Overseas Indians, feel proud, the mother country is beckoning you back. The citizenship amendment bill has been introduced in Parliament and is expected to be passed at the next session. Once the bill is enacted, dual citizenship will be granted to Indians living in foreign countries.
The rejoicing, however, is soon stopped in its track. Enlightenment dawns. No nonsense of vasudhaiva kutumbakam, the United Nations has close to two hundred member-countries, the dispensation of dual citizenship will be offered to non-resident Indians in only sixteen of these countries. Provision has already been made in the draft bill granting citizenship to NRIs in eight such countries; another eight, it is understood, are being included in the list.
Pray, what are these very special sixteen countries winning the lucky dip' Let us list them seriatim: the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Canada, Ireland, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Finland, Australia, New Zealand, Greece, Cyprus, Portugal, Switzerland, Israel, and finally, Sweden.
The picking and choosing has been done with meticulous care. There is no mention of even a single country from Asia, Africa and Latin America. The welcome mat is spread for the Indian diaspora, but for a segregated diaspora. Indian residents in a handful of west European countries, North America, Australia and New Zealand are intended to be consecrated; they will hold dual passports, they will enjoy high living in rich foreign lands and, at the same time, the prerogatives of resident Indian citizens, including, presumably, the right to vote in democratic elections in the country.
The sense of discomfort is acute. The proposed legislation is supposed to unite Indians across the globe. In effect, it indulges in apartheid of the worst kind; Indians living in countries inhabited by people of Caucasian roots are offered dual citizenship; those residing in lands populated by non-Caucasian breeds are kept out.
A great deal of research is possible on the rationale underlying the choice of the sixteen countries from where the blessed ones are proposed to be selected. One obvious explanation is that, following globalization, the Indian establishment is exceedingly practical-minded: NRIs in such countries as the US, Canada, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand, and so on, have minted money. The government of India has its eye on the main chance; once the NRIs in the rich Western countries fall for the bait of double citizenship, they will, it is hoped, be noble enough to invest a part of their considerable savings for industrial, agricultural and infrastructural investments in their country of origin. Even amongst these affluent countries, why leave out Germany though, or, if you opt for Sweden and Finland, why turn away from Norway and Denmark' Or is the discrimination on specific grounds, such that Germany has a regime which is mildly pink, or the Norwegians are fraternally inclined towards the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam' And if Portugal is in, why not Spain'
But the other implications of the list are far greater. Is our government not the least interested in the sort of image we create for ourselves in the far-flung world' The medium is the message. By drawing the list of countries in the manner we have, we are telling the rest of Asia, Africa and South and Central America that our migrants to their territories belong to inferior categories, who must not try to re-migrate to India. It is a bizarre situation. The descendants of Indian immigrants who were forcibly moved to the West Indies, the northeastern tip of South America, Mauritius and Fiji in the 19th and early 20th centuries, are not favourite sons. These Indians, mostly from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, had been transhipped as indentured labour. In the beginning, they lived in inhuman conditions. They however braved all adversities and gradually won for themselves an honoured place in regions where they had once settled as ordinary slaves. A gesture from their land of origin even this late would have been gratefully acknowledged. But no, India, the land of the great Aryan civilization, will not offer them the courtesy of honorary citizenship, the privilege is reserved for others. The excuse offered from official quarters in New Delhi is too pat: these Indian migrants are not interested in dual citizenship. The actual reason for ignoring them are not far to seek: Indians from the West Indies or Mauritius, even when wealthy, they are unlikely to invest their capital in India, so why bother about them'
The rest of the world will however draw the appropriate lesson from this absentmindedness towards NRIs settled in non-Western countries. The message will spread fast: Indians consider themselves a nation apart; they love the company of only the whiteys; they consider as inferior not the whole lot of Asians, Africans, and Latin Americans, they treat as inferior species even those Indians who are contaminated by cohabitation with coloured folk ó and this despite their own colour being no different.
That NRIs in Russia and the other east European countries will not be invited to join the select group of dual citizens is easily explained. The long-time Indian settlers in eastern Europe are mostly communists and socialists, and are to be avoided like plague. But are not other signals too being blared out' In the list drawn up by the government of India, Israel is in, but not one Arab country, or, to scan the truth further, not one Islamic country. We are not just pro-West and pro-white, on top of that, we are pro-Israel, and, necessarily therefore, anti-Arab and anti-Muslim. Aspirants of dual citizenship from the fabulously rich Gulf countries are to be turned down; that region is infested by Muslims, who are by definition terrorists.
And why should the inference of what we are doing proceed even beyond' At least some foreign observers are bound to discern a racist tinge in the citizenship amendment bill: we will not entertain NRIs from a country populated by brown or black or yellow-skinned bipeds. Many Indians settled in South Africa are successful businessmen; we are not interested in their money though. We choose to offer recognition only to those who showed the wisdom to migrate to countries bearing the mantle of Roman and Greek civilizations. That also perhaps provides a satisfactory explanation for the joker in the pack: Cyprus. This island-country has been an integral part of the Afro-Asia bloc. The mandarins in New Delhi were nonetheless in a charitable frame of mind. Since Cyprus is mentioned in Homerís Odysseus, it could be taken as an extension of the Hellenic civilization.
Forget the fact that it is not even fifty years since India was a major sponsor of the magnificent Afro-Asia movement heralded at Bandung. Forget the very latest fact too that we still survive the onslaught of the Western countries in the World Trade Organization because of the solid support extended to our cause by the Africans and Latin Americans. Or is it that our government wants us to forget these facts' Are we telling the rest of the poor nations that we prefer the umbrella of neo-imperialism; we would love to be on the same boat with the whiteys, our people living on whitey soil are the only ones to be trusted with complimentary Indian passports'
A thought suddenly occurs. Were Mahatma Gandhi still alive and had he never left South Africa, India 2003 would have refused him dual citizenship. On the other hand, a creature like Charles Sobhraj will receive double citizenship on a platter: he is, after all, of French-Indian extraction.
Mother India, we bow to thee.