World of Women
<eev Kumar Sharma
The community of Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs) constitutes a larger number of population in different countries. Though it is presumed that most of the migrants from India were in the form of labourers and traders, the present scenario in some of the developed and developing countries makes it evident that PIOs have progressed in life with their hard work and dedication to a great extent.
With the advent of liberalisation and free market economy the process of socio-political globalisation has engulfed the entire world community. This phenomenon has also attracted the attention of serious researchers in social sciences. Social science research has always been about the functioning patterns of groups and communities. The functioning patterns of the groups and communities differ from each other in various aspects. Even though there can be found a distinct inter-relationship amongst them, their membership is sometimes common and complementary to the extent of being identically the same; their objectives and goals take the same route; their exteriors are made by the same socio-political historical antecedents; and their composite frame appears to be homogenous, yet there may be varying tendencies in relation to their operational output. Most of the time political sociology deals with these aspects of groups and communities.
Apart from the traditional clusters of socio-religious formation of groups, an altogether new social community of persons of foreign origin has emerged in almost all the countries these days. Rapid growth of the concept of economic liberalisation and vast expansion of the idea of globalization has given birth to widespread interaction between the citizens of different countries at financial, cultural, political and other levels. In this regard PIOs also constitute a significant section of the society in many countries in general and in the US, the UK, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Mauritius and some other developing countries in particular. The African continent has perhaps the largest manifestation of Indian presence. The largest presence of PIOs can be witnessed in South Africa.
The Indian community in different countries has largely been peculiarly culture-oriented and therefore, various forces have pushed on the traces of cultural linkages. In this backdrop, this community has also played a pivotal role in shaping and re-shaping the socio-political order of that particular country which they live in. The cultural bondage with some of the developing countries was mainly created during the British rule in India. The British used to take with them a large number of labourers for cleaning the dense forests and making them a good habitat centre for their political master. But after the decline of the British colonies and multifaceted revolutions for independence in so many countries in the middle of twentieth century, the Indian community in these countries had begun to grow as a combined fraternity of people with uniform cultural antecedents. In that way, even after being a member of the socio-political community of that particular country for a long period, PIOs have been trying to keep some specific identity alive. To promote amongst them all a sense of pride for India, some socio-religious groups have been working hard for the last more than 50 years.
Rapid growth of the concept of economic liberalisation and vast expansion of the idea of globalisation have given birth to widespread interaction between the citizens of different countries at financial, cultural, political and other levels.
The overseas expansion of the followers of several religious leaders, preachers of different sects in India, the information and communication revolution and easier travel rules of the government of India under the schemes of liberalisation-all have enabled the PIOs to a large extent to assemble under one roof. The NDA government had been particularly enthusiastic about the possibilities of greater interaction between India and the India diaspora and its implications on the economy of the country. The ideological orientations of the BJP have also since long been viewed as pro-middle and upper class of the society. The cultural dimension of the right-wing ideological political denominations have also been evident enough from the very first day of the inception of Jana Sangh (the earlier incarnation of BJP). Therefore, all the exercises of vowing the Indian diaspora for active help in the economic advancement of the country were pretty well expected. It was in this backdrop, that the Diaspora Convention was convened in New Delhi in February/March 2004 in which a great number of PIOs turned up and the discussions on various important issues emphatically paved the way for greater positive interaction between India and the Indian diaspora.
The PIOs constitute a large number of population in South Africa. Indians residing in different places of South Africa are one of the most prominent communities in that country. Their number is the largest in Durban. Their enthusiasm and love for their country of origin was explicitly manifested worldwide for the first time during the Cricket World Cup-2003. Mainly, to bring amongst them a sense of pride for India, to inculcate among them the ‘feel proud’ of having been associated with Indian society and culture of some point of time and a fascination for Indian culture, some organisational steps have been taken by different cultural and religious groups of India. In particular the whole-timer volunteers (Pracharaks) of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) have started their homework at Durban. Their selfless, dedicated work has begun to show results in a very short span of time. The middle-class Hindu community of Durban is fast becoming consciously proud of their cultural linkages and religious identities. Mixed with a flavour of patriotic and nationalist feelings, this group has begun to get associated with the activities of VHP and RSS. This has also inculcated amongst the PIOs in Durban a sense of community feeling and an urge for restoration of traditional cultural and religious identifications. They have started keeping the idols of Hindu gods in a corner of their houses along with the saffron flags on their housetops. This way a clear identification of the Hindu community residing outside India can be made.
South Africa is a glaring example of the PIOs coming together and feeling pride in their traces of Indian origin. PIOs in South Africa are present in a very large number. They constitute an influential sub-section of the South African socio-political community and their quantitative significance apparently puts them in a very important situation. The whole South African community is largely divided into Blacks, Whites and Indians. Indians in South Africa are generally economically self-sufficient, socially vibrant, politically alert and a culturally affluent community of traders and businessmen. Their language, their dress, their living styles, their education patterns, their postures and their overall appearances are in no case different from the average South African. Most of the time when one happens to be in close conversation with PIOs in South Africa, one finds that they feel uneasiness in declaring that they are Indian. They claim to be only South Africans. On insistence, they may agree that their early great parents had migrated from India and they themselves had spent the major part of their life in South Africa. But tremendous hard work by some whole-timer volunteers of VHP and RSS has been able to bring this community together. The scattered PIOs in South Africa are slowly beginning to find faith in the activities of these pan-Hindu organisations.
Some workers and volunteers of the organisation have traversed from interior Gujarat and other parts of India and strangely enough, have been able to strike a fine workable relationship with a substantial section of the India community in South Africa. One such person is Rohit Bhai who came to me during a Beach Party at Durban, when I had the chance to visit South Africa for presenting a paper on ‘Good Governance in Ancient India-Remembering Kingship in Shantiparvam of Mahabharat’ in the 19th Congress of International Political Science Association (IPSA). Rohit Bhai is a young man of around 30 years, clad in traditional Indian dress. He is a hard working whole timer of VHP. He had managed to live with a family of two brothers. The head of the family was killed in a robbery attempt some six months ago and the mother had gone to meet some relatives in Cape Town. The boys were unmarried and had to look after their grandmother (sister of their father) who was more than 85 years old and completely bed-ridden. The elder brother runs a transport company and the younger is a fashion designer. It was incidentally known to me that the fashion designer brother had designed some tea-shirts, which had ‘OM’ written/printed on the front. It is very common in India to see the young feel pride in wearing dresses that have Western connotations, signs and symbols printed.
Even though handicapped in interacting in English, the main language of Indians in South Africa, Rohit Bhai took advantage of the social relationships of these two brothers with the result that in a short span of time of just two months in South Africa, Rohit Bhai made possible an OTC (full-time training programme) of seven days for volunteers of Hindu Sevika Samiti (HSS), a sister organisation of RSS. Satish Komal, an advocate, is the chief executive of VHP at Durban and his wife Sarisha, a school teacher, had been coordinating the seven-day OTC meticulously. When I got an opportunity to attend the concluding session of the OTC and interact with some of the participants, I was simply fascinated to know that more than 35 female participants who attended the OTC remained in the school building for all the seven days and nights where the programme was organised. Any Indian would love to die while hearing the groups on Chalne ka var de do chahe patha kantakmay ho (Bless me to walk even if the road is thorny). The young and immaculate female voices entering the ears of the visiting Indian delegates of IPSA were indeed transcendental. It was astonishing to witness the community feeling and sense of belongingness.
When we were asked to stand up for our national anthem, which was being sung by young girls of Indian families, though written in Roman script, the palpitations in most of us rose high. The atmosphere at the dinning table was loving, homely and quite Indian. The women engaged in making the arrangements were serving vegetables along with other group preparations. The sweet dish served after the dinner was also completely Indian. It was a moving sight when the hosts saw off the guests with gratitude and affectionate goodbyes. The short span of interaction with PIOs in South Africa suggested that the Indian diaspora in South Africa remembers certain Indian cities and tourist places but wants eagerly to know the exact location of the village their great grandparents had originally belonged to. They wished to do something in memory of their great grandfathers in the form of donations or establishment of temples or schools. The fragrance of this moving relationship and bondage with their early generation is ready to swap the entire community.
I was simply amused by the manner the community greeted the fellow Indians with whom neither have they been in any interaction earlier nor there was any probability of being later on. Even then the untiring efforts of Rohit Bhai and his new friends at Durban had made it possible to provide some comfortable living accommodation and hospitality with immense affinity to more than ten Indian delegates of IPSA. The lengthy discussions with most of the participants of OTC of Hindu Sevika Samiti showed that such organisations have significantly done commendable work to bring the Indian community together. Their small efforts at micro levels may pave the way for greater interaction between the India diaspora and India.
(The writer is Reader, Department of Political Science, CCS University, Meerut. He can be contacted at [email protected])