Tuesday, December 5, 2017

An American Conundrum

I’m a citizen of India, residing and working in the United States of America. With the recent American presidential elections and the spate of rhetoric around visas and immigration, a lot of immigrants who are in this country, are quite anxious and concerned. Rightfully so. And I find a high volume of literature on the Indian media about the immigration news coming out of America on a regular basis, and often see the jargon spiral quite out of tone of reality and end up in places closer to sensationalism.

The intent of this piece is not to go into detail about how right or wrong the new President’s immigration policies are, but to more pen down a very biased approach in India and how India views the system here. While I personally have my reservations on some of the recent changes in immigration policies starting to be enforced in United States, I still hate to point out that even despite that, even if America implements all the policies that the President talks about, it will still admit more immigrants into the country than India does. Officially, at least.

Let’s face it folks, we are a highly immigrant unfriendly nation. While a lot can be said about the richness our culture and civilization, we cannot claim to be a nation that has been friendly to immigrants. In fact, we have often had strong anti-immigration stances. We’ve had cases of vandalism and protests when a state accused people from other states, which are a part of the same union and salute the same flag, of coming into the former and “taking away” jobs. Sure, we have had our high points, like the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971 during and after which India absorbed a lot of people fleeing from war and persecution. Another example would be India’s resettlement of Sri Lankan Tamils during some of the bloodiest fighting between Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and the Sri Lankan armed forces. But I’d argue that was more borne out of an anti-Pakistan or pro-Tamil sentiment, a sentiment of “them and us being from a common background or race”, rather than a genuine desire to help refugees.

The recent spate of refugees from war torn regions in Iraq and Syria is probably the biggest case in point. The world was truly facing a refugee crises. Western European nations and some other countries like United States, Canada, Australia and Brazil to name a few did choose to accept people fleeing war from these countries. While you and I can agree or disagree on whether everyone was “fair” and took in a “fair share”, what is indisputable is that these nations actually took in people. Tried, even if halfheartedly, to help them get settled into their countries. And where was India in all these global efforts? Zilch. Our silence and inaction was loud and clear.

There has probably never been a period more tumultuous and non-peaceful in history than the present times. The world has faced crises, the world will continue to do so and weather them. India has had her chance, but we have not helped (In all fairness, India has a point to argue that she didn’t do anything to precipitate a lot of these crises in any way. And I’ll grant her that!). The world has never looked up to India in such situations, and India has never responded like befitting a large, democratic and free nation.  We have rarely shown the resolve to accept and integrate refugees or immigrants into our society, and we probably never will. And in such a circumstance, it is unfair to stand on top of Gateway of India and shout across to the Lady Liberty complaining about her immigration policies. 

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