as citizens in participatory activities that enhance their democracy and b) how an informal model of sociopolitical integration from an everyday political space builds horizontal bonding among various Indian and non-Indian communities, encourages racial integration and at the same time offers individual upliftment and healing. In tune with the larger arguments put forward in this book over different kinds of diaspora integration, our work brings to light an integration pattern that emerges from the thresholds of the PIO in Durban, South Africa. Politically, the integration of diaspora, read together with histories of migration and the home-host country contexts, presents its own pace and dynamic. While a constant politics of yearning for the ‘homeland’ may create a hiatus between migrant diasporas and host countries (Eisenlohr 2007), it can be the most natural way forward for first-generation migrants, as visible among the indentured and passenger Indians who migrated from India to South Africa from the 1860s onward. Post such initial stages, usually a sturdier set of solutions emerge to stimulate a middle ground of ethnic identities in the host societies, as exemplified by many an instance of later generations of the PIO in relation to their diaspora identities (see Ballard 1994, for a discussion on South Asian diasporas) in South Africa. An analysis of the way that Indian origin communities jointly think about and act upon contemporary issues afflicting their life-worlds post-apartheid
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exhibits the semiotics of how broader power relationships in South African society can be critiqued, contested and reimagined with a grassroots approach to democracy. A diversity-centric social action approach to the South African democracy, as per our findings, reveals how diaspora communities can hold themselves in bonds of collective action. The involved Indianorigin communities in South Africa, by virtue of a collective stand against apathies and the sociopathy manifest in substance abuse contexts, traverse constructively beyond considerations of their distant origins and ancestral homelands (Kukke and Shah 2000; Gopinath 2005; Das Gupta 2006; Adur and Purkayastha 2013; Luthra Sinha 2018; 2016; 2015; 2014; Chettie and Luthra Sinha 2013).1 They also move beyond passive aspirations or expectations that hope for the politics of representation (or vote politics) to resolve important matters affecting their ethnographic present. The anti–substance abuse movement (Luthra Sinha 2014; 2015) of the ADF in its local context represents a social mobilization and integration strategy relevant to a unique contingency in contemporary South Africa. Political rights and materialistic connotations of integration, representation and well-being such as education, employment and labour (Penninx 2013) are concrete landmarks ascertaining the well-being of minorities such as diasporas and other communities, but there are other milestones that run parallel to these. Individual and collective growth, peace, safety, security and welfare form an important domain that makes the everyday life-world of people and communities measure up to their imagined grounds as political beings and citizens.2 Our chapter will take up these qualitative concerns of the Indian diaspora based on shared ethnicity, origins and ethics as well as values of their Indian-South African–ness. We start by discussing our methodology of data collection and its significance for our final analysis. Moving on to identify processes of liminal integration enacted by a section of the PIO in South Africa, we introduce in brief the South African Indians and their self-help politics against sociopathy associated with the use of an illicit substance known as ‘sugars’ in the local slang.
Data and sources Based on anthropological research conducted during the months of April and July 2018, the current chapter draws from a qualitative methodology. Data was mainly collected from four schools in Chatsworth, Durban, through open-ended interviews and interactive sessions with students in grade VIII and above. A total of twenty informal, open-ended interviews became the basis for information shared in this chapter with regard to the self-help politics against substance abuse. Participants were identified using the snowballing method. During both periods of field work, ethnographic research was complemented by group discussions with the ADF and its leader, volunteers and motivational speakers in the presence of school counsellors, principals,
20 Bobby Luthra Sinha and Anand Singh teachers and social workers from local organizations such as the South African Hindu Maha Sabha (SAHM). Participant observation in daily life events and sites of action helped us reach out further and explore the issue through commemorative events and student–teacher meetings in schools. We also covered rehabilitative sessions between social workers and individuals as well as meetings between teachers and students who took up advocacy against substance abuse in collaboration with the ADF. The ADF-supported student bodies called ‘Smart Clubs’, along with their members (students and faculty volunteers from local schools in Chatsworth), became a significant source of data collection for us. For organizing and analysing the data, we followed the Geertzian (1973a) methodology of a ‘thick description’ that revealed a nuanced difference between a distant and close look at the same issue. From a distant perspective, for instance, the anti-drug politics enacted by the ADF and its supportive networks contain the banal saga of drug abuse with the overall sociopolitical conditions and implications found in any other context in varying degrees. Be it the prevalence of networked crime, the failure of security agencies and state administration to control it, poverty, inequality and unemployment or the disintegration of family life, dangers to neighbourhoods and communities that drug scourges imply (ANC 2011; Rocha-Silva 1992), South Africa and South African Indian communities have gone through the entire rigmarole (Gopal and Luthra Sinha 2015; 2017). Our methodological focus on thick descriptions helped us contextualize the situation with close accounts of involved actors and arrive at deeper meanings entailed therein. On the one hand, the self-help politics against substance abuse reveals itself as a well-thought-out social endeavour, no less than an exigency of history that these diaspora communities carry on their shoulders. On the other hand, it rises to its fuller democratic potential and becomes a community-based, qualitative and integrative dialogue with the post-apartheid state in South Africa. It is reminiscent of the notion that social actions are acts that are ‘larger than themselves; they speak to larger issues, and vice versa, because they are made to’ (Geertz 1973b).
Anti-Drug Forum and the Durban Indians: politics of a liminal integration against substance abuse Growing poverty, unemployment, discrimination and lack of political accountability for infrastructural inadequacies have close interconnections to the drug scourges experienced the world over, and South Africa is no exception to that rule. But those affected by the drug scourge in their everyday life such as the Indian-origin and many other communities in Durban and South Africa, even though they may feel cut off from each other, realize that in one way or the other, their shared discrepancies, deprivations and dangers as citizens throw them in the same boat (Singh and Bhoola 2017; Mngxitama et al. 2008; Ministerial Review Commission on Intelligence
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2008; de Wet 2013). The ADF positioned itself as a ground-level endeavour that cuts across racial lines to promote a model of socially integrative selfhelp at a moment when communities were putting their heads together on tackling substance abuse. Our chapter examines this collective social action endeavour that has its base in Chatsworth, Durban. Chatsworth happens to be the place where the ADF is located, apart from being a significant site of substance abuse among PIO. The Indian-origin communities in South Africa, as elsewhere, are known to focus on settlement after experiences of displacement/dislocation and position themselves per their specific histories and contexts of migration (Shodganga 2018).3 South Africans of all races and origins, for instance, lived under and faced apartheid, the politics of segregation, in different measures and significance. The struggle for freedom and post-apartheid democracy built up a period of substantive changes in which, along with their compatriots, the South African Indians learned to associate with their state (Burrows 1952; Desai and Vahed 2007; Khan 2012) in many different ways. The earlier generations of the PIO contributed through sociopolitical organizational work for settling down and achieving freedom and democracy (Everatt 2013; Hart and Padayachee 2013; Thiara 1993; Khan 2012). Succeeding generations of this historical South African Indian diaspora turn to contemporary issues, such as mobilization against substance abuse, which our study analyses with regard to the latent meanings of sociopolitical and interracial integration that it carries. A Liminal Integration: We argue that the ADF’s bottom-up concern to free local communities from the shackles of substance abuse and its sociopathy carries as much as it explores multiple meanings for the South African democracy. The ADF counts on a horizontal unity which provides it social and strategic support from Indian-origin families, schools, social networks and the municipal government (open-ended interviews and group discussions)4 in Durban. At the same time, the organization keeps itself open to other communities living in Chatsworth and ensures anonymity to individuals and families that approach it for rehabilitation and correctional services. Through such collective action and intercommunity sensitivities, the PIO in South Africa exhibit an empowered approach to diaspora identities. These can remain intact/come into question or just merge while they integrate with larger national issues and everyday political needs in post-apartheid South Africa.5 Whilst reconnecting with India is an important element in the production of new post-apartheid subjectivities, South African Indians (Dickinson 2015: 79–89) are simultaneously still negotiating a liminal citizenship (Dickinson 2015: 80). One of the ways that the PIO show solidarity during their liminal, transforming, yet formative associations with democracy postapartheid is by undertaking participatory roles in solving the issues and anomalies around them. Even though it arose mainly to cater to substance abuse issues faced by Indian households and families in the residential area of Chatsworth (in the
22 Bobby Luthra Sinha and Anand Singh eThekwini municipality of Durban), the ADF has been extending its help to others as well. Whether this impulse was a part of the founding moments of the ADF and its supporter-networks is not the question here. The important point to be considered is that the anti–substance abuse movement has been known to evolve, expand and revitalize its role by spontaneously integrating its concerns into the larger issue of intercommunity and non-racial outreach. The ADF and its supporting networks in schools, for instance, no longer focus only on Indian learners and families. Coloured and Black households form a part of its narrative that bears an ever-evolving, spontaneously changing horizontal integration in South Africa.6 Keeping in mind the changing demographic profile of many residential areas post-apartheid, the ADF has been quick to recognize that Chatsworth does not belong exclusively to any single community or ethnicity. In South Africa before the advent of democracy and under the restrictions of the Group Areas act, racially contiguous geographies of power were created and (en)forced upon one and all (Singh and Bhoola 2017: 55–58). The apartheid city therefore produced a highly rigid and legible spatial hierarchy of race, class and access. The end of the apartheid regime, however, while bearing a political commitment to desegregating the city, also ended up unleashing powerful transformative forces (Schensul and Heller 2010). Consequently the communities who ‘dreamt’ of living together in freedom received the actual opportunity to do so. With it, once again, the social geography of South Africa started to change and brought on a newer set of challenges for all the races concerned, although on a positive note. Indian South Africans (ISAs) are still struggling to find their bearings in such a transition, and the ADF trajectory shows a way ahead by enacting the politics of a liminal and spontaneous integration. Meaning making amidst grave challenges may not necessarily have ready solutions from the storehouse of the embedded diaspora memories and identities of the PIO. Just as their forefathers conceived the limits (or otherwise) of their political participation and integration (Everatt 2013) in a racially segregated South Africa (Hart and Padayachee 2013: 60), the contemporary communities must recognize the appropriate moments to establish participatory activism and nation building. Organizations such as the ADF have taken up the cudgels to press for unity and racial integration in the garb of a layered community politics advocating a unified action towards building a ‘drug-free’ society. Its protest actions and self-help politics for solving newer social issues related to removal of drug sociopathy count on a reflective imagination: Those who associate and network with the anti–substance abuse movement have, by virtue of experience in the field, no doubt that a problem such as a drug scourge skips no household or family on the basis of racial considerations, though its impacts and longevity may very well differ per differences in family and backgrounds.7 Since 2005, therefore, the ADF has striven to carve a niche for its liminally integrative politics under the banner of freedom and a voice with which
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a new South Africa arms it and its supporters. The ADF practices its needbased politics (Luthra Sinha 2015; 2018) with the younger generation of youth, who exhibit newer diaspora identities detached (though not disconnected) from their ancestral ones. The youth8 as well as the ADF hope the drug scourge will not engulf individuals and families of South Africa forever. Hence we describe this politics as a transient ‘liminal integration’ that arises and remains embedded in the contingent exigencies of an anti–substance abuse movement. Additionally, being free and secure in a democratic South Africa that knows how to enjoy racial camaraderie is a necessity that they share with other compatriots and stakeholders. Our research brings to light the embodiment of such a liminal (Thomassen 2009; Turner 1967), transient, informal and horizontal integration, which focuses on a universal conceit and social upliftment.
Durban Indians recognize a need, fill a vacuum The Indian diaspora is a generic term to describe the people who migrated from territories that are currently within the borders of the Republic of India (Tripathi and Katiyar 2018). It also refers to their descendants. According to the size of its presence in four categories, the Indian diaspora in Africa is perceived as being of a ‘dominant’, ‘substantial’, ‘marginal’ or minimal strength (Gupta 2013: 136–146). Substantial strength is reflected by the category consisting of countries in which Indian communities have a population of more than 1,000,000, such as in South Africa and Reunion Island. Post-1994, with the advent of a democratic constitution, immigration policy restrictions by the apartheid government were scrapped in South Africa. People from Pakistan, Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka arrived in South Africa as new immigrants. These form the contemporary Indian/Asian diaspora communities in Durban and elsewhere. In terms of a diaspora identity, there is a major cultural and political distinction between these South Asian groups, the new Indian diaspora on the one hand and the Persons of Indian Origin – the PIO and South African Indians who make up the old or the historical Indian diaspora – on the other hand (Luthra Sinha 2013). This study, as is clear by now, pertains to the latter. In South Africa, the Indian diaspora stands at 1,560,000 (or 1.5 million) in total and constitutes nearly 3% of the total population of South Africa. Although the population of Indian descent in South Africa is a minority, it represents a strong community with a substantially strong presence (Raghuram, Sahoo, Maharaj, and Sangha 2008). Concentrated in the major industrial centres of South Africa, around 75% of the Indian community lives in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN).9 Durban, the capital of this province, accounts for a considerable part of the largely urbanized Indian population of this country. This concentration makes them politically imperative in Durban, which is incidentally among the most industrialized and prosperous regions of South Africa (Gupta 2013: 136–146; Dubey 2010; Schensul and Heller 2010: 6).
24 Bobby Luthra Sinha and Anand Singh The Durban Indians: 80% of the South African Indian population is concentrated in the greater Durban area. Overall, the largest settlements of the community are in the working-class townships of Chatsworth and Phoenix, mid-town suburbs close to Durban’s Central Business District, the rural agricultural zones of Tongaat and Stanger in the Durban coastal area, which covers approximately 500,000 of the Indian origin community (Statistics South Africa 2010; Consulate General of India, Durban, Briefs and Reports 2013). The city of Durban and its suburbs (in one of which the ADF is based), where the majority of Persons of Indian Origin live, fall within the municipality of eThekwini. In two of Durban’s suburbs, Phoenix and Chatsworth, approximately 600,000 PIO reside, making it one of the largest concentrations of PIO outside India (Consulate General of India, Durban, Briefs and Reports 2013). When the apartheid government finally came to an end in 1994, many Indians played a vital role not only in the negotiation process for a new constitution but also served in prominent cabinet positions in the new government. Just like other ethnic and race groups, Indians contributed enormously (MRG 2018) to making the difficult transition from an ‘ethno-zoned’ (Price 1984) – a heavily racial and spatially segregated, elitist and fragmented space and polity – into a peaceful rights and freedom-oriented democracy (Horowitz 1991; Lijphart 1985: 24). Many Indians came to identify with broader anti-apartheid and liberation politics, mounting substantial boycotts against the segregating and divisive tri-cameral elections held in 1983, which aimed at the co-option of Indians and coloureds into the ruling elite. Though this did a lot to promote solidarity and improve relations between Indians and Africans, some tensions remained, particularly in Natal (now KwaZulu-Natal). In the post-apartheid years, the Indian community has been represented in the African National Congress (ANC) governments, and their votes have been split among the ANC, the (now-defunct) New National Party and the Democratic Alliance (MRG 2018; Singh and Singh 2007; Singh 2013). The ‘Sugars’ Scourge: Substance Abuse and the Indian Communities: In the initial years of the 21st century, a concerned set of citizens pertaining to Indian families recognized the need to establish a common reference point for issues related to drug abuse amongst its youth (Luthra Sinha 2015). This was the time in 2006 when a drug known as ‘sugars’10 replaced ‘Mandrax’ (Luthra Sinha 2015; 2016) as the drug of choice. Although the proliferation of its use took the community by surprise (Tolsi 2006),11 Indians were quick to fight back. One of the main causes for the endemic (ab)use of sugars can be attributed to the rapidly changing South African economy, society and polity making hitherto unavailable freedoms of mobility and professional choices a new reality. Alongside the untamed rise of material deprivations, poverty and unemployment were stark changes that coincided with the onset of individualistic notions of family life (Singh 2013; Luthra Sinha 2015; 2018; Price 1984) among Indians. What came to the fore therefore and continues to impact the Indian youth is the ironic contrast of possibility
Durban Indians and substance abuse
and opportunity which encapsulates a classic context for drugs such as sugars to hit Durban (Tolsi 2006). Does the Issue of Substance Abuse Bring the Durban Indians and Other Communities Together? Diverse12 as the South African Indians are, they are not known to have a homogenous conception of political life and choices. Rather a vibrant dialogue with the ‘self’ and the ‘other’ has constituted their settlement processes in South Africa ever since their arrival. Remaining acutely conscious of their sociocultural anchorages, origins and challenges, the Indians in South Africa in their initial moments held onto processes of identity that fell into their life-world, either as migrants of the same community, culture, village or region (Boonzaaier 1989: 185–186; Carter 1958: 81; Horowitz 1991: 8–12, Sisk 1995: 59) and/or owing to the ongoing ethnic ties and family linkages in the ancestral homeland. At one point in time, the dream of freedom in South Africa was as dear an ideal to them as the pride that rose in their hearts at the independence of India. Nevertheless, PIO have worked hard to remain constantly in sync with their host society and have trodden the hard path along with their other compatriots to coherently transform the patterns of their participation in local and national politics. In this context, it has been repeatedly pointed out during our field work how Indians aligned themselves with the Black African struggle for freedom.13 A strong conviction that brought together the people of Indian and native African origins pertained to the label ‘black’, which came to mean a collective belonging and claim to South Africa. Owing to their early sense of belonging, which nonetheless has continued to evolve in different ways during and post-apartheid (Hansen 2012; Desai and Vahed 2012; 2013), Indians participated in the anti-apartheid struggle in all capacities imaginable. Defying racist laws and norms, they protested against segregation by interacting with the other ‘blacks’, reaching out to them through assistance in education and social welfare despite the rigours of the apartheid city. For the Indians, recognizing common problems and accepting the need to collectively solve them was often what social engagement came to mean overtly or covertly during the apartheid years (Chettie and Luthra Sinha 2013; Luthra Sinha 2017). Such an embodiment of common purpose continues to be reflected in the face of newer encumbrances such as the ‘sugars scourge’ (Singh 2013; Jaganath 2015; Luthra Sinha 2018). Inspiration for collective action and integration comes therefore from the common set of dangers such as rising rates of crime in the new South Africa, including street violence, domestic abuse, alcoholism, addictions or even intercommunity bitterness that continue to prevail from within their respective domains (Eddy and Holborn 2011). During our field work, many onlooker actors expressed disillusionment with the collective dream of ‘freedom and democracy’ and remained pessimistic. At the same time, others opined that the moment was ripe to sit up collectively and take charge of issues creating a sense of crisis in their
26 Bobby Luthra Sinha and Anand Singh everyday lives. This embodiment of a sense of crisis that mars their wellbeing also inspires PIO to stay and act together: The freedom heroes and activists, along with newer generations of ISAs in Chatsworth, Phoenix and Tongaat, wherever sugars ‘hit’ (Tolsi 2006), once again craved to be ‘free’. Freedom from apartheid formed only the tip of the iceberg, they would say. Nothing could have demonstrated this more clearly to the involved Durban Indians than the necessity of newer social action to intervene against the availability and addiction cycles of this new drug. From the discursive grounds of common memories, debates, discussions and mutual disillusionments against the state and democracy (Luthra Sinha 2018) arose an embodied politics of freedom against crimes connected to substance abuse. The space and opportunity for such a politics to arise may stem from cyclical and obligatory patterns of support and subscription to normative values (Singh 2013: 201; see also Jithoo 1978; Kuper 1960) among Indian communities. An inclination towards common societal bonds, family norms and cultural values makes people feel the need to see their kith and kin, children and youth, neighbourhoods, communities, streets, houses and schools safe from substance abuse. Against this backdrop of joint community strengths and worries, the ADF recognized a further need to act and aspired to fill a vacuum where there existed a dearth of required state and societal infrastructure. As a community-based organization (Singh 2013), it rose to address the ‘scourge’ of substance abuse prominently in Chatsworth, targeting youth (on the streets and at schools), as they could be potential users and runners (distributors) in the local drug trade networks (Jaganath 2015). Mobilizing the communities in Indian areas has by no means been an easy task. Nonetheless, the ADF derived strength from the community’s strong bonds, experiences as activists and memories of social action waged during the apartheid-era struggles (Luthra Sinha 2018). Certainly, as far as social suffering goes (Chettie and Luthra Sinha 2013), there have already been a few firsts for Indian communities in the apartheid era.14 Post-apartheid, too, middle-class Indians came to know first-hand what hardcore economic deprivation coupled with unemployment and crime in their areas – which was already part of the lifestyle of African townships almost since their inception – actually meant (Singh and Bhoola 2017). A drastic increase in gun licenses bought by Indians (Shah 2012; Singh 2005) amidst rising crime and insecurity drove the point home. A radically altered landscape of Indian areas went hand in hand with a fear of walking on the streets alone (Singh 2005). The value of property fell substantially. Negotiating an innate fear of the outside world, Indian houses were converted into fortresses. That the country’s confidence levels on all fronts took a nosedive thanks to the rapid escalation of criminal violence and organized crime was of no help. The widespread anomalies in the socio-political life-world laid the grounds and classic conditions for a drug scourge to take sway and put the community in its grip (refer to Gopal and Luthra Sinha 2015; 2017; Luthra
Durban Indians and substance abuse
Sinha 2015; 2016; Roche-Silva 2012). The ADF and actors connected to it agree that the rising criminality and fear that plague the South African Indian community now on a daily basis are not what they witness and bear alone. It affects other communities as well.15 Besides, as Sam Pillay from the ADF points out, not all is dependent upon the external world. There may be an internal factor to the scourge, and it is this that they aim to reach at by conscientizing communities and encouraging them to support each other to step up advocacy against illicit substances. Meanwhile the failure of the government to control crime has served to compound the insecurity and fear while simultaneously empowering criminals. It is in such a climate that the ADF fortified its networks and politics against drug abuse and its sociopathy. Indian South Africans enact and embody a politics of national social concern when they raise a voice for a drug abuse–free society. Cycles of crime and social suffering for them are akin to a state of ‘unfreedom’ of their youth and families.16 Be it donating time; funds or social, moral or educational relief by working with learners in local schools or organizing protest campaigns as well as awareness drives on streets and in neighbourhoods, the Indian diaspora has brought to life a self-help politics since the turn of the 21st century (Singh 2013; Jaganath 2015; Luthra Sinha 2015; 2018). Its objective of a ‘drug-free’ society serves in aligning the ADF and its networks to a larger national concern of making South Africa secure for its youth and children as well as their families. In South Africa, alcohol and drug abuse was signalled by former President Nelson Mandela (1994) in his opening address to Parliament as a prime problem among social pathologies that needed to be combated. By February 1999, the South African Drug Advisory Board showed an unacceptable increase in substance abuse and its associated problems. This problem has been identified by the National Drug Master Plan as fuel for crime, poverty, reduced productivity, unemployment, dysfunctional family life, political instability, the escalation of chronic diseases such as AIDS and TB, injury and premature death (Drug Advisory Board 1999). By 2005, the ADF founders felt inspired enough to intend a solution or a redressal mechanism to tackle the issues and the palpable fear which is portrayed time and again that ‘Families are disintegrating, and communities must do something to help themselves’ (Govender 2007). Urgency, pain, shock and allegiance to national values as much as to democratic freedoms and responsiveness to public opinion as signified by a buildup against sugars addiction in Durban contributed to collective thinking. Further, the stark visibility of drugs on streets as well as the related crumbling of intracommunity values and norms galvanized PIO to come together against substance abuse. The ADF protested against substance abuse and started to promote a widespread recognition of the urgent need to develop a coherent, preventive programme to tackle the addiction, criminality and violence. This would need to include, at the very least, an implementation of evidence-based state
28 Bobby Luthra Sinha and Anand Singh programmes to support parents and strategies to reduce the scourge. Even though a lofty ideal from whichever perspective it is seen, yet it continues to be a valuable inspiration to foster newer, community-based repertoires of protest at a grassroots level.
Embodiment of a politics of freedom beyond the diaspora It is estimated that 80% of the crime in Indian-dominated areas such as Chatsworth, Shallcross and surrounding parts, as well as the Durban suburbs with an Indian majority, is substance abuse related. Meant to placate the needs of the Indian communities reeling under the impact of the sugars scourge in Durban, the ADF was established in April 2005 at the Chatsworth Youth Centre after a public meeting, (Luthra Sinha 2015; 2016). Under the leadership of Sam Pillay, the organization has evolved and diversified in its concerns and now works with a broader set of communities and organizations in its vicinity. The ADF’s main objectives include empowering youth through education and awareness, strategic advocacy against substance abuse, extension of rehabilitation and family support along with the waging of a discursive politic towards reduction of the drug supply.17 ‘Striving for a Drug Free Society’ was the main objective when the organization spearheaded its campaign, according to Sam Pillay, ADF chairperson (Zainul 2018). To achieve this objective, the ADF has been assisting the community in all the related tasks that accrue, including establishment of weekly support group sessions. Expanding its networks since 2016, the ADF now collaborates with other social organizations to work against social ills by providing adequate and timely interventions. From dealing with substance abuse awareness to gathering and creating social knowledge on treatment and prevention techniques, the ADF offers spiritual self-help courses for families and ‘patients’. The ADF aspires to drastically decrease the percentage of substance abuse–related crime by dealing with the challenge of substance abuse not just with affected individuals but with their families and communities. Its outreach work includes visiting primary and secondary schools and religious organizations, providing relevant information at fair and mall stands and creating awareness via media, including television, radio and newspapers (see ADF: www.antidrugforumsa.co.za/about.html). In general, Indians in Durban support the endeavour and endorse it as a much-needed intervention against the illicit use and availability of substances within their vicinities or among them (Singh 2013; Luthra Sinha 2015). In a meeting at the ADF, Sabina,18 a social worker, provided the analysis, ‘Back in 2006, when the Anti-Drug Forum was formed, the situation in Chatsworth was such that an institution was needed to fight the illicit drugs at the level of communities and families’. Another staff member, Kiara, says, ‘Even today, every second door here (in Chatsworth) is housing a substance abuse issue. It is not just the youth who are the users of commonly available substances such as marijuana, but also school going adolescents. This applies to all communities including the Indians living here. Besides marijuana and
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sugars, alcohol is freely used and experimented by many a student/teenager in these areas’. Stephannie19 from the ADF stated, ‘Dealing with the pressing issue of substance abuse has required us to creatively rope in the schools in the effort. For this the ADF has three social workers (including me) who have the responsibility to also function as facilitators for the various Smart Clubs that the organization has established with school learners as members. All over Chatsworth we work with around ninety to hundred schools, majority of whom collaborate meaningfully with us’. Pillay20 (chairman of the ADF), whom we accompanied to the Montarena Secondary School Freedom Day Celebrations in April 2018, confirmed for us how the ADF’s role has undergone expansion, Given that the menace of substance abuse networks is far from waning, our set of common social aims for dealing with substance abuse and its related sociopathy have now extended to include many simultaneously manifest social ills. While our prime objective of a ‘drug-free’ society is as strong as it was at the inception of the ADF, our struggle now covers working against issues such as alcoholism, lack of motivation among learners, including school dropouts, and low self-esteem.21 We even work to keep the children and youth inspired and motivated towards the ideals of nature conservation, planting trees and fighting global warming to constructively divert the creative energies of youngsters and early learners. Of course, at every such diverse endeavour/ programme that we organize with the schools, we continue to raise awareness against substance abuse too. It’s an aim never sidelined! Over the almost one and half decades of its existence, the ADF has become a symbolic space for grassroots participation. In its time and space, the organization volunteers not only with local communities and schools but now has a variety of partner organizations who have come forward since 2017 to explore the ADF’s networks. The South African Hindu Mahasabha22 and the Divine Life society23 are keen to join the ADF’s efforts in raising awareness against drugs, though in their own specifc ways and per their organizational priorities. For instance, the Divine Life Society may want to help Hindu families in their tryst with substance abuse and propagate a path of spirituality to become drug free.24 Ms. Dhunluxmi25 from SAHM points out that, the organisation is newly involved in the terrain of substance abuse and still developing its approach. However, the SAHM does offer its prisoner interaction programme to network with the ADF-established Smart Clubs with students as members from each school and use the opportunity to bring in prisoners from Westerville, open up the mindsets of the youth and adolescents and warn them against the use of illicit substances and an afterlife in jails.
30 Bobby Luthra Sinha and Anand Singh The ADF provides services such as rehabilitation, that emphasize the physical and spiritual side of well-being for both its users and their families who approach it. Along with the stakeholders, volunteers and staff at the ADF, collaborating organizations (such as the South African Hindu Mahasabha) and local schools that network with it consider that ‘their efforts are an example of citizen accountability and a collective sense of duty. A true citizen is one who is aware of his rights but must also know how to give back’.26 Community work towards an anti-substance abuse drive, as initiated by the ADF and in which schools participate equally and voluntarily is a worthy example of diversity, sociopolitical awareness and giving back (views of the principal of a secondary school in Chatsworth).27 Pattundeen’s (2008: 61–71) qualitative data related to addiction at a personal level explains how the current drug addiction centres around bulkedup forms of heroin, which in local slang are called ‘sugars’. Singh (2013), in his case studies with Chatsworth families affected by substance abuse, holds that despite the breakdown in the system of cohabitation of extended families (due to various social and political reasons, including spatial segregation during apartheid), the basic Indian ethic of elders and relatives coming forward to help and positively intervene in time of trauma continues to function (Singh 2013: 208). Nearly twenty million South Africans and almost all its youth in various age groups have no experience of living under apartheid but face newer challenges such as substance abuse. In many residential areas, a diversity of races can live together without interracial fears and unfreedoms as before. Racial divides, however, have not been mitigated completely. This paradoxical situation includes the presence of latent and overt stereotypes, fear or trepidation about others and even naked racism, leading to static levels of interaction and a slow pace at which social bonds are forged between South Africans of different race groups. Nonetheless, disapproval of racial integration in schools, residential neighbourhoods, workplaces and marriage has continued to decline overall (Smith 2012). By being open to Indian and Black as well as other communities, the ADF’s work is a timely contribution, as it promotes racial integration with a grassroots approach. Consequently, besides the local communities and media giving it recognition, since 2014, the ADF has received a endorsement from state funding bodies who now provide it partial funds for maintaining a few basic staff and documentation (ADF28 records and quarterlies: 2015–2018).
Summing up South African democracy spawns many kinds of collective action, and the ADF is one such example that strives to bridge the gaps with its peopleoriented, spontaneous and liminal integration. Borrowing from the classification of protest politics in a South African context (Runciman et al. 2016: 24), the ADF reflects a mixed politics of protest. It emanates from
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geographical communities (of similar origins) but does not stop at that point. The self-help politics of the ADF evolves a method of horizontal integration with other communities and compatriots. By raising its voice for a drug-free society, the historical Indian diaspora hence reinvents its own identity. In April 2018, for instance, Pillay from the ADF spearheaded a campaign that doubled as a celebration of the national freedom day as well as the ADF-guided Smart Clubs29 activism with the message of ‘Say No to Drugs’ in two schools in Chatsworth. What Pillay30 asked the enthusiastic crowd of learners gathered at both schools, in Bayview as well as in Chatsworth Senior Secondary, has the potential to become an incisive tool of analysis: ‘Our democracy is hard earned for it came to us with our freedom. We all worked hard as South Africans to defeat apartheid. But can we really be free if we are on drugs i.e. on addictive substances or troubled by their presence around us?’ Indian-origin diaspora structures a public discourse on democratic freedom and its deeper implications in South Africa. In many instances, the deeper implications of their actions are often overlooked (Zuern 2011: 4–8). Our study hence fills this gap and shows how protests organized around socioeconomic and political struggles reflect a common sense of crisis and are a product of shared perceptions on democracy, freedom and a life ‘free’ from drugs. The anti–substance abuse movement among Durban Indians has been functional since 2005 and as a self-help endeavour continues to negotiate its legitimate space in South Africa’s democracy. To return to the question put forth in the introductory sections of this chapter: Can collective social action rooted in an anti–substance abuse positioning mitigate state failures and promote interracial integration in the South African democracy? In the case of the ADF and its supportive networks, one can safely answer it in the affirmative. Finally, our study also helps bring forth an important co-relation: While lapsing on its accountability, South African democracy performs two ironic functions: first, it creates the need for self-help and protest movements; second, it becomes reliant on these movements to carve a way forward. Therein lies the significance of examining the values that grassroots initiatives and forms of collective action can bring to a democracy.
Notes 1 For more details on the self perceptions and the scope of ‘Indian-ness’ that South African Indians practice, that is, live, deal with, confront and project in their quotidian existences, refer to field-based descriptions and vignettes that Luthra Sinha (2017; 2016; 2015; 2013) has detailed in her various works. 2 Diaspora identities and manifestations of action are known to portray a qualitative world which is a ‘social construct founded on feeling, consciousness, memory, mythology, history, meaningful narratives, group identity, longings, dreams, allegorical and virtual elements – all of which play a role in establishing a Diaspora reality’ Shuval (2007: 30).
32 Bobby Luthra Sinha and Anand Singh 3 http://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in/bitstream/10603/93211/6/06_chapter%201. pdf. Retrieved December 1, 2018, p. 6. 4 During July 2018, we held informal open-ended interviews, meetings and group discussions with members from the South African police on their experiences related to demonstrations and protest marches against substance abuse called forth by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and CBOs where the ADF participated and/or local events such as anti-drug awareness drives organized by the ADF in schools. 5 On the one hand, an extreme focus on ‘diasporic connections’ and ‘ancestral homeland’ may be seen by some as undermining the legacies of anti-apartheid struggle. On the other hand, however, South African Indians engage with diaspora associations, as these may offer an exciting route for reasserting/engaging with their Indian identity in the post-apartheid era (Dickinson 2015: 79–81). 6 Interviews and group discussion with four schools based in Chatsworth. 7 Open-ended, extended interviews with social workers at the ADF (April 10–25 and July 20–25, 2018). 8 Interviews done with teenaged Smart Club (youth clubs supported and put together by the ADF in schools with the help of teaching and counselling staff) members during April and July 2018. 9 When the homeland of ‘KwaZulu’, which means ‘Place of the Zulu’, was reincorporated into the Natal province after the end of apartheid in 1994, the province of Natal, which had existed between 1910 and 1994, was renamed KwaZulu-Natal (KZN). KZN is a South African province divided into ten districts and one metropolitan municipality: the eThekwini Municipality (South Africa Census 2011). 10 According to Hunsewaj (2005), ‘sugars’ is a permutation of heroin mixed with small amounts of cocaine and other substances such as rat poison. Other names that sugars came to be known by are ‘ungah’, ‘wonga’, and ‘nyaope’. 11 Anecdotal evidence suggests the drug’s main abusers are between 13 and 22. Sergeant Kacey Naicker, head of the Durban Metro crime prevention unit, said the youngest person arrested for abusing the drug was 11. 12 As of now, it is more than 150 years since the arrival of the Indian South Africans (i.e. the historical Indian diaspora), who have multiple historical origins that produce a complex set of identities that is far from homogenous. Migration from India to South Africa intensified under Natal’s indentured sugar plantation labour system in the 19th century (Kuper 1960: 1). Linguistically (Telugu, Tamil, Hindi, Urdu) and religiously diverse (variants of Hinduism, Christianity, Islam) indentured labourers arrived from the Madras Presidency and Northern Indian districts between 1860 and 1911 (Lemon 2009: 131; Bhana and Brain 2000: 36; Kuper 1960: 7–8). 13 Information obtained through interviews and group discussions with the elderly facilitated by the Anti-Drug Forum, 1860 Heritage Foundation and Aryan Benevolent Home: January 2013 and February 2014: see Luthra Sinha (2013; 2014; 2015) for details. 14 An article in the Sunday Tribune (2011) states, ‘Ask most Indians what tops their list of concerns about present-day South Africa, and they will answer overwhelmingly: crime and violence’ (Singh 2005). 15 Open-ended interviews and group discussions: ADF July 20–25, 2018. 16 Interviews with school principals of two senior secondary Schools in Chatsworth: April 18, 2018, and July 24, 2018 17 Interview February 8, 2013. 18 Interview: April 26, 2018 19 Interview April 26, 2018. 20 Interview April 26, 2018
Durban Indians and substance abuse 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30
Group discussion with Pillay and his workers, April 20 and 26, 2018. Interviews: April 24, 2018. Interaction April 20, 2018. Interview with representative of Divine Life at the Chatsworth Secondary School’s programme for anti-drug awareness: April 20, 0218. Interview: April 20 and 24 2018. Interview SAHM: July 27, 2018. Interview: April 20, 2018. ADF networks with 100 local schools according to the information given by Sam Pillay of the ADF: interview April 26, 2018, Youth Clubs composed of volunteers (school learners and teachers) established with the help of the ADF in schools in Chatsworth. Participant observation during a commemorative function in a school in Chatsworth, Durban, South Africa, April 16, 2018. We attended the school function and were a part of the proceedings as observers and participants.
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34 Bobby Luthra Sinha and Anand Singh Dickinson, Jen. 2015. ‘Articulating an Indian Diaspora in South Africa: The Consulate General of India, Diaspora Associations and Practices of Collaboration’, Geoforum, 61: 79–89. Drug Advisory Board. 1999. National Drug Master Plan. Department of Welfare. Cape Town: South Africa Dubey, A. 2010. Indian Diaspora in Africa: Diversity and Challenges: Indian Diaspora in Africa: A Comparative Perspective. New Delhi: MD Publications. Eddy, Gail and Lucy Holborn. 2011. ‘Fractured Families: A Crisis for South Africa More and More Children Are Growing Up With Absent Fathers, and in Singleparent Households’, 4 May. www.moneyweb.co.za/archive/fractured-families-acrisis-for-south-africa/ (accessed 18 April 2018). Eisenlohr, Patrick. 2007. ‘Creole Publics: Language, Cultural Citizenship, and the Spread of the Nation in Mauritius’, Comparative Studies in Society and History, 49(4): 968–996. Everatt, David. 2013. Non-Racialism in South Africa. Abingdon, UK: Routledge. Geertz, Clifford. 1973a. ‘Thick Description: Toward an Interpretive Theory of Culture’, in The Interpretation of Cultures: Selected Essays (pp. 3–30). New York: Basic Books. Geertz, Clifford. 1973b. The Interpretation of Cultures. New York: Basic Books. Goolam Vahed & Ashwin Desai (2010) Identity and Belonging in Post-Apartheid South Africa: The Case of Indian South Africans, Journal of Social Sciences, 25:1–3, 112, DOI: “https://doi.org/10.1080/09718923.2010.11892861” 10.1080/ 09718923.2010.11892861 Gopal, Nirmala Devi, and Bobby Luthra Sinha. 2016. ‘Illicit Drugs: Local and International Realities’, Acta Criminologica: Southern African Journal of Criminology and Victimology, 29(3): 30. https://journals.co.za/content/journal/crim_v29_n3 Gopal, Nirmala Devi and Bobby Luthra Sinha (2017) ‘Drugs: Local and International Realities’, in, Acta Criminologica, African Journal of Criminology & Victimology, Editorial special Edition: Illicit drugs: Local and International realities, 30(1). South Africa: Criminological and Victimological Society of Southern Africa (CRIMSA). https://hdl.handle.net/10520/EJC-89ee5e54a. SSN: 1012–8093, pp. i–iii. Gopinath, G. 2005. Impossible Desires: Queer Diasporas and South Asian Public Cultures. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Govender. 2007. ‘From Newsbreak on Lotus FM January 2007’, Sourced from ADF records, January 28, 2013 during author’s field work. Greenstein, Ran. 2003. ‘Civil Society, Social Movements and Power in South Africa’, Department of Sociology, School of Social Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand Seminar 2003/22, p. 11. Gupta, R.K. 2013. ‘Indian Diaspora as a Non-State Actor in Promotion of India– Africa Partnership’, Journal of Social and Political Studies, IV(1): 135–148. Hansen, Thomas Blom. 2012. Melancholia of Freedom: Social Life in an Indian Township in South Africa. Johannesburg: Wits University Press. Hart Keith and Vishnu Padayachee. 2013. ‘A History of South African Capitalism in National and Global Perspective Transformation’, in Critical Perspectives on Southern Africa, Number 81/82, 2013 (pp. 55–85). Hatfield, Pretoria: University of Pretoria: Project Muse. Horowitz, D.L. 1991. A Democratic South Africa? Constitutional Engineering in a Divided Society. Cape Town: Oxford University Press. Hunsewraj, T. 2005. ‘Police Warn of New “Sugars” Drug Craze’, [online]. South Africa: iol. www.beta.iol.co.za/news/south-africa/police-warn-ofnew-sugars-drugcraze-237280 (accessed 30 August 2018).
Durban Indians and substance abuse
Jaganath, Jerelne. 2015. ‘The Anti-Drug Forum (ADF): A Case for CommunityBased Substance Abuse Education and Rehabilitation in Post-Apartheid South Africa’, African Journal of Criminology & Victimology, South Africa: Criminological and Victimological Society of Southern Africa (CRIMSA): Special Edition 3: 222–235. Jithoo, S. 1978. ‘Complex Households and Joint Families Amongst Indians in Durban’, in J. Argyle and E. Preston-Whyte (eds.), Social Systems and Tradition in South Africa. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Kenny, Michael. 2016. ‘Civil Society.’ Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. www.britannica.com/topic/civil-society (accessed 31 May 2020). Khan, S. 2012. ‘Changing Family Forms, Patterns and Emerging Challenges Within the South African Indian Diaspora’, Journal of Comparative Family Studies, XXXXII: 134–150. Kukke, S. and S. Shah. 2000. ‘Reflections on Queer South Asian Progressive Activism in the US’, Amerasia, 25(3): 129–137. Kuper, Hilda. 1960. Indian People in Natal. Durban: University of Natal Press. Lemon, Anthony. 2009. ‘The Political Position of Indians in South Africa’, in Colin Clarke, Ceri Peach, and Steven Vertovec (eds.), South Asians Overseas: Migration and Ethnicity (pp. 131–148). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Lijphart, A. 1985. Power-Sharing in South Africa. Berkeley: University of California, Institute of International Affairs. Luthra Sinha, Bobby. 2014. ‘Social Movements of the Historical Indian Diaspora in South Africa: Binding the “Home” and “Homeland” Creatively?’, Diaspora Studies, 7(1). Luthra Sinha, Bobby. 2015. ‘The Ubuntu Democracy and an Anti-Drug Movement of the Indian South Africans: Synchronizing the Old and the New’, Facultad de Sciencias Sociales, Universidad de Lomas de Zamora, UNICOM. 3, No. 5, April 2015. www.sociales.unlz.edu.ar/unicom/ColecionUniCom/A3N5-TheUbunto.pdf (accessed 15 May 2015). Luthra Sinha, Bobby. 2016a. ‘The Indian-South African Bilateral Sphere: Of Mainstream Relations, Illicit Drug Trafficking and Peoples’ Movements’, Alternation, Special Edition No. 15: 145–182. Luthra Sinha, Bobby. 2016b. ‘Protestas de Bishnois en Rajasthán occidental. Interpretando la política de los Nuevos Movimientos Sociales (NSMs), con respecto a la democracia India (Bishnoi Protests in Western Rajasthan: An Interpretation of New Social Movements With Respect to Indian Democracy)’, in Rodriguez de la Vega, L. y Lavolpe, Francisco (Comps.), Perspectivas Sobre La India: Pasados y Presentes. Digital Book, soon in paperback (in Spanish). Lomas de Zamora: UNICOM, Facultad de Ciencias Sociales, Universidad Nacional de Lomas de Zamora Colección UNI-COM, Año 4, Número 7. Enero 2016. pp. 123–162. Luthra Sinha, Bobby. 2017. ‘Of Social Change Cloaked in Geriatric Care: How the First Generation of Indentured Indian Migrants in Durban Confronted Ageing’, Indian Anthropologist, 47(1): 19–34. Luthra Sinha, Bobby. 2018.‘Diaspora Memories and the “Common Social” as Benchmarks for Collective Action – Indian South Africans Articulate Against Substance Abuse in Durban’, in Nandini C. Sen (ed.), Through The Diasporic Lens (Vol. II). New Delhi: Authors Press. Mandela, Nelson. 1994. ‘Nelson Mandela Inauguration Speech as President of South Africa, Pretoria 10 May 1994’, South African Government. www.gov.za/
36 Bobby Luthra Sinha and Anand Singh statement-president-african-national-congress-nelson-mandela-his-inaugurationpresident-democratic (accessed 29 April 2018). Ministerial Review Commission On Intelligence. 2008. ‘Intelligence in a Constitutional Democracy’, 10 September 2008. Mngxitama, A., A. Alexander, and N.C. Gibson. 2008. ‘Biko Lives’, in A. Mngxitama, A. Alexander, and N.C. Gibson (eds.), Biko Lives!. Contemporary Black History. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. MRG Directory. 2018. ‘Minority Rights Groups Directory – South Africa: Indians’. http://minorityrights.org/minorities/indians/ (accessed 28 June 2018). Niren, Tolsi. (2006). ‘Durban hit by “Sugars” rush.’ Mail & Guardian, 21 April 2006: 2. Online at: http://mg.co.za/article/2006-04-21-durban-hit-by-Sugars-rush. Accessed on March 14, 2014. Pattundeen, G. 2008. ‘Missing Out on Migration: “Sugars” and the Post-apartheid Youth of Chatsworth’, Journal of Social Sciences, 10: 61–71. Penninx, Rinus. 2013. Research on Migration and Integration in Europe: Achievements and Lessons. Amsterdam: Vossiuspress. Price, G.H. 1984. ‘Ethno-Linguistic Zoning in South African Black Townships’, Area, 16(4): 295–296. Raghuram, Parvati, Ajaya Sahoo, Brij Maharaj, and Dave Sangha (eds.). 2008. Tracing an Indian Diaspora: Contexts, Memories, Representations. London/Delhi: Sage. Rocha-Silva L. (1992). ‘Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug Use: Young South Africans (10–24years)’. Pretoria, South Africa: Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC). Also see, Rocha-Silva L. (1992:) as quoted in, Karl Peltzer, Shandir Ramlagan,1 Bruce D. Johnson and Nancy Phaswana-Mafuya (2010) Illicit Drug Use and Treatment in South Africa: A Review, Substance Use & Misuse, New York, USA: Informa Healthcare, 45:2221–2243 ISSN: 1082-6084 (print); 1532–2491 (online) DOI: 10.3109/10826084.2010.481594. p.2221 Runciman, Carin, Peter Alexander, Mahlatse Rampedi et al. 2016. ‘South African Research Chair in Social Change Report No. 2’, Social Change Research Unit. University of Johannesburg, South Africa. Schensul, Daniel and Patrick Heller. 2010. “Legacies, Change and Transformation in the Post-Apartheid City: Towards an Urban Sociological Cartography”, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 35(1): 78–109. doi:10. 1111/j.1468-2427.2010.00980.x Shah, Archana. 2012. ‘People in Peril. Indians in South Africa’, Khabar, June 2012. www.khabar.com/magazine/coverstory/people_in_peril_indians_in_south_africa (accessed 1 December 2018). Shodganga PDF. 2018. ‘Introduction: Understanding Diaspora’, Chapter I, p. 6. http://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in/bitstream/10603/93211/6/06_chapter%201. pdf. (accessed 1 December 2018). Shuval, Judith T. 2007. ‘Diaspora Migration’, in Ajaya Kumar Sahoo and Brij Maharaj (eds.), Diaspora Migration, Sociology of Diaspora: A Reader (Vol. 1, p. 30). Jaipur: Rawat Publications. Singh, Anand. 2005. Indians in Post-Apartheid South Africa. Delhi: Concept Publishing Company. Singh, Anand. 2013. ‘Substance Abuse Among Indian Youth in Durban: Their Rehabilitation Through Extended Family Intervention and Support’, Journal of Social Sciences, 34(3): 201–209.
Durban Indians and substance abuse
Singh, Anand and S. Singh. 2007. ‘The History of Crime Among People of Indian Origin in South Africa’, Anthropologist, 8(3). Singh, Anand and Sheetal Bhoola. 2017. ‘Substance Abuse in South Africa: The Growing Disconnect Between Moral Regeneration and Moral Degeneration’, Acta Criminologica: Southern African Journal of Criminology, 30(1): 48–64 Special Edition (eds. Gopal, Nirmala Devi and Bobby Luthra Sinha): Illicit Drugs: Local and International Realities. Sisk, T.D. 1995. Democratization in South Africa: The Elusive Social Contract. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Smith, David. 2012. ‘South Africa Still a Chronically Racially Divided Nation, Finds Survey’, The Guardian, South Africa Guardian Africa Network, 6 December 2012. Statistics South Africa. 2010. ‘Mid-Year Population Estimates’. www.statssa.gov.za/ publications/P0302/P03022010.pdf (accessed 12 October 2011). Thiara, K. 1993. Migration, Organisation and Inter-Ethnic Relations: Indians in South Africa 1860–1990. Unpublished PhD. Thesis, University of Warwick. Thomassen, B. 2009. ‘The Uses and Meanings of Liminality’, International Political Anthropology, 2(1): 5–27. Tripathi, Upendra Nabh and Vinita Katiyar. 2018. ‘An Overview on Indian Diaspora in Africa’, Educational Quest: An International Journal of Education and Applied Social Science, 8(1): 17–21. India: New Delhi Publishers. Victor, Turner. 1967. ‘Betwixt and Between: The Liminal Period in Rites de Passage’, in The Forest of Symbols. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. Vuuren, Hennie van. 2014. ‘South Africa: Democracy, Corruption and Conflict Management. Voices from the South’, Democracy Works, Conference Paper, 2014. South Africa: Centre for Development and Enterprise (CDE). White, Fiona. 2008. ‘Strengthening Democracy? The Role of Social Movements as Agents of Civil Society in Post-Apartheid South Africa Institute of Commonwealth Studies’, Department of Philosophy School of Advanced Study University of London, January 2008. www.researchgate.net/publication/298722146_Strength ening_Democracy_The_Role_of_Social_Movements_as_Agents_of_Civil_Society_ in_Post-Apartheid_South_Africa (accessed 25 June 2018). Zainul, Dawood. 2018. ‘Chatsworth Anti Drug Forum Office Burgled’. www.iol. co.za/dailynews/chatsworth-anti-drug-forum-office-burgled-15103303 (accessed 25 June 2018). Zuern, Elke. 2011. ‘Introduction’, in The Politics of Necessity: Community Organising and Democracy in South Africa (Critical Human Rights) (p. 4). Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press.
Further Reading Adur, S. and B. Purkayastha. 2016. ‘(Re)Telling Traditions: The Language of Social Identity Among Queer South Asians in the United States’, South Asian Diaspora, 9(1): 1–16. Alexander, Peter. 2012. ‘Protests and Police Statistics in South Africa: Some Commentary’, Lenin’s Tomb, 3 April 2012. Anciano, Fiona. 2016. ‘A Dying Ideal: Non-Racialism and Political Parties in PostApartheid South Africa’, Journal of Southern African Studies, 42(2): 195–214.
38 Bobby Luthra Sinha and Anand Singh AODL. African Studies Centre. 2014. ‘South Africa Forced Removals’, AODL. African Studies Centre, Michigan University. www.overcomingapartheid.msu.edu/ multimedia.php?id=65-259-6 (accessed 21 April 2018). Bhana, Surendra and Kusum K. Bhoola. 2011. ‘The Dynamics of Preserving Cultural Heritage: The Case of Durban’s Kathiawad Hindu SevaSamaj, 1943, 1960 and Beyond’, South Asian Diaspora, 3(1): 15–32. Gopinath, G. 2011. ‘Foreword: Queer Diasporic Interventions’, Textual Practice, 25(4): 635–638. Horowitz, D.L. 1985. Ethnic Groups in Conflict. Berkeley: University of California Press. Jithoo, S. 1985. ‘Indian Family Businesses in Durban, South Africa’, Journal of Comparative Family Studies, XVI(3): 365–376. Kumar, Jain Amit, Upendra Nabh Tripathi, and Vinita Katiya, 2017. ‘An Overview on Indian Diaspora’, Africa Educational Quest: An International Journal of Education and Applied Social Science, 8(1): 17–21. India: New Delhi Publishers. Report of the High Level Committee on the Indian Diaspora, HLCD. 2001. ‘Indian Council of World Affairs’. New Delhi. Sanders, Irwin T. 1968. ‘Community Development’, in David L. Sills (ed.), International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences (Vol. 3, p. 172). New York: Macmillan and Colliers. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). 2002. ‘South Africa Country Profile on Drugs and Crime’, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Zuma, Jacob. 2014. ‘Chapter 7 – Safety and Security’, Twenty Year Review: South Africa 1994–2014. Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation, Republic of South Africa. www.thepresidency-dpme.gov.za/news/Pages/20-YearReview.aspx (accessed 14 May 2014).
Integrated lives? A reading of selected photographs as a phenotype for being Indian in South Africa Nalini Moodley-Diar
Introduction Visual culture and its transformative academic agenda have received much attention in the past few years, particularly so in South Africa. Amid a postdemocratic society grappling with zealously maintaining minority culture, the question of transformation is always under scrutiny. Within this context, the representation of the Indian South African has been defined through a range of stereotypes which include unique language characterisations expanded upon in Mesthrie’s A Dictionary of South African Indian English (2010). Other stereotypes include traditional foods such as the samoosas and the bunny chow which have become synonymous with South African Indians. Further, dance, music and dress have also been used in a stereotypical manner, reflecting the Indian on various platforms such as theatre, television and the growing local movie industry. While these are some of the contemporary representations of Indians in South Africa, the image of the indentured Indian in this country was confined to the popularisation of some images extracted from the widely read Inside Indenture: A South African Story, 1860–1914 by Ashwin Desai and Goolam Vahed. These images gained popularity as they were used on various platforms in the discussion or celebration of the arrival of Indians in South Africa. These images present an impoverished Indian visibly experiencing the challenges attached to the notion of being alien in South Africa. This chapter will interrogate the shifting positions of the indentured Indian as evidenced through a series of photographs that perpetuate stereotype interpretations. The positionalities of the subjects captured in the photographs are analysed alongside the material transformations that subtly reflect an integration into South African society and a consequential emergent sense of assimilation. This chapter will focus on these images to highlight the value attached to these images and expand on how the position of the Indians in South Africa has been navigated to finally ensure citizenship, develop a sense of nationhood and firmly entrench themselves in what was once a foreign home. In the discussion that follows, it is worth noting that the intention of the photographer is unknown, thereby allowing us to focus on the subject and
content of the image as a stand-alone work of art. This photographic body of work presents the upheavals of indenture and apartheid and becomes a revelation through the trope of memory. As an artwork, the photographic image here makes the history accessible and sharable through its sheer force and pertinence. With the idea of diaspora becoming more diffused in this age of globalisation, the artworks create sites of access to moments of connection to history and heritage. The social phenomenon of the diaspora is fundamentally the experience of marginality. Within marginality, the sense of rootlessness is ever present, as is the sense of living between two worlds, that of a lost past and that of a non-integrated present (Chambers 1994: 27) that is perhaps a fitting analogy for the Indian South Africans who can be seen to be transiting from the margins towards the centre. On 4 October 1860, men, women and children boarded the Belvedere in Calcutta and set sail for Durban on the east coast of South Africa as part of an agreement between the British Colonies of Natal and British India. These men, women and children set sail in search of a better life by crossing the Kala Pani (black waters) into the unknown. By the end of 1911, this crossing ensured that 152,184 Indians had arrived in Natal. The narrative of Indian arrival in Natal is well known and well documented by Bhana (1991) and Desai and Vahed (2007). The displacement of the Indians from the Indian subcontinent due to colonial expansion between 1860 and 1913 is euphemistically called the ‘indentured’ labour system (Kumar 2005: 397). The Indians’ arrival was motivated by their desire for economic freedom and a dream to succeed in a foreign world. Indenture was also a time during which old patterns of living simply could not be resurrected in a foreign land, and new patterns of living struggled to be born (Desai and Vahed 2007: 8). During this somewhat ‘forced’ movement of people, many may have intended to return to India but stayed to create new homes abroad, thus developing the Indian diaspora (Oonk 2007: 11). Indentured life in South Africa was charged with many forms of violence imposed from the outside, as well as from the troubled and conflicted internal social struggles. According to Desai and Vahed (2007: 13), the colonists were determined to reduce the indentured to the catch-all phrase coolie.1 Thus the Indians’ lives were lived in South Africa in the context of the White ruling class that saw them through the lens of racist stereotypes. This chapter will attempt to cast a spotlight on the shifting visual representation of this stereotype through an analysis of photographs reflecting the presence of the Indian in South Africa from indenture and political evolution of British rule towards subsequent integration, assimilation and citizenship in their host country of South Africa. The images act as a phenotype for indenture and for the representation of a shifting sense of ‘Indianness’. The chapter argues that these images are subtle constructs of subjugation and second-classness which is still today hard to be rid of. Through these
images, a history of the marginality of Indians is foregrounded as the photographs are read from an art historical perspective. Being South African today is complex. Questions and considerations around the trope of identity are perplexing and can be seen as divisive. The question of how identity is determined or who determines it is also a complex one. In this chapter, the politicisation of identity is overlaid against the historical giants of colonialism and apartheid, which South Africa is still grappling with today. Thus, various ways of understanding identity discourse are a necessary and critical activity which will hopefully result in South Africans subscribing to a sense of unity and diversity within a state of nationhood.
A place called home? The experiences of the indentured Indian South Africans led to the acknowledgement of a ‘double consciousness’ as discussed by Paul Gilroy (Back and Solomon 2009: 564) in Dialects of Diaspora. Gilroy’s concept of ‘double consciousness’ suggests that the concept flows from being both inside and outside the West and affects political movements towards racial oppression. Initially, South African Indian immigrants were conditioned into a double consciousness as subjects of formerly British India, both in India and South Africa, yet they were outsiders to the protection and security that the title ‘subjects of British India’ ought to have afforded them. Manifested through phrases like the ‘alien menace’ and ‘unwanted intruders’ (Mukherji 1959: 24), their outsider status was provided a more refined and racialised political language when dealing with issues of identity, affiliation and eventual nationhood. In this regard, the South African Indian ‘national identity’ is, as described by Benedict Anderson, ‘an imagined political community2 . . . imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign’ (During 2007: 256). In addition, the Indian struggle in South Africa was also primarily based on racial difference and cultural or ethnic uniqueness. Indian agitators, for example, described Indians as being neglectful of ‘sanitary measures [with] loathsome mode[s] of living’, urging that as a result they should be ‘isolated within their own location quite separated from the White population’ (Mukherji 1959: 24). Much of this sentiment was due to a general mistrust of the Indian and what was often described as a fear of the Indian. As Khan (1946: 39) notes, ‘the more [the Indians] advance, the greater is the fear of the European and the more severe the laws that are passed against them’. The position of ‘otherness’ is attributed to this fear and thereby relegates the Indian to what Stuart Hall refers to as ‘the marginal, the underdeveloped, the periphery’ (Vertovec and Cohen 1999: 305). According to Homi Bhabha (1994: 63), those on the periphery call into being the question of identity in relation to otherness, and through this process, an active sense of self may have been eroded. This erosion thereafter gives rise to a sense of fractured self and fractured identities, and it is here
that there is a need to locate and reclaim the visual art of this aspect of South Africa’s forgotten histories.
The structure of indenture3 Bhana (1991: 10) explains how the system of indenture operated. Calcutta, Madras and Bombay4 were designated as ports of embarkation for all indentured emigrants. Bombay was discontinued by 1965, after which only Calcutta and Madras were used. However, it is worth noting that those immigrants who embarked from these two ports did not necessarily originate from those cities (Vally 2001: 122). The length of the indentured contract was a point of contention between the colonial office in Natal, the planters and the Government of India. Eventually, it was agreed that after an initial period of five years of indenture or what was described as ‘industrial residence’, the Indian was free to return to India or branch out on their own. However, after a second optional five years, the individual was entitled to a return passage to India or to convert the return passage for a piece of crown land. This revision was eventually abolished in 1874 (Bhana 1991: 10; Jain 1999: 4). The indentured system formally ended in 1911, by which time approximately 1.3 million Indians had gone to various parts of the world as indentured labourers. Natal had received 152,184 indentured immigrants between 1860 and 1911, of which approximately 23% had returned to India by the time the importation had stopped (Bhana 1991: 17–18; Jain 1999: 5; Vally 2001: 122). Elsewhere, British capitalism had created a demand for labour and in India simultaneously created economic conditions that compelled labour to emigrate. Frene Ginwala (1977: 6) highlights the processes which led to the migration of millions of Indians around the world, creating one of the largest diasporas globally. She explains that the pre-industrial economy of India was disrupted due to the advanced manufacturing methods of the British. This destroyed Indian production, causing the unemployed to return to their villages and thereby placing added pressure on the land. By the second half of the 19th century, impoverishment of the peasantry reached serious proportions. Natural disasters and the lack of rural capacity to absorb the unemployed urban workforce resulted in this group forming the core of those who emigrated as migrant Indian labourers (Ginwala 1977: 6). Based on detailed studies of the process of recruitment and ships’ lists for emigration to Natal, researchers have determined that the majority of indentured labourers were young (between 20 and 25 years old), male (about 70%) and unmarried. Roughly 90% were Hindus, 8.5% Muslims and 1.4% Christians, with a few Buddhists. Jain argues that the recruitment efforts went towards finding young males under 30, and so during this process, the
ages of young males between 20 and 30 would be rounded off to suit the demand (Bhana 1991: 20; Jain 1999: 6). The extensive study presented by Bhana, in Indentured Indian Emigrants 1860–1902, explains the recruitment procedures as laid down by the Indian government in 1837. Bhana says (1991: 11–18) that initially, emigration agents were responsible for recruitment, but later sub-agents were employed and in turn hired licensed recruiters. This system was subject to abuse, with the appearance of illegal recruiters who played a critical and active role in attracting workers into the system of indenture. Vally (2001: 131) suggests that given the area of specialisation, recruitment was based on skills. Thus, the majority of indentured labourers had hand-related trades and were farmers, land labourers and herdsmen. The fact that indentured labour was a solution to the shortage of farm labour in the sugar cane fields of Natal made ‘recruiting agents look among lower Indian social strata, where farm-related specialisation could be found’ (Vally 2001: 131). The indentured-labour system was finally brought to an end in 1911 when indentured labour from India was discontinued. This ‘infamous and inhumane system’ enforced three centuries of colonial labour which profoundly bound together India and Britain’s colonial empire amid hostility, adversity and subsequent triumph (Henning 1993: 2).
A feigned home South African Indians struggled to acquire status; to maintain their identity and to create social, political and cultural structures, as they were regarded as alien.5 Indentured Indian labour proved highly successful in Mauritius, and as a result, the Natal farmers opted for this system (Rai 1984: 26). One of the essential features of this system was that it was a cheap form of labour and could easily be controlled (Bhana 1991: 18). The Natal government then prevailed upon Sir George Grey, Governor of the Cape, to take up their request for Indian labour with the British colonial authorities. However, their first request was turned down for reasons which included low wages and poor provisions regarding food, clothing and medical assistance in Natal. After refining conditions of service, the process of immigration began, with the first shipment of Indians arriving in Durban on 16 November 1860 (Bhana 1991: 19; Jain 1999: 3). The SS Truro from Madras arrived with 342 British Indians, followed by the Belvedere, which left from Calcutta and arrived a few days later with 351 British Indians. These were the first Indian labourers who were recruited under a tripartite agreement between the Colony of Natal and the Indian and British governments (Vally 2001: 122). These indentured labourers arrived in South Africa with ‘dreams of a better life and an opportunity
to save money and return to their village as success stories’ (Desai and Vahed 2007: 9). Kuppusami and Pillay (1978: 8) describe the reticent yet optimistic attitude of the Indians arriving in South Africa in the following extract: [T]hey arrived hopeful in a strange land, bringing with them their labour potential as their only wealth and their cultural heritage as luggage. Migration to them was a leap into the unknown. It was an enormous, emotional commitment. . . . They did not know the scorn and discrimination they were to endure. Challenging as their status was, the Indian labourers would make a signifcant contribution to the sugar industry, thereby transforming Natal’s economy (Jain 1999: 4). The importation of Indian labourers helped to push up the production of sugar from 1,173 tons in 1859 to 10,172 tons in 1874, while these same labourers experienced continued and extensive discrimination (Giliomee and Mbenga 2007: 192), Given increasing complaints of ill treatment and poor conditions of service, such as flogging and excessive wage deductions, the importation of indentured labour stopped in 1869, only to be reintroduced in 1874 after the necessary revisions were made and conditions improved. Indentured labour was finally stopped in 1911 (Bhana 1991; Jain 1999: 5; Vally 2001: 123). It must be noted, though, that not all Indian immigrants were indentured labourers. By 1870, there was a second wave of Indian immigrants who established themselves as merchants and small shop owners (Vally 2001: 123). This group was popularly referred to as ‘passenger Indians’, as they had bought their own passage to South Africa. While indentured Indians disembarked only in Natal, passenger Indians disembarked in Natal, East London and Cape Town. Vally suggests that although their reasons to emigrate were very different, this second wave of emigration was largely as a result of the first wave of indentured labourers (2001: 124). It was clear that the Indian traders saw a commercial opportunity to cater to the very specific social, cultural and religious needs of the indentured population and embarked on servicing this need. However, the Natal government did not welcome these traders and implemented what was later interpreted as one of the first anti-Indian laws, namely the 1897 Immigration Law, which limited immigration based on English skills. In effect, the anti-Indian laws resulted in Indians entering Natal via the other ports of South Africa. However, Bhana and Pachai (1984: 30) contend that the anti-trader sentiment, developed through agitation by White traders, was designed to curtail the opportunities of Indians and even to expel them. The third category of Indian emerged when the indentured labourer completed the specified term of indenture. They were the ‘free Indians’. In theory, the free Indians could do any job and live anywhere in South Africa, and many embarked upon market gardening or became hawkers, traders and fishermen (Giliomee and Mbenga 2007: 149; Jain 1999: 35; Palmer 1956: 156).
Hence, by 1911, there were three distinct categories of Indians in South Africa: those who were still under the indenture system, those who became free after their indenture and those who came as passengers (Jain 1999: 7–9; Kumar 2000: 5). This differential grouping highlights the heterogeneity of the Indian group, which is often regarded as a homogenous, cohesive community (Desai 1996: 4). From 1911 onwards, with the immigration having come to an end, the question of repatriation of Indians became critical. Reaction to the Indian arrival was mixed. The pioneers of indenture were dispersed to various parts of Natal and had to contend with an environment in which their supposed inferiority was taken for granted by the colonists. As Lord Cromer put it, there were two kinds of people in the world, those who were British and those who were of the ‘subject races’6 (Desai and Vahed 2007: 71). To White Natalians, the Indian trader presence that followed on that of the indentured worker was not entirely desirable, as the traders soon threatened to compete with White Natalians in the economic field (Khan 1946: 7). As the Indians improved their economic condition, antagonism towards Indian traders grew, with White traders insisting that measures be taken to secure the repatriation of Indians or at the very least measures promulgated to discourage them from settling in South Africa. As a result, a series of restrictive and discriminatory measures were passed by the Natal legislature (Bhana and Pachai 1984; Khan 1946: 10; Thompson and Butler 1975: 253; Valley 2001: 81). The fact that the Indian migrants were still British subjects complicated the nature of this oppression and served as a protection against excessive abuse by the government of the British colony of Natal. The struggle between politically dominant, anglophile Whites and entrepreneurial Indians trying to establish themselves generated considerable ill feeling. Thompson and Butler (1975: 253) point out that as the traders tried to acquire the necessary skills to progress in business and industry, political and economic colour bars were increasingly institutionalised to prevent their self-realisation. Despite many agreements between the colonial governments of India and Natal, these discriminatory trends continued until 1948, when the Afrikaner-led nationalist party came to power and institutionalised apartheid policies. With growing virulent anti-Indian sentiments from the White community, newspaper editorials castigated the Indian trader, labelling him a ‘parasite’, ‘dangerous and harmful’ and ‘the real cancer that is eating into our vitals’ (Desai 1996: 4). These sentiments led to the restriction of free Indians, while indentured Indians were welcome as long as they remained indentured. The penalty for ending indenture and continuing to reside in Natal as a free Indian was a £3 poll tax (Bhana and Pachai 1984: 53). Further, the anti-Indian sentiment led to a legislative programme which was ‘designed to restrict the political and economic power of the Indian community and to encourage them to return en masse to India’ (Davenport and Saunders 2000: 121). However, in Durban (Natal),7 where the Indian population was concentrated, Indians soon progressed materially, enabling them to purchase homes
in predominantly White residential areas. White discontentment with this growing phenomenon resulted in the Pegging Act (1943), which precluded Indians from purchasing property in White areas without a permit (Davenport and Saunders 2000: 366–369; Mukherji 1959: 128–130), followed by the Asiatic Land Tenure and Indian Representation Bill in 1946. As expected, the Indian community was suspicious of the ramifications of these Acts. A request to the Indian government by the Indians resulted in the Indian government applying sanctions against South Africa and referring the question of the treatment of Indians in South Africa to the United Nations. However, this had no effect, and the Indian population remained the fourth race group in South Africa with provision for them upheld in the separate development policy. While they were seemingly abandoned and seen to be alien, indentured labourers refused to be ‘disembodied coolies’ (Desai and Vahed 2007: 10), defined merely by number and origin (Figure 3.1). They constantly challenged legislation and the state to ensure that they were recognised as having rights and a permanent future in South Africa (Desai and Vahed 2007: 10). The challenges facing the Indians were growing exponentially in this foreign country. Between the end of the 1800s until 1948, there were approximately 65 restrictive laws affecting Indian inhabitants in South Africa. As indicated by Kuppusami and Pillay (1978: 10), Bhana and Pachai (1984) and the SA History Online Project (anti-Indian legislation 1800s–1959), what follows are brief presentations of some of those anti-Indian laws: •
1885: The first discriminatory legislation directed at Indians, Law 3 of 1885, is passed. It ensured that they could not be owners of fixed property, shall be inscribed in a register if they settled with the object of trading and that the government shall have the right, for purposes of sanitation, to assign to them certain streets, wards and locations to live in. This provision does not apply to those who live with employers. 1890: The Orange Free State Act No. 29 is passed, which aimed ‘to provide against the influx of Asiatics’. 1891: The Statute Law of the Orange Free State prohibits ‘an Arab, a Chinaman, a Coolie or any other Asiatic or Coloured person from carrying on business or farming in the Orange Free State’. All Indian businesses are forced to close by 11 September and owners deported from the Orange Free State without compensation. 1891: Act No. 25 withdraws the proviso that indentured Indian labourers were also entitled to a gift of crown land and full citizenship rights per the Natal Coolie Law of 1859 to discourage the settlement of Indians in the province of Natal. 1894: The Immigration Bill seeks to amend the previous Act in two ways: first by stipulating that at the end of the five year re-indenture, the Indian must return to India or else be re-indentured for another two years, and second, if he does not re-indenture or return to India, he would be required to pay the £3 tax annually.
Integrated lives? • • • •
1894: The Natal Franchise Bill seeks to deprive Indians in Natal of the parliamentary franchise. 1897: The immigration of ‘passenger’ Indians is prohibited by law, although the importation of Indians as a labour force continued. 1897: The Dealers Licenses Act No. 18 empowers Natal licensing officers to issue or refuse licenses. 1903: Indians may no longer enter the Transvaal without a special permit. In 1885, the Transvaal withdrew the citizenship rights of Indians and restricted their living and trading to certain areas. In 1891, the Orange Free State excluded them altogether. 1907: The Workmen’s Compensation Act No. 36 is passed in the Transvaal and denies benefits to Asiatic and Coloured people. A workman is defined as a White person. 1907: The Education Act No. 25 in the Transvaal states that Coloured children were not allowed to attend European schools. Separate schools were established. While education was free and compulsory for White children, this did not apply to Coloured children (Coloured means all people of colour: Africans, Indians and Coloureds). 1907: The Transvaal Immigration Restriction Act 15 bars further immigration of Indians into the Transvaal and establishes the Immigration Department to check against illegal Asiatic entries. 1913: The Indian Immigration Regulation Act 22 prohibits the entry of new immigrants. Indian immigration is stopped. 1922: The Durban Land Alienation Ordinance No. 14 (Natal) is passed to enable the Durban City Council to exclude Indians from ownership or occupation of property in White areas. 1925: The Asiatic Bill is introduced and is designed to address the Indian presence in South Africa and a subsequent repatriation plan. 1926: The Liquor Act is passed whereby Africans and Indians are denied employment by liquor-licence holders and are not allowed to serve liquor and drive liquor vans. They are also denied access to liquor-licenced premises. Approximately 3,000 Indians employed in the brewery trade are affected. 1946: The Asiatic Land Tenure and Indian Representation Bill (known as the ‘Ghetto Act’) is passed.
Despite these many discriminatory laws, the Indian presence in South Africa received vociferous responses from sectors of the Afrikaner population. In their book The Super Afrikaners, Wilkins and Strydom (1978) note that the Broederbond8 was established in 1918 to harness political, social and economic forces that would ensure Afrikaner domination and resistance to lingering economic exploitation initiated by the waning British Empire. From the outset, the Broederbond took an active interest in the affairs of Indians in South Africa. The Broederbond report, The Future of the Indian Population, advocates the idea of a separate homeland for the Indian South African, as it was believed that the Indians resisted assimilation and posed
a threat to the White man’s identity (Wilkins and Strydom 1978: 154).9 In this undated report, it was suggested that ‘there is no room [for Indians] in the White nation structure, socially, politically, or otherwise’ (Wilkins and Strydom 1978: 154). Still voteless and voiceless, the Indians approached the mid-20th century struggling for economic survival. Education was minimal, with only a few schools catering to their growing population. Culturally, the community established a presence, with the erection of a few Hindu Temples in Transvaal and Natal. The Indians’ mid-century presence is described by Giliomee and Mbenga (2007: 269) as ‘living under the shadow of government policy that considered them as aliens against whom it was legitimate to discriminate’ and described by Davenport and Saunders (2000: 277) as ‘undesirable immigrants on economic and cultural grounds’. When these sentiments are considered, the visual representations of this group of South Africans finds resonance. In this discussion, it must be noted that amid the deliberations of repatriation, Indians finally became citizens of South Africa only 100 years after their arrival in 1860.
Apartheid and the Indian Apartheid, bred of colonialism, was one of the most psychologically destructive and insidious social engineering experiments in world history. Therefore, it is valuable to position the history of this destructive process as it impacted Indians in South Africa, taking into consideration the context of the systematic processes of socialising them as a distinct, separate, and inferior population group within the racially divisible ‘nationhood’ mooted by both a colonial and post-colonial context. The Indians definition as alien informed their ongoing resistance campaigns which came to define their history in South Africa. This history is well documented and will not be expanded upon in any great detail but will be used as an instrument to position the visual representation of the Indian within the context of being alien. Since the advent of democracy, the process of writing and rewriting history has become synonymous with change in South Africa. Writing and rewriting history is in keeping with the expectations of national and state strategies to amplify and document the historical archive more comprehensively. South African history writing has become more inclusive and representative, with a significant number of texts making commentary on focused segments of South African society. One of the inclusive segments that South African history writing is focused on is the fast-growing number of publications on Indians in South Africa. Ashwin Desai and Goolam Vahed’s Inside Indenture: A South African Story, 1860–1914 (2007) is a case in point, as is the text on Indian women by Devi Rajab, Women: South Africans of Indian Origin (2011), which foregrounds the contributions of Indian women in their adopted country. Rajab’s book presents a narrative of key Indian women from indenture to contemporary
life in South Africa. Jay Naidoo’s autobiography, Fighting for Justice: A Lifetime of Political and Social Activism (2010), is also timely, as it recounts the life history of the Indian trade unionist and political activist who became the first general secretary of the powerful Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and who subsequently became a minister in Mandela’s government. Padraig O’Malley’s Shades of Difference: Mac Maharaj and the Struggle for South Africa (2007) also foregrounds the pivotal role played by an Indian South African in the struggle for liberation in this country. A burgeoning number of texts on the ramifications of apartheid on South African life include Michael McDonald’s Why Race Matters in South Africa (2006), Anthea Jeffery’s People’s War: New Light on the Struggle for South Africa (2009), and David Welsh’s The Rise and Fall of Apartheid (2009), to cite a few. In the field of education, and higher education in particular, Jonathan Jansen’s Knowledge in the Blood (2009) and We Need to Talk (2011) provide much-needed critical commentary on race within this sector, and Saleem Badat’s Black Man, You Are on Your Own (2009) is a key text on the South African Students Organisation (SASO) once led by Steve Biko and analyses its role in educational, political and social spheres. This small sample of a much larger body of work reflects the inclusivity and diversity of historical writings in South Africa. Unfortunately, the visual art of Indian South Africans is not well documented, nor has there been any critical scholarship on the documentation of Indians as subjects in the art historical narrative of South Africa. The following section will present images of Indians which will be examined within the framework of four reflection methods, namely alienhood, labouring, resistance or pride, assimilation and integration. This representation of the Indian through various photographs will be analysed towards understanding how the visual image becomes a phenotype of being recognised as ‘Indian’ in the complexity of South Africa today. Visual re-presentations will be analysed through an art historical perspective, as it straddles sociology and ethnography in the interpretation. Since their arrival and through their visual representations in South Africa, Indians have been attributed a manufactured identity and presence through the colonists’ gaze. They have variously been projected to possess a shifting identity initially embedded in subjugation, fear and second-classness and finally to reflect a sense of assimilation, albeit through distorted and altered forms of representation. Their metamorphosis from 1860 under hegemonic rule was characterised by the imposition of force which bore witness to the Indians enduring many processes of ‘appropriation, integration, assimilation and even insertion so as to assert themselves in this country’ (Gokool 1994: 3). Thus, while areas such as traditional dance and religious practice have resisted change, apartheid and its impositions brought extreme hardship and humiliation which contributed to the popular construct of Indianness (Gokool 1994: 3).
In analysing the photographs, it is critical to understand not only how the photograph looks but also how the image is looked at, thereby engaging the process of audiencing. According to Rose, the site of audiencing is the most important site at which an image’s meaning is made, as audiences are not always passive recipients of meaning (2016:38). It was John Berger in his seminal text, Ways of Seeing (1972), who posited the value of recognising not only what an image shows but also the way of seeing that the image invites. Photography is an interesting visual form, as it offers a snapshot of a moment in time. In this regard, it presents a truthfulness that few can deny. Nonetheless, while critical opinion on whether the camera ever lies is divided, I will present these photographs as a body of images reflecting a group of people in very particular and carefully controlled modes of seeing. This reading sets out to understand the images as a site of memory and trace of history as they add to building a phenotype of Indians in South Africa. Alienhood Perhaps one of the most well-known and easily recognisable images of Indian indenture in South Africa is Figure 3.1. The image is a collage of the photographs originally embedded in the emigrant certificate which each person was given in place of a passport. This image was made popular as the book cover of Inside Indenture: A South Africa Story, 1860–1914. This image brings focus to the notion that indenture was simply another form of slavery that apportioned no human dignity to the Indian except that of being a slave or a criminal. While this image is popularised through various media representations, it subliminally reflects what can be seen to be an innate sense of fear and despair, as well as a visual clue to subsequent degrees of poverty. This type of image is clearly intended for documentary purposes where the subject is presented as powerless to the relatively powerful. As a type of photo-documentation, these photographs were carefully planned and posed as a means to ensure every arrival to Natal was documented and archived accordingly. Figure 3.1 is a series of ‘mugshots’ assimilated into an image with the subjects gazing expressionlessly at the photographer. This type of photo-documentation is also a means of capturing ways of understanding social relations and power plays in varied spaces. It further conveys a sensory experience for the viewer through an undefined social space that, in this case, conveys deprivation, marginalisation and subjugation. In this regard, Stuart Hall (1973: 179) recognises that mugshots are layered with meaning, with connotations of ‘wanted men’ and as such become a symbol of that which is dangerous. These mugshots also played a part in the construction of notions of the ‘other’ or the lesser or the ‘sub-human’ on the grounds of class, race and even religion (Lashmar 2013: 68). Here the young men are identified through a number system that is inherently related to the criminalised mode of documenting people who have
Figure 3.1 Indian indenture in South Africa
been charged for various indiscretions from theft to armed robbery to murder. Irrespective of their crime, the process of being documented remains the same, namely through a mugshot. Thus, here, the young Indian men are presented indiscriminately, focusing only on the purpose of being documented with no agency and as part of a homogenous group of otherness. The mugshot as a photographic genre is well known and vacillates between the public perception and the police. What is interesting to note is that while the indentured Indians saw themselves as people, the colonists saw them simply as numbers (Desai and Vahed
2007: 84), and this determined from the outset how this group of aliens would be identified for years to come. It is this perception that the Indians determinedly wanted to transform by demanding human dignity and engaging in focused attempts to acquire independence and subsequent success. The images in Figures 3.2 and 3.3 are also well known and have been popularised through various narratives on indenture ranging from historical texts to popular media. While these are not posed as they are in Figure 3.1, they present a picture of a people who are encountering their landscape and urban spaces for the first time. Their arrival catalogues this group clearly as outsiders to South Africa adorned in typical Indian attire of dhotis and turbans, a form of dress foreign in South Africa at this time. Thus, the recognition of this image as a photograph used merely to document a moment in history is valuable for the way in which it conveys real life. As the audience, we bear witness to the arrival of these Indians sans heavily burdened luggage, which is expected, but rather meagre belongings strapped across their bodies. Their shoeless feet against the harsh gravelled land convey a sense of poverty and desperation that witnessed the almost six-week journey that these Indians took to this foreign land. These images more than merely capture a moment of material reality. They convey a more sinister reality that alludes to the fact that these were but only sojourners in a foreign place to be viewed as temporary dwellers in the country, soon to be repatriated once their indenture was concluded. This image therefore becomes
Figure 3.2 The arrival of Indians in Natal, South Africa – coming ashore
Figure 3.3 Crossing the railway line on the way to the bluff
a marker or cue towards a narrative with embedded sacrifice and tragedy where dreams of returning home as success stories were not to be realised. Throughout the hundred years prior to becoming citizens, the Indians fought steadfastly against their homogeneity, yet in these early images of their arrival, the similarity of their dress code unfortunately created an immediate perception, and perpetuated a continued narrative, of their homogeneity. These photgraphs depict the ‘other’ through a postcolonial gaze that positions the intersection of identity and difference as aspects in a constant state of flux. In this state of flux, the commodification of identity brings to the fore a reference to the human condition, one in which culture is conflated with race and nationhood. But, as Govinden (2008: 35) suggests, this conflation is in part due to the essentialist notion of race and ethnicity that is presented in an unfortunate attempt, bound with anxiety, to perpetuate it. Once again, the images are markers of a larger narrative with complex coded cultural artefacts that should not be lost in an interpretation thereof. These photographs are depictions of how the Indian was considered alien to South Africa and how these images reinforced that notion of difference and alienhood. Figure 3.2 presents a moment of Indian history as the new labourers come ashore after weeks on the Kala Pani. Crammed into these small boats, the viewer is provided with a glimpse into the horrors of the journey that these labourers have just concluded. The viewer can only assume the atmosphere as one of
anxiety, regret or depression. In Figure 3.3, the audience is presented with a large group of foreign labourers ‘marching’ forth into a new land in a manner which could be construed as intimidating. While Figure 3.1 reflects the binary of powerless and powerful, Figure 3.3 inverts the powerless here as a powerful force of invasion. The image becomes a compelling snapshot of a reality that also acts as a metaphor for the arrival of these labourers from a position of inferiority to one with an air of self-reliance as they confidently stride forth with little else but their courage. These photographs capture scenes as a recording and re-making of a particular aspect of South African life, one that perpetuated the notion of Indians being socialised as separate and distinct. Labouring The fundamental reason for indenture can be seen in Figure 3.4, with labourers at work in the sugar cane plantations. The sugar cane fields provided the greatest employment opportunities and were largely the scope of labour that the indentured were destined for. Over a period of 15 years, Indian indentured labour pushed up sugar production by 80%. The image of these labourers cutting cane signifies the overwhelming task presented to them as they are dwarfed by the looming cane plantations in front of them. This
Figure 3.4 Cane cutters
Figure 3.5 Washerwomen
visual metaphor indicates how this new country minoritised the Indians and engulfed them socially, religiously and culturally. When placed under scrutiny, the image of the washerwomen in Figure 3.5 is reduced to a spectacle of the ‘other’ where a postcolonial gaze positions the image on the margins of society. While this image is an exploration of visual domesticity, it is absent of dignity and respect in the recognition of labouring life. The anonymity of the women and their act of domestic chores are located within the snapshot genre of photography where the subject is not party to the framing, developing or cultural construction of the image. This image of Indian women doing their laundry in a river overlaps the isolation of the Indians to their own designated locations. This imagery creates an overlapping framework of the constraints of the total indentured experience from which these images cannot be removed. The market-garden industry in Natal was dominated by the Indian traders. This industry gave rise to the popular house-to-house sale of fresh produce (Figure 3.6), which continued well into the 1980s. This image is indicative of the industrious nature of the Indians, whose ultimate goal was to ensure success and for a period return to India as success stories. The expressionless gaze of the two young men is a visual exploration of emotional experiences. While they stare at the audience, their perplexed gaze belies their discomfort,
Figure 3.6 Fresh produce sellers
thereby revealing their disempowerment. Perhaps more perplexing is their attire. Here the dhoti and turban as traditional dress are combined with the western waistcoat and in so doing suggest the initial phases of assimilation, integration and acceptability into the colonialist’s non-Indian world. Figures 3.4, 3.5 and 3.6 demonstrate the different labouring spaces within which the indentured Indian operated. Their gaze and participation in the framing of these images were evidently outside their realm of control. What these images do, however, is highlight the resilience of the Indians, which has subsequently become a characteristic accredited to Indians in South Africa. Resistance or pride The longer the Indian stayed in South Africa, the greater their sense of pride and stronger their forms of resistance. The images subsequently highlight the various attempts made by this group to carve out a space and presence for themselves in this new country. While they fundamentally resisted the brutal measures imposed upon them as labourers by the colonialists and later through the apartheid policies, they continued to strive for acceptance and dignity. In Culture and Imperialism, Edward Said suggests that acts of resistance are more than just a form of reaction but rather an alternative approach to conceiving human history as an attempt to engage with history, transfer it and make it acknowledge those marginalised and perhaps forgotten (Said 1994: 260–261).
Figure 3.7 ‘Special servant’ dressed in a costume of choice
Some of the ways in which the Indians attempted this alternative engagement with history were through the ‘ownership’ of jobs and spaces such as waiters (Figure 3.7) and cooks, a category that became known as ‘special servants’ in the hospitality industry (Henning 1993: 88). According to Joy Brain (1985: 34), these ‘special servants’ filled jobs such as waiters, dhobis, doormen, carriage drivers and chefs, attired in crisp white uniforms, turbans and coloured sashes. Brain says these workers became a distinguishing feature of high-class establishments and are still a common feature of the hospitality industry in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal. The transition of the attire in this profession can be seen in Figure 3.7 with an assimilation of Indian and western attire. This staged and posed photograph conveys an air of pride and confidence both in the attire and in the positioning of the ‘special servant’. The framing of this image is once again in the genre of photo-documentation, with the viewer being confronted with an exotic image of servility gazing at the viewer expressionlessly. The representation of the exotic is evidence of the postcolonial gaze focused on the marginalised, through the fetishisation of the Indian, the other and/or the alien in South Africa. Clearly, this representation is like any other exploitative gaze, demonstrating ethnic prejudice and revealing the inherent dominant ideology of the coloniser. Figures 3.7, 3.8 and 3.9 represent the photographic genre of portraiture where individuals are either standing or seated, in groups or alone, faithfully
Figure 3.8 Family portrait – family from Umzinto
Figure 3.9 Untitled
presenting an unmistakable individuality, almost like a painted portrait. The environment in studio portraits or poses is often more important than the emotion and expression of the individual. The pain or suffering of the subject is less noticed than the painted backdrops or fashionable clothing
(Quanchi 2014: 35). In Figure 3.7, the man stands dressed in fine clothes with his hand resting on a tray holding a decanter of some sort of alcoholic beverage alongside three filled glasses. The image conveys a theatrical or staged atmosphere that is exaggerated by the stark composition and the emotionless gaze of the waiter. This image of the Umzinto family was a common form of representation which showcased the pride and honour of a family. Usually the head of the household, often the father, is seated in western dress with the women of the family arranged around him. According to Desai and Vahed (2007: 211), many Indians succeeded in establishing what they call the ‘moral’ family, with marriages increasing in the latter part of the 1880s. Many photos were captured showing the extended family in their beautiful finery staring expressionlessly at the camera. None of the subjects share or reveal any emotion to the viewer (also see Figure 3.9), thereby suggesting a degree of concealment of the true spirit of the community and showcasing a distinct level of success and progress. These studio photographs allowed the Indians an opportunity to re-create their reality by manipulating their surroundings and creating a new virtual reality that depicts success and privilege. This double reality reveals the desire of the Indians to move out of the normalcy of their day-to-day socioeconomic struggle and imagine a life that is disguised by beautiful backdrops and artificiality. It is unknown if the garments used in the photographs belong to the subjects or if they were on loan by the studio to create a shift in reality for the Indians from the margins to mainstream. It is here, in their imagined reality, that the Indians revealed their aspiration. These portrait images further indicate the labourer–colonial relationships that are aspirational but also are revealing as the indentured Indian shifts towards accommodating colonial society. Quanchi suggests that the pose, the dress and the format of this type of portraiture suggest that the Indian was borrowing the British emphasis of proper conduct, identity and social position (2014: 39). These portraits thus illustrate a body of images with colonialism as a framework overlapping the cultural traditions of the Indians. Assimilation and integration As previously mentioned, the Indians were industrious, and this found expression in many diverse fields of enterprise, from fresh produce markets to fresh fish markets, thereby providing a steady source of income; it was in market gardening that the Indians took a monopoly over the industry (Henning 1993: 73). They were able to accomplish this with teams of enthusiastic street hawkers who were able to make door-to-door fresh vegetable sales. In Figure 3.10, the photograph captures the everyday atmosphere of a bustling fresh produce market where the majority of vendors and customers are Indian. The shift in attire, particularly in those of the men, recognises
Figure 3.10 Indian Market, Warwick Junction, taken in the 1940s
the integration of colonial culture as it transforms the visual image of the successful Indian man. With the arrival of the passenger Indians, Indian-owned businesses grew (Figure 3.11). This positioned the Indian as a competitor, resulting in considerable ill feelings amongst White traders towards Indians. After much
Figure 3.11 Passenger Indian-owned business
discussion between the Indian and Natal governments, the discrimination continued and was eventually overtaken by apartheid policies. Unfortunately, a barrage of legislation imposed restrictions for engagement. One such Act was the Asiatic Trading and Occupation of Land (Natal and Transvaal) Act of 1943 (the Pegging Act), which became law. This Act placed restrictions on trading and occupation of land by Asiatics (Indians) in the Transvaal and on the acquisition and occupation of land in Natal. Despite the suffocating circumstances, the Indian traders advanced their agenda for citizenship and entrenched their businesses firmly in South Africa, servicing an increasing Indian population.
Concluding thoughts From the explorations of the photographs in this chapter, an assumption can be made that these images were taken for documentation and archiving purposes. But a deeper symbolic reading of how these images communicate is key to understanding the embedded meanings of each of them. These images are markers of a bigger story and should be recognised as visual narratives that can hold their own story through speaking a language of their own. The
images also function as clues to definitions of Indianness and will forever be referent to what it means to be Indian in South Africa. By the time the Indian became a citizen in 1960, a new dynamic, yet deeply divided, public culture was entrenched. The country had changed. The Indian had changed. As we look at South Africa today, the representation of Indians are still stereotypyed through unique constructs of identity. These constructs are often based on colloquial language and nuanced mannerisms popularised by South African comedians together with a small sample of Indian cinema that showcases South Africans of Indian ancestry. Perhaps these are some of the mirrors that truly reflect the Indian South African, and with the shifts towards integration and assimilation, there is still a matrix of understanding that underpins the diverse cultures of this country. Art forms produced by Indian South Africans today seem to make commentary on their roots and routes, revealing the introspection of the practioners. In addition, a collective appreciation of the history of the Indian in South Africa seems to be growing in the community, thereby establishing a sense of nationhood and citizenship in this once-alien land. Through the visual forms, the phenotypical shift of Indian identity in South Africa is made evident. Indian South Africans now attempt to redefine themselves as a group, no longer limited to the stereotype of a homogenous group but rather as South Africans who have created a space for themselves in the country which has been their home for 160 years. However, the place of Indians in South Africa is often still under threat. A recent study, ‘Economists: Indians Benefited from Apartheid’, featured in the Daily News by Standard Bank (one of the main banks in South Africa), states that Indians were less oppressed during apartheid, and therefore there are no grounds for making Indians beneficiaries of black economic-empowerment policies. The suggestion that Indians harnessed advantages from apartheid creates great frustration and disappointment in the Indian community. Articles in the Post newspaper, a community newspaper with a readership of approximately 500,000, displayed headlines that are testimony to the anger embedded in the community. The headlines included: ‘Aided by Freedom, Not Apartheid’ (Post, August 17–21: 2016); ‘Indians Suffered with Africans’ (Post, August 17–21: 2016); ‘On Returning to Our Roots’ (Post, August 24–28: 2016); ‘Stop Racial Classification’ (Post, August 24–28: 2016); and ‘We Worked for Whatever We Have’ (Post August 24–28: 2016). The uproar from the Indian community did not undermine that there were definitely degrees of exclusion and that the worst form of exclusion was experienced by African South Africans. However, as listed earlier in this chapter, Indians were subjected to harsh segregation legislation requiring them to work with the government of the day to provide for their population. One such initiative was the ‘pound-for-pound’ system which required the Indian to contribute a sum of money which would be matched by the government in order to see progress in education. In this way, the community
ensured that schools were built guaranteeing the basic education of Indian children. Indians fitted neatly into apartheid’s architecture of categorisations and therefore were identified as a homogenous group. The differences within the group were not acknowledged, and so the community clustered around their ethnicities to assert their strength and entrench a unified and very specific identity in response to the various exterior conflicts and threats.
Acknowledgements I would like to place on record my indebtedness to the support of a friend, colleague and fellow artist, Selvan Naidoo, for providing me with the images required for this chapter. Photographic references Figure 3.1 2016.SouthAfrican History Online.www.sahistory.org.za/sites/ default/files/article_image/settlers.jpg (accessed on 10 August 2016). Figure 3.2 Date unknown.The Gandhi-Luthuli Documentation Centre, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. www.sahistory.org.za/sites/ default/files/article_image/indian_indentured_labourers.jpg (accessed on 10 August 2016). Figure 3.3 2016.‘Indenture’, University of KwaZulu-Natal.www.sahistory. org.za/article/areas-indentured-indians-came (accessed on 29 August 2016). Figures 3.4–3.11. 1860 Heritage Centre; Joy Brain; the KwaZulu-Natal Local History Museum, and the Killie Campbell Museum.
Notes 1 Kuli, in Tamil, referred to payment for menial work for persons from the lowest levels in the industrial labour market. In the transformation of kuli to coolie, the distinct humanity of individual Indians was appropriated and eliminated as the person collapsed into the payment (Desai and Vahed 2007: 13). The word also has a pejorative connotation. 2 Anderson uses the term ‘imagined’ referring to the smallest nations not knowing most of their fellow members, never meeting them or even hearing about them, yet in the mind of each lives the image of their communion. Furthermore, in South Africa, the homogenisation of the Indian population embedded this notion. 3 This section of the chapter has been extracted from my Ph.D. dissertation Culture, Politics and Identity in the Visual Art of Indian South African Graduates from the University of Durban-Westville in KwaZulu-Natal, 1962–1999 (2012). 4 These cities have subsequently been renamed and are currently Kolkata, Chennai and Mumbai, respectively. 5 I have drawn largely on these publications: Rai’s Indians and the British Colonialism in South Africa (1899–1939) (1984); Bhana and Pachai’s A Documentary History of Indian South Africans(1984); Bhana’s Indentured Indian Emigrants to Natal 1860–1902 (1991) and Freund’s Insiders and Outsiders, The Indian Working Class of Durban 1910–1990 (1995). These publications have contributed to
6 7 8
the historiography of the political, social and economic conditions in South Africa, especially as the historiography pertains to the Indians in this country. For a more contemporary analysis, I have drawn on: Desai’s Arise Ye Coolies, Apartheid and the Indian 1960–1995 (1996); Vally (2001) in Kala Pani, Caste and Colour in South Africa and extracts from Desai and Vahed’s Inside Indenture: A South African Story, 1860–1914 (2007). Much of these analyses were extracted from my unpublished Ph.D., Culture, Politics and Identity in the Visual Art of Indian South African graduates from the University of Durban-Westville in KwaZulu-Natal, 1982–1999 (2012). Edward Said describes a subject race as one ‘dominated by a race that knows them and what is good for them better than they could possibly know themselves’ (1978: 35). Within the discourse of postcolonialism, the Indians were the ‘Other’. Since the first democratic government in 1994, the colony of Natal was merged with Zululand and was renamed KwaZulu-Natal. The Afrikaner Broederbond was founded in 1918 in Johannesburg to promote the Afrikaans culture and Afrikaner economic action in a coordinated way. In 1929, it became a secret organisation, and by 1933, it had 1,003 members. The intention of the Broederbond was to rule South Africa, but it was unsuccessful in making any considerable impact on South African society (Giliomee and Mbenga 2007: 289). Many of the members were teachers and lecturers. Perhaps coincidently, the establishment of the Indian College on Salisbury Island emerged from this initial idea.
References Back, Les and John Solomon (eds.). 2009. Theories of Race and Racism: A Reader. 2nd edition. New York: Routledge. Bhabha, Homi. 1994. The Location of Culture. New York: Routledge. Bhana, Surendra. 1991. Indentured Indian Emigrants to Natal 1860–1902: A Study Based on Ship Lists. New Delhi: Promilla. Bhana, Surendra and Bridglal Pachai. 1984. A Documentary History of Indian South Africans. Cape Town: David Phillip. Brain, Joy. 1985. 125 Years. The Arrival of Natal’s Indians in Pictures. http://nata lia.org.za/Files/15/Natalia%20v15%20article%20p18-35%20C.pdf (accessed 18 May 2018). Chambers, Iain. 1994. Migrancy, Culture, Identity. London: Routledge. Davenport, Rodney. and Christopher Saunders. 2000. South Africa: A Modern History. Basingstoke, UK: Macmillan Press. Desai, Ashwin. 1996. Arise Ye Coolies: Apartheid and the Indian 1960–1995. Johannesburg: Impact Africa Publishing. Desai, Ashwin and Goolam Vahed. 2007. Inside Indian Indenture: A South African Story, 1860–1914. Durban: Madiba Publishers. During, Simon (ed.). 2007. The Cultural Studies Reader. 3rd edition. New York/ London: Routledge. Giliomee, Herman and Bernard Mbenga. 2007. New History of South Africa. Cape Town: Tafelberg. Ginwala, Frene. 1977. ‘The Indian South African’. http://scnc.ukzn.ac.za/doc/INDIAN/ topicsindex.html (accessed 2 April 2009). Gokool, Saijal. 1994. Portrayal of ‘Indian Culture’ in the Electronic Media: A Case Study of Impressions. Unpublished Master’s Thesis, Durban.
Govinden, Devarakshanam. 2008. Sister Outsiders: The Representation of Identity and Difference in Selected Writings by South African Indian Women. Pretoria: University of South Africa Press. Hall, Stuart. 1973. ‘The Determination of News Photographs’, in S. Cohen and J. Young (eds.), The Manufacture of News: A Reader. London: Sage. Henning, Cosmo Grenville. 1993. The Indentured Indian in Natal (1860–1917). New Delhi: Promilla & Co., Publishers. Jain, Prakash. C. 1999. Indians in South Africa: Political Economy of Race Relations. Delhi: Kalinga Publications. Khan, Saif Ali. 1946. The Indian in South Africa. Allahabad: Kitabistan. Kumar, Pratap. 2000.Hindus in South Africa. Durban: University of Durban-Westville. Kumar, Pratap. 2005. ‘From Denial and Displacement to Re-Adjustment: Indian Diaspora in South Africa’, Alternation Special Edition, 2: 392–402. Kuppusami, Candasami and Gonam Pillay. 1978. Pioneer Footprints: Growth in Indian Education in South Africa, 1860–1977. Goodwood: Nasou. Lashmar, Paul. 2013. ‘How to Humiliate and Shame: A Reporter’s Guide to the Power of the Mugshot’, Social Semiotics, 24(1): 56–87. Mesthrie, Rajen. 2010. A Dictionary of South African Indian English. Cape Town: UCT Press. Moodley, Nalini. 2012. Culture, Politics and Identity in the Visual Art of Indian South African Graduates from the University of Durban-Westville in KwaZulu-Natal, 1982–1999. Unpublished Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Durban-Westville. Mukherji, Siddhartha. 1959. Indian Minority in South Africa. New Delhi: People’s Publishing House. Oonk, Gijsbert (ed.). 2007. Global Indian Diaspora: Exploring Trajectories of Migration and Theory. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press. Palmer, Mabel. 1956. Economic and Political Background to the History of Indians in Natal: The Indian as a South African. Durban: South African Institute of Race Relations. Quanchi, Max. 2014. ‘“Kanaka” Portraits: Indentured Labor in Colonial Australia’, Pacific Arts, New Series, 13(2). Rai, Kauleshwar. 1984. Indians and British Colonialism in South Africa (1899– 1939). Allahabad: Kitab Mahal. Rose, Gilian. 2016. Visual Methodologies: An Introduction to Researching with Visual Materials. London: Sage Publications. Said, Edward. 1978. Orientalism. New Delhi: Penguin Books. Said, Edward. 1994. Culture and Imperialism. London: Vintage Books. Thompson, Leonard and Jeffrey Butler (eds.). 1975. Change in Contemporary South Africa. Berkeley/Los Angeles: University of California Press. Vally, Rehanna. 2001. Kala Pani: Caste and Colour in South Africa. Cape Town: Kwela Books and SA History Online. Vertovec, Steve and Robin Cohen (eds.). 1999. Migration, Diasporas and Transnationalism. Cheltenham, UK and Northampton: Edward Elger Publishing Limited. Wilkins, Ivor and Hans Strydom. 1978. The Super Afrikaners. Southampton, UK: Jonathan Ball Publishers.
The NRI Gupta Waterkloof landing Implications for political integration of Persons of Indian Origin in South Africa Brij Maharaj
Introduction The origins of indentured migrants from India are well known – demands for cheap labour in the British colonial plantations like Mauritius, Natal (South Africa), Trinidad, Tobago, Guyana, Surinam, and Fiji. The indentured labourers were soon followed by traders, largely from the state of Gujarat in India. There has been some research on the nature of interaction between the traders and indentured labourers (e.g. Prasad 1978; Swan 1987). In the burgeoning literature on the Indian diaspora, there is little or no research on the role and influence of NRIs and the associated implications for political integration of PIOs, especially in countries where descendants of indentured labourers reside in the post-colonial era. There is no reference to this issue in the recent Handbook on Indian Diaspora (Hedge and Sahoo 2018). In post-apartheid South Africa, for example, academic research about NRIs is “scarce and statistical evidence on their exact numbers and movement in the country are uncertain” (Jagganath 2017: 109). This chapter examines the nature of the activities of the wealthy and influential NRI Gupta family and its consequences for political integration of PIOs of indentured stock in South Africa. More specifically, the focus of this chapter is on the controversies associated with the landing of the Gupta-chartered civilian Jet Airways airplane at the Waterkloof Military Air Force Base in Pretoria in April–May 2013, the first public indication that the Guptas were very influential in matters relating to the South Africa state. The chapter also reflects on the longer-term consequences for PIOs of the activities of NRIs and especially the political implications for South African Indians and local Indo-African relations. The Waterkloof landing was an “incident” in an encompassing political context that adversely affected PIOs’ political integration, especially in terms of citizenship. A key contention in the chapter is that the fall-out from this incident inflamed racial tensions, with some Africans referring pejoratively to PIOs as “Guptas”, and undermined political integration and cohesion, with suggestions that Persons of Indian Origin born in South Africa should return to India. Significantly, the perceived advantages and opportunities for wealth accumulation associated with the Gupta-Zuma alliance generated mistrust
and anti-Indian prejudice from the African majority, who normally do not differentiate between NRIs and PIOs. In February 2013, a senior newspaper editor argued that the Guptas’ “pernicious role in South Africa’s political life deserves close scrutiny. The power of this family, derived from their close relationship with the president and his family, makes the stomach heave. Their bullying of ministers and government officials, using the president’s name, is legendary in government circles” (Makhanya 2013: 1). The Gupta family was closely aligned to former South African President Jacob Zuma of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party (Southall 2011), who was forced to step down in February 2018. There have been suggestions that the activities of the Gupta brothers, in collusion with Jacob Zuma, several government ministers, and senior bureaucrats, led to the capture of the South African state (Myburgh 2017; Pauw 2017; Swilling and Chipkin 2018) and to the looting of the state coffers of billions of rands. All this is now subject to a Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture, appointed by President Cyril Ramaphosa and chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo. While it is still early days, since 20 August 2018, the Zondo Commission has heard chilling testimony about state capture, the shenanigans of the Guptas, and the complicity and capitulation of several government ministers and bureaucrats (Haffajee 2018). Conceptually, this chapter was influenced by Bonacich’s (1973: 583) “theory of middleman minorities”, which is useful to understand conflicts and tensions between ethnic communities. Minority immigrant groups work hard for small returns, benefit from ethnic solidarity networks (e.g. religion, family), and serve a niche enclave zone, not normally considered profitable for the corporate sector (Bonacich and Modell 1980; Min 2013). The host society develops hostility towards the immigrant middleman minority because of a perception of unfair competition and opportunity (Bonacich 1973). In South Africa, for example, in addition to dominating certain trading sectors (Gujerati “passengers”), Indians also competed with Africans in the urban labour market. However, there had been competition and tensions between indentured labourers and locals since their arrival in the colonies, where the immigrant community undermined the value of Zulu labourers (Dhupelia 1982; Meer 1985). In South Africa, Indians enjoyed a relatively privileged position compared to that of the indigenous majority, primarily because of community survival strategies. In the colonial and postcolonial times, Indians in South Africa have primarily played the role of middleman minorities, often being portrayed as scapegoats and villains in times of economic and political crisis (Moodley 1980), and as will be illustrated in this chapter, this continues in the contemporary era. The data from this chapter was obtained from government reports and statements and media reports (print and digital). Many of the facts about the landing of the jet were reported in the South African media, an important of
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source of information related to this incident and its aftermath. The opinions presented were balanced and fair, reflecting a diversity of viewpoints. This chapter is divided into five sections. The first section presents background to the Guptas. This is followed by an analysis of the Waterkloof landing. The public outrage is the theme of the third section. The government response is discussed in the fourth section. The final section focuses on the consequences for South African Indians.
Background: the Guptas Who are the Guptas? Three brothers (Ajay, Atul, Rajesh – a.k.a. Tony, and their extended families) hailed from Saharanpur in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. They were apparently 14th-generation spice peddlers. The Guptas came to South Africa in 1993 on the advice of their father, who believed that this country was a land of opportunity. They identified the IT sector as an area of growth and established Sahara Computers. They subsequently diversified their investments in various sectors, including mining and media, and became billionaires within eight years (Myburgh 2017). There were persistent allegations that such rapid accumulation of wealth was related to their close connections with the ANC leadership hierarchy. Frequently, the accumulation of wealth is accompanied by a hankering for power and influence, as well as the potential for abuse of both. The Guptas had previously been in the news for the wrong reasons, for example, allegations that they were violating civil aviation rules and that they had lent their aviation facilities to the ANC during election campaigns. Until recently, the Gupta family owned a daily newspaper, the New Age, and operated a television news channel, ANNZ, (subsidised indirectly by the SA taxpayer) that was unashamedly sympathetic to the Zuma ANC government (Sundaram 2018). They were very keen to get close to leaders in the ANC government through their friendship with Essop Pahad, who was a minister in the Mbeki government and who subsequently served on the board of Sahara, one of the Guptas’ companies (Basson 2012). However, President Thabo Mbeki was wary of them and kept them at arm’s length. Yet Ajay Gupta was a member of the International Marketing Council around 2006, when Thabo Mbeki was still president (Myburgh 2017). The Guptas established a close friendship with Jacob Zuma and some members of his family starting in the early 2000s, and this was consolidated after he became president of the ANC. One of President Zuma’s wives and his daughter and son had commercial interests in Gupta companies (Basson 2012). There was a view that the Guptas offered such assistance to the president’s family “because this provides them with the key to the doorways of opportunity they so easily enter” (Naidu 2013: 21). In a media interview, Ajay Gupta agreed that they frequently hosted influential politicians but denied that their palatial Saxonworld home in Johannesburg had “become a centre of political discussion and socialising for ministers and senior government officials” where state policies or public
tenders were discussed (Basson 2012: 153). However, in a conversation with journalist Rajesh Sundaram, Atul Gupta boasted about their close ties with senior ANC officials: “We have close relations with everyone in the ANC. If Zuma is ever ousted, I can tell you for sure that the next one in line from the ANC would be close to us as well. We are banias, and we know how to keep our business interests protected” (Sundaram 2018: 82). Not surprisingly, the Guptas began to believe that they were above the law. On 25 September 2010, Atul Gupta resisted a routine police search on the R55 in Johannesburg and was arrested, but the state refused to prosecute (Baloyi and Mashaba 2010). On 5 November 2010, the Guptas’ helicopter landed “illegally” at Zoo Lake, and a “fake” letter was provided as proof of permission to do so from City Parks – perhaps a harbinger of the Waterkloof scandal (Southall 2011).
The plane landing at Waterkloof Military base On the morning of 30 April 2013, a Jet Airways Airbus A330–200 chartered flight carrying about 200 guests from India to attend a wedding of the Guptas’ niece at Sun City, and which apparently included some politicians from Uttar Pradesh, landed at the Waterkloof Military base, a privilege only accorded to heads of state. There was an immediate public outcry about who approved this violation of South African military space, with denials from all possible persons implicated, including senior bureaucrats from foreign and international affairs, government ministers, and President Zuma (Myburgh 2017). To add to the controversy, a blue-light brigade (normally only used by police) escorted the guests as they were transported by road (145 km) to Sun City, a tourist, casino, and leisure resort, in North-West Province. There were also concerns that the guests might not have had visas to enter SA and that normal immigration and customs processes were compromised. One hundred and thirty chefs were brought from India. There was also a special request that Sun City employ a further 65 white butlers to serve guests (subsequently denied by the Guptas). According to trade union Cosatu, the Guptas did not want their guests to be “served by the African staff members who are employed in the resort. They demand that their services must be rendered by white personnel, starting from the cleaning of their rooms, the cooking and the drivers of the shuttles they use in the resort” (Foster 2013: 1). The initial response from the Guptas was that South Africans should be grateful, as they were promoting tourism in the country, especially marketing the country as a wedding destination, and providing jobs, which should have been endorsed by the media: If the South African media projected the event positively, South Africa would have become the next big international capital for glamorous multi-million-rand celebrity weddings (p. 83). . . . It was an opportunity
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for South Africa to showcase itself as a celebrity wedding destination, but they missed the opportunity. We have decided that we will not hold any family weddings in South African from now. For the wedding of my sister’s son, we will look for venues abroad. As soon as the date is fixed, I will go to Mauritius to select a venue. They do not have this kind of hostile press, and they want to promote tourism. I am sure they will give us any facility we ask for. (Sundaram 2018: 46) However, as the public furore escalated, Atul Gupta was forced to issue an apology on behalf of his family, expressing regret for any unpleasant incidents but denying that there was any form of racism: In light of what happened . . . the family would like to issue a general apology to all affected, including the South African and Indian governments, the local authorities, the South African public and especially our guests . . . [his family was] . . . simply trying to give [their] daughter . . . a memorable wedding on South African soil. We also regret any incidents at the Sun City venue of which the family was unaware. The allegations of racism regarding the staff are definitely untrue. If there was an isolated incident involving any of our guest [we apologise] unreservedly to any party affected. (Sapa 2013: 1) Subsequently, in 2017, the #GuptaLeaks emails revealed that there were indeed requests to service providers from the family that those who come into contact with their guests at the wedding should be whites: Heilbron Hospitality confirms the provision of all Caucasian staff, with the majority of the waiters and a few of the butlers being female staff. [However, Sun City’s Gatsby Spa refused to comply and responded] After discussing the matter with my fellow directors, we have come to the conclusion that it would be in neither of our best interests to bring in part time white staff for your very important guests. (Head 2017: 1) More evidence of prejudice emerged from #GuptaLeaks emails. In an email, Gupta employee Tshepo Masilo complained about the poor working conditions and benefts, especially for black workers, while large sums were donated to political parties and hosting government offcials: The Gupta family is very wealthy, where you are able to spend more than R100-million for a wedding at Sun City, and yet you are unable to even give your poor employee who died without even earning a decent salary a good send-off. It is very disappointing and hurting to see how
Brij Maharaj you spent a lot of money donating to political parties and hosting events for very high-profile figures and rulers of our country, and yet you do not take care of your struggling and lowly paid employees, especially blacks. (Staff Reporter 2018)
There was an understandable public outcry to the Waterkloof landing, which was largely articulated through the media.
Public outrage There was understandable public anger which related to violation of sovereignty, political influence of a migrant family, contempt for South African regulations and procedures, and whether President Zuma was implicated. Archbishop Stephen Brislin, president of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference, stated that the government was obliged to explain how the Guptas were able to violate South African aviation regulations and identify state officials who were culpable. According to the archbishop, there was a perception that those who were politically connected appeared to be above the law: We cannot afford to gain the reputation of being a country where it is “who you know” that counts, and where wealth can buy privileged treatment from authorities. (Brislin 2013: 1) The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation called for an investigation to expose how the Gupta family was able to exercise extraordinary power and political infuence over government ministers and bureaucrats: South Africans need to understand why and how a single family has come to wield such enormous power and influence over sections of government and its administration. (Balton 2013: 1) The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) expressed shock at the Waterkloof landing and the “offcial” escort to Sun City and called for an urgent investigation to identify those implicated: Cosatu demands an urgent investigation into who authorised the airfield’s use for a purely private function and the threats to national security which could have been caused, and for those responsible to be disciplined. (Cosatu 2013)
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The executive director of the Cosatu-backed Corruption Watch, David Lewis, said that the Waterkloof landing exposed a “serious breakdown in administration at the highest level” and was directly linked to President Zuma’s friendship with the Gupta family, which opened “the door to extraordinary privilege?” (Dodds 2013: 2). ANC veteran Pallo Jordan argued that the Waterkloof incident raised questions about Zuma’s credibility and judgment: If the actions of your friends suggest a lack of respect for you and a tendency to abuse your name, we would not be remiss in questioning your own judgment. Until all the questions about this humiliating incident are adequately answered, the Gupta jet incident will corrode Zuma’s credibility, leaving serious questions about his judgment. (Jordan 2013: 11) Given the public outrage, the government was forced to intervene swiftly. Rather than institute an independent, judicial inquiry, which the magnitude of the violation demanded, an internal technical investigation was instituted instead, which lacked credibility and transparency.
Government response Following the public outrage, the “Ministers of the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security (JCPS) Cluster instructed on 2 May 2013 that a team of Directors-Generals investigate the circumstances that gave rise to the incident and report their findings within seven working days” (Republic of South Africa 2013: 3). President Zuma emphasised that the investigation should not undermine the warm and friendly historical relations that exist between the governments of the Republic of South Africa and the Republic of India and also between the peoples of South Africa and India, which go back to the very beginning of our respective struggles against colonialism and apartheid. (Maharaj 2013: 1) According to the JCPS report, the Guptas had initially approached Airports Company South Africa in February 2013 for permission for landing rights at OR Tambo International Airport with an elaborate reception for guests. This was rejected because of disruptions to the normal operations at the airport. They subsequently approached the minister of defence and military veterans for permission to land at Waterkloof, but this was refused (Republic of South Africa 2013). The Guptas then decided to manipulate “the diplomatic channel with the support of an individual in the Indian High Commission who re-designated
the wedding entourage as an official delegation to enable them to use the Air Force Base Waterkloof under the cover of diplomatic privilege” (Republic of South Africa 2013: 24). However, there was a breach in protocol and procedure, and the Chief of State Protocol V.B. Koloane and Officer Commanding Movement Control at the Waterkloof base Lieutenant-Colonel C. Anderson, were complicit and recommended for appropriate disciplinary charges (Republic of South Africa 2013). Strangely, the JCPS report does not offer any explanation as to why two senior and experienced officials “would risk their careers and reputations for the benefit of a wealthy family with whom they had no personal connection” (Myburgh 2017: 142). There were allegations that the technical report was superficial and a “cover-up”. Colonel Christine Anderson, via the Defence Force Union, questioned ethical, technical, and methodological procedures, as well as the factual accuracy of the JCPS Report. According to the Union, after a 10–15 minute casual discussion, “some of those things that were informally related are now twisted and used as certain findings – and obviously a lot of other things are said in the report about her (Colonel Anderson) that were never put to her” (Patel 2013: 1). All charges against Colonel Anderson were later withdrawn. The probable reason for this was because she indicated that Koloane had informed her that “Number One [President of the Republic of South Africa] has knowledge about the flight”. In a sworn statement, Sergeant Major Thabo Ntshisi also “confirmed Anderson’s claim about Zuma’s involvement, as relayed by Koloane” (Myburgh 2017: 147–148). Chief of State Protocol V.B. Koloane pleaded to the very serious charges of “abusing state diplomatic channels”, “misrepresenting facts”, and “compromising processes and procedures” and was fined two months of his salary and demoted (Myburgh 2017: 145–146). Amazingly, in August 2014, Koloane was promoted as ambassador to Holland. This made a mockery of South African Justice Minister Jeff Radebe’s public assurance that “no stone will be left unturned to ensure that we get to the bottom of this matter and hold all those responsible for bringing our country into disrepute whoever they are and whatever position they hold” (Corruption Watch 2013: 1). In a conversation with journalist Rajesh Sundaram, Atul Gupta had boasted sinisterly: The personnel against whom action has been taken will be reinstated very soon. We are an influential family here, and no one can point fingers at us. . . . President Zuma is on our side, he knows our family, and we helped him when he was down and out; he will help us through this as well. (Sundaram 2018: 82) Beyond the public outrage, the Gupta Waterkloof landing served as a catalyst for attacks against South African Indians from the majority African indigenous community, and this is the focus of the next section of this chapter.
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Consequences for Persons of Indian Origin 1. “Hey Gupta, what are you doing here?” On 3 May 2013, the mayor of Newcastle, a town in northern KwaZuluNatal, Afzul Rahman, a member of the ANC, went to renew his driving license at the Road Traffic Inspectorate (RTI) testing station. RTI officer Zakhele Mbatha said to Mr Rahman: “Hey Gupta, what are you doing here?” When the mayor asked Mr Mbatha if he knew who he was, the RTI officer replied: “Yes, I know . . . you are a Gupta”. Mr Rahman told the RTI officer that “his comments were offensive and racist”. Mr Mbatha replied: “You can go back to India and take offence; here in South Africa the country belongs to us” (Moolla and Biyela 2013: 1). Mr Rahman reported the matter to Mr Mbatha’s head of department, who tried to get the RTI officer to apologise to the Mayor. Mr Rahman initially considered accepting an apology but subsequently lodged an official complaint about his conduct and laid a charge of crimen injuria at the Newcastle police station. He also intended pursuing the matter via the Equality Court and the South African Human Rights Commission. Subsequently, at a meeting convened by ANC regional party chairperson Arthur Zwane on 4 June 2013, Mr Rehman accepted an apology from Zwakele Mbatha and withdrew all charges against him. Mr Rehman emphasised that all groups and minority communities must be respected in South Africa: It disturbed me that there are still members of the public that do not regard Indians as South Africans. I have received open letters addressed to me by people who I believe do not understand the history of this country and the history of the Indian people. This is not an argument between an entire race of Indians and an entire race of Zulus. There is no difference between Zulus and Indians, we are all humans. (Daily News 2013) Barely “a day had passed when another attempt was made to tar the Indian community with the Gupta brush” by the Mazibuye African Forum (Pather 2013: 3).
2. Mazibuye African Forum Not much is known about the Mazibuye African Forum (MAF). It was apparently established on 30 January 2013, with 1,500 members (Munusamy 2013: 1). According to its founder, Zweli Sangweni, its primary aim was to restrict the economic opportunities of South African Indians who were a minority and did not share their wealth and skills with Africans: Indians may make up a small percentage of the population in KZN, but they control the province. Even in the townships, they own a majority
Brij Maharaj of the stores and businesses. They employ casual African workers, but this is all they will be. Many Indians do not share their skills to uplift others and this is a sad reality. . . . They do not share their wealth and knowledge. They have a system that is closed, and Africans cannot get into this system. (Soobramoney 2013: 3)
The MAF’s spokesperson, Phumlani Mfeka, who claimed that he was President Zuma’s nephew (Du Plessis, Groenewald, and Ngcukana 2013), similarly argued that the economic dominance of Indians has been the key reasons for hostile relations with Africans: Africans were dispossessed, massacred and oppressed. Indians were discriminated against; thus the two struggles were different, which explains why the Indian struggle has ended and the African struggle continues to this day. Since it is clear Indians long had economic superiority to Africans, we are mystified they are grouped with Africans as previously disadvantaged. They benefit extensively from BEE, affirmative action and employment equity, and this draws the focus on the Indian community. (Naran 2013a:1) In an obvious reference to the Gupta saga, the MAF stated Indian businessmen had abused the offce of the president and besmirched his name and that of South Africa to pursue their selfsh interests: The relationship between some Indian business individuals and our president is one that leaves much to be desired. These business individuals have abused and misused the president’s name to advance their own selfish interests. This has created a serious and bad image of our president and country as a whole, taking into account that the ANC is voted for by Africans. (Memela and Nair 2013: 6) After an interview with him, the editor of the City Press newspaper, Ferial Haffajee, stated that if Phumlani Mfeka wore a uniform, he could be compared to Idi Amin or the Interahamwe militia: Amin was Uganda’s crazed leader who sent its entire Asian merchant class packing, while the Interahamwe were the shock troops of the Rwandan genocide. . . . Who knows what motivates genocidaires, ethnic cleansers and racists? It’s usually a cocktail of bile, mixed in with unmet expectations and poverty – either of thought, stomach or opportunity. (Haffajee 2013: 25)
The NRI Gupta Waterkloof landing
Phumlani Mfeka subsequently wrote an open letter to Afzul Rehman emphasising that he was an Indian from India, that he should return to that country, and that there was no place for him in South Africa, which was exclusively for Africans: I penned this letter . . . in the interests of . . . giving you a free, but stern, warning not to grandstand against an African person in the way you did to the traffic official. . . . First and foremost, you are an Indian and, contrary to what you believe . . . South Africa is an African country with its land in its totality and proportion rightfully belonging to its indigenous African people. . . . Indians . . . have been unequivocally racist towards Africans from the time they were brought here by the British. . . . Your hero, Mahatma Gandhi, once again rallied Indians to fight alongside the British in the Zulu Rebellion. . . . Africans in this province do not regard Indians as their brethren and thus the ticking time bomb of a deadly confrontation between the two communities is inevitable. . . . India is your home, and you should perhaps begin to embrace India as your home as we Africans embrace South Africa as our home, which we are more than willing to fight and die for. . . . Your attitude reminds us of the very same attitude that the super-racist Gandhi had towards Africans. His existence, as with that of many other Indians of the Indian Congress, in itself was an offence to Africans. (Mfeka 2013: 25) Mayor Rehman replied that he was a fourth-generation South African of Indian descent who supported the ANC as follows: I see myself as a South African first and then secondly as a person of Indian origin whose roots in South Africa can be traced back four generations. I am a mayor who belongs to the African National Congress and have been elected as such because the majority of people in Newcastle voted for the ANC. . . . I understand and acknowledge that South Africa remains plagued with issues of prejudice and stereotypes. It is clear that [Mfeka] does not fully understand the history of Indians in this country and the role they have played to bring democracy to South Africa. (Munusamy 2013: 1) There was a public response to the MAF outburst from Kay Sexwale, a person of African descent and a media and communications strategist. While acknowledging historical incidents of prejudice and racism, Sexwale contended that the MAF was attempting to recreate the divisions of apartheid and compared Phumlani Mfeka to Idi Amin of Uganda. She referred to the “Doctors’ Pact” in 1947 signed by Dr AB Xuma, president of the ANC,
Dr GM Naicker, president of the Natal Indian Congress, and Dr YM Dadoo of the Transvaal Indian Congress, an epochal moment in the struggle for a non-racial democracy in South Africa. She accused Mfeka of “Indophobia” and also quoted the Freedom Charter, which stated that South Africa belongs to all who live in it. Also, South Africans were united in our disgust at their (Guptas) illegal sense of entitlement . . . the Guptas have helped your sideshow, I get that, but dare I say you and that family are a threat to non-racialism in our young democracy, and the thinking public will not stand by and watch silently. (Sexwale 2013: 25) 3. South African Indian reactions There was concern that the controversy surrounding the Gupta wedding had the potential to impact South African Indians negatively. Veteran journalist Dennis Pather aptly summed up the views of the average South African Indian on the Gupta affair: The question that most local Indians are asking is: Why should an entire community, whose proud history in this country dates back over 150 years, be sucked into an unsavory affair which is not of their making? (Pather 2013: 14) Advocate Kessie Naidu, senior counsel in the high court and a friend of President Zuma since 1988, appealed to him to cut off all ties with the Guptas and their shenanigans and terminate their links at all levels of government. A major concern was tarnishing the image of local Indians: I fear that there is the very real possibility that self-respecting and incorruptible Indians in our country might be tarnished by the same dirty brush. You can be assured that every self-respecting South African Indian rejects the antics of the Guptas. (Naidu 2013: 21) He warned ominously that those associated with the Waterkloof landing were unfortunate slaves to the notion that the Guptas are closely connected with President Zuma – a perception that is not only irresistible, but manifestly inescapable. . . . If you don’t watch out, Mr President, the Guptas will shortly be telling you and the ANC how to run this country. (Naidu 2013: 21) Visvin Reddy, chairperson of the ANC branch in Chatsworth (a predominantly Indian public housing group area), was concerned that South African Indians were being labelled as “Guptas”:
The NRI Gupta Waterkloof landing
Their lavish lifestyle gives the impression all South Africans of Indian origin have an advantage. . . . It must be stressed the Guptas and opportunistic businessmen do not represent all Indians, who are mostly third generation South Africans. (Naran 2013b:1) 4. Political responses The Democratic Alliance (DA) called on the MAF to stop attacking the Indian community: “These constant racial attacks against innocent people can no longer be tolerated in our society and we call on the MAF to re-focus their energies on building unity in our society instead of sowing discord and hatred” (Hoosen 2013: 1). The DA was also concerned that the MAF claimed to be part of the ANC. According to Haniff Hoosen, DA KZN provincial chairman: In a recent written discussion between the MAF’s Phumlani Mfeka and myself, he confirmed that he and other leaders of MAF are members of the ANC and receive the full backing of the ANC and the Umkhonto we Sizwe Veterans. This is extremely concerning and I question the motive of the ANC in this racial campaign driven by MAF. If the ANC is serious about building a united South Africa then now is the time for them to act and expel these racist elements from our society. (Hoosen 2013: 1) On 21 June 2013, the ANC met with the MAF. The ANC released a press statement which emphasised that the it is “not anti-Indian and it is not associated with the forum’s campaign against Indians”. Furthermore, “any member of the ANC who subscribes to the views of Mazibuye African Forum is defning himself or herself outside the constitution and policy position of the ANC”. The ANC emphasised that the MAF is not part of the political organisation and that the party remained committed to opposing chauvinism and racism: The ANC wants to make it clear that the campaign against Indians is nothing but a divisive and chauvinistic approach that could end up pitting our people against each other. As the ANC we invoke the spirit of the Freedom Charter which says that South Africa belongs to all who live in it. We distance ourselves from this campaign and we will not tolerate the use of the name of our movement to further the objectives that are detrimental to the unity of the people of South Africa.1 The Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) also condemned the anti-Indian discourse of the MAF, which it attributed to the antics of the Guptas: The IFP condemns in the strongest terms the racist utterances that have emanated from a group calling itself the Mazibuye African Forum
Brij Maharaj represented by Mr Phumlani Mfeka. Our attempts to give true meaning to our Rainbow Nation was dealt another blow with a series of antiIndian comments and articles that surfaced recently, which effectively warned South African Indians to “vacate this country”. These remarks came in the wake of the Guptagate scandal and must be seen within the context thereof. The problem, however, remains one in which an entire segment of the population is blamed for the possible actions of a few.2
According to Reggie Ngcobo, KZN convener of the newly launched (July 2013) Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), the party was allied with the MAF and similarly questioned the dominance of Indians in the KZN economy: Indians must be prepared to share the economy in KwaZulu-Natal with Africans. As the EFF in this province we are working with Mazibuye Africa Forum, which is questioning the dominance of Indians in the KZN economy. We are not in any formal relationship or marriage. We don’t have a problem with Indians, but we are simply saying that they must be prepared to share the economy with Africans in KZN. (Ngqulunga and Magubane 2013: 1) Perhaps it is not surprising that in recent years, the leadership of the EFF has engaged in a sustained attack against South Africa Indians, accusing them of being corrupt and racist (Maharaj 2018).
Conclusion In the colonial and post-colonial eras, the Indian diaspora has raised questions of political integration and belonging: “Were they partial citizens, or pariah citizens, permanent minorities, or resident aliens? Or were they simply excluded by race/culture from the possibilities of citizenship altogether? What political rights did their economic contribution confer?” (Koshy 2008: 4). Tinker (1977: 138–139) questioned whether Indians were “scapegoats, singled out for victimization because their adopted country (or its government) needs an alibi for poor performance in the national sphere”. These questions were especially relevant to PIOs in SA, the world’s youngest democracy. This chapter used the case of the NRI Gupta Waterkloof landing to analyse challenges relating to political integration of PIOs who were third-, fourth-, and fifth-generation descendants of indentured labourers in SA, especially in terms of citizenship in South Africa. Anecdotal evidence from South Africa suggests that interaction between PIOs and NRIs is limited because of the NRI obsession with caste, the disappearance of this form of stratification in most regions of indenture over time, the PIOs’ inability to precisely locate their geographical roots in India, and their failure to speak Indian languages (with the former referring pejoratively to the latter as Yeh gana kaatne walo kya jante hai – what do these
The NRI Gupta Waterkloof landing
cane cutters know). Notwithstanding this wide chasm, the actions of the Guptas have had serious negative consequences for political integration of PIOs in South Africa. It was clear from the various transgressions of the Guptas, especially the Waterkloof landing, that they believed that they were invincible. The government investigation into this matter was at best superficial and intended to protect President Zuma and the Guptas. While the outrageous antics of this NRI family were roundly condemned, Thlabi (2013: 19) contended that the Guptas “are guilty only of positioning themselves and taking advantage of the comforts afforded to them. It would seem that their powerful friends in the government are fawning over them, willing to sell their souls and the country”. The average South African in Soweto, Umlazi, or Inanda would equate the shocking antics of the Guptas, their vulgar flaunting of their wealth, and the alleged caste-/race-based discrimination by their guests at Sun City with that of all South Africans of Indian descent, which if left unchecked has the potential to adversely impact the political integration of the minority community. The nature of social formation in the colonial and apartheid eras resulted in the differential, hierarchical incorporation of the various ethnic groups. PIOs in SA were perceived by the majority indigenous group as benefitting from this situation, primarily because they occupied a “middleman” role (Bonacich 1973; Min 2013). In the late 1970s, social anthropologist Hilda Kuper argued that, like Jews in other countries, Indians were being used as “scapegoats” by the dominant ethnic groups: Sufficiently wealthy to serve as a bait for greed, too few to be feared and, in the main, ideologically opposed to counter aggression with physical violence, their ethnic difference and cultural diversity serve as excuses for discrimination and oppression. (The Star, 4/6/79) One possible reason for the anti-Indian hype was that when Africans compare their material standards with that of minority communities, they find themselves seriously disadvantaged. . . . When the majority community is beset by want, anxiety, dissatisfaction and fear, it tends to exhibit a lack of compassion and tolerance for minorities. It may become dangerously hostile when the minority community next to it . . . is prospering and on the rise socially, economically and politically. (Meer 2000: 59) As Desai and Vahed (2017) have argued, the actions of the Guptas have serious consequences for Indian-African confict and political integration, especially in the province of KwaZulu-Natal. This was illustrated in this chapter
with reference to the MAF and its anti-Indian vitriol, which was compared to Idi Amin. Signifcantly, the major political parties, civil society groups, and media houses condemned the anti-Indian attacks from the MAF. For South African Indians, the attacks from the MAF are a wake-up call. In its 1948 election manifesto, the National Party argued that the Indians were foreigners who cannot be assimilated in South Africa and should be repatriated to India. It would appear that the MAF is trying to succeed where the NP failed. The present state of affairs is not a bad dream that will simply go away. The various deprecatory comments and racial slurs may well be an appropriate warning to the South African Indian community to awaken and arise from its apathetic slumber. Racism continues to bedevil South Africa 25 years after the historic democratic elections. As the South African transition fails to deliver on its promises, so the search for scapegoats will begin.
Notes 1 Statement issued by Senzo Mkhize, ANC KZN Spokesperson, 21 June 2013. 2 Statement on the Anti-Indian Mazibuye African Forum by Mr Narend Singh, National Assembly: 20 June 2013.
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Dualities in integration
Transnational identity and political integration in Trinidad and Tobago Susan Julia Chand and David T Chand
Introduction The twin islands of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago present a diverse geographical, demographical and political landscape, distinguishing them from their neighbouring Caribbean countries. Geographically, Trinidad and Tobago form the last isles in the Caribbean archipelago and are located about 14 kilometres from Venezuela in South America. Like its neighbouring countries, Suriname and Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago are composed of two largest ethnic groups, the Indo-Trinidadians, also known as East Indians (35.4%), and Africans (34.2%). However, it is a more mixed population than Suriname and Guyana. Persons of ‘mixed heritage’ have increased from 20.5% in 2000 to 22.8% in 2011 (Central Statistical Office 2011: 2, 15–16; National Census Report 2000: 24). Common mixtures in Trinidad and Tobago are found between European and African descent (termed ‘mulattos’), East Indian and African descent (termed ‘Dougla’) (Regis 2011: 1); others are between Indigenous groups (Caribs and Arawak) and East Indians or Africans; and Hispanic descent from Spanish-speaking Caribbean and Latin America and East Indians or Africans (Crosson 2014: 25). The political landscape of Trinidad and Tobago has been marked by ethnic-based parties. Although, the Afro-based political party, the People’s National Movement (PNM), has been in power for 30 years since the country’s independence in 1962, a coalition government with strong Indian support, National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR), led the country in 1986. In 1995, for the first time, a prime minister of Indian descent was elected through the Indian-led party, United National Congress (UNC), forming an alliance with NAR. Subsequently, in 2010, the first woman prime minister, again of Indian descent and the leader of UNC, led a multi-ethnic coalition party, the People’s Partnership (PP), comprising five political parties, to form the government (Ryan 1997; Meighoo 2010; Rampersad 2014). Despite the cultural mixing and hybridity, political integration of people of Indian descent poses a challenge, particularly when their transnational identity and political parties are anchored on religious affiliation. Affinity to religious groups among Indo-Trinidadians is so pronounced that these
88 Susan Julia Chand and David T Chand are reflected in their voting patterns, favouring either the Afro-led PNM, the Indo-based UNC alliance or, more recently, the People’s Partnership. The major religions East Indians follow are Hinduism and Islam. However, a number of East Indians have been converting to Christianity over the years (Central Statistical Office 2011: 17). This chapter presents religion as a dominant marker of transnational identity of East Indians in Trinidad and its influential role in their political integration in the African-dominated society. As a transnational identity, religion is viewed as the cultural-national identification that promotes ‘coherence within and separation without’ and ‘serves to strengthen a group’s feeling of solidarity and communal spirit’ (Mol 1986: 71; Baumann 2004b: 172). In Trinidad, distinct religious-cum-ethnic groups exist, like Indian Muslims, Indian Presbyterians, African Catholics and African Anglicans, members of Afro-Catholic and Indo-Catholic syncretic religions and Chinese and Portuguese Catholics, to name a few (Vertovec 2000: 86). Furthermore, most of the Hindus are Indians in Trinidad. Apart from being an ethnic group identifier, religion is also perceived as instrumental in group’s integration into the political spaces of society. Political integration in this context is seen as the religious-based ethnic group’s access and ability to appeal to political rights, privileges and legal provisions of the host country (Brubaker 2004). The chapter is divided into two major sections. The first section deals with the transnational identity of Indian-ness from the perspectives of Hindu, Muslim and Christian Indians. The discussion in this section exemplifies that Indo-Trinidadians are not a homogeneous group, as envisioned by the some of the Caribbean scholars in the literature (Puri 2004; Munasinghe 2006; Raghunandan 2012: 4), but heterogeneous along religious affiliations. The second section historically traces East Indians’ political integration. It specifically addresses issues relating to Hindu, Muslim and Christian integration in mainstream society. The chapter will conclude with a brief discussion on the redefinition/reconceptualization of ‘political integration’ in the context of Trinidad and Tobago’s diverse ethnic and religious milieu.
Theoretical considerations: transnational identity and political integration The major concepts discussed in this chapter are religion as a transnational identity, the concept of ‘Indian-ness’ and religious factors for political integration among Indo-Trinidadians. The concept of ‘transnationalism’ was developed in the early 1990s when anthropologists noticed intense interactions between sending and receiving countries of international migrants (Glick Schiller, Basch, and Blanc-Szanton 1992). It is viewed as a social phenomenon rooted in history with economic and political linkages (Guarnizo and Smith 1998; Ercan-Argun 2003). These linkages are evident in the ways transnational immigrants construct their lives across borders (between home and host) and create and engage in economic, social, political and cultural
Integration in Trinidad and Tobago
activities of the host country and are integrated into it as well (Zirh 2005: 69; Snel, Engbersen, and Leerkes 2006; Mombrol 2016). Additionally, among transnational migrants, religious belongingness is perceived as valuable and has often persisted even though cultural features like marriage patterns, diet, dress and home language have diminished (Pocock 1976) and serves as ‘a vital marker of group’s identity’ (Baumann 2004b: 170). In contemporary times, religion is thought of as ‘a private affair and not a driving force in group’s significant symbol system of identification, demarcation and support’ (ibid.: 172). Contrarily, religion has reinforced ‘cultural particularity’ and a ‘shared identity’ whenever migrants have confronted racial and social discrimination (ibid.). Nationalist sentiments are also reinforced through religion by invoking a call to unity of all that belong to the particular tradition, as in the case of Japan’s Shinto religion (Beyers 2015). The second concept pertains to ‘Indian-ness’. Defining Indian-ness is a tough case for any scholar given the fact that India has ‘deeply embedded hierarchies and a very considerable degree of internal cultural variation’ (Eriksen 2010:192). However, Indian-ness can be explained in terms of Moerman’s description of Lue people as someone who ‘by the virtue of believing and calling himself as Lue and of acting in ways that validate his Lueness’ (1965:1219). This self-perception of one’s ethnic attribute or character is what Moerman terms as ‘emic ascription’, looking at oneself from the insider’s perspective. Also, the concept of ‘Indianness’ is an attribute of being an ‘Indian’ or of Indian culture and is manifested through various cultural, linguistic, and social behaviours (Pereira and Malik 2015). Intertwined with the concept of Indian-ness is religion as an ethnic/transnational identity. Being affiliated with a religious group provides a sense of identity and connectedness with the members of the same group who share the same religious beliefs and practices. Studies in diasporic religion grew out of scholarly interest in diasporas as a whole (Clarke, Peach, and Vertovec 1990; Levitt 2002; Wuthnow and Offutt 2008). These studies recognized the expanding influence of social, economic and political life transcending national boundaries and cultures and that individuals assume multiple identities and loyalties, creating cultures using elements from various settings. Political integration, on the other hand, is projected as Neofunctionalist theory of integration; it is a complex term that includes both a process and a status (Illievski 2015); it is subjective and multi-paradigmatic in nature (Crubellate 2007) and takes place when ‘no national sovereignty is pooled or transferred, when institutional framework is purely intergovernmental and generally based on unanimity’ (Castaldi 2007: 37). Traditionally, political integration has been defined as ‘the process of bringing together culturally and socially discrete groups into a single territorial unit and the establishment of a national identity, . . . the “integrative behaviour”, referring to the capacity of people in a society to organise for some common purpose’ (Haokip 2011: 222). However, applying the models of political integration from the Western world to the Caribbean has been challenging. For example, the Neofunctional perspective and spill-over effect
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applied in the European Union (EU) context (Illievski 2015) are deemed non-functional in the Caribbean community (CARICOM)’s or the Caribbean single market and economy (CSME)’s supranational structures due to ‘failed attempts at political unity’ and the fact that ‘national sovereignty is still guarded suspiciously’(Alleyne 2007: 2). Recently, Caribbean scholars and those engaged in Caribbean studies have approached political integration from various angles, keeping in mind the geographical, demographic and sociocultural dynamics of each country in the region (Baumann 2004a; Samaroo and Bissessar 2004; Alleyne 2007; Eriksen 2007; Safran, Sahoo, and Lal 2009; Meighoo 2010; Reddy 2011; Regis 2011; Gowricharn 2013). Finally, pertaining to the role of religion in the lives of immigrants, it has generated the interest of many scholars recently (Vázquez and Friedmann 2003; Hondagneu-Sotelo 2008; Irazábal and Dyrness 2010). In case where immigrant communities faced struggles, religiosity provided a platform for the mobilization of empowerment of supporters and organizations that transformed the national political climate relating to immigration reform (Kotin, Dyrness, and Irazábal 2011). The role of religion in regional integration processes has linked democratization process with values like peace, safety, stability, prosperity, environmental protection and respect of human rights, widely shared by all faiths and religious traditions (Schmidt-Leukel 2010; Haynes 2011; Giordano 2014). Religious communities are also seen as effective partners in implementing government policies, and both religious and political discourses touch upon deep human concerns and are emotionally driven (Beyers 2015).
Transnational identity of Indo-Trinidadians The very term Indo-Trinidadians or East Indians ascribed to Persons of Indian Origin indicates their distinct ethnic identity compared to other racial or ethnic groups in Trinidad and Tobago. However, Indo-Trinidadians are not a homogenous ethnic group, as various scholars have described in their works. The first arrivals of Indians as indentured labourers were from various religious groups, castes, economic classes and geographical regions in India. About 85% of the 147,592 indentured labourers were Hindus, 15% were Muslims and 0.1% were Christians (Vertovec 2000: 44). The Hindus represented different castes (Brahmanas, Kshatriyas, Bhumihars, Rajputs and Thakurs), as well as socioeconomic classes (farmers, cow-herders, artisans, fishermen and boatmen). The low-caste migrants, mostly Chamaras and Sudras, came from South India (Jayaram 2006; Mohanty 2014: 86), and about 90% came from the North Indian states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Orissa and West Bengal (and neighbouring Bangladesh) (Brereton 1985: 21; Edmonds and Gonzalez 2010: 178). Today, the Indo-Trinidadian communities are distinguished based on their religious affiliations. Caste groups have almost disappeared, and social class is prominent among the rural (farmers and fishermen) and urban
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(professionals, businessmen, academicians, politicians, government officials, employees in public and private sectors) communities. In this chapter, the terms East Indians, Indo-Trinidadians and Indians will be used interchangeably. The term Indo-Trinidadian is a recent one used more in the post-independence era; however, government reports still use the term ‘East Indians’ (for example, in population census forms), but in conversation and literature by Trinidadian scholars, I noticed, they use the term ‘Indians’. In this section, we examine the different perspectives on Indian-ness expressed by the three dominant religious groups among East Indians: Hindus, Muslims and Christians. These perspectives are based on personal interviews with the fourth and fifth generations of East Indians in Trinidad and focus group discussions. The sample was composed of 27 interviewees representing all three religious groups drawn from predominantly East Indian communities of the central, south and east-west corridor of Trinidad. The sampling techniques employed were purposive and snowballing. Interviews of six prominent community members, like religious leaders and former government officials, were also included. Two focus group discussions were conducted with four to six members in each belonging to mixed ethnic groups.
Hindu perspective on ‘Indian-ness’ The concept of ‘Indian-ness’ for Hindus is associated with Hinduism. They consider the Hindu way of life distinct from Muslim or Christian. A Hindu respondent stated that, ‘Hinduism and Indian-ness were same initially. However, when the Canadian missionaries came and brought the Presbyterian with them, they rejected Indian culture and associated it with Hinduism’ (Interview 001, June 2017). Moreover, ‘during 1950s and 60s, it was a lowly thing to be an Indian, they were not recognized as someone of status in the community and that conversion to Christianity gave them status to the society and jobs in public services’ (ibid.). A lot of the respondents’ peers were Christians in public but Hindus in private. They carried on with their poojas (Hindu worship) at homes. Scholars like Crowley (1957), Klass (1961), Vertovec (1999), Singh (1993) and Cudjoe (2010) have examined the dualism of the ethnic identity among Indo-Trinidadians. Sacredness and devotion to the deities are zealously espoused by Hindus. A Hindu respondent stated that, ‘My day begins with cleaning my prayer room. . . . I wash Krishna, Shiva, Hanuman. . . . I also have a statue of Mother Mary and wash [her] too. . . . I then wipe them, put flowers and burn the incense sticks. . . . I pray for all my family, my health’ (Interview 002 June 2017). The respondent’s devotion to Mother Mary was with equal reverence as with the other Hindu deities. Another respondent expressed that, ‘I am open to all religions and Jesus has a special place in my prayer room’ (Interview 010 June 2018). Display of cleanliness was another distinctive feature of Hindus. A Hindu respondent stated that, ‘Cleanliness was utmost in Hindu homes and
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as young children, we were not allowed to bring our footwear inside the house’ (Interview 001 June 2017). This practice is evident till today. Even non-Indians entering a Hindu home will remove their footwear as a sign of respect for the Indian tradition. Another feature observed was the enculturation of children along Hindu traditional practices. ‘Even though most of the children growing up did not understand the significance of the traditional practices, they kept up with it as much as possible. Adhering to Hinduism gave grounding to their cultural heritage of their homeland’ (Interview 001 June 2017). She observed that, ‘There is need to distil into more spiritual journey rather than mere practices . . . only then the whole humanity can be uplifted. We need to move away from rules and regulations and look for cosmic reasons . . . need to find the truth in order to move to a higher dimension of spiritual self’ (ibid.). This view was also expressed by members in a group discussion, ‘Today, pundits are providing contextual understanding of the kathas (readings from the sacred books like Ramayana, Bhagwat Gita, and Hanuman Chalisa), giving rational meanings to the rituals and also resolving conflicts among the pundits’ (group discussion, April 2017). Scholars believe that pundits engaging in religious discourse with their devotees in the temple is a combination of the ‘Brahminization of Hinduism’ as described by Vertovec (2000: 53), ‘Sanskritization’ elucidated by Srinivas (1956: 93) and Christian congregational worship, which have more appeal to Indians in the Western Christiancentred environment (Prorok 2003; Persaud 2013; Samaroo 2015). In many Hindu temples across the country, congregational worship on Sunday mornings is common. Pundits read from the religious texts and derive moral lessons that apply to the devotees’ daily life. In the past, temple spaces were used for political meetings by Hindu political leaders (Baumann 2004a). The previous accounts illustrate that Hindus relate to their Indianness with Hinduism. Their ethnic boundaries are defined by their religion or the Hindu way of life. However, fluidity is seen in a dual identity among converted Hindus in the inclusion of Christian deities, ascribing equal devotion and reverence to those at the household level and congregational temple worship reminiscent of Christian worship.
Christian perspectives on ‘Indian-ness’ A Christian respondent stated, ‘Indian identity is more associated with religious beliefs and practices than cultural or national ones . . . so the moment an East Indian becomes a Christian, he/she ceases with practicing religious and social components linked with Indian nationality’ (Interview 007, August 2017). Christian churches in early years had a set of taboos for East Indian converts. There were taboos relating to attending/participating in Hindu rituals, commemorating death anniversaries or birthday celebrations, wearing Indian ethnic wear, and eating parsad (Hindu sweet offerings to idols). Following his conversion to Christianity, the respondent adopted
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a vegetarian diet as part of the Church doctrines on health. His siblings would deliberately cook rice with pork for lunch to punish him for being a Christian. On a number of occasions, he had to forgo his special lunch after church. A Hindu respondent concurred, ‘When my aunts converted to Christianity, they would not participate in the pooja (Hindu prayers) nor partake of the parsad or food in public but will visit the family and eat the prepared meals with them after a couple of days or eat in private’ (Interview 001, June 2017). At least one of her Christian uncles and aunts attended the death anniversary of their elder brother and cooked a meal for the guests, demonstrating the significance of family ties transcending religious taboos or beliefs. A Christian respondent added that ‘wearing an Indian dress and eating parsad were taboo in Christian churches’. These were adhered to avoid ‘weak brethren from stumbling’ (1 Corinthians 8:9), quoting from the Bible. He explained that observing the Indian Arrival Day in church was taboo, as this was celebrated in Hindu temples across the country. Musical instruments associated with Hindu worship like the harmonium, tabla (Indian drums), and cymbals are not accepted in Christian church worship. However, playing of the steelpan (national musical instrument), once a taboo, is now accepted in the churches. Also, being a Christian elicited negative behaviours from the respondent’s Hindu neighbours, ‘being a Christian and an Indian, I was called “Nigger” by the Hindus. My mother being a Presbyterian Christian was viewed as an outcaste when dressed in Western attire’ (Interview 004, August 2017). In this light, anthropologist Morton Klass notes that ‘to become a Christian is, in the eyes of the Hindu Trinidad Indians, to move away from their ethnic group and to begin the immersion in non-Indian culture that may end with intermarriage and obliteration of all distinctions (Murray 2015: 163). Another respondent highlighted that, ‘being amidst the population even though Indians, we did not keep up with the Indian culture and blended with others’. This respondent’s parents were Presbyterian Christians. He further stated that, ‘Everyone was Presbyterian on the hill . . . Indian music was not prominent in the church but food was must . . . sada roti, dosti roti, paratha (flatbreads) . . . kitchen utensils have all Hindu names – shimbta (tongs), phukni (blow pipe), tava (baking stone), soop (winnow)’ (Interview 008, September 2017). However, according to him, Hindi bhajans (devotional songs) were sung in the Indian settlement where he resided. The English hymnal The Great Physician was translated into Hindi and sung in Presbyterian churches – a contextualization of the western within the eastern (Indian) culture. The respondent’s wife stated that Diwali in the Indian settlement was celebrated by all Indians – Hindus and Christians. ‘Diwali was celebrated with food and parsad but no deyas (clay oil lamps) . . . community looked out for food . . . invited people to come over’ (Interview 009, September 2017). For Christian Indians, church beliefs and practices regulated their daily lives, and taboos were observed where Indian cultural elements were
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identified with Hinduism. However, Christian relatives in Hindu households participated in Hindu religious rituals, signifying family ties as an important unifying factor against church-imposed taboos. Strong solidarity was maintained among the Indians, whether Hindus or Christians, and all participated in each other’s religious celebrations. Indian-ness was seen in the use of Hindi names for food and kitchen utensils. Also, church hymnals were contextualized to reflect the Indian element in Western worship. On Indians’ conversion to Christianity, historian Arthur Niehoff observed that Indian openness to Presbyterians was more to obtain an education, while their conversion to Catholicism and Anglicanism was their desire to be assimilated into the society and as an opportunity to ‘undoubtedly raise their social status’, respectively (Murray 2015: 150–151). Singh (2011: 223–224) noted that the Pentecostals, during the latter half of the 20th century, were aggressive in their approach to Hindus while publically condemning their practices and beliefs as ‘essentially heathen’ (Doodnath 1983; Murray 2015: 151).
Muslim perspectives on ‘Indian-ness’ Muslim Indo-Trinidadians maintain their cultural heritage in terms of their traditional dress, hijab worn by women. They uphold the core foundational principle of Islam hinging on ‘brotherhood’. One of the Muslim respondents stated, ‘going to Haaj bring the entire brotherhood together. This universal brotherhood transcends any geographical boundaries pinning people down to their homeland. Two persons can be more close and not be blood relation . . . it is universal to have a brother and not be blood relation’ (Interview 005, August 2017). He elaborated that, ‘The way you pattern your life is based on your religious practices and passed on to the children. Culture and nationality are not driving forces in Islam . . . it occupies a low status in the hierarchy’. He sees himself as a Trinidadian and assumes that his grandparents would have been closer to the Indian heritage than his generation. The Indian culture he associates with is food and television shows. However, he believes that through the celebrations of Diwali and Eid, Indian culture is alive. These views are concurred with by non-Muslim respondents, ‘Muslims appreciate their Indian heritage but will not intentionally plan or initiate any Indian cultural events like Indian Arrival Day’ (Interview 014, October 2018). ‘They consider religion as separate from ethnicity’ (Interview 013, April 2018). ‘More associated with the Islamic brotherhood than with India as their motherland . . . Muslims lean towards “Arabic” identity’ (Interview 015, October 2018). The Muslim population in Trinidad and Tobago has increased by 1.6% from 64,648 (2000) to 65,705 (Central Statistical Office 2011). The Indian Muslim population has been fairly stable since their arrival. Though the pattern of conversion of the Muslims to other faiths is unknown, historian Brinsley Samaroo (1988: 10) deems that ‘it was historically difficult to convert Muslims to Christianity in Trinidad because of the strong legacy of
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cultural resistance that had developed through their experiences with British authority and Christian Missionary groups in India’. Kassim (2017: 6) aptly describes Indo-Trinidadian Muslims as inhabiting ‘a space influenced by local social customs and practices, western/secular thought and Islam and as such, they are forced to juxtapose their Muslim/Islamic identity with that Trinidadian and western identity or set aside their Muslim/Islamic identity and be Trinidadian and western or find some middle ground with which they are comfortable’.
Religious transnationalism and political integration of Indo-Trinidadians When Indians came to Trinidad, they found themselves outside the Eurocentric political system developed by the British colonists and later outside the Afro-centric political infrastructure established by the emancipated Africans. In this context, political integration into mainstream society has been challenging for early Indian immigrants and has continued among the succeeding generations. This section deals with the beginnings of Indian communities in the post-indentureship period and the interrelationships between religious affiliations and politics of the Hindus, Muslims, and Christians during this era.
Emergence of Indian communities: carving space in the New Land The indentureship period displayed resiliency to outside culture and religion, strong group identity, and adherence to Indian-ness by the Indian immigrants. However, in the post-indentureship period, the Indian nationalist identity transitioned towards being a transnational one. With their resident status being permanent now, Indians as well as their children born locally began to regard Trinidad as their homeland. In the 1880s and 1890s, free Indians moved away from the deteriorating conditions on the estates to agricultural lands (Brereton 1981: 108). They soon formed their own villages, building houses, engaging in agriculture, and re-creating the same environment they had in India. They were already granted 5–10 acres of Crown lands between 1869 and 1880 in lieu of free passage to India (Brereton 1985: 27–28; Vertovec 1999: 20). ‘Encouraged by their ownership of a piece of Trinidad they began the task of building a society in their new land’ (Gooptar 2015: 213). Though the visibility of the Hindu caste system had blurred and all Indians in Trinidad were seen as one homogenous mass, the Hindu–Muslim division was prominent. The divide was not in a negative sense but demonstrated the heterogeneity in the composition of the Indian community. According to one of the Hindu respondents from central Trinidad, ‘Hindus and Muslims shared a social bond and communal feeling with each other’ (Interview 010,
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June 2018). Furthermore, a Hindu pundit mentioned that the Muslims of Charlieville (central Trinidad) have always been part of the audience in an open-air theatre, Ramlila, since its inception in the 1860s (interview, March 2015). In this light, Rampersad (2013: 30) observed that ‘It was not uncommon to find Hindus, Muslims and Christians coming together to host and support each other’s cultural expressions. Ram Lila was one such performance that brought them all together, even if some participants were not devotee’. East Indians regarded education as highly desirable. However, their children were not admitted to schools run by Christians unless they were converted to Christianity. Government grants were not made available for them and were exclusively for Christian denominations. Yet Hindus and Muslims were supportive of each other and strongly resisted Christian conversion. The pundits, moulvis, and imams played a critical role in providing psychological upliftment through their religious teachings and guiding principles of life. These boosted their self-worth and resiliency in the face of societal contempt. In addition to religious leaders, parents were instrumental in seeking avenues for their children’s academic achievement. According to one of the respondents, ‘In 1960s, pre-Independence period, people had a little window to go abroad for study opportunities . . . from mid 50s to 70s, Indian parents sent their children abroad – became professors, doctors, lawyers, now running the government’ (Interview 004, August 2017). Another respondent added that ‘yes, they (parents) will not eat a lavish meal, but they will save their money, whatever they got from the sugar plantations and put them towards their children’s education, send them abroad and so on’ (Interview 019, November 2018). Although Canadian missionaries intervened and provided education through Presbyterian schools to the children of East Indians, their intervention was not well received. This is narrated by one of the respondents as: Canadian Missionaries . . . a lot of Indians they forced them to renounce their Hinduism and become Presbyterians. . . . So when my fore-parents from my father’s side, I heard, did not come as indentured labourers, they came as teachers because they were educated people. So the Presbyterian Church by the hill near the cemetery, my great grandfather was a teacher there. They said he was very educated man but of course he was Presbyterian, you know, so they kind of imposed their religion on Indians, so the Indians had to renounce their religion what they came with them. (Interview 019, November 2018) Another respondent stated that, though some Muslims went to Christian schools, they carried their Muslim names with them, did not change their names as Hindus did.
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Hindus on the other hand, had changed their names to get government jobs and move higher in the social ladder, like Randolph, Selwyn, and so on. Hindus went to Presbyterian schools and Canadian missionaries worked among them for conversion . . . but in their private homes, Hinduism was practiced. (Interview 010, June 2018) The example was seen in the respondent’s own life. He has continued to be a Hindu but had all his schooling in Presbyterian school. By the 1950s, Hindu-sponsored schools were opened through the efforts of Badase Sagan Maharaj, founder of Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha (SDMS). Extended visits by Indian missionaries, Swamis, increased interest in Hinduism on the part of many young men. At the same time, the new schools built by the Maha Sabha introduced the teaching of Hindi and Sanskrit along with customary Western secular subjects (Encyclopedia of World Cultures 1996; Campbell 1985: 119). Similarly, the Muslim community established maktabs (elementary schools) and madrasas (centres of learning, whether school, college, or university, established for the teaching of Islam) where moulvis and imams imparted learning in Urdu and Arabic. These religious-based educational centres prepared students to excel in secular subject areas as well as expanding the younger generation’s knowledge of Islamic and Hindu teachings. Their children were able to compete with those of the upper-class whites and African creoles in securing higher education and respectable jobs. Integration into mainstream society was occurring through educational opportunities provided to Indian children in their religious-based schools. The Indian group identity was further fostered by the establishment of the East Indian Nation Association (EINA) in 1897 in response to an ordinance which infringed upon the rights of ‘free’ Indians. EINA later became one of the major Indian political organizations during the early 20th century, defending the interests of the East Indians in Trinidad and Tobago. According to Cudjoe (2010), by the 1890s, East Indians in newly established villages began forming a political force on the island. During this period, East Indians participated in mayoral politics and in the movement for constitutional change. Some of the prominent leaders elected to the office were Sarran Teelucksingh, F. E. M. Hosein, T. Roodal, and Adrian Cola Reinzi. Reinzi (formerly Krishna Deonarine Tiwari) rose to become the mayor of San Fernando (South Trinidad), a member of the legislative and executive councils, and an exemplar to thousands of youth in the country (Samaroo 2015: 131). Through these Indian leaders, Indians found prominence among the upper-class white, black, and coloured middle class as well as the workingclass creoles, mainly of African descent. Previously, they were separated from the rest of the population by culture, religion, race, legal restrictions, and their relatively late arrival (Brereton 1981: 116). However, a contrary view was expressed as: ‘In Trinidad and Tobago, white people were not enough to
98 Susan Julia Chand and David T Chand take over the wealth of the country . . . so mulattoes were brought in to run the affairs of the country. It was a strategy by British to separate one ethnic group from another. The ruling powers were with the whites, mulattoes and blacks. . . . Indians were not in picture . . . and the grouping of [the] mixture of people was down below’ (Interview 011, June 2018).
Religious affiliations and politics When constituted politics entered the system, the majority of Indians continued to live on estates and rural settlements, and few moved to urban areas like Port of Spain and San Fernando. The religious groups began to engage in the politics of the country through organized political parties and religious-based political movements and organizations. Though these movements were well founded on the interests of Indian communities, they were seen as major threats by the mainstream political parties. In this section, we view the religious-based political parties that contributed to the East Indians’ integration into the Afro-dominated society.
Hindu-based political parties Badase Sangan Maharaj was instrumental in forming a political movement, People’s Democratic Party (PDP), in 1953 to uphold Indian pride and fight for civil rights and justice. He also became the president of the Federation of Sugar Workers and Cane Farmers, which was the political arm of the Hindu community and the rural Indian masses. By 1955, it was the most powerful political organization in the country and identified as the major opponent to PNM. Although PNM claimed that it was not a party of any section but a national organization ‘cutting across race, religion, class and color, with emphasis on united action by all the people in the common cause’ (Brereton 1981: 234), it continued to work for the causes of the black masses. PDP, on the other hand, devoted its cause to the Indian masses. It was affiliated with the Maha Sabha (the major Hindu sect in the country). PNM portrayed PDP as a communal Hindu organization in the hope of causing a split between orthodox rural Hindus and secular-minded Hindus, Muslims, and Christian Indians. However, there was a very narrow victory for PNM (39% of the votes and 13 seats out of 24). The result of the 1956 campaign saw Muslims like Kamalludin Mohammed and Ibbit Mosahib and Christian Indians like Winston Mahabir given leadership positions in the PNM-led government. PNM succeeded in portraying the Indian-led parties as Hindu separatists and PNM as the allembracing one. According to a former government official, In 1956, the Indian population in the country was more than the Africans. Dr. Rudranath Kapil headed the Indian-based party and Dr. Eric Williams the African party. Dr. Williams had a PhD in history and understood what Africans like (they wanted money and to live free life).
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So he opened up jobs for Africans from small islands . . . they worked [for] little or nothing . . . kept them loyal . . . PNM won the elections by two seats. (Interview 010, June 2018) Despite this factor, most Hindus remained in the rural communities. Rural-based political parties were formed, like the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) in 1957 and later the Democratic Liberation Party under the leadership of Maraj. The DLP won the federal elections in March 1958. This defeat of the PNM made Dr. Williams appeal to the black population for racial counter-mobilization. The DLP was accused of using race and religion to obtain votes and creating Indian nationalism in the West Indian nation. The black population was already in the mindset of their ‘right to govern’ with PNM’s victory in 1956 and continued along the same vein after 1958. As one of the respondents stated, ‘when Dr. Williams opened up jobs for Africans from other small islands, their children growing up in that environment believed that as a norm’ (Interview 010, June 2018). Most of the respondents concurred that with the PNM in power, race became the major strategy of party politics.
Political integration of Muslims Elements of Islamic group nationalism emerged with localized Islamicfriendly groups like the Islamic Guardian Association (IGA), formed in 1906 in Princes Town (South Trinidad). Literary and debating associations were led by the Indian community in which Muslims participated. It was a manifestation of Indians’ own ‘aware[ness] of the increasing westernising influence among their community’ and stimulating debate among East Indians to combat this influence (Kassim 2017: 5). Communal organizations like the East Indian National Association and East Indian National Congress (EINC), established in 1897 and 1906, respectively, lobbied for a broadening of civil and economic rights and jointly addressed the concerns of Hindus and Muslims. From the mid-1920s to 1950, national Muslim organizations like the Tackveeyatul Islamic Association (TIA), Anjuman Sunnat ul Jamaat Association (ASJA), and Trinidad Muslim League (TML) were formed to address ideological differences and external influences within the community and to revitalize Islam, unification, and social development of Muslims in the country (Murray 2015: 165). A non-conformist body known as the Trinidad Muslim League was formed to encourage a positive mindset towards Islamic teachings through published materials on Islam. TLM also performed Muslim marriages and formed an educational board and a women’s movement. Several branches were opened in towns and districts of Trinidad. Missionary visits of moulvis and imams from the Indian subcontinent further solidified the internal relationship within the Muslim communities
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as well as developing transnational links with India. ‘The missionary nature of Islam also fuelled the religious activity among Muslims and presented as challenge to all Christian groups seeking to win their followers over’ (Murray 2015: 168). Like their Hindu counterparts, Muslims resisted Christian conversion and remained true to their Islamic affiliation. Kassim (2013: 4) observes that, ‘As the politics of the twentieth century embraced economic and political justice for minority groups and (multi) cultural citizenship, there was the introduction of culturally and religious specific and relevant legislation, such as the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act of 1935 (last amended in 1980), burial rites, the introduction of Eid-ulFitr (festivity after completing the fasting month of Ramadan) as a public holiday in 1967, and the presence of Muslim chaplains in prison’. The most recent challenge to the integration process continues to be the issue of wearing hijab (Muslim headscarf by women) at workplaces and in non-Muslim denominational schools. A lawsuit to that effect was filed in 1994/1995. Kassim further elucidates that state policies have been supportive of Islamic practices as seen in how about an hour is granted for Friday prayers to students and public servants, and government school feeding programmes cater to halal (permissible) meals for Muslim children. These suggest that Muslims have attained ‘critical citizen rights that allow them to participate in their settled society’ (ibid.). However, one of the respondents stated that presently, discrimination is still meted out to Muslim women where they are asked to remove their hijab in denominational schools run by the Hindubased Maha Sabha (Interview 011, June 2018).
Indo-Christians and politics By 1931, Christians were about 16% of the total Indian population (138,667). According to Niehoff and Niehoff (1960: 148), there were 10,335 Presbyterians, 8,469 Roman Catholics, 3,946 members of the Church of England, 160 Wesleyans, 68 Seventh-Day Adventists, 61 Baptists, 23 Moravians, and 121 belonging to the ‘other’ category. This indicates that Indians followed a wide spectrum of Christian faiths during and post the indentureship period. According to one of the respondents, ‘all East Indians were Hindus or Muslims, no Christians, all Christians were converted’ (Interview 004, September 2017). However, historical records indicate that about 0.1% of the first arrivals were Christians (Vertovec 2000: 44). The high number of Presbyterians is attributed to the Canadian missionaries’ special attention to proselytizing to Indians, whom they perceived as being ignorant and illiterate and in dire need of spiritual upliftment (Samaroo 1975). A large number of Indians settled among the Afro-dominated populations were converted to the Presbyterian faith. As one of the respondents stated, ‘Everyone are Presbyterian on the hill’, referring to the community he grew up in (Interview 008, September 2017). Canadian missionaries offered Biblical teachings and songs in a cultural context that Indians could relate to. ‘Our forefathers sang Hindi
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bhajans (gospel songs) in Presbyterian Church and we still do. . . . Hindi bhajans were sung in Indian settlements . . . the Christian hymn “The Great Physician” was translated into Hindi’ (ibid.). Indians were also attracted to Catholicism, as it was the most established and prestigious religion in the country even prior to their arrival and they wanted to assimilate into mainstream society. Niehoff and Niehoff (1960: 148–149) also point out that Indians were heavily influenced by the presence of political and social leaders in the Anglican Church and saw conversion as an opportunity to raise their social status in society. These were some of the reasons given by the scholars on the conversion of Indians to Christianity during the postindentureship period. Historically, in 1871, Canadian missionaries opened the first governmentaided primary schools, which included bilingual teaching in English and Hindustani. The pioneering efforts of John Morton and K. J. Grant were to reform the East Indian character through appealing to adults in their own language and providing education in English for their children to be ‘good citizens and above all good Christians’ (Samaroo 1975: 46). It was important for East Indians to feel respected by the white missionaries in contrast to the contempt experienced from the black working class and white colonists. ‘Having a white pastor meant that all men would now respect the lowly coolie’ (ibid.: 48). This sentiment is reflected in the words of one of the respondents as, ‘when the indentured laborers came, they did not know the language . . . when they started to speak, they spoke broken English . . . so the Africans now will look down on Indians as they are not educated and they are speaking this broken English’ (Interview 019). Similarly, the Africans teased the Indians as, ‘look de coolie eatin de roti’ (ibid.). Additionally, the Canadian missionaries were among the first to realize the offensiveness of the word coolie to the Indians and so they introduced the term ‘East Indians’ to give them a more respectable identity that was more transnational in nature (Brereton 1981: 109). Therefore, membership in the Presbyterian church provided East Indians with much-needed social status and respect in the African-dominated society. The other scenario presented was that many Indians were desirous of availing educational facilities offered by the Christian schools but were reluctant for fear of conversion. The main reason given was the revitalization of Hinduism and Islamic teachings by Hindu pundits and moulvis who arrived from India during the post-indentureship period. Therefore, many Hindus professed to be Christians in schools and in public but were Hindu at home. But Muslims continued to keep the same identity irrespective of the place. Post-colonial period: religious-based ethnic groups and politics This section outlines the rise and fall of the Indian-based political party against the background of Hindu revitalization movements in the postcolonial period. Next, two attempts by the heads of state to unify the diverse
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ethnic groups in the country are discussed, followed by the voting patterns that illustrate the influence of religious belongingness to the politics of the country. In the post-colonial period, Indians and Africans continued to use the political space to contest for political power. According to one of the respondents, In the post-Independence era, politics for the Indians is an umbrella organization that protects them. Religion did not change their views much when it comes to politics. For rural Indian masses, political parties like DLP [were] seen as a body to protect their rights and freedom to practice their own religion and culture in society where they continued to feel alienated due to rising creole nationalism. Thus, assimilation in the political life became their second nature. (Interview 017, January 2019) Another reason for assimilation was articulated as, ‘Indians entering into the politics no longer feel threatened, they feel stronger and bind together with the religious group thus surviving in a creole society’ (Interview 016, October 2018). It is seen that during the DLP era, Indians, particularly in rural communities, felt secure that there was a political party to advocate for their rights and privileges. Similar sentiments were expressed by most of the respondents when they indicated that, in the beginning, they and their family members supported the Indian-based political party, DLP. Unfortunately, DLP’s defeat in the general elections of 1961 resulted in the progressive collapse of the party. Around 1970s, Hindu and Muslim Indians were discriminated against and under-represented in the civil service and public sectors (Vertovec 2000: 72). Scholars suggest that Hindu religiosity had declined, paving the way for evangelical Christian missions to convert many Hindus (Samaroo 1975; Murray 2015). DLP boycotted the 1971 elections, and its leader, Bhadase Maraj, failed to hold his own constituency. Maha Sabha was not supported by the Indians due to alleged corruption and mismanagement in the party. During the oil boom of the 1970s, the rural Indians perceived themselves as excluded by the government from the benefits of the boom. However, there were Indians who greatly profited and invested their newfound wealth in their family businesses, new houses, consumer goods, and elaborate ceremonial rites and rituals. ‘Oil boom played a central part in fostering a resurgence or revitalization of Hindu collective sentiments’ (Vertovec 2000: 74). From the mid-1970 onwards, a couple of Hindu youth organizations (Jeewan Sangha and Seva Sangh) were established to revitalize Hinduism and promote a positive self-image among young Hindus for their elevation and transformation in the face of a discriminatory society. The youth during this time were facing identity loss, lack of direction, and the influence of westernization. They were also ridiculed in schools because of their distinct culture
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and religious practices. Thus, the youth religious organizations ‘reinforced cultural particularity and rallied behind a shared identity’ as described by Baumann (2004b: 172). Later, the Indian Revival and Reform Association (IRRA) was formed. which promoted annual celebrations of Indian Arrival Day on a large-scale basis, and a periodical, Jagriti (or Revival), by the Hindu Education Trust was started to propagate Hindu ideology. These Hindu-based organizations and publications infused a radical shift in the position of Indians (Hindus) in the society through the promotion of ‘Aggressive Hinduism’ (ibid.: 78–79). Also, ideology like ‘Indian culture is the culture in the Hindus’ was being promoted through Jagriti publications and paved the way for Hindus to express their ‘ethnic sentiments’ (ibid.: 82). Most of the respondents also perceived ‘Indian culture’ as equated with ‘Hindu culture’ (discussed in the earlier section on ‘Indian-ness’), which can be seen as a possible outcome of the Hindu revitalization of 1970s. During the post-colonial period, PNM reigned for 30 long years (1956– 1986). According to Tewarie (1988: 207), ‘the Hindu ethnic consciousness and the calls for socio-political change in Trinidad eventually found expression’ in the victory of a multi-racial coalition political party, NAR, in the national elections of 1986, ending the 30-year reign of the African-dominated PNM. One of NAR’s leaders was Basdeo Pandey, a prominent Hindu who later formed his own party, the United National Congress (UNC). He won the election in 1995 and became the first prime minister of Indian origin. UNC became the first pan-Indian party comprising Hindus, Muslims, and Presbyterians, in addition to others who felt marginalized by the Afro-Saxons and High Church group (Meighoo 2010). In 2010, a newly formed coalition party, the People’s Partnership, led by an Indian woman, Mrs. Kamla PersadBissessar, won the elections, and she became the first woman prime minister of the country. PP is a political coalition comprising five top political parties in Trinidad and Tobago: the United National Congress, the Congress of the People (COP), the Tobago Organization of People (TOP), the National Joint Action Committee (NJAC), and the Movement for Social Justice (MSJ). Today, no wholly Hindu political party exists, but Hindu ethnicity still strongly continues to have considerable impact on politics (Tewarie 1988), as seen in the section on voting patterns. The journey of Indian politics began with Hindu-affiliated political parties to a coalition political party with Indians constituting the major ethnic group in the coalition.
Unifying efforts by the government Since the country’s independence, the leaders have been engaged in politically integrating the different segments of the population into the mainstream society. Two examples are illustrated here. The first illustration relates to ‘one nation’ that the first prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Dr. Eric Williams, envisioned and articulated in his thesis, The History of the People of Trinidad and Tobago (1963). This
104 Susan Julia Chand and David T Chand did not resonate well with the East Indian population. They have continued to feel alienated and discriminated against. Rampersad (2014: 139) states that the very ‘notion of having to “integrate” or “assimilate” into some mainstream culture which does not recognize Indian culture as an integral component . . . raises the question of whether it is possible to be “Indian” and “Trinidadian” at the same time’. Thus, sayings like ‘we are a rainbow nation’, ‘we need to turn a blind eye to racial and ethnic diversity’, or, in the lyrics of Trinidad and Tobago’s national anthem, ‘every creed and race find an equal place’ do not cater to the vibrant heterogeneity within the East Indian’s sociocultural domain (group discussion, June 2017), thus the alienation. The assumed homogenization of Indian-ness in the political arena in Trinidad and Tobago negates the rich cultural diversity of the East Indian’s contribution to shaping the sociocultural and political landscape of country over the years (ibid.). Homogenization has also excluded people of other ethnicities that represent the multi-ethnicity and multiculturalism of the country. The second illustration relates to former Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s declaration of ‘multiculturalism-as-official policy’ in an effort for ethnic and racial harmony and equitable distribution of resources. This was a second kind of unifying factor initiated by the country’s leader. This declaration was contested by the then minister of arts and multiculturalism, Winton Peters, stating that this ‘will alienate a large portion of the citizenry from sharing the development of the nation’ (Maharaj 2012: 34). Also, a number of debates arose as to which segment of the community was alienated by this policy, whether it meant the ‘alienation and exclusion East Indians feel’ or was to be interpreted as addressing the ‘Africans [who] have lost their cultural heritage’ (ibid.). The failed efforts to unify the diverse ethnic and religious groups by the government heads point to the fact that integration into one homogeneous nation for a highly diverse nation as Trinidad and Tobago cannot be a reality. Prorok (1997: 387) observes that the Indo-Trinidadians’ resistance to integration is seen in the establishment of Hindu, Muslim, and Presbyterian schools providing a ‘means for the community to acquire formal education without giving up its traditional ethnic and religious identity . . . in this way East Indians remained culturally isolated while simultaneously engaging in political arena’. A respondent very aptly sums up this section by stating, ‘All efforts are for unifying are delusions and very polarized. The only time country has succeeded is for the two days of Carnival, Monday and Tuesday . . . all jump up!’ (Interview 012, June 2018).
Voting patterns Voting patterns in Trinidad and Tobago have been full of surprises, with unpredictable trends. Even though Hindus have been the die-hard voters for the Indian-based political party, the UNC, Indian Muslims and Christians have gravitated toward the black/Christian PNM party and at times
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oscillated between these two dominant political parties. A Christian respondent expressed, ‘I am sometimes this side, sometimes that side. . . . I cannot say. . . . I have voted for PNM but previously I voted for NAR because everybody wanted a change . . . then PNM came along’ (Interview 021, January 2019). Muslim and Christian voters tend to vote from ‘a religious ideology opposing Hindu paganism’ (Interview 014, October 2018). Moreover, ‘Muslims lean toward “Arabic” identity and would rather support black/ Christian political parties than the Indian ones’ (Interview 015, October 2018). The respondent cited a case where a Muslim candidate from the San Juan/Barataria constituency in the east-west corridor of the country attracted over 3,000 voters for the PNM party. Furthermore, he hinted that Muslims are unpredictable voters and are the ‘game-changers’ (ibid.). The Christians, Pentecostals, and Jehovah’s Witnesses, on the other hand, would not vote for Hindu-based parties (Interview 016, October 2018) because of their strong ideological differences rooted in their religions. ‘UNC is perceived to be Hindu dominated so to Christians it is a barrier’ (Interview 012, June 2018). However, literature attests that some Pentecostals have supported the UNC due to their policy for allowing religious bodies to establish and run secondary schools during their regime in 1995–2001 (Meighoo 2010: 9). Similarly, some spiritual Baptists/shouter Baptists, mainly AfroChristians, are supporters of the UNC. They were granted a national holiday by the UNC-led government in 1996, commemorating their day. However, in the present context, political parties are multi-ethnic and made up of coalitions and counter-coalitions of various groups occurring in unpredictable combinations (Best 1991). For example, the Afro-dominated PNM enjoyed the support of the Indian Presbyterians and Muslims from South Trinidad even after their own Afro-Trinidadians had abandoned the party, whereas the Indian-based DLP could not secure the Indian support that the PNM enjoyed. The UNC won elections in 1995 with the support of the Protestant Tobagonians, and their own Indian Presbyterians brought the UNC party down in 2001 due to corruption charges (Meighoo 2010). One of the respondents mentioned that ‘some of the big financial entities and businesses run by the Indians support PNM financially as they seek favors to keep their business going . . . similarly, big names in businesses run by Africans support UNC financially in return for favors’ (Interview 010, June 2018). The voting patterns by Indians illustrate that religious ideologies as well as government support in their religious agenda govern people’s affinity and voter support to those political parties.
Concluding remarks In Trinidad and Tobago, religious groups have played a critical role in integrating their group members into the mainstream society. Group integration has been possible through religious-based revitalization movements, both in
106 Susan Julia Chand and David T Chand the case of Hindu and Muslim communities. They were successful in securing their own denominational schools and were able to compete with the upperclass white population (in minority) and working-class Afro-Trinidadians in terms of high-ranking jobs and offices in the public and private sectors, as well being elected as heads of state on two occasions. Though Indo-Christians have integrated into the mainstream society through adoption of western culture, many of them have retained the Indian culture in form of language, dress, food and music. This is evident among the Presbyterian Christians that comprise mostly of East Indians. Like the Hindus and Muslims, Presbyterian churches operate denominational schools catering to the East Indian communities. Congregations in these churches still sing gospel hymns in Hindi Therefore, to evaluate the impact of religious forces on the political system, it will be necessary to examine what makes up the ethos and religious culture within each religion and whether the set values of those religions are in line with the integration objectives, the nature and extent of racial and ethnic pluralism, involvement in politics, and so on (Vertovec 2004; Giordano 2014). These political integration objectives can include equal rights, respect and tolerance for diversity, protection of freedom, pacifism, and universal brotherhood, (Giordano 2014), to name a few. Second, the evolving nature of contemporary society calls for a paradigm shift in the way ‘integration’ is being applied to different segments in society. Empirical research will enable identification of a common denominator among the groups, whether it is the creole factor or some other factor that ‘has preserved desirable segments of each cultural entity without fragmenting the society to the point of dissolution’ (Crowley 1957: 824). In the case of Trinidad and Tobago, the term ‘political integration’ needs to be reconceptualized to apply to diverse cultural entities including the Venezuelan migrants, occupying spaces in the shifting sociopolitical and economic milieus.
Acknowledgement The authors thank all the participants who contributed to the content of this chapter.
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Reconciling boundaries and identities The world of Dr. Sudhindra Bose in early 20th-century America Koushiki Dasgupta
Introduction The dispersal of the Indian population to America and their settlement in different American cities has attracted much attention from scholars working in diaspora studies. In popular diasporic literature, two major streams of Indian immigration have been identified in America. The first happened in the 19th century and was composed of labour migrants, small entrepreneurs and indentured workers, mostly from the rural districts of Punjab and to a lesser extent from Bengal, Gujarat and the United Province (Hess 1974:578). The second stream originated from the mid-1960s, and it was mainly composed of educated and technologically skilled immigrants (Leonard 1992; ch.2). Marked by immense diversity and the perception of immigrant policies, the Indian diaspora community in America brought out some unique patterns of integration in the host society. Modes of integration, if not assimilation, allowed these immigrant Indians scopes and opportunities to form heterogeneous minority groups to retain their sociocultural identities; simultaneously, the discourses of integration insisted that the diasporic Indians should subscribe to the norms and values of the host society. The mechanisms of integration thus depended largely on the demographic size of the diasporic ethnic groups, the amount of sociocultural resources they possessed at the time of their departure and the ways they had shaped the web of affiliations among themselves and with the host society. If integration means involvement in the basic institutions of the host society, ethnicity may appear to be a driving force for political mobilisation in the host society; however, diasporic identity, often pushed by the collective power of ethnicity, may facilitate issues of conflict in the integration process. In case of the Indian immigrants in America, these issues of conflicts involved the problem of carrying ‘dual’ identities (groups based on community identity had to ensure one monolithic Indian identity), if not clashing with one another; the provoking ideas of a ‘home’ and ‘home away from home’ often make the integration process troublesome and contested. Keeping the focus mainly on Indian immigrants in early 20th-century America, this chapter picks up the life-world of an Bengali intellectual named Dr. Sudhindranath
Bose as a case study to explore how in the initial years of his career in America he attempted to register his nationalist visions and his existence as an immigrant ‘stranger’ in American society through a circle of friends and also developed group solidarity with other Indians and even with other racial minorities suffering the bitterness of a dangled identity. These people shared a fragile sense of connectivity with the mainstream American society and attempted to hold on to each other in a impalpable manner. What did he mean by being politically integrated into a white-dominated race society where Indians were denied any agency or citizenry right in the political mainstream? Notwithstanding the fact that Bose had never been a part of any political party or lobby and despite his strong intellectual bonding with like-minded Indians, he didn’t ever espouse any pre-planned agenda of group formation with the tiny sections of intellectuals living around him. Irrespective of any linguistic or caste preferences, Bose – the first Bengali intellectual activist in America –worked immensely for the shared political objectives of the Indian diaspora communities in general and continued to write prolifically on the importance of a proposed America-India unity against British imperialism all over the world. Gaining the support of the Americans for the cause of Indian independence would not be possible, Bose realised, unless the Indians stopped suffering from the dualities of double homelands and rather integrated them fully with the liberal democratic spirit of American society. His writings were not what Edward Said described as the sheer fact of isolation and displacement (Said 1984: 159–172) but demonstrated the necessity of collective efforts to create greater opportunities for integration in a true sense of the term. Did he fail? How he contributed to defining the social boundaries of Indian ethnicity in a diasporic situation and how his own efforts of political integration brought out different meanings to his transnational aspirations reflected at a level of his global wisdom – these are the questions central to the arguments of this chapter.
The man and his time The first half of the 20th century witnessed the migration of students from India to the campuses of American universities (Hess 1974:578). Many of them were exposed to English education and mainly came under scholarship schemes. A few of them stayed in America and joined American universities. Joined by journalists, writers, activists and a few revolutionaries from India, these people formed a tiny group of intellectuals in early 20th-century America. They were not exiles in the strict sense of the term; they were not even deported from India. Most of them, except the revolutionaries, arrived in America in search of better education and employment and generated a unique spirit of long-distance nationalism in their writings. They were open to political consciousness and gradually began to celebrate America as the land of democracy and progress.1 They served as a link between India and America and tried to integrate
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their nationalist aspirations with those of the progressive–anti colonial elements of American society (Gould 2006: 222). In an article published in The Scientific Monthly in 1918, Bose expressed the common desire of Indian intellectuals to gain American support for India’s independence, even though they all clamoured for Pan-Asian unity against western imperialism. Much before Bose had arrived in America, Indian revolutionaries were in touch with Irish nationalists in America. In 1906, Narayan Krishna came to America on a lecturing tour as a representative of the Indian revolutionaries working in London. Jatirindranath Lahiri, another revolutionary from Bengal, took admission to the University of California for a master’s degree and became involved in disseminating radical ideas in a student’s study circle devoted to the cause of Indian struggle (Sareen 1979; Ramnath 2005:7–30). When Bose took up university studies in America, a group of Indian students had already started interacting with other radical groups sharing common anti-imperial passions. Bose devolved his career as an academic and came out as a resource for the young Indians who took up leadership roles in political activities like the Gadar movement in later years (Josh 1977). Bose became one of the much-needed links between prominent American academics and Indian activists.
Historical lacuna The Indian diaspora has provided many of scholars and some of the finest writers all over the world. The diaspora has a long history, and it carries the spirit of separation, displacement, re-location, assimilation and integration. All these categories are interwoven into the cultural vocabulary of identity formation in diasporic experiences. For instance, M.K. Gandhi’s diasporic experience in South Africa was a necessity for his understanding of the nation (Bhana and Vahed 2005). M.N. Roy’s diasporic experiences in countries of the world also led him to believe in a revolutionary-radical world view. However, the multiple histories of Indian diaspora remain incomplete. Gary Hess expressed that not only had the East Indian community not been fully studied, earlier, East Indian immigrants ‘ha[d] been virtually ignored by both American and Indian scholars’ (Hess 1974:574). Vivek Bald’s book (Bald 2013) discusses the history of the Muslim peddlers who journeyed from their villages in Hooley, Bengal, to American holiday destinations to sell embroidered silks to meet the desires of American consumers for luxury goods from the orient. Decades later, another group of South Asian Bengalis started arriving at the port cities of the Eastern seaboard. They were Indian sailors from East Bengal villages who worked in the British merchant marine. Since the early 20th century Bengali students, activists, ex-revolutionaries, artists, journalists and teaching professionals have arrived in America and built intellectual networks with one another. In spite of that, scholars have taken almost a sceptical attitude to the period
roughly stretching from the 1920s to the 1940s, the high time in the career of these intellectuals in America. One can relate this historical lacuna to the limited presence of the ‘Hindus’, as all immigrants from India were generally called in North America, during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Scholars have mainly dealt with the Punjabi working-class community in California and completely ignored the relatively small presence of the Bengali intellectuals. None of the essays in the volume From India to America, which carries contribution from renowned scholars like Karen Leonard and Bruce LaBrack, talk about the early Indians in America (Chandrasekhar 1982). Many essays are devoted to the Punjabi immigrant farming/labouring community in California – a group which provided the initial platform to Gadar revolutionaries like Har Dayal and Taraknath Das.2 Scholars like Kalyan Kumar Banerjee, Arun Coomer Bose and Tapan Mukherjee worked extensively on the Gadar movement in America and revolutionary activities in other parts of the world (Banerjee 1969; Bose 1971; Mukherjee 1998). The early Bengalis who arrived in America in the first two decades of the 20th century shared a kind of connection with the trends of political extremism in Bengal. Many of them got involved in organising nationalist activities in America in support of the Indian independence movement. Men like Taraknath Das, Kalyan Kumar Banerjee, Dhangopal Mukherjee, Haridas Mazumdar and others had mirrored passion and enthusiasm for the revolutionaries working in America for the Indian cause, and, as shown by Harold Gould, these people championed the cause of building group networks among the diasporic intellectuals, mainly to attain America’s support for India’s freedom and civil rights (Gould 2006). Sudhindra Bose emerged as one of the most promising pillars of this network and developed long-standing communications with the activists turned intellectuals in America. Born in 1883 in Dhaka in undivided British Bengal, Bose received his early education from Comilla College from 1901–1903 and was admitted to the University of Illinois on 1906. He received a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Iowa in 1913 and worked as an instructor in the Department of Political Science at Iowa, first as an assistant in political science and then as a lecturer in Oriental politics (1913– 1946). He represented the tiny section of liberal Indian thinkers, those who had been calibrating a kind of collective opinion against imperialism and racism going rampant all over the world. Many of his writings reflected the urgent need to get politically integrated with the American society, which he believed would foster the cause of a joint venture by the most articulate and liberal minds from both societies. His own understanding of political integration with American society could be interrelated in terms of a transnational–cross-cultural integration covering selected issues of common interest and also by virtue of a class integration through professional networks and intellectual friendships beyond racial constraints. Both of these narratives seemed to be engaging with one another; however, they brought the question of ethnic identity formation to the middle of the discourse.
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Despite emerging as the mouthpiece of diasporic intellectuals in America, Bose had to face the stigma attached to diasporic racial minorities in general. The belief that staying in a race society in America would be as painful as living in colonial conditions in Bengal might have exposed him to the very dilemma of identity formation; his writings, however, nurtured rapture towards his colonised homeland (Said 1984: 159–172). Interestingly, the sense of rupturing towards his motherland never created any psychosomatic concern for Bose to participate in performances in the host society. He might have displayed vulnerability in showing compete admiration for all the Americans living in a vast country within different sociocultural clusters; he always held his fellow American professors in high esteem. In 1911, he wrote, There can be no greater mistake than to suppose that the character of the American people is the same in every part of the United States. The people of the ‘wild and wooly’ western states are as much different in their temperament and in their habits of life from those of the progressive east, . . . one of the greatest problem[s] which faces the south to-day is the negro problem . . . this race prejudice does not seem to affect the people of India whether they happen to be in the North and South. . . . The kindly interest, the sympathetic appreciation which the American professors constantly manifest in the patriotic ambition of the Indian students is most unique. . . indeed for the Hindustani youth such congenial intellectual atmosphere will be hard to find in any other country.3 This is the very intellectual atmosphere which inspired him to look for the avenues of integration with contemporary American intelligentsia, particularly those who were keen to support his anti-imperial global visions. Political rights, especially citizenship rights, appeared to be a mandatory provision for coming to terms with the liberal democratic spirit of America and remained crucial to the question of ethnic revival and preservation. In 1915, he represented Indian Americans to the federal authorities in Washington. In spite of having a natural citizenship in America,4 Bose had to face the court in 1923 when the US Supreme Court ruled in the United States vs. Bhagat Singh Thand case on the citizenship of Asian Indians in America. Bose regained his citizenship in 1927; however, American public opinion in general went against immigrants receiving citizenship in America after the First World War (Ling and Austin 2010: 319–320). What was lacking in Bose’s efforts towards ethnic political mobilisation was a sheer sense of attachment with the fellow Indians. Many of his ideas and visions of the Indian diasporic society were restricted by his class position and what he was nurturing in the name of the citizenship movement, lost in the disarray of class requirements over ethnic demands. In spite of having tremendous potential to clamour for diasporic rights in the American political mainstream, Bose failed to be a part of any political party or
countrywide association; rather, he cultivated the ideological visions of a small group of Indian intelligentsia in a fragmented manner. While keeping track mainly of the anti-imperial initiatives in America and abroad, these people fell short of articulating the power of ethnicity at the level of demanding equality in the social system or asking for a better livelihood as enjoyed by the host society. In matters of transnational political integration or developing crosscultural bandings, Bose and his Indian friends performed quite well. Since ethnic identity grows mainly on ancestral ties, common memory and sociocultural, all these attributes were put into action for the purpose of defending and preserving ethnicity. Ethnicity when articulated in a way of celebrating one’s identity could have emerged as a positive force to facilitate the diasporic identity in multiple ways. For example, Bose and his friends challenged the dominant western concept of Hinduism being a homogenised and exclusive religion. In his autobiographical writing Fifteen Years in America, published in India in 1920, Bose critiqued Orientalist observations of the Americans on Hinduism as something ‘superficial’ (Bose 1920:411–412) and projected religion as a motivating spirit, and not a derogatory force, that culminated in mystical Hinduism that the West often linked India with (Bose 1916). Interestingly, approaches leading to his nationalist consciousness didn’t ever make Bose give up American dream. He believed that ‘the rising of India and as indeed the rest of the world must turn to the United States for support and inspiration. Hindustan should study and know America – the people, the government, the scientific progress, the educational development, the gospel of energism of the New World’ (Bose 1920: iii). Having said that, Bose opened up a fresh approach to the so-called superiority and material progress of the West, his continuous refusal to be othered or objectified made him confident enough to invest in the present, not in the past of an imagined homeland. His book Mother America (1936) itself reflected the fact that Bose had never taken his ethnic identity in the context of a loss; rather, he took it as a constructive element for political integration. This spirit of integration often led Bose and his friends to a paradoxical point of comparison between these two societies; however, the positive spirit of ethnicity, when evolved as a source of collective interest, often brought America into its own nationalist consciousnesses in a delightful manner. In an essay published in the Modern Review in 1911, Har Dayal (one of Bose’s contemporaries and renowned revolutionary) stated, There is a strange contrast between Indian life in England and in the United States. . . . In America. . . Indian society is composed of the best elements of the population of the mother country. We have no idle aristocrats, or hungry graduates longing for official favour, or professional politicians combining patriotism with a due measure of regard for the security of their sacred persons and the condition of their depleted purses. India sends her best sons to America.5
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The spiritual appeal of a transnational, transborder integration might have inculcated the classist intellectual visions of Bose and his friends. They were men of high repute and global wisdom. They could have appropriated their own class-bound approach of political integration in a judicious manner; the rest of the diasporic society had hardly developed any connection with these people. Bringing America close to their nationalist consciousness introduced a unique sense of globalism in the diasporic perception of ethnicity; it barely carried any real implications for the real-world political struggles for better opportunities. However, as mentioned earlier, ethnic group identities could have been explored in multiple ways – as in case of these intellectuals, they adopted a unique way of exploring the American dream. In most of Bose’s books, like Some Aspects of English Administration in India (1913), Some Aspects of British Rule in India (1916), Fifteen Years in America (1920), Glimpses of America (1925) and Mother America (1934), he located himself sharing the best attributes of both Indian and American culture. In Bose, the enigma of a suspended identity lost its primary ground to one fascinating rationale of transnational integration which placed him on a high pedestal all through his life. The world-view of Bose was reflected in his books and articles, published in both India and America. He was the American correspondent of the leading dailies from Calcutta, Bombay, Madras and Lahore and regularly contributed in the Des Moines Registrar on his world tour. Prominent English journals form India like the Hindustan Review and Modern Review frequently published his papers, along with American journals like Forum, American Political Science Review, Nation, Scientific Monthly, Living Age, Open Court and others. Bose’s intellectual vigour earned him fame and reputation all the way through his journey both as a speaker and writer on the orient. Commenting on Bose, Dr. Benjamin Shambaugh, head of the Department of Political Science at the University of Iowa, said, ‘He has come to be the foremost teacher, lecturer and writer on Oriental Politics in America.’6 In a pamphlet called Messenger of Brotherhood, published by the University of Iowa in 1911, it was reported that in plea for a more sympathetic understanding between the United States and the new Orient. . . his most recent trip took him to England, the European countries, China, Japan, Ceylon, Siam, Korea, Manchuria, Straits Settlements, Indo-China, Hawaii etc. He was in frequent contact with that world famous Hindu poet Rabindranath Tagore; had an informant audience with the Gaekwar of Baroda, who rules two million subjects in India; met the great Egyptian leader Zaghlul Pasha, was invited to the palace of the Cambodian king at Pnom-Penn; visited with Dr. San Yat Sen, President of the South China Republic at Canton; Marquis Okuma, former Premier of Japan; Prince Damrong, liberal leader in Siam; Wu-Ting Fang, ex minister of China to America and many other international figures.7
In Fifteen Years in America, Bose pointed out the importance of domesticity in both American and Indian societies. He supported the women’s suffrage movement in America but at the same time made consumer culture responsible for the increasing rate of failed marriages in America. Bose was critical of American women neglecting their traditional roles inside the home and always asked their Indian counterparts to take care of their homely duties first. He seemed to maintain the Hindu nationalist construct of Hindu women; however, he wanted the independent and educated American women to be the motivation for their Indian sisters. He always focused on the common ties of self sacrifice, patience and purity between Indian and American women and inspired Indian women to achieve the extra vigour and mightiness that the American women had earned (Bose 1920: 531, 456). Bose’s marriage to a European woman, Anne Zimmerman from Switzerland, proved his own disagreement with the Hindu nationalist idea of Hindu male authority over his ‘home’ – a symbol of chastity and purity for the Hindu women. The title of his book Mother America also deconstructed the Hindu nationalist idea of the motherland being the supreme manifestation of the mother goddess/Bharatmata. For him, territoriality and geographical constraints didn’t ever become a mode of nationalist expression; instead, his strong emotional and spiritual attachment to India always recreated an unique sense of nationhood in his ideas while living in a ‘distant’ land, if not in a ‘foreign’ land. That is why Bose took almost a balanced view of American society and culture, which sometimes went to the point of admiration and appreciation. The Americans are so free and easy in manners that it is one of the easiest things on earth to make one’s self feel at home when travelling with them. . . . The people in the country are very accommodating. they are ever ready to do what they can even without overlooking for a thank you . . . travellers from England especially from Europe have often expressed to me their surprise at the freedom with which the young men and women mingle in society.8 The Indian intellectuals in America in the early 20th century were of the best quality and competence, but did they really contribute anything conducive to the idea of a political integration? The tiny group of intellectuals envisioned America as the land of liberty and justice and knew well America would be free from the legal reach of the all-powerful British empire. While Indian students and political refugees were coming to the United States, American interest in India grew fast. They befriended American intellectuals and other supporters of the Indian cause as well as of the wider struggle against western imperialism, especially in Asia. Bose described the minute details of how Rabindranath Tagore was received in America when the latter visited Iowa City as a part of his lecture tours in 1916. Tagore gave a lecture on the ‘Cult of Nationalism’ at the State University of Iowa (Bose 1920).
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Tagore’s visit to the United States was viewed as an extension of the ideal of pan-Asianism, a spirit which was equally nurtured by the intellectuals in the form of Indo-Japanese and Indo-Chinese friendship. In an article published in The Scientific Monthly in 1918, Bose declared Japan as the natural leader of the pan-Orientalist movement and characterised the Japanese policy as the ‘Monroe Doctrine for Asia’ which would defend Asia from European colonialism in the manner the American Monroe Doctrine had protected America from European aggressions (Bose 1918: 340). Despite claiming citizenship status, marrying a western woman and writing soulful words for the American society, Bose always felt the pressure of confirming his identity as an American. For him it was very much complicated to be perfectly integrated with the new society. He had shared a kind necessary bonding with his fellow Bengalis in America but never received any cultural or political protection from any ethnic institution or political party; he fought a battle of his own to become assimilated into the new society while keeping his nationalist aspirations alive. It is to be mentioned that Bose’s nationalist visions didn’t have a longing for his roots in India; rather, he was keen to explore anti-imperialist ties all over the world with the help of his American friends who were sympathetic to the cause of Indian independence. While fighting for the citizenship rights of the Indians in America, Bose successfully articulated his desire for a political integration with America, but his class position played a crucial role in accommodating the rest of the diasporic society in that discourse. Contrary to the regular narratives of a diasporic identity, often used in terms of fixed experiences of sorrow and loss, Bose and his supporters executed their collective spirit of ethnicity through agency, voice and power (Tölölyan 2007: 649). Locating America in their nationalist consciousness as well as all their efforts to foster the cause of Indian nationalism by means of some self-styled political activities indicated how they had experienced power and agency in the broader periphery of participation and assimilation into the host society. Assimilation led to integration, and the self-consciousness of the members of the diasporic ethnic minority appeared to be a key force behind political engagements (Singh 2003). As far the question of group integration is concerned, these early intellectuals, by accentuating small group interests, effectively put those issues which could have become less competitive over political objectives. Apart from the claims related to citizenship rights, these people rallied around subjects that had little or no real relevance for the rest of the diasporic society and represented just a small segment of that community. These people never emerged as an interest group or pressure group for the diasporic Indian society and always suffered from a lack of political agency, but they were the real forerunners of those great Indian minds who manifested the power of opinion building in later years. In spite of having a real political mandate from the diasporic people, these intellectuals occupied a palpable presence between the government and the masses in a crucial period when the entire
power dynamics of diaspora fell short of expressions. One must not forget the time frame when Bose and his friends were busy in writing thoughtprovoking articles and books on what an American dream should look like, reminding the host society of what should be the responsibility and liability of an advanced country like America to the rest of the world.
Conclusion The group of diasporic Indian intellectuals pursued their political passion for several years but ended in moving into non-political careers. Men like Taraknath Das, Dhan Gopal Mukherjee, Sailendranath Ghosh, Prafulla C. Mukherjee and others followed more or less the same fate, and a few of them chose to follow a pure academic line. Bose, for instance, continued to think and write for the betterment of India, especially in the education sector. He might have had a patriotic guilt for which he categorically stated, It is well known that they [Indians] should seek inspiration from the highest traditions of Americanism, as expressed in American history, laws, Government, standards, ideals, and aspirations. Such a life-giving influence will not interfere with their loyalty to robust Indian nationalism. Essential Americanism will undoubtedly tend to develop and deepen a broad, critical, and intense nationalism for India. (Bose 1925: preface) For Bose, the word ‘Americanism’ might have been extended to a sense of globalism, and it was this consciousness which pushed him for the political formation of collectiveness despite having clusters of fragmented interests within the diasporic community itself. Caste, class, gender, language, religion – all these subidentities might have challenged the homogenising attributes of ethnic identity formation and exemplified the shifting dynamics of power within the diasporic community. In case of Bose, ethnic identity formation had never been, as such, a problem, since all through his life in America, he mostly operated in a pure intellectual domain, linking selected attributes of domestic and international politics. For Bose and his friends, ethnic identity, or to be precise, the primary sense of being alien to a foreign land, was evoked as the starting point for grabbing political attention and be engaged politically with the host society. Since diasporic ethnic identity in a foreign society always moved through an amount of negotiation and adjustments, Bose and his friends always tried to keep their nationalist consciousness alive either by supporting the anticolonial resistance movement in the homeland or by occasionally exposing the double standards of America on its policies of racial discrimination. In spite of suffering the ill effects of racial discrimination, they had never missed any chance of seeing themselves as true American citizens. Even their claims of citizenship on the basis of being ‘white’ exposed the limits of
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their American dream and detached themselves from the so-called ‘black’ minorities of the diasporic society. The relationship these intellectuals shared with other diasporic communities was a complicated one, as reflected in the ideas of Bose registered in his book Glimpses of America (1925:161), where he criticised East Europeans as ‘half civilised’ and unfit for gaining citizenship in America, while the Aryan Hindus, as cultured and civilised, were worthy of it. Bose’s idea of political integration thus coincided with one basic theme, that is, assimilation and participation in the superior culture and that it shouldn’t be open for all. Therefore, for Bose, political integration of immigrants was a kind of cultural assimilation, and only those having greater cultural and civilisational traits would be appropriate for inclusion. It also involved a successful incorporation of the immigrant identity into an American identity, since Americanisation itself was a totalising project. While staying in a country of dreams, marrying a western woman and fighting for citizenship rights in America, Bose and most of his contemporaries enjoyed the liberty to redefine their diasporic identity through self-imposed restrictions to complete assimilation; their new-found American identity and political objectives didn’t ever clash with their Indian identity specifically. Rather, living in a powerful host society like America advanced their interests in home politics, and, in case of these intellectuals, the host state itself became a medium or catalyst for fostering their interests in the nationalist affairs of India. America here promoted or furthered their presence in the home politics in a constructive manner, and, unlike the common diasporic patterns of ‘living in a exile’ or ‘longing to return home’ (Cohen 1997; Sheffer 1986), people like Bose and Das displayed loyalty to the host state, promoted the educational–academic spirit of the country and utilised their presence in America as a key to reach their nationalist ambitions. Interestingly, Bose’s Mother America didn’t sell well there, while his writings on India had a good response in America. This indicated the limitations of the integration process, which denied Bose full access to the host society. Gross inequality in the social sectors, lack of employment or livelihood opportunities or loss of democratic rights appeared to be the most frustrating challenges before the integration process. Bose and his friends never lost hope in the host state – a culture which he believed had already achieved the supreme expressions of nationhood. His faith in his own conceptions, in fact, constructed the ultimate capacity of comparing American racism to that of Indian castism and portrayed white Americans as ‘American Brahmins’ who treated ‘others’ as ‘untouchable outcasts’ (Bose 1920: 362). Despite knowing the awful realities of white racism in the host society, he somehow minimised its potential at a level of castist discriminations, and all such patterns of restricted criticism always kept the integration process open. In diaspora theories, marginalisation props up consolidation of ethnic minorities on common points of interest, facilitating cultural and political integration. Surviving in a foreign territory could have provided the primary
impetus for unity and group formation by the ethnic communities; however, communicating their political interests through multiple means might produce interplay of homeland and host-state interests. The early intellectuals in America voiced not only a pan-Asian but also a pan-American perspective of the world order, where India and America both would hold a key position in support of democracy and human rights. Documenting an integrated activist tradition of political activity is a problem in the case of these people mostly because of their class presence and the fragmented nature of intellectual endeavours. Thus, the nature of their political integration should not be judged in isolation of their cross-border aspirations but within the broader framework of their nationalist consciousness mobilising the best attributes of a superior American dream with global wisdom. Fixed community identities based on factors such as religion, caste or language will be of no use to understand this particular model of integration, which represents flexibility and political agency differently from the regular narratives. Considering the limited nature of the literature on early Indian intellectuals in America, the writings of intellectuals like Bose could be used as a distinctive source in understanding how the idea of political integration documented in the home-state relationship reflected the diasporic self-consciousness of being and becoming a global identity. In the lost histories of early Indians in America, intellectuals like Bose would be remembered for opening up a new set of relationships between two different cultures that are expected to meet one day or another.
Notes 1 See for details Proceedings Home Political (A) October, 1912, No. 91. (National Archives of India), Report of Daddy’s Burjor, official ‘Hindu’ interpreter of the U.S. Immigration Department, Government of India, Commerce and Industry Department, Emigration A, Proceedings No. 54. 2 Das’s book Is Japan a Menace to Asia?, which was published from Shanghai in 1917, placed his critique of British rule within a strong pan-Asian narrative. According to Das’s biographer, Tapan Mukherjee, the book sold numerous copies in Japan and was referred to by the pro-British monthly, The Far Eastern Review, as the ‘magnum opus of the Pan Asian movement. Side by side the book was banned throughout the British Empire’. See Tapan Mukherjee, Life and Letters of A Revolutionary in Exile, Calcutta, National Council of Education, Bengal, 1998, pp. 102–103. 3 Sudhindra Bose, ‘Life in the Southern States of America’, Modern Review, Calcutta 1911. 4 The number of Indians arriving in America in the early decades of the 20th century was limited to merchants, students and unassisted immigrants who were capable of financing their own maintenance, since the United States enacted a complimentary law in 1885, the U.S. Contract Labour Law, which forbade any company or individual from bringing foreigners into the country in order to contract them for labour. In a hearing before the Committee of Immigration on Restrictions of Immigration of Hindu Labourers, the details can be obtained from the statements
Reconciling boundaries and identities
5 6 7 8
of Dr. Sudhindra Bose, Hindu Immigration; Hearings Before the Committee of Immigration, House of Representatives, Sixty Third Congress, Second Session, Relative to Restriction of Immigration of Hindu Labourers, Friday, February 13, 1914, Part I, Government Printing Office, Washington, University of Washington Libraries. p. 4. Har Dayal, ‘India in America’, Modern Review, July, Calcutta 1911. Dr. Sudhindra Bose: ‘Messenger of Brotherhood’ (A Pamphlet), University of Iowa. Library Special Collections Dept, 1927. Ibid. Sudhindra Bose, ‘Travelling through the country in America’, Modern Review, Calcutta, 1911.
References (Most of the sources are collected from Sudhindranath Bose Faculty File, Benjamin Sambaugh Papers, Special Collection Archives, University of Iowa Library, Iowa City).
Primary sources Primary works Bose, Sudhindra. 1916. Some Aspects of British Rule in India. Iowa City: State University of Iowa. Bose, Sudhindra. 1918. ‘A New Situation in the Orient’, The Scientific Monthly, 6(4): 331–342. Bose, Sudhindra. 1923. ‘Indians Barred From American Citizenship’, Unity,19 April: 123. Bose, Sudhindra. 1920. Fifteen Years in America. Calcutta: Kar, Majumdar & Co. Bose, Sudhindra. 1925. Glimpses of America. Calcutta: Sarkar. Bose, Sudhindra. 1934. Mother America: Realities of American Life as Seen by an Indian. Raopura: M.S. Bhatt. Har Dayal. 1911. ‘India in America’, Modern Review, July, Calcutta.
Secondary works Bald, Vivek, 2013. Bengali Harlem and the Lost Histories of South Asian America. Cambridge, MA. Harvard University Press. Banerjee, Kalyan Kumar. 1969. Indian Freedom Movement Revolutionaries in America. Calcutta: Jijnasa. Bhana, Surendra. and Goolam. Vahed. 2005. The Making of a Political Reformer: Gandhi in South Africa, 1893–1914. New Delhi: Manohar. Bose, Arun Coomer. 1971. Indian Revolutionaries Abroad, 1905–1922: In the Background of International Developments. Patna: Bharati Bhawan. Chandrasekhar, S. (ed.). 1982. From India America: A Brief History of Immigration: Problems of Discrimination; Admission and Assimilation. La Jolla: Population Publication. Cohen, Robin. 1997. Global Diaspora. Seattle: University of Washington Press.
Gould, Harold A. 2006. Sikhs, Swamis, Students, and Spies: The India Lobby in the United States. New Delhi: Sage Publications. Hess, Gary R. 1974. ‘The Forgotten Asian Americans: The East Indian Community in the United States’, The Pacific Historical Review, 43(4): 577. Josh, Sohan Singh. 1977. Hindustan Gadar Party: A Short History. New Delhi: People’s Publishing House. Leonard, Karen. 1992. Making Ethnic Choices: California’s Punjabi Mexican Americans. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. Ling, Huping and Allan W. Austin. 2010. Asian American History and Culture: An Encyclopedia. Oxon: Routledge. Mukherjee, Tapan. 1998. Life and Letters of a Revolutionary in Exile. Calcutta: National Council of Education, Bengal. Ramnath, Maia. 2005, ‘Two Revolutions: The Ghadar Movement and India’s Radical Diaspora, 1913–1918’, Radical History Review, 92, Spring: 7–30. Said, Edward. 1984. ‘Reflections on Exile’, Granta,14, Autumn: 159–172. Sareen, Tilak Raj. 1979. Indian Revolutionary Movement Abroad. New Delhi: Sterling. Sheffer, Gabriel. 1986. ‘A New Field of Study: Modern Diasporas in International Politics’, in Gabriel Sheffer (ed.), Modern Diasporas in International Politics (pp. 1–15). Sydney, Australia: Croom Helm. Singh, Gurharpal. 2003. ‘Introduction’, in B. Parekh, G. Singh, and S. Vertovec (eds.), Culture and Economy in the Indian Diaspora (pp. 1–12). London: Routledge. Tölölyan, Khachig. 2007. ‘The Contemporary Discourse of Diaspora Studies’, Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, 27(3): 647–655.
Global dimensions of integration
From cyber-Hindutva to Ab Ki Baar Trump Sarkar (Trans)national entanglements of Hindu diaspora political integration Eviane Leidig
Introduction This chapter situates the role of the Hindu diaspora in the United Kingdom and United States as interlocutors in the ideological linkages between diaspora Hindutva and the radical right in Western societies. The Brexit referendum and Trump’s election (and later presidency) in 2016 provided an opportunity to synergise these phenomena at a transnational scale. But it also indicates the emergence of complementary nationalisms, in which the diaspora simultaneously projects the image of India as a Hindu nation whilst still creating a sense of belonging as ‘good (i.e. non-Muslim) immigrants’ in the Western-Anglo narrative of integration. It begins with an overview of Narendra Modi’s 2014 election campaign, situating how the then-candidate’s social media persona signals the rise of a mediatised populism foregrounded in the hope of India’s future as a technology powerhouse in the 21st century. Yet Modi’s success depended on significant diaspora support, both by official and unofficial means. In the former, the campaign’s IT operations recruited those in the diaspora, or those who had lived abroad, with the skills to assist in the election. For the latter, the growth of cyber-Hindutva, a phenomenon originating in India but strengthened by diaspora involvement in the United Kingdom and United States, bolstered Modi’s popularity. Cyber-Hindutva actors have been instrumental in promoting Islamophobic anxiety online, speaking ‘truth’ about the danger of Islam on the subcontinent as well as in the West. Cyber-Hindutva builds on a legacy of long-distance nationalism in the diaspora. Long-distance nationalism vis-à-vis the diaspora does not operate as a two-way trajectory, however, but as a continuous cycle of active engagement between the ‘homeland’ and communities outside India. British and American Hindutva organisations have emerged in response to longdistance nationalism but equally due to political conditions in ‘host societies’. Such conditions have led these diaspora Hindutva organisations to mobilise through effective lobbying efforts and consultation with national government departments and agencies. Under the guise of multicultural legislation and policymaking, these organisations represent a universal Hindu
community distanced from the Muslim ‘other’, ultimately reinforcing the narrative that Muslims are ‘unassimilable’ vis-à-vis Hindus as ‘well-integrated’. Given the ideological basis of anti-Muslim and anti-Islam sentiment of diaspora Hindutva, as expressed simultaneously with long-distance nationalism and within multiculturalism agenda-setting, a lacuna exists in whether diaspora Hindutva translates into support for the radical right in the West. Indeed, the Brexit and Trump campaigns echoed themes prevalent in diaspora Hindutva discourse, not only reinforcing Islamophobic tropes but anxiety with protecting the boundaries of the nation-state. This is exemplified in a case study of the Republican Hindu Coalition (RHC)–sponsored Ab Ki Baar Trump Sarkar campaign. New identitarian organisations such as the RHC serve as institutional mobilising agents that replicate activities of earlier diaspora Hindutva organisations in Western-Anglo societies. The RHC continues to manifest political integration as a groupist phenomenon, asserting the rights of the diaspora community in the vocabulary of multiculturalism. Yet the RHC marks a shift in merging religious genres with contemporary geopolitical realities in a hybridised format made possible by mass media consumption, that is, the Ab Ki Baar Trump Sarkar campaign. This chapter thus explores how the Internet serves as a medium that creates new ideological hybridities between diaspora Hindutva and the radical right in Western societies by drawing on a year-long qualitative study of Hindu diaspora Twitter users in the United Kingdom and United States who support Brexit and Trump. Here, users challenge traditional groupist political integration strategies of diaspora Hindutva organisations. This does not disregard the very powerful role that organisations continue to hold in this space, but, as this chapter shows, the increasing capacity of individuals seeking a voice within the online milieu surpasses that of diaspora organisations. For these individuals, political integration occurs by virtue of online interactions at multiple levels of entanglement. First, these users reinforce the ‘homeland’–diaspora relationship by adapting Hindutva narratives towards local contexts. In the process of doing so, they use the language of multiculturalism to foster a collective diasporic consciousness. Second, entanglements traverse diaspora communities in the United Kingdom and United States. Hindu diaspora users share in common expressions of positionality as ‘good immigrants’ who belong in WesternAnglo societies. Last, entanglements exist between the Hindu diaspora and Western radical right leaders. There is a mutual ideological commitment to exclusionary nationalism, united by the ‘othering’ of Islam whilst reinforcing that Hindu diaspora political integration is feasible due to their status as non-Muslims. This last entanglement marks a new transition in Hindu diaspora political integration. By creating alliances with the radical right in the West, the new boundary making of inclusion/exclusion delineates diasporic Hindus from Muslims. As such, fear of being misidentified as Muslim ultimately reinforces Muslims as a threat due to their fundamental ‘otherness’, which
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is culturally incompatible in Western societies. By extension, diasporic Hindus in alignment with the radical right view Muslims as not belonging to the national imaginary. This development challenges traditional frames of groupist political integration by highlighting new dynamics of social relations as relational and contextual, rather than static, as a pattern of political integration.
‘India has won’ India’s 2014 general election was unprecedented in political history. Combined with an innovative communications strategy, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) truly excelled on a platform focusing on issues of governance, anti-corruption, economic development and job creation (particularly in the technology industry), and infrastructure development. By simultaneously targeting the incumbent Congress Party for decades of dynastic politics and the failure to create sustainable growth, the BJP reached out to a large and growing audience disillusioned with unscrupulous party politics. Thus, if ‘Hindu nationalist politics has oscillated between ethnoreligious nationalism, and socio-economic issues of corruption and economic growth throughout its career in postcolonial India’ (Udupa 2014: 15), then 2014 was the hallmark of a success story. The key ingredient of BJP success was undoubtedly its candidate Narendra Modi. Positioned as an outsider with a charismatic persona during the campaign, Modi presented ‘himself as an aam admi, a common man’ (Jaffrelot 2015a: 159) construed in the populist vein. Drawing on Engesser et al., populist ideology comprises key elements of ‘popular sovereignty’, ‘pure people’, ‘corrupt elite’, ‘dangerous others’, and ‘glorification of the heartland, an “idealized conception of the community” (Taggart 2004: 274) or “retrospective utopia” (Priester 2012: 2)’ (Engessert et al. 2017: 3). Historically, the BJP has championed an ethnonationalist ideology through its affirmation of India as a Hindu nation, commemorating a nostalgic past of the Vedic period as the golden era of Hinduism. It makes claims of ‘Hindu identity and culture being the mainstay of the Indian nation and of Indian society’ (BJP 2016). Modi’s populist revolt drew on the BJP’s legacy by distinctively conflating ethnoreligiosity as a basis of belonging against the secular, corrupt political and media establishment. Modi deliberately ‘associated himself with Hindu symbols and personalities’, playing into the domain of upper-class, upper-caste Hindu culture saturated with ethnoreligious connotations wrought by a legacy of Hindutva politics (Jaffrelot 2015a: 160; 2015b: 24). By claiming to represent ‘the people’ (i.e. Hindus) against the ‘dangerous others’ (i.e. Muslims and secular elite), Modi became a populist figure within the Hindutva apparatus. Modi and the mainstreaming of Hindutva parallels an emergence in post1991 India as the country witnesses a new era of neo-liberalisation. At the core of this paradigm shift is the Internet symbolising India’s economic future
as a global technology powerhouse (Chopra 2006: 190–192). Access to the IT sector had previously been restricted to English-speaking, middle- and upper-class urban elite, who also constituted the Hindutva base. Yet the rise of a new group of IT professionals with education and expertise challenges this phenomenon (ibid.: 194). In 2014, the BJP gained traction amongst the ‘neo-middle class’ who identify with Modi’s ‘upwardly mobile trajectory’ and ‘humble origins’ (Jaffrelot 2015b: 26). This ‘neo-middle class’ of IT professionals envisions a future personified by Modi, and thus supporting Hindutva becomes synonymous with a route to social mobility.1 Crucially, the ‘social media politician’ (New York Times 2014) used social networking platforms (i.e. Twitter, Facebook, Google+, YouTube) throughout the campaign as a highly effective communicative tool in engaging with the public by replying to questions, crowdsourcing comments and recommendations on key issues, and hosting live streams with young, first-time voters (Ahmed, Jaidka, and Cho 2016; Chadha and Guha 2016; Pal 2015; Rajagopal 2014). Modi continues to be especially active on Twitter, with one of the fastest-growing accounts of nearly 44 million followers at present. Modi crafts his Twitter persona by strategically ‘following’ public and non-public accounts, tweeting about both political and non-political issues, tweeting less Hindutva content (Pal, Chandra, and Vydiswaran 2016), and simultaneously tweeting in English and vernacular languages. During the campaign, Modi encouraged the electorate to ‘VOTE FOR INDIA’ and subsequently tweeted ‘India has Won’2 upon victory. By ‘branding India’ (Rajagopal 2014: 14), Modi strikes at the heartland element conducive to populism ‘by shot-circuiting institutions in order to be perceived as a man of the people and for the people’ (Jaffrelot 2015a: 154). As a ‘“victim” of an elite “news media conspiracy”’ (Chakravartty and Roy 2015: 316), Modi constructs a self-image of transparency, accountability, and accessibility by exploiting a populist narrative. In many ways, Modi encapsulates ‘a larger brand image that at once straddles two spaces – a man who represents values and tradition and a man who represents globalized modernity’ (Pal 2015: 2). Modi’s electoral performance illustrates this delicate balance of defining India in the 21st century. Modi’s rise in popularity corresponds with the development of a young, technologically savvy population in India more generally but also signifies the particular emergence of ‘Internet Hindus’ or ‘Cyber Hindus’. Described as ‘self-styled right-wing Hindu activists’, they are frequently recruited by the BJP in India and within the diaspora to push pro-Hindutva/Modi, as well as anti-Muslim and anti-left, coverage online (Udupa 2014: 15; Chadha and Guha 2016: 4397–8; Chakravartty and Roy 2015: 318). Internet Hindus help construct the narrative of India as a Hindu rashtra (or state) by promoting a ‘golden’ Hindu past in which Modi is viewed as a figure capable of restoring lost glory. For Internet Hindus based in India, online performance is a means of engaging in ‘Hindutva politics as discursive practice’ in order
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to ‘recast Hindu nationalism as an entrepreneurial, ideological project of net-enabled youth’ (Udupa 2015: 436, 433). The Internet Hindu hence ‘can be seen as a local phenomenon with a global presence, with his elite character intact and his penchant for aggressive, identity-based political speech amplified through his presence on social media networks’ (Mohan 2015: 342). Internet Hindus ultimately manifest how Hindutva adapts to online spaces in contemporary times. Yet Modi’s victory could not be possible without significant diaspora support, those who fit neatly within neo-liberalised India’s ‘state discourse as the most authentic incarnation of post-colonial citizenship’ (Chopra 2006: 192). Volunteer networks abroad, such as the Overseas Friends of BJP, played a prominent role during the election (Chadha and Guha 2016). But even more so were those involved in Modi’s campaign operations, within and outside India: Modi’s campaign hired ad agency Ogilvy and Mather and was run by the convenors of the BJP national information technology (IT) cell at the party’s headquarters. Reported associates included Illinois Institute of Technology’s PhD Arvind Gupta, Chanakya Institute professor Radhakrishnan Pillai, Columbia University graduate and tech entrepreneur Rajesh Jain, and a number of volunteers from investment banking, consulting, technology and management. (Pal, Chandra, and Vydiswaran 2016: 59) Modi’s appearance as a populist fgure was thus a well-crafted operation led by a team of consultants, communications strategists, and funders. Further, ‘the communication teams were coordinated by the BJP IT Cell whose chief, Arvind Gupta – another US-trained supporter of Modi – had started the National Digital Operations Centre at the party headquarters in Delhi in July 2013’ (Jaffrelot 2015a: 156). The BJP crucially recruited diasporic Hindus, or those who had lived abroad, with the necessary skills to achieve Modi’s social media image. The following section details the evolution of Hindutva amongst the British and American diaspora.3
Diaspora Hindutva Scholarship on the Hindu diaspora is dominated by the legacy of Hindutva organisations in the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, the Caribbean, and eastern and southern Africa (Bhatt and Mukta 2000: 435). Due to length considerations, this chapter omits presenting a holistic overview of literature on the global Hindu diaspora and instead focuses on the United Kingdom and United States contexts. It first provides a brief outline of longdistance nationalism amongst the diaspora (as manifested through the proliferation of cyber-Hindutva) in order to situate how contemporary British
and American Hindutva emerged in response to long-distance nationalism, as well as multiculturalism as a policy agenda in Western-Anglo societies. The Hindu diaspora first began to settle in the United Kingdom in large waves beginning after the partition of the subcontinent in 1947. A second successive wave occurred in the 1970s, with many migrating from east Africa, particularly when Uganda ordered the expulsion of Asians in 1972. And a further wave in the 1990s resulted from British immigration policy allowing for more international students. British Hindus as a demographic have been generally successful, with representation in professional and managerial positions and top placements in universities. Average household income is also higher than the national average (Office of National Statistics, UK Government 2013). On the other hand, Hindus began migrating to the United States in large waves during the 1960s as professionals who quickly assimilated into American society based on their elite status. Most settled in middle-class suburban communities, universities, and corporations. The 1970s, however, witnessed the arrival of Hindu migrants that worked as small business owners and traders, who settled in ghettoised neighbourhoods with few resources at their disposal. Yet a third wave during the 1980s and 1990s witnessed highly skilled and highly educated Hindu migrants employed in the IT sector or arriving for study in advanced degrees. Consequently, American Hindus constitute one of the highest average household incomes and regularly feature in top-ranked university admissions and professional occupations (Pew Research Center 2014). Despite sociological differences within the Hindu diaspora – for example, most in the United Kingdom are descendants of indentured labourers and merchants who first settled in east and south Africa (thus so-called ‘twice migrants’), as opposed to wealthy professionals that directly migrated to the United States – long-distance nationalism remains a prominent feature. Long-distance nationalism can be conceptualised as the allegiance of a diaspora to their ‘homeland’ (see Anderson 1998) – in this case India4 – or what Alexander (2017) refers to as ‘engagement with both “roots” and “routes”’ (1544). As such, the diaspora may hold citizenship in a ‘host society’ whilst identifying with their country of origin and/or ancestry. Longdistance nationalism has especially amplified in reaction to the proliferation of modern technologies and increasing flows of migration under processes of globalisation. The third wave of the Hindu diaspora in the United States is particularly well suited for studying long-distance nationalism, as patterns of migratory settlement are often intertwined with the rise of information and communication technologies, thus exemplifying the speed and scale of hyper-connectivity. Whilst religious identification plays a degree in the search for common belonging, Hindutva offers a unique ethnonationalist appeal well situated for the Hindu diasporic condition. The Hindu diaspora in turn has played a crucial role in shaping the ideological and political trajectory of Hindutva
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across global networks. From its early days, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) organisation has been a constant force, even if structurally lacking, amongst the diaspora (Bhatt 2000: 576). The RSS has since transformed its operations abroad from a small group of migrants to a vast Internet network that virtually connects thousands every day (Jaffrelot and Therwath 2007). Cyber-shakhas were launched as early as 1999 and sophisticated e-shakhas in 2008, reflecting the RSS’s innovative approach in using the web to reach the diaspora worldwide. Indeed, when mapping Hindutva websites, in particular those of the BJP and RSS, India continues to be the symbolic epicentre, whilst the United States remains the main node of operations by hosting site domains (Lal 1999: 155; Therwath 2012: 564). As noted briefly previously, the BJP recruits Internet Hindus from the diaspora to supplement India-based volunteers. In contrast to the outdated RSS e-shakhas, whereby participation is constricted in an institutionally controlled forum or chat room, this new version of cyber-Hindutva is exemplified through the Internet Hindu as an individual who becomes empowered by adopting a persona/avatar across an expansive network of platforms. For Internet Hindus in the diaspora, the element of belonging to a global collective Hindutva attracts those seeking a connection with the homeland. The relationship between cyber-Hindutva and the diaspora builds on a legacy of exploiting resources and skills of Hindus abroad. Early on, Hindutva organisations sought those in the diaspora employed as software engineers with the skills to manage Hindutva websites in order to disseminate ideology and express ‘jingoistic nationalism’ views (Therwath 2012; Mathew and Prashad 2000; Rajagopal 2000: 485; Mathew 2000). Given that the core base of diaspora Hindutva is composed of young, skilled males whose livelihood is within the IT industry, the Internet becomes an obvious medium to virtually connect and promote Hindutva (Chopra 2006: 194; Lal 1999: 154; Rai 1995: 43–44). Although much of this activity occurs amongst the US-based diaspora, communications also plays a central role in disseminating information and issues between Hindutva in India and the United Kingdom (Burlet 2013: 15). Yet long-distance nationalism is not a one-direction trajectory, either spatially, temporally, or bodily but rather a continuous cycle of active engagement between the homeland and communities abroad. By specifying a diasporic consciousness as distinct from Indians in India, we can situate the Indian diaspora as its own unique trajectory. Here, India is not a measure of ‘authentic’ culture contrasted against the ‘diluted’ culture of the diaspora community (see Vertovec 2000). Rather, diasporic identity is dynamic and constantly reproduced based on contextual experiences. As such, ‘that migrants themselves maintain boundaries is only to be expected; the interesting question, and the question relevant to the existence of a diaspora, is to what extent and in what forms boundaries are maintained by second, third and subsequent generations’ (Brubaker 2005: 7). The role of diaspora Hindutva organisations has been crucial in these boundary-making claims.
British and American Hindutva both emerged in the context of an articulation of groupist political integration that places the Hindu diaspora in the United States and United Kingdom within a distinct ethnoreligious category in Western-Anglo societies. Political integration here refers to the definition given in the introduction to this volume, as a formal level of access to political institutions and political rights. Diaspora Hindutva organisations serve as lobbies at the state level in order to secure representation for a ‘universal’ Hindu community. What distinguishes this phenomenon as groupist is the essentialising dynamics of these Hindutva organisations, which, though they may be characterised as internally diverse, for example, Gujarati or Punjabi, operate under an umbrella term of faith-based belonging. This adheres to what Brubaker (2004) describes as ‘groupism’, or ‘the tendency to take discrete, bounded groups as basic constituents of social life, chief protagonists of social conflicts, and fundamental units of social analysis . . . as if they were internally homogeneous, externally bounded groups, even unitary collective actors with common purposes’ (8). Here, Brubaker draws upon ‘boundary-maintenance’ practices of diasporas, which involves ‘the preservation of a distinctive identity vis-à-vis a host society (or societies)’ juxtaposed against ‘hybridity, fluidity, creolization, and syncretism’ (2005: 6). Boundary-maintenance characterises the diaspora as a substantive ‘entity’ which runs the risk of ‘groupism’ (ibid.: 11). In other words, diaspora Hindutva organisations play a central role in constructing the notion that the Hindu diaspora can be understood as a homogenous entity in which Hinduness is a bounded category of identity that is universal in practice. It is not just long-distance nationalist sentiments that motivate diaspora Hindutva organisations to form boundary-maintenance, however. Equally important has been multiculturalism as a policy agenda in Western-Anglo ‘host societies’, which emphasises ethnic and religious plurality through the ‘political accommodation of minorities’ (Modood 2016). Such political accommodation takes shape through the provision of access to government policymaking on issues of ‘recognition’ highlighting difference (see Taylor 1994). Consequently, this privileges groupist identity formation built around the notion of ‘communities’ rather than individuals. Diaspora Hindutva organisations seize this opportunity to present themselves as representative of Hindus in order ‘to make claims, to articulate projects, to formulate expectations, to mobilize energies, to appeal to loyalties’ (Brubaker 2005: 12) more broadly. In the United Kingdom, despite disproportionate socioeconomic success as a minority population, the articulation of ‘Hindu hurt’ by diaspora Hindutva organisations plays upon experiences of historical marginalisation and racism. Consequently, these organisations appropriate a victimhood narrative to garner a voice in the name of religious and cultural plurality; many consult with national government departments and agencies on issues related to diversity, multiculturalism, and community cohesion (Zavos 2010a: 18). Other umbrella organisations (which operate outside
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the formal Sangh Parivar network) campaign for Hindu representation, employing the discourse of multiculturalism such as politics of recognition for ‘the Hindu community’, thus essentialising a universal Hindu identity (Anderson 2015: 51). British Hindus mobilised as a distinct ethnoreligious minority in response to multiculturalism legislation and policymaking but also largely due to opposition of British Muslim mobilisation beginning in the 1980s (and accelerated by the Rushdie affair) (Burlet 2013: 5–7). The result is ‘a general ambiguity in relation to the positioning of Hindu-ness . . . a common desire to exclude British Muslims is apparent, but this commonality is overlaid by a sense of Hindu-ness in process, a negotiation of the identity in relation to different discourses: of nationality, of a kind of “post-nationality”, and of religion’ (Zavos 2010b: 335). British Hindutva thus reinforces a privileging of Hindu-ness that merges religious identification with projections of ideological superiority. Yet a ‘post-nationality’ arises whereby Hindu-ness is envisioned as a broader diasporic consciousness beyond the nation-state imaginary; in short, being a Hindu drives collective identity building. In the United States, on the other hand, joining Hindutva organisations traditionally provided a means to build sociocultural capital with other entrepreneurs and IT professional migrants (Mathew and Prashad 2000: 524) but simultaneously reflects an attempt to reconnect with the ‘culture’ of ‘back home’. American Hindus likewise navigate a multicultural society that ‘seeks to accommodate itself to its minority status in a pluralistic but racially polarized society’ (Rajagopal 2000: 468). Consequently, ‘Yankee Hindutva’, or ‘the style in which Hindutva is imagined in the US . . . [is] as much a response to US racism through the provision of support structures for Indian Americans who are at a social loss in the US, as it is to the growth of Hindu nationalism as “home”’ (Mathew and Prashad 2000: 518). Hindutva organisations seize upon this opportunity to present a version of Hinduism that can accommodate the American Hindu experience. They play on the cultural anxieties of a professional middle class demographic in the United States, fearful of ‘losing’ their heritage but with resources that allow for its reproduction in ‘cultural’ spaces (ibid.). This is reflected in cases such as the textbook controversy in California, in which American Hindutva organisations protested the California State Board of Education, ‘claiming that California textbooks discriminated against Hindus and presented a demeaning image of Hinduism’ (Visweswaran, Witzel, Manjrenkar, Bhog, and Chakravarti 2009: 101). By expressing grievances in the realm of education, these organisations could further an ideology but do so by representing ‘truth’ in knowledge. Following 9/11, however, in a climate of Islamophobia, American Hindutva organisations shifted focus to lobbying policy makers and legislators in an effort to distinguish Hindus from the Muslim ‘other’. By proclaiming Hinduism as an ‘American’ religion rooted in peace and non-violence, Islam by contrast is reinforced as a religion fundamentally incompatible
with US national interests. Such organisations additionally designate critics as ‘Hinduphobic’ (Kurien 2016, 2006), thus sublimating an ideological agenda under the guise of religious pluralism. In sum, diaspora Hindutva organisations are successful not merely due to long-distance nationalist sentiments of the diaspora, but ‘such an undertaking would have been doomed to fail if the host societies hadn’t played along through a peculiar mixture of racism and multiculturalism, and if the international context, dominated by the “Islamist threat,” hadn’t mirrored certain features of the situation in India’ (Jaffrelot and Therwath 2007: 279). A prime example of this is how the language of multiculturalism, as articulated by diaspora Hindutva, transposes to Hindutva rhetoric in India. In particular, ‘processes of discrimination or minority status in the West become translated in religious and ethnic terms to create new languages of majorities and minorities that are rearticulated as coherent ideologies of religious or ethnic nationalism and which then have repercussions on the countries of origins themselves’ (Bhatt and Mukta 2000: 409). When Hindutva ideologues in India describe themselves as ‘oppressed’ due to Islamic invasion, then this reflects an articulated politics of recognition as experienced by the diaspora in Western-Anglo multicultural societies. Such rhetorical appropriation draws upon ‘multiculturalism pluralism . . . to represent a unified, Hindu India’ (Rai 1995: 51–52). The effect is a transnationalisation of human rights vocabulary (Chopra 2006: 188) originated by the diaspora in Western-Anglo multicultural societies and adapted by Hindutva actors in India to further the logic that Hindus are a majority that have become a minority in their own homeland. Diaspora Hindutva is thus the outcome of a highly politicised agenda that combines transnational and multicultural identity politics. Given the ideological foundation of diaspora Hindutva as not merely representing Hindu communities but doing so in opposition to Islam/ Muslims – both in the ‘homeland’ and within ‘host societies’ – a lacuna exists in whether diaspora Hindutva translates into support for the radical right in the West. The Brexit referendum and Trump’s campaign in 2016 provided an opportunity to synthesise diaspora Hindutva narratives with populist radical right agendas. The following section details how these phenomena came to fruition.
From #JaiHind to #MAGA Throughout 2016, the Brexit referendum in the United Kingdom and Trump’s campaign (and later presidency) in the United States prominently featured anti-Muslim discourse well established within Hindutva narratives. During the Brexit referendum, the Leave campaign was heavily criticised for instilling ‘Project Fear’ (Galpin 2016) by constructing narratives of uncontrolled migration – especially of Muslim refugees, as displayed in the ‘Breaking Point’ campaign banner (Hackett 2018) – and linking failed immigration
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and integration policies with the potential for terrorist attacks committed by Muslim migrants. During Trump’s campaign, the then-candidate called for a ‘total and complete shutdown’ of all Muslims entering the United States. In the first week of the administration, the ‘Muslim ban’ was implemented, whereby immigrants, refugees, and visa holders from a list of Muslim-majority countries could not enter the United States. Fulfilling policies under the ‘America First’ agenda was thus given top priority as Muslims were assessed to be a national security threat, thus reinforcing Islamophobic anxieties of Muslims as ‘foreigners’ with the intent to cause violence and terrorism in the United States (Tesler 2018; Abdelkader 2016). The Brexit and Trump campaigns brought to the fore the visibility of populist radical right discourse in the United Kingdom and United States. Both events can be analysed as a continuum of the other, with ‘simultaneous eruptions of populist nationalist sentiment involving heightened suspicion toward those deemed as “foreign”’ (Mandaville 2017: 59). Following the Brexit referendum, racially motivated hate crimes spiked (particularly towards Muslims but also Eastern Europeans), creating a hostile climate already ridden by political polarisation (Burnett 2017; Khalili 2017; Virdee and McGeever 2017); such abuse extended online as well (Evolvi 2017). Similarly, under Trump’s presidency, reported hate crimes against Muslims have increased (Levin and Reitzel 2018), whilst a 45% increase in hate violence and xenophobic political rhetoric against South Asians was documented within the first year of the administration, with 82% of perpetrators driven by anti-Muslim sentiment (SAALT 2018). Online hate speech directed towards minorities has also flourished as Trump supporters feel emboldened to express bigoted views (Eddington 2018; Barkun 2017; Hine et al. 2017). Yet the Brexit and Trump campaigns echoed themes prevalent in Hindutva discourse, not only with Islamophobic tropes but anxiety about protecting the boundaries of the nation-state. The Hindutva notion of Akhand Bharat (or Undivided India), whereby the modern geographies of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh are once again united under one state, parallels the fear of uncontrolled borders promoted by the Brexit campaign and Trump’s nativist agenda. The diaspora, despite its liminal positionality, also plays a role in furthering ‘the epistemological imperatives of modernity and the nation-state’ (Lal 1999: 163). Here, a ‘productive synergy that exists between distinct nationalist projects’ creates not competing but complementary nationalisms, in which the imaginary of India as a Hindu nation and Western nations as a white, Christian hegemony is compatible (Thobani 2018: 3). The diaspora hence serves as ‘active members in political projects “back home”’ whilst simultaneously engaging as ‘dynamic participants in furthering nationalisms rooted in their countries of settlement as well’ (ibid.: 6). This is best exemplified with the Ab Ki Baar Trump Sarkar campaign in the United States, a case study discussed in the following section of how
diasporic Hindus participated and mobilised around Trump’s platform to reinforce such complementary nationalisms. Ab Ki Baar Trump Sarkar During autumn of 2016, at the height of the US election, a particular Indian American individual, Shalabh Kumar, gained notoriety in the media spotlight for having donated nearly $1 million to Trump’s campaign. The year prior, Kumar founded the Republican Hindu Coalition, an advocacy organisation seeking to be the ‘bridge between the Hindu-American community and Republican policymakers and leaders’ (RHC 2017) on issues pertinent to the United States and India, such as trade and foreign policy relations, as well as security cooperation on Islamist extremism. Kumar had previously arranged a congressional delegation to visit Modi in India when he was still chief minister of Gujarat (who at the time was denied a visa to the United States for his administration’s role in the 2002 Gujarat riots). After Modi became prime minister, Kumar organised a cultural event for Modi’s 2014 visit to Madison Square Garden, inviting members of the US Congress. In 2016, the RHC under Kumar endorsed Trump’s campaign before Trump had secured the Republican nomination (Thobani 2018: 6). In October 2016, the RHC sponsored a public, ‘family fun’ event entitled ‘Humanity United Against Terror’ to highlight the plight of Kashmiri pandits and Hindu refugees from Bangladesh. It featured Bollywood performances in music and dance, yet steeped in a distinctly Islamophobic undertone: Coding the cultural identity of the event, the performances enabled its organizers to enact the ‘exemplary Other’ . . . Exotic yet already familiar – for Bollywood has long occupied a place in popular Western imaginaries, conjuring up ideas of colour, extravagance, and the carnivalesque – the inclusion of Bollywood dance helped catapult the racio-religious delineations of the RHC into American public consciousness. (ibid.: 14) By masking anti-Muslim sentiment in a familiar aesthetic of Bollywood, the RHC successfully promoted a spectacle of diasporic cultural production designated with tropes of the ‘exemplary Other’, that is, Hindus. Under this guise, the RHC projected an ideological message amicable for mainstream audiences: that (non-violent) Hindus suffer under the oppression of (violent) Islam. When Trump entered the stage as keynote speaker of the event, his speech contained a few key themes that drew praise from the audience.5 First, Trump stressed entrepreneurial success, both in India and amongst Hindu Americans. The then-candidate described how ‘[Hindu] values of hard work, education, and enterprise’ have contributed to US society. By reinforcing the idea that Hindu Americans are ‘good immigrants’ who serve as the so-called
Cyber-Hindutva to Ab Ki Baar Trump Sarkar
model minority in American society, Trump asserted the myth of the American Dream. Second, Trump praised India’s role in fighting ‘radical Islamic terrorism’, especially against Pakistan, and signalled the need for United States–India collaboration to eliminate this evil threat. Trump expressed anxiety towards Islam throughout the campaign, equating Islam with a foreign threat to India’s national security and ultimately reinforcing the idea that India is a Hindu nation and Pakistan a Muslim nation, a bespoke narrative tailored to the event. Here, Trump evoked a ‘“diasporic imaginary”, shown to be generative of diasporic subjectivity in its ability to first produce the imagined homeland to which the diaspora relates and through which it defines itself in turn. Imbricated with the diasporic imaginary then, long-distance nationalism is not only the result of historical migrations, but of the violence of nation-formation as well’ (ibid.: 5). The violent legacy of Partition resulting in the nation-states of India and Pakistan has been cemented in the diasporic imaginary as a continuous struggle to define who belongs in these national formations. Trump’s statement can additionally be viewed in conjunction with sensationalised stories of ‘radicalised’ Bangladeshi migrant workers in India who are stigmatised for ‘promoting’ Islamist activities, prompting reactionary responses to increase border security with the Muslim-majority nation. The event’s aim to highlight the plight of Kashmiri pandits and Hindu refugees from Bangladesh implies that in order to defeat ‘radical Islamic terrorism’, it is imperative to maintain and secure India’s boundaries from a looming threat. This reinforces the Akhand Bharat narrative and, by extension, the ‘geographies of India and the US are made symbolically synonymous, metaphorically mapped onto one another via concerns to secure their (different) territorial boundaries’ (ibid.: 13). Last, Trump called out ‘crooked Hillary’ with her links to the ‘politically correct’ establishment. At the event, a poster surfaced of Hillary Clinton, with devil horns, as being in cahoots with Indian National Congress’s Sonia Gandhi to eliminate Modi in a ‘witch hunt’. Trump reinforced ‘identifying these leftist adversaries as intent on destroying the US and as extension of progressive groups in India’ (ibid.: 12). Implicitly, Trump equated his antiestablishment persona challenging Clinton to that of Modi’s initiative to root out corruption imposed by Congress’s legacy of dynastic politics. Following its pseudo-rally, the RHC produced campaign material specifically targeting Hindu Americans. Described as the Ab Ki Baar Trump Sarkar (‘This time a Trump government’) campaign – modelled after Ab Ki Baar Modi Sarkar in 2014 – the RHC released a video advertisement6 featuring clips of the ‘Humanity United Against Terror’ event and Trump reinforcing his commitment to Hindu American interests, including speaking in Hindi, ‘Ab Ki Baar Trump Sarkar’. The advertisement went viral, receiving coverage in news media articles in India, the United States, and United Kingdom (and even on late-night television programmes).7
Representations of hybridity permeate the Ab Ki Baar Trump Sarkar advertisement. Released during Diwali with Hindi music playing in the background, it signifies the ushering in of a Trump era as a new beginning laced with optimism. Indeed, when Trump lights the diya upon first entering the stage, the symbolism of light over darkness marks a forthcoming period of hope. Trump’s statement that ‘We love the Hindus, We love India’ refers to working with Modi in order to build a better United States–India relationship to achieve a state of harmony (or, in the words of Kumar, achieving Ram Rajya). Since the election, Kumar has held a prominent role in Trump’s transition team and continues to be involved in the White House as part of the Asian Pacific American Advisory Committee and the National Committee of Asian American Republicans. Kumar often visits India as spokesman for the RHC, providing media interviews where he declares support for the Trump administration and promises favourable United States–India relations. In 2017, the RHC released a book written by a Republican campaign strategist entitled Ab Ki Baar Trump Sarkar: How One Man Flipped the Hindu-American Vote to Put Trump in the White House, which documents the founding and development of the organisation. The RHC builds on a legacy of diaspora Hindutva mobilisation. Yet, its Ab Ki Baar Trump Sarkar campaign symbolises a larger phenomenon that merges religious genres with contemporary geopolitical realities in a hybridised format made possible by mass media consumption. In other words, the Ab Ki Baar Trump Sarkar campaign politicised expressions of Hindu-ness by weaving in Hindutva narratives of Islamist extremism as a simultaneous threat to India and the United States. It targeted the diaspora with a visual representation well suited to virality on social media (by releasing the advertisement on YouTube). Combined with the emergence of identitarian social media groups such as Hindus for Trump8 and the less vocal but noticeable diaspora support for Brexit in the United Kingdom, this new mode of highly visible diaspora mobilisation as a groupist political integration project has gained traction in the national spotlight.9 Ideological linkages between diaspora Hindutva and the Western-Anglo radical right are materialised and reinforced via online spaces in which ‘information exchange on the internet is characterized by the borrowing of ideas, concepts and stratagems across movements. . . . In this manner, internet discourse may be characterized by the somewhat paradoxical quality of standardized hybridity, a bricolage across borders’ (Chopra 2006: 201–202). The following theorises how the convergent nature of ‘internet discourse’ creates new ideological hybridities between diaspora Hindutva and support for populist radical right ideas.
Methodology This chapter highlights the participatory dynamics and interactions of Hindu diaspora Twitter users living in the United Kingdom and United States who
Cyber-Hindutva to Ab Ki Baar Trump Sarkar
express pro-Brexit and/or pro-Trump views. Determining account selection criteria was difficult due a number of factors, not least that a limited number of accounts were explicit in revealing both Hindu identity and preference for populist radical right politics. Often, Hindu names and/or photos became an indicator, although determining religious affiliation ran the risk of essentialising ethnic/racial identities based on phenotype. In addition, a number of Sikh and Christian diaspora account users were actively posting pro-Brexit and/or pro-Trump content. Thus, data collection included Hindu, Sikh, and Christian diaspora users. This chapter, however, focuses on Hindu diaspora users and their role in creating new boundaries of diaspora Hindutva.10 From April 2017 to April 2018, entire timelines of thirty-nine selected Twitter accounts was scraped, providing the first to most recent tweet of each user, with a total of 185,580 tweets that were manually coded. The location of accounts was either provided by users or determined according to the tweets that displayed a familiarity with local political issues in the United Kingdom or United States. With the exception of a few accounts, nearly all the users tweeted about both Brexit and Trump, thus allowing for a convergent rather than a comparative analysis of users. Accounts were composed of both organisations (two in the United Kingdom, seven in the United States) and individuals (thirteen in the United Kingdom, seventeen in the United States). Individuals were distinguished by a few characteristics, such as composing the majority of users, tweeting at a greater frequency than organisations, and being the only users to have more than 10,000 followers. Hence, although organisations may serve as mobilising agents, instead, individuals dominated the Twitter network.11 The following highlights the main findings of these Hindu diaspora Twitter users, emphasising how ideological hybridities form by virtue of online interactions at multiple levels of entanglement: between the ‘homeland’ and diaspora; across diaspora communities in the United Kingdom and United States; and amongst diaspora communities and radical right leaders in Western societies.
(Trans)national imaginaries between the ‘homeland’ and diaspora Hindu diaspora users visibly display a sense of belonging to the imagined ‘homeland’ on the Twitter platform. Proud Immigrant reflects this connectivity to India in defence of her political views: ‘I was born in India where many support Trump’.12 Indeed, approximately forty percent in India view Trump as a strong leader who is well qualifed to be president. Nearly the same percentage support Trump’s restriction on immigration from Muslim-majority countries, with
BJP supporters more likely to support this initiative (Stokes, Manevich and Chwe 2017). There does exist a small following of overt Trump supporters in India, especially amongst fringe Hindutva groups that have organised public rallies (e.g. Hindu Sena). But rather than stating evidence for her claim, Proud Immigrant indicates her positioning as a diasporic individual as justifcation. By identifying her ‘homeland’, Proud Immigrant constructs a ‘diasporic imaginary’ whereby her role is one of transnational engagement within a global diasporic consciousness. Connection to the ‘homeland’ is further evident in the way Hindu diaspora Twitter users reinforce Hindutva tropes. By referring to the historical Islamic ‘conquest’ of the subcontinent, this ignites contemporary fears of ‘suffering’ and ‘oppression’ by Muslims who have ‘invaded’ India in order to convert Hindus. Such tweets are used to caution the West to protect its sovereign borders in order to avoid a repeat of history. Similarly, users describe instances of Hindu ‘persecution’ in other parts of the world, for example, Kashmir and Bangladesh (especially in heavily populated Rohingya areas), as incidences of ‘genocide’ and ‘#religiousapartheid’. Users often include the hashtag ‘#MakeIndiaGreatAgain’ and ‘#hindulivesmatter’ in response to an imagined ‘jihad’ against Hindus and the ‘Hindu way of life’. Building on the legacy of diaspora Hindutva mobilisation, these users call for the recognition of Hindu victimhood as an endemic global predicament. But they importantly do so in a vocabulary that exploits current discourses – as well as mimicking popular viral hashtag strategies – within contemporary left-wing identity politics. The discursive tactic of exploiting Western social movement narratives (i.e. using hashtags such as #hindulivesmatter compared to #blacklivesmatter) is a distinct framing that evokes civil liberties in the struggle for social justice. Hindu diaspora Twitter users also contextualise Hindu–Muslim tension into local conflictual incidents. For instance, preserving Hindu temples is a means of ‘survival’, whereas mosques are depicted as sites of cultural intrusion. Tweets refer to a story reported by far-right media site Breitbart News of British Hindu protests against plans to construct a Muslim centre in a ‘non-Muslim area’ of Leicester. These territorial wars over symbolic places of worship reveal how Hindutva rhetoric traverses to the diasporic context – from Ayodhya to Leicester. It reveals how claims-making ‘functions across scales – often simultaneously and multi-directionality – from the transnational through the national to the local’ (Alexander 2017: 1549). Muslims and Islam are viewed as a threat, not just as a violent and dangerous religion, but fundamentally at odds with the cohesion of local communities in Western-Anglo societies. The Hindu diaspora, in contrast, portrays Hinduism as a religion compatible with Western values of law and order, tolerance, and peace. Thus, when politicians visit Hindu temples, such as former British Prime Minister Theresa May, or when Trump celebrates Diwali in the White House with Shalabh Kumar,13 this reinforces the notion that Hinduism is a religion that belongs in the West.
Cyber-Hindutva to Ab Ki Baar Trump Sarkar
(Trans)national imaginaries between diasporas If diaspora encapsulates the idea of ‘scattering’ to, as Safran insists, ‘at least two “peripheral” places’ (1991: 83–84), this begs the question of what links these dispersed places and groups without recourse to a place of origin? And, relatedly, how are these links to be operationalized as part of a process of claims-making without falling back on even strategically essentialized collective identities? (Alexander 2017: 1548) Despite Hindu diaspora Twitter users being located in different regions, they express in common their positionality as ‘good immigrants’ in order to assert their belonging in Western-Anglo societies. For example, Proud Immigrant, a young female in the United States, voices the advantages of Hindu diaspora immigration when responding to the Trump administration’s policy initiative on H1-B immigration: ‘Merit based is the way to go. There are so many brown engineers, doctors, PhD students, entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley’. Here, Proud Immigrant refers to merit-based immigration as a traditional route for highly skilled and highly educated Hindus to gain work permits in the United States. The ‘good immigrant’ stereotype of diasporic Hindus as ‘assimiliated’ in Western societies helps construct the model minority myth that users such as Proud Immigrant perpetuate in the form of groupist political integration. Interestingly, the use of the word ‘brown’ as a racial designation signifes once again how left-wing identity politics discourse is appropriated to serve an exclusionary agenda. Similarly, many British Hindu diaspora users support Brexit in the hope that immigration from the European Union will decline once the United Kingdom is no longer a member state. Rohan, a very politically active young male in the Brexit movement, often responds to commentators on Twitter on the issue of immigration: ‘I’m brown and a migrant. You do not represent me you libtard’. Clearly, Rohan feels the need to intervene in the EU immigration debate as someone who does not feel included in public discussion. By additionally revealing his ‘brown’ racial identity, Rohan believes this is suffcient to afford him a voice as a representative on immigration. Proud Immigrant likewise asserts her personal background in the immigration debate: ‘As a minority, woman and legal immigrant in this country, I am hopeful and feel respected’.
The legal/illegal distinction is key for Proud Immigrant, as it shifts the conversation away from racial tropes to a political positioning. Despite efforts to foment an ideological debate on immigration, however, both Proud Immigrant and Rohan chose to self-identify their immigrant backgrounds as justifcation for their positionings. By using the terms ‘minority’ and ‘woman’ in Proud Immigrant’s case, and ‘brown’ for Rohan, they adopt the discourse of multiculturalism, that is, a politics of recognition, in order to assert their belonging in the United States and United Kingdom. In short, these individuals in the Hindu diaspora articulate their ethnic difference in order to ‘prove’ they have successfully integrated into Western-Anglo societies. The link between them is emphasising a ‘good immigrant’ trope, which in its claims-making creates a strategically essentialised collective identity based on ethnic groupism. Adopting such identifying labels may seem antagonistic to the populist radical right agenda, which seeks to eliminate the ‘otherness’ of diversity as a threat to ethnonationalist identity. However, underpinning the populist radical right critique of multiculturalism is a reinforcement of the ethnopluralism thesis, in which self-governing regions are determined by ethnicity. When diasporic Hindus signal their status as ‘good immigrants’ who are not a threat to Western societies, they reinforce a groupist identity that posits ethnic groups as homogenous entities. These individuals reconstruct all Hindus as culturally (and ethnically) compatible with the West, thus embedding themselves in an exclusionary nationalist narrative. The following section further explores the relationship between these Hindu diaspora users and radical right leaders in the West.
National imaginaries between diasporas and the radical right Diasporic entanglements are not only shared between the ‘homeland’, nor across users in the United Kingdom and United States, but are significantly bolstered by interactions (in this case through retweets) with radical right leaders in Western societies. These leaders perpetuate the narrative that Hindu diaspora political integration is possible due to their positionality as non-Muslims. Thus, when influential radical right activists such as Tommy Robinson in the United Kingdom acknowledge that Hindus and Sikhs have suffered ‘genocide’ under ‘Islamic rule in India’,14 this reinforces the historiographical revisionist claims of Hindutva. Similarly, Anne Marie Waters, a vocal proponent of anti-Islam and anti-Sharia in the United Kingdom, implies that Hindus are peaceful and law abiding, as opposed to Muslim migrants who are inherently violent terrorists with the aim to ‘rape’ European women.15 Muslims, then, are depicted as ‘crimmigrants’ vis-à-vis ‘good immigrant’ Hindus. Crucially, it is not only radical right actors at the grassroots level who serve as allies but prominent politicians of populist radical right parties as well. In one tweet, leader of the Dutch Party for Freedom (PVV),
Cyber-Hindutva to Ab Ki Baar Trump Sarkar
Geert Wilders, stands with RHC founder Shalabh Kumar in the summer of 2016.16 Wilder’s trademark claim of the ‘Islamization of the Netherlands’ echoes what Roopram and van Steenbergen (2014) find amongst Hindustani PVV voters. Whilst most Hindustani supporters promote a ‘work ethos’ discourse citing concerns about immigration as an economic burden on the welfare state, others advocate a ‘hindu-nationalist’ discourse that fears Islam as a cultural threat to the Netherlands (56–57). The latter warn of Islamist radicalisation and extremism, connecting historical and cultural narratives of past Muslim rule in India to the contemporary threat of ‘Islamization’ of Dutch society (ibid.: 55–56). By standing with RHC founder Kumar, Wilders indicates that ‘Islamization’ must be fought with ‘allies’ in a global battle. Additionally, former UK Independence Party leader and lead Brexit campaigner Nigel Farage spoke at a RHC rally celebrating the 70th anniversary of India’s independence.17 Farage admired the world’s largest democracy, which ‘under its current strong leadership [of Modi], I believe India is going places’. Farage also discussed the need to fight for sovereignty as reflected with the United Kingdom’s ‘independence’ from the EU with the Brexit vote. He additionally remarked how the United States similarly chose an ‘independently minded President’ with Trump. Farage hoped to consequently create a new partnership between the United Kingdom, United States, and India.18 Despite Farage’s idiosyncratic comparison of India’s resistance to British colonialism with that of the United Kingdom’s ‘independence day’ from the EU and Trump’s mission to ‘Make America Great Again’, Farage describes an exclusionary nationalist narrative which posits that each of these nations can have successful futures, thus reinforcing the notion of complementary, rather than competing, nationalisms. When alliances are formed with figures such Robinson, Waters, Wilders, and Farage, this signals a new form of groupist political integration that emerges in response to the rise of the radical right. Here, it is not just longdistance nationalism between the diaspora and India that characterise diaspora Hindutva (although Hindutva ideology continues to play a significant role in these transnational linkages). Rather it is a development in creating new narratives of nationalism centred on a shared ideological commitment to exclusionary nationalism, which is built on the basis of anti-Islam and anti-Muslim ‘othering’ in order to reproduce the notion of the Hindu diaspora as ‘well-integrated’ in Western societies. To some extent, this builds on the groupist political integration approach present in the multiculturalism agenda, as it reinforces tropes of ethnic groupism. But the rise of the radical right in the volatile and uncertain political landscape of contemporary Western societies adds an additional element in defining who belongs to the nation. By virtue, this transforms the dynamics of groupist political integration in the diaspora ‘at which boundaries of inclusion and exclusion, of belonging and otherness, of “us” and “them”, are contested’ (Brah 1996: 208–209) in order to accommodate to the radical right national imaginary.
Ethnic groupism vis-à-vis the nation should thus be understood not in terms of entities but instead as dynamic and contingent: Ethnicity, race, and nation should be conceptualized . . . in relational, processual, dynamic, eventful, and disaggregated terms. This means thinking of ethnicity, race, and nation not in terms of substantial groups or entities but in terms of practical categories, situated actions, cultural idioms, cognitive schemas, discursive frames, organizational routines, institutional forms, political projects, and contingent events. It means thinking of ethnicization, racialization, and nationalization as political, social, cultural, and psychological processes. And it means taking as a basic analytical category not the ‘group’ as an entity but groupness as a contextually fluctuating conceptual variable. (Brubaker 2004: 11) By conceptualising ethnic groupism as a process rather than an entity, we can situate how diaspora Hindutva and the radical right create entanglements. At the same time, new boundaries of inclusion and exclusion performed by diasporas redefne who belongs to the national imaginary, thus reconceptualising the nation as not merely a static entity but relational in its formations.
Conclusion According to Alexander (2017), there exists ‘an insufficient sociological attention to the historical and cultural specificities of diaspora experiences, and how these impact on diaspora identities’ (1552). This chapter aims to address this gap by exploring how the experiences of the Hindu diaspora in the United Kingdom and United States led the way towards creating ideological hybridities between diaspora Hindutva and the radical right. It begins by situating Modi’s election in 2014, which depended on significant diaspora support, particularly in IT and communications operations. Modi’s campaign built on a pre-existing relationship of long-distance nationalism between India and diaspora communities. Yet such longdistance nationalism vis-à-vis the diaspora is not a one-way trajectory but instead a multidirectional engagement. This is exemplified through the formation of diaspora Hindutva organisations in the United Kingdom and United States. Whilst British and American Hindutva organisations emerged in response to long-distance nationalist sentiments, equally significant has been the institutionalisation of multiculturalism as a policy agenda in these ‘host societies’. By speaking as representatives of a ‘universal’ Hindu community, diaspora Hindutva organisations have secured formal political access in lobbying efforts and consultation with government departments and agencies.
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In the name of ethnic and religious plurality, these organisations employ a groupist approach to reinforce their positioning as ‘well-integrated’, in contrast to Muslims as ‘unassimilable’ and culturally incompatible with Western societies. A lacuna thus exists in whether diaspora Hindutva, motivated by antiMuslim and anti-Islam ‘othering’, translates into support for the radical right in the West. The Brexit referendum and Trump’s campaign (and later presidency) in 2016 provided an opportunity to synergise these phenomena. Not only did these campaigns reinforce Islamophobic tropes, but they instilled an anxiety about protecting the borders of the nation-state. As such, the diaspora came to occupy a position within the ‘diasporic imaginary’ to construct not competing but complementary nationalisms between India and the West. The rise of identitarian Hindu diaspora organisations in 2016, such as the Republican Hindu Coalition in the United States, builds on the legacy of diaspora Hindutva organisations in Western-Anglo societies. Whilst the RHC manifests a groupist political integration approach, what marks a shift from its predecessors is how it merges religious genres with contemporary geopolitical realities in a hybridised format made possible by mass media consumption. At the same time, groupist integration is being challenged by a desire to move beyond the institutional framework of diaspora Hindutva organisations. This is not to disregard the very powerful role which these organisations continue to hold, but by exploring Hindu diaspora Twitter users that support Brexit and Trump, this chapter shows that representation of diaspora communities via organisations is being surpassed by the increasing capacity of individuals seeking to create a voice through the medium of online milieu. For these individuals, political integration occurs by virtue of online interactions at multiple levels of entanglement: between the ‘homeland’ and the diaspora, across diaspora communities in the United Kingdom and United States, and, last, between diaspora communities and radical right leaders in Western societies. For these Hindu diaspora individuals, supporting Brexit and Trump is not simply a desire to evoke a nostalgia for the Commonwealth or strengthen the United States–India relationship, as suggested by entanglements between the ‘homeland’ and diaspora. Nor is it solely about maintaining a groupist identity of the ‘good immigrant’ status as a commonality across diaspora communities. Rather, the last entanglement marks a development beyond diaspora Hindutva to support for radical right platforms as a new mode of political integration. These individuals cement ideological hybridities with radical right leaders in order to create new narratives of nationalism that further the image of Islam and Muslims as the ‘other’ in the Western imaginary. These individuals highlight new dynamics of groupist political integration as relational rather than entity bound, defining new boundaries of inclusion and exclusion in Western-Anglo societies.
Notes 1 Note, however, that being pro-Modi and pro-Hindutva are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Often, the two are conflated, but due regard should be taken towards recognising that Modi’s victory came from a variety of supporters, including those that voted for his neoliberal economic proposals rather than his Hindutva background. 2 See Modi’s tweet here: https://twitter.com/narendramodi/status/4671925288783 29856 (accessed 31 March 2020). 3 This chapter defines diaspora according to Steven Vertovec’s three meanings: as a social form (‘an identified group characterized by their relationship-despitedispersal’), as a type of consciousness (marked by ‘awareness of multi-locality’ and ‘engagement with, and consequent visibility in, public space’), and as a mode of cultural production (‘involving the production and reproduction of transnational social and cultural phenomena’) (2000: 141–160). 4 Although twice migrants problematise long-distance nationalism as not merely a one-way spatio-temporal phenomenon but the ‘space between places, on circulation rather than either departure or arrival’ (Alexander 2017: 1548). 5 For Trump’s whole speech see, ‘FULL Donald Trump Speech at Hindus United Against Terror Event 10 15 2016 Hindus For Trump’, Republican Hindu Coalition, YouTube, 15 December 2016, www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bz51FYfHV2M (accessed 31 March 2020). 6 See ‘Ab Ki Baar Trump Sarkar (Official Campaign AD in HD version)’, Republican Hindu Coalition, YouTube, 16 December 2016, www.youtube.com/watch? v=IzZVhLdtLV8 (accessed 31 March 2020). 7 See ‘Can Indians Understand Trump Speaking Hindi?’, Jimmy Kimmel Live, YouTube, 28 October 2016, www.youtube.com/watch?v=MkzRKXhwhv8 (accessed 31 March 2020). 8 See the Hindus for Trump Facebook group for more: www.facebook.com/ HindusForTrump/. The aesthetics of the Hindus for Trump logo is equally striking. The red, white, and blue image of Trump in the lotus position, with the Om featured, reveals a syncretism of dramatic interplay between ancient spirituality and aspiration for enlightenment. Trump is the figure that will be guided by divine intervention to seek a greater truth for humanity. 9 Based on polling data, 30% of Hindus voted for Brexit in 2016 (Ashcroft Polls) and 16% of Indian Americans voted for Trump in the US national election (National Asian American Survey). Due to differences in polling design, as well as differences in how ethnicity and race are measured in the United Kingdom and United States, we do not have numbers on Hindu voters for Trump per se, as the ‘Indian American’ category comprises all religious groups. 10 For more on the relationship between diaspora Hindu, Sikh, and Christian proBrexit and pro-Trump supporters in this study, see Leidig (2019). 11 For more on methodology see Leidig (2019). 12 Quoted tweets have been changed from the original but still reflect the meaning of content, unless the tweet has been deleted by the user, in which case the original is quoted. Similarly, words in quotation marks are direct usage as they appear across a majority of tweets, thus anonymising users. Twitter user handles have been changed to protect anonymity, unless the account is managed by an organisation. Personal identifying information has not been revealed and/or disclosed in the findings. These alterations are necessary to ensure ethical compliance according to the Norwegian Centre for Research Data (NSD). 13 See https://twitter.com/WhiteHouse/status/920734238126768128 (accessed 31 March 2020).
Cyber-Hindutva to Ab Ki Baar Trump Sarkar
14 Unfortunately, this tweet is no longer available due to Tommy Robinson’s Twitter account (@TRobinsonNewEra) having been permanently banned by Twitter for violating its hateful conduct policy. The tweet was originally published on 17 May 2017. 15 Like Tommy Robinson, Anne Marie Waters’s Twitter account (@AMDWaters) has also been permanently banned by Twitter for violating its hateful conduct policy. The tweet was originally published on 10 July 2017. 16 See Wilder’s tweet https://twitter.com/geertwilderspvv/status/755885583034179 584 (accessed 31 March 2020). 17 See Farage’s tweet https://twitter.com/Nigel_Farage/status/899589630294720512 (accessed 31 March 2020). 18 For Farage’s whole speech, see ‘Shalli Kumar and Nigel Farage’, Joseph John Michael Nixon, YouTube, 16 August 2017, www.youtube.com/watch?v=eK4i53o 117E (accessed 31 March 2020).
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Chadha, Kalyani and Pallavi Guha. 2016. ‘The Bharatiya Janata Party’s Online Campaign and Citizen Involvement in India’s 2014 Election’, International Journal of Communication, 10: 4389–4406. Chakravartty, Paula and Srirupa Roy. 2015. ‘Mr. Modi Goes to Delhi: Mediated Populism and the 2014 Elections’, Television and New Media, 16(4): 311–322. Chopra, Rohit. 2006. ‘Global Primordialities: Virtual Identity Politics in Online Hindutva and Online Dalit Discourse’, New Media and Society, 8(2): 187–206. Eddington, Sean M. 2018. ‘The Communicative Constitution of Hate Organizations Online: A Semantic Network Analysis of “Make America Great Again”’, Social Media and Society, 4(3): 1–12. Engesser, Sven, Nicole Ernst, Frank Esser, and Florin Büchel. 2017. ‘Populism and Social Media: How Politicians Spread a Fragmented Ideology’, Information, Communication and Society, 20(8): 1109–1126. Evolvi, Giulia. 2017. ‘#Islamexit: Inter-Group Antagonism on Twitter’, Information, Communication and Society, 22(3): 386–401. Galpin, Charlotte. 2016. ‘Project Fear: How the Negativity of the Referendum Campaign Undermines Democracy’, LSE Blogs. http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/73114/1/blogs. lse.ac.uk-Project%20Fear%20How%20the%20negativity%20of%20the%20 referendum%20campaign%20undermines%20democracy.pdf (accessed 21 August 2018). Hackett, Sarah. 2018. ‘“Breaking Point”? Brexit, the Burkini Ban, and Debates on Immigration and Minorities in Britain and France’, European Yearbook of Minority Issues Online, 15(1): 169–181. Hine, Gabriel Emile, Jeremiah Onaolapo, Emiliano De Cristofaro, Nicolas Kourtellis, Ilias Leontiadis, Riginos Samaras, Gianluca Stringhini, and Jeremey Blackburn. 2017. ‘Kek, Cucks, and God Emperor Trump: A Measurement Study of 4chan’s Politically Incorrect Forum and Its Effects on the Web’, arXiv:1610.03452 [cs.SI]. https://arxiv.org/abs/1610.03452. Jaffrelot, Christophe. 2015a. ‘The Modi-Centric BJP 2014 Election Campaign: New Techniques and Old Tactics’, Contemporary South Asia, 23(2): 151–166. Jaffrelot, Christophe. 2015b. ‘The Class Element in the 2014 Indian Election and the BJP’s Success with Special Reference to the Hindi Belt’, Studies in Indian Politics, 3(1): 19–38. Jaffrelot, Christophe and Ingrid Therwath. 2007. ‘The Sangh Parivar and the Hindu Diaspora in the West: What Kind of “Long-Distance Nationalism”?’, International Political Sociology, 1(3): 278–295. Khalili, Laleh. 2017. ‘After Brexit: Reckoning With Britain’s Racism and Xenophobia’, Poem: International English Language Quarterly, 5(2–3): 253–265. Kurien, Prema. 2006. ‘Multiculturalism and “American” Religion: The Case of Hindu Indian Americans’, Social Forces, 85(2): 723–741. Kurien, Prema. 2016. ‘Race, Religion, and the Political Incorporation of Indian Americans’, Journal of Religious and Political Practice, 2(3): 273–295. Lal, Vinay. 1999. ‘The Politics of History on the Internet: Cyber-Diasporic Hinduism and the North American Hindu Diaspora’, Diaspora: A Journal of Transnational Studies, 8(2): 137–172. Leidig, Eviane Cheng. 2019. ‘Immigrant, Nationalist and Proud: A Twitter Analysis of Indian Diaspora Supporters for Brexit and Trump’, Media and Communication, 7(1): 77–89. Levin, Brian and John David Reitzel. 2018. ‘Report to the Nation: Hate Crimes Rise in U.S. Cities and Counties in Time of Division & Foreign Interference’, Center
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for the Study of Hate and Extremism, California State University, San Bernardino. https://csbs.csusb.edu/sites/csusb_csbs/files/2018%20Hate%20Final%20 Report%205-14.pdf (accessed 21 August 2018). Mandaville, Peter. 2017. ‘Designating Muslims: Islam in the Western Policy Imagination’, The Review of Faith & International Affairs, 15(3): 54–65. Mathew, Biju. 2000. ‘Byte-Sized Nationalism: Mapping the Hindu Right in the United States’, Rethinking Marxism, 12(3): 108–128. Mathew, Biju and Vijay Prashad. 2000. ‘The Protean Forms of Yankee Hindutva’, Ethnic and Racial Studies, 23(3): 516–534. Modood, Tariq. 2016. ‘Multiculturalism’, in The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/book/10.1002/9781405165518 Mohan, Sriram. 2015. ‘Locating the “Internet Hindu”: Political Speech and Performance in the Indian Cyberspace’, Television and New Media, 16(4): 339–345. Pal, Joy. 2015. ‘Banalities Turned Viral: Narendra Modi and the Political Tweet’, Television and New Media, 16(4): 378–387. Pal, Joy, Chandra, Priyank, and V.G. Vinod Vydiswaran. 2016. ‘Twitter and the Rebranding of Narendra Modi’, Economic and Political Weekly, 51(8): 52–60. Pew Research Center. 2014. ‘Religious Landscape Study: Hindus’. https://www.pew forum.org/religious-landscape-study/religious-tradition/hindu/ (accessed 28 May 2020). Rai, Amit S. 1995. ‘India On-Line: Electronic Bulletin Boards and the Construction of a Diasporic Hindu Identity’, Diaspora: A Journal of Transnational Studies, 4(1): 31–57. Rajagopal, Arvind. 2000. ‘Hindu Nationalism in the US: Changing Configurations of Political Practice’, Ethnic and Racial Studies, 23(3): 467–496. Rajagopal, Arvind. 2014. ‘Two Tyrants in the Age of Television’, Economic and Political Weekly, 59(8): 12–16. Republican Hindu Coalition. 2017. ‘About Us’. www.rhcusa.com/about.php (accessed 21 May 2017). Roopram, Shashi and Esther van Steenbergen. 2014. ‘Challenging the Post 9/11 “WeThey” Configuration in Dutch Society: Hindustanis and the Populist Anti-Muslim Vote in Netherlands’, in Peer Smets and Tasleem Shakur (eds.), West-European Muslims post-9/11 (pp. 48–61). Joint South Asian Cultural Studies (SACS) & Global Built Environment Review (GBER) Special Edition. ISSN: 1474-6824 (Online). South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT). 2018. ‘Communities on Fire: Confronting Hate Violence and Xenophobic Political Rhetoric’. http://saalt.org/ wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Communities-on-Fire.pdf (accessed 21 August 2018). Stokes, Bruce, Dorothy Manevich, and Hanyu Chwe. 2017. ‘India and the World’, Pew Research Center. www.pewglobal.org/2017/11/15/india-and-the-world/ (accessed 8 March 2018). Taylor, Charles. 1994. Multiculturalism: Examining the Politics of Recognition. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Tesler, Michael. 2018. ‘Islamophobia in the 2016 Election’, Journal of Race, Ethnicity, and Politics, 3(1): 153–155. Therwath, Ingrid. 2012. ‘Cyber-Hindutva: Hindu Nationalism, the Diaspora and the Web’, Social Science Information, 51(4): 551–577. Thobani, Sitara. 2018. ‘Alt-Right With the Hindu-Right: Long-Distance Nationalism and the Perfection of Hindutva’, Ethnic and Racial Studies, 42(5): 745–762.
Udupa, Sahana. 2014. ‘Aam Aadmi: Decoding the Media Logics’, Economic and Political Weekly, 59(7): 13–16. Udupa, Sahana. 2015. ‘Internet Hindus: Right-Wingers as New India’s Ideological Warriors’, in Peter van der Veer (ed.), Handbook of Religion and the Asian City (pp. 432–450). Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. Vertovec, Steven. 2000. The Hindu Diaspora: Comparative Patterns. London: Routledge. Virdee, Satnam and Brendan McGeever. 2017. ‘Racism, Crisis, Brexit’, Ethnic and Racial Studies, 41(10): 1802–1819. Visweswaran, Kamala, Michael Witzel, Nandini Manjrenkar, Dipta Bhog, and Uma Chakravarti. 2009. ‘The Hindutva View of History: Rewriting Textbooks in India and the United States’, Georgetown Journal of International Affairs, 10(1): 101–112. Willis, Derek. 2014. ‘Narendra Modi, the Social Media Politician’, New York Times, 25 September. www.nytimes.com/2014/09/26/upshot/narendra-modi-the-socialmedia-politician.html (accessed 12 April 2016). Zavos, John. 2010a. ‘Situating Hindu Nationalism in the UK: Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Development of British Hindu Identity’, Commonwealth & Comparative Politics, 48(1): 2–22. Zavos, John. 2010b. ‘Diaspora Consciousness, Nationalism, and “Religion”: The Case of Hindu Nationalism’, in Allon Gall, Athena S. Leoussi and Anthony D. Smith (eds.), The Call of the Homeland: Diaspora Nationalisms Past and Present (pp. 323–343). Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.
The gift of diasporic citizenship The Overseas Citizenship of India scheme as a tool for nation-building Johann Salazar
Introduction The concept of the nation is central to the diaspora. To be part of a diaspora means to be part of a ‘nation’. When nation-states engage with the diaspora, they must reconcile this imagined community (Anderson 2006) of the nation with the territory of the State. This is particularly difficult in the case of the Indian diaspora, on the one hand, because of the diversity within its borders that makes it difficult to unite as a single nation,1 and on the other, because of the historic, ethnic, and cultural similarities shared by people across the Indian subcontinent.2 Migrations of people from the territory now known as India have long preceded the formation of the Indian State. These migrations took place from different parts of India, under different circumstances, and over a long period of time and continued even after the creation of the Indian State and to the present day. Consequently, their engagement with their homelands – entities spread out across time and space – has also been diverse. For the Gujararti traders who sailed across the Indian ocean in dhows, return to the homeland was imminent when the next monsoon winds began to blow. But for the indentured labourers who were taken halfway across the world, return was a tenuous hope and their connection to their homelands became abstracted and preserved in institutions such as family, religion, community, and caste. For twice migrants like the Surinamese Indians in the Netherlands or Goans who migrated from Africa to the United Kingdom or Canada, homeland might be more than one place. But for the Keralite worker in the Gulf, who can never entertain any hopes of naturalising, the homeland is always Kerala. Moreover, the image that the word ‘homeland’ conjures for many of these people would be their ancestral home or village/town/city; in other words, it refers to locales at a scale much smaller than a country. But the formation of the Indian State in 1947 created a new reference point for many of these groups. And as the Indian State begins to engage with the diaspora, these differences begin to collapse to refer to the India of today and to the notion of an ideal Indian put forth by the Hindu right (see Oonk 2007; Roy 2008; Modi and Taylor
2017). In this chapter, I look at how this is strategically achieved through schemes targeted at the diaspora. I argue that India’s diaspora policy is an extension of the project of nation-building that began before Independence and that continues to this day. I focus specifically on the Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) scheme through which it seeks to achieve political integration and monetary returns. The political integration I refer to here is twofold. On one level, it is a project of nation-building that seeks to construct a national identity that becomes the reference point for the diasporas. And within this at the second, and subterranean, level is the project to consolidate a Hindu identity, equated with Indian identity, and thus garner support for the Hindu right. To understand how this functions, I suggest that we need to think of these schemes as gifts that simultaneously invoke modern and primordial logics of reciprocity.
The gift of belonging: ‘where your treasure is, there will your heart be also’ Marcel Mauss (2002), in his classic essay titled The Gift, theorised that there is no such thing as a free gift and that debt relationships are an important way in which human communities and societies are held together. There have been two interesting applications of this idea to understanding the relationship between individuals and communities in the diaspora with nationstates. Dan Lainer-Vos (2012; 2014) looks at monetary contributions by the Jewish diaspora to their national projects by subscribing to diaspora bonds as a system of gift-giving that serves as a nation-building mechanism. He shows that by linking monetary contributions to a logic of reciprocity, nation-states made it possible for their diasporas to be not only financially but also emotionally invested in the national project. While Lainer-Vos focuses on giving to the nation, Carole McGranahan (2016) looks at giving by the nation that allows us to think of citizenship as a gift. McGranahan (2016) uses Mauss’s theory about the gift, focusing on the aspect of refusal, to study how Tibetan refugees use their status as refugees in opposition to citizenship to retain their claim to Tibetan citizenship and also the territory of Tibet. She argues that ‘positing their lack of status as a refusal of citizenship stakes a political and ethnographic claim to community, and makes these claims to both themselves and to the broader world’ (McGranahan 2016: 340). But if we are to understand diasporic citizenship – or membership of the diaspora as it is in the case of the OCI scheme – as a gift and monetary contributions as part of this system of reciprocity, we need to understand the role of debt in both modern and premodern societies, since, as Anderson (2006) observes, one of the paradoxes characteristic of the nation is ‘the objective modernity of nations to the historian’s eye vs. their subjective antiquity in the eyes of nationalists’.
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To this effect, I find it useful to use the ideas of Aglietta and Orléan (1998),3 who argue that in modern societies, the State is invested with the sovereignty of the people and in exchange must provide for the continuation of the society by inter alia continuously guaranteeing all individual transactions within the society. ‘All private financial debts are thus embedded in the overall socio-political debt, which the State owes to its citizens’ (Platenkamp 2013: 208). They distinguish this from non-modern societies where members of the society derive their sovereignty from cosmological sources and therefore owe a perpetual debt to the giver of life – a deity or ancestor – that must constantly be repaid. These have been referred to as ‘primordial debts’4 (Graeber 2011 cited in Becker 2011; Platenkamp 2013). In the following paragraphs, we will see how both of these logics are at work in the OCI scheme which was developed by the government of India recognising the desire in the members of the diaspora for a homeland and offering it as a gift to assuage this desire. By presenting the OCI scheme as a gift, the government of India creates in the diaspora a debt that sets in motion both modern and premodern logics of reciprocity which can not only be recurrently translated into philanthropy, investment, and soft power but also used for political integration and policing the borders of belonging.
Historical background: India, its diaspora, and nation-building From its earliest instance,5 the engagement of the nation-state of India with its diaspora has been about nation-building. Some scholars (Lal et al. 2007; Bharucha 2017; Modi and Taylor 2017) see India’s position vis-à-vis the diaspora soon after independence as one of rejection or disengagement, citing Nehru’s policy that held that ‘persons of Indian origin who have taken foreign nationality should identify themselves with and integrate in the mainstream of social and political life of the country of their domicile’ (cited in Modi and Taylor 2017: 5). Bertz (2015), however, points out that this view, seen in the context of the decolonisation that was happening at the time, reveals itself to be part of a larger project of nation-building. By encouraging Indians living in these new countries to become fully integrated into them, he was supporting the sovereignty of those nations in order that India’s own sovereignty might be recognised. Or, to quote Dongen (2017: 123), ‘there was a strong emphasis on self-reliance and territorial sovereignty’. Thus, though it was inward looking, this policy suggestive of disengagement was, in fact, a call to the diaspora to support the project of nation-building, even if by negation. This is evidenced by the oft-forgotten following line from Nehru’s policy: ‘The government naturally remains alive to their interests and general welfare and encourages cultural contacts with them. As far as Indian citizens residing abroad are concerned, they are the responsibility of the government of India’ (cited in Modi and Taylor 2017: 5).
It is these ‘Indian citizens residing abroad’ that came into focus once again, at the time of Emergency between 1975–1977.6 During this time, as during the independence struggle, diaspora networks were mobilised to oppose Emergency and to pressure Indira Gandhi into ending it. At this point, however, the makeup of the Indian diaspora had also changed in two significant ways First, diasporic Indians were increasingly located in powerful Western countries. Secondly, Indians who had migrated to the West had different citizenship statuses to the ‘old’ Indian diaspora. Many of the ‘overseas Indians’ resident in Britain, and most of the thousands migrating to America at this time, were still officially citizens of independent India. (Anderson and Clibbens 2018: 34–35) Since they were independent citizens, the government attempted to whip them into shape by impounding and cancelling the passports of antiEmergency activists and threatening to do so for anyone they saw as being engaged in behaviours they perceived as being anti-national or unpatriotic. Another important point to note is that ‘an important strand of “longdistance” anti-Emergency activism involved individuals from the Hindu nationalist movement overseas, whose Indian counterparts were proscribed and imprisoned during the period’ (Anderson and Clibbens 2018: 1). It was because of this that two things happened in the aftermath of Emergency. First, the Indian government recognised the potential of the diaspora and began to reconsider its involvement with the diaspora, especially those located in wealthy and powerful western countries. Secondly, India’s diaspora policy began to become intertwined with right-wing Hinduism. The BJP government that came into power following the Emergency began to make concerted efforts to reach out to the diaspora. A. B. Vajpayee, first, as external affairs minister, began to discuss the diaspora in Delhi and even set up a special cell for ‘persons of Indian Origin living abroad’, and then later, as Prime Minister, he would appoint the High Level Committee on the Indian Diaspora in 2000 (Anderson and Clibbens 2018). Non-Resident Indians: ‘civis romanus sum’ With this, India began to look towards its citizens living abroad as a resource. But how could it cultivate a relationship with them? It is believed that uttering the phrase ‘civis romanus sum’ (I am a Roman citizen) would provide the protection of Rome to any roman citizen travelling within the empire. Today the phrase has come to represent the duty of a nation-state to provide protection to its citizens travelling abroad against injustice and wrong.7 I see the NRI category as serving a similar function but with the added goal of funnelling their foreign earnings into the Indian economy; it offered them a privileged status within India and a sense that they were
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being looked after. To this end, the category of Non-Resident Indian (NRI) that was introduced in 1973 within the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act (FERA) became increasingly important. ‘The point of the NRI provision was to classify Indian individuals located outside of India as non-foreigners for the purposes of investment and proprietorship’ (Modi and Taylor 2017: 6). Dongen (2017) further points out that this coincides with the oil boom of the 1970s and emigration of Indians to the Gulf, which has since grown to become the largest source of remittance to India. The sense of security that the status of NRI could potentially offer would have been promising for migrants to a country where they could never hope to naturalise, and within India it became a symbol of upward mobility. Then, after Emergency, efforts were made to increase investments from NRIs following recommendations by the Malhotra Committee in 1979 and the setting up of a special cell for NRI investment in 1983 (Anderson and Clibbens 2018). Thus, as India began to recognise the economic potential of these NRIs, the project of nation-building shifted to focusing on the economy. An added consequence of this was that domicile became less important for belonging than it previously was. What this meant for citizenship was a marked shift in weightage from a principle of jus solis (right of soil) to that of jus sanguinis (right of blood), which was written into the law through the amendment to the Citizenship Act in 1986 that restricted Indian citizenship to only those who were born in India to at least one Indian parent, and then the amendment in 1992 that allowed those born outside India to at least one Indian parent to claim Indian citizenship.8 (Roy 2006; Roy 2008; Dongen 2017) Person of Indian Origin: ‘we be of one blood ye and I’ The many different animals of Kipling’s The Jungle Book use the master words, ‘we be of one blood ye and I’, each in their own tongue, as a call of protection from those of their own kind. The only person that can unite these different tongues in the same mouth is Mogli, who uses it as a way to build solidarity among the different animal tribes. In the Person of Indian Origin (PIO) scheme, the Indian government created a Mogli of their own that translated the diverse diasporas into a common nation-state. While the category of NRI still referred to Indian citizens, the introduction of the Person of Indian Origin scheme in 1999 extended belonging to citizens of other countries that shared blood relations with India. According to the scheme notification: ‘Person of Indian Origin’ means a foreign citizen (not being a citizen of Pakistan, Bangladesh and other countries as may be specified by the Central Government from time to time) if, (i) he/she at any time held an Indian Passport; or (ii) if he/she or either of his/her parents or grand parents or great grand parents were born in and permanently resident in India as defined in
Johann Salazar the Government of India Act, 1935 and other territories that became part of India thereafter provided neither was at any time a citizen of any of the aforesaid countries (as referred to in 2(b) above); or (iii) you are a spouse of a citizen of India or a person of Indian origin covered under (i) or (ii) above. (Ministry of Home Affairs Notification F. No. 26011/4/98-IC. I dated 30 March, 1999)
The main benefts of this scheme were that it provided visa-free travel to India for a period of 180 days and parity with NRIs in economic, fnancial, and educational felds. In this way, the importance of blood relations was further reinforced and, by providing visa-free travel to PIOs, using the right of blood to claim a right over the soil. Moreover, by defning ‘Indian Origin’ in relation to the India of the Government of India Act, 1935 – which is what is used in the citizenship act to defne ‘undivided India’ (Citizenship Act 1955) – India stakes a claim over all of the people who had migrated from this region prior to 1947. But with a fee of USD 1,000, inclusive of a non-refundable USD 250 charge in case of rejection (Ministry of Home Affairs Notifcation F. No. 26011/4/98-IC. I dated 30 March, 1999), it ensured that PIO cards were available to only a wealthy few. This was subsequently revised in 2002 and the charges reduced to INR 15,0009 for adults and INR 7,50010 for minors (Ministry of Home Affairs Notifcation No. 26011/4/98-F dated 19 August 2002). It is important to note that this was in the wake of the opening up of the Indian economy in 1991 and the Indian government’s desire to ‘tap into the investible funds of the PIOs’ (Xavier 2015 cited in Modi and Taylor 2017). To this end, a High Level Committee on the Indian Diaspora was set up by the Ministry of External Affairs in 2000. The committee put forth a number of recommendations that reached fruition, including initiatives such as the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (Non-Resident Indian Day) celebrations – an annual event organised by the Indian government since 2003 to connect the government of India and the various state governments with the overseas Indian diaspora – and setting up of the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs in 2004 aimed at increasing India’s engagement with its diaspora. Among their recommendations was a suggestion of ‘granting of dual citizenship with appropriate safeguards to certain members of the Indian Diaspora’11 (High Level Committee on the Indian Diaspora 2001: xxxix). These certain countries were primarily wealthy countries – namely the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom members of the European Union, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, and some Commonwealth countries (High Level Committee on the Indian Diaspora 2001: 525). This restricted offer of dual citizenship did not go unnoticed. When the plan for granting dual citizenship was first announced at the first Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in 2003, Fatima Meer, who was awarded the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman (Overseas Indian Honour/Award) at the event, called it ‘Dollar and pound citizenship’ (cited
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in Reddy 2003). Commenting on the recommendations of the committee to offer dual citizenship as a privilege to some, Reddy (2003) finds their logic to be ‘peculiar and inconsistent’ and further, makes the observation that [the] reason for the discriminatory privilege is what in Hollywood gangster films is called ‘payback time’ for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Everyone knows that the BJP enjoys strong support among the Indians who now live in North America and to a certain extent those in west Europe as well. It is the same groups which have been in the forefront of the demand for dual citizenship. This is evident when we consider that the Friends of India Society International (FISI) – which was set up by the RSS soon after the declaration of Emergency and which had strong roots in the United Kingdom and the United States – had been demanding dual citizenship from as early as 1978, reasoning that it would ‘psychologically infuence NRIs and they shall feel part and parcel of India’ (Anderson and Clibbens 2018) and that it was under BJP Prime Minister Vajpayee, who had been actively involved with this diaspora soon after Emergency, that we see the High Level Committee on the Indian Diaspora recommend granting of dual citizenship.12 What is also revealing is the language used in the report that stated that ‘the principal rationale of the demand of the Diaspora for dual citizenship, however, is sentimental and psychological, a consideration which commends itself to the Committee in the same measure as do social, economic and political factors’ (High Level Committee on the Indian Diaspora 2001: 510–511) that seems to resemble that of Dr. Mukund Mody, founder of Overseas Friends of BJP and anti-Emergency activist, who said ‘We feel that the dual citizenship shall psychologically infuence NRIs and they shall feel part and parcel of India. It could also beneft the nation as the mutual relations would be strengthened’ (In an interview with Prem Chopra in Chopra 2005). Moreover, the report uses the term ‘Mother India’ whenever referring to the feelings of people in the diaspora towards India. This metaphor of Mother India, also known as Bharat Mata, has been an icon for the Hindutva imagination of a deifed Indian nation since pre-independence times. It is meant to communicate ideas about who belongs in India as well as the territorial claims of India.13 Overseas Citizens of India: ‘मेरे पास माँ है!’ (I have our mother) This trope of Mother India is also useful for understanding how the OCI card functions as a gift. In the most iconic scene in the acclaimed Bollywood film Deewaar (1975), a conversation plays out between two brothers who grew up in poverty but find themselves on opposite sides of the law – Ravi, an honourable but lowly police officer, and Vijay, a successful crook. Vijay chastises his brother for his honourable ways that have left him with
160 Johann Salazar nothing. To drive the point home, he recites a long lists of his own assets bungalows, cars, properties, and money in the bank - and then asks his brother. ' ~ q"R, cRTT 6"?' (What do you have?) . To which Ravi retorts promptly ~ith the trump, 'att q"R, ffi 6"' (I have our mother), implying that his brother has lost her. The suggestion that the mother here is India (nationbuilding and nationalism being important themes in Bollywood at the time) is hard to miss, as the scene opens with the patriotic song'~ ~ ~ ~ \%