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lower total income. Special NRI accounts were created, earning inter-
est rates 2“3 per cent above those offered to domestic savers, and it is
thought that via these and other special schemes overseas Indians con-
tributions to India quadrupled, yielding $14.3 billion in 1999“2000, for
example; though there were ¬‚uctuations in in¬‚ows rather than a steady
rise. During the 1990s as a whole net NRI in¬‚ows represented under 10
per cent of all direct foreign investment, leading one scholar to note that
India™s relationship with its diaspora was a ˜missed opportunity™. There
have been special schemes for NRI direct investment, and it seems that
Indians in the diaspora have been particularly attracted to investment in
food processing, textiles and services, including health services. However,
they have often been alienated by the fears of Indian business of poten-
tial expatriate competition and local suspicion of their possible agenda in
India, and remain wary of being too entangled in the continuing bureau-
cracy and webs of corruption which bedevil all investment in India.7

6 On remittances to Pakistan see Knerr, ˜South Asian countries™; M. I. Abella, ˜Asian
migrant and contract workers in the Middle East™ in Cohen (ed.) The Cambridge Survey
pp. 418“423.
7 On India see Knerr, ˜South Asian Countries™; S. Thandi, ˜Vilayati Paisa: some re¬‚ections
on the potential of diaspora ¬nance in the socio-economic development of Indian Punjab™,
chapter 11 of I. Talbot and S. Thandi (eds.), People on the Move. Punjabi Colonial and
156 Global South Asians

Although it is possible to get some broad idea of the dimensions of
inward monetary ¬‚ows of different kinds, and their macro-economic sig-
ni¬cance to the economies of South Asia, we know comparatively little
about the impact of diaspora money when it is spent directly by individ-
uals and families in the regions of the subcontinent where their families
originated. More research needs to be done in South Asia to assess the
impact of immediate diasporic connections to complement the few case
studies there are. More investigation has been done on the Bangladeshi
experience than elsewhere.8 Here distinct regions such as Sylhet and
Chittagong have been heavily involved in outward migration and much
of the impact is localised and clear. Diaspora money seems to be spent
most of all on the purchase of land, which has traditionally been the
source of local power and status, and as security for the future, and also
on the building of big, new houses, again marks of status. A smaller
proportion is spent on making ¬xed deposits, repaying loans and invest-
ing in business; while the rest goes, in descending order, on paying for
weddings, buying equipment, vehicles and consumer durables, getting
medical treatment, making gifts to relatives, and educating children. A
similar pattern of spending is evident in the ˜home village™ of many Jat
Sikh families who migrated from India to Gravesend, Kent, in the UK.
There also are to be found expensive, new multi-storey houses with all
modern conveniences, though these are often not inhabited for much of
the time. A considerable number of new tractors were bought with for-
eign money; and people so wished to buy land that if they could not buy
it in the village they would buy in neighbouring areas or even outside
Punjab in United Provinces or Rajasthan.9 Such diaspora spending pat-
terns in the old homeland have considerable long-term, socio-economic
consequences there. One of the clearest is in¬‚ation of the price of land,
driving it out of the reach of those without migrant connections, and thus
disadvantaging them and downgrading their local status. Simultaneously
families with migrant wealth and land often personally abandon agri-
culture and take to trade and services, thus increasing their status even
more, while agricultural labour is done by migrant workers from outside
the locality. Another area of in¬‚ation, as seen in Bangladesh, is that of

Post-Colonial Migration (Karachi, Oxford University Press, 2004); a much more complex
economic analysis is D. Nayyar, Migration, Remittances and Capital Flows. The Indian
Experience (Delhi, Oxford University Press, 1994). See also M. C. Lall, India™s Missed
Opportunity. India™s Relationship with the Non Resident Indians (Aldershot, Ashgate, 2001).
8 See the general study by M. Islam, ˜Bangladeshi migration™ in Cohen (ed.) The Cambridge
Survey: an excellent case study of a Sylheti village is K. Gardner, Global Migrants, Local
Lives. Travel and Transformation in Rural Bangladesh (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1995).
9 A. W. Helweg, Sikhs in England. The Development of a Migrant Community (Delhi, Oxford
University Press, 1979) pp. 88“93.
Relating to the old homeland 157

marriage costs, as weddings become more elaborate and dowry becomes
more prevalent. Migrant males become desirable grooms for individual
brides as well as for the connection such males bring to the bride™s family.
Ironically here foreign wealth leads to the reinvention of tradition, and
investment in traditional markers of status. There are also visible changes
for the better in people™s lives, including better infrastructure, provision
for education above primary level and better educational levels among
girls as well as boys, better health care and a reduction in infant mortality.
The impact on women is not uniform. Although they bene¬t from better
education and health, there is some evidence that the female age at mar-
riage is dropping while the male age at marriage is rising, in Bangladeshi
migrant areas, while among men there is some increase in polygamy.
Moreover, older traditions of modesty, shame and honour persist, and
there has been no radical change in women™s status as a result of diasporic
connections.
Investment in the old homeland is not just a question of putting for-
eign wealth into resources which raise personal and familial status. There
is also a very broad range of what could be called charitable investment,
often done out of sincere religious conviction, but also aimed at fostering a
particular vision of a desirable society and polity in the country of familial
origin. Sikhs in the diaspora regularly engage in various forms of service,
or seva, in India, either by sending money or giving their own labour. For
example, diaspora Sikhs helped Sikhs, particularly widows, orphans and
the elderly, in Delhi, Haryana and Punjab after the violence aimed at them
in 1984 after the assassination of Indira Gandhi. Others go personally to
help with the refurbishment of religious sites, in programmes organised
by a big gurudwara in Delhi; and often such work is the ¬rst time young
Sikhs visit India. Diaspora Sikhs also contribute to welfare societies in
their ancestral villages and give money to Punjabi educational and med-
ical charities.10 Hindu organisations such as the Gujarati Swaminarayan
sect in the UK and Muslim and Hindu umbrella organisations in the USA
send charitable donations to projects for the disadvantaged and under-
privileged, targeting those groups they wish to uplift in order to incorpo-
rate them into their vision of India. The Swaminarayan programme is one
of the most developed, having taken its modern form in the early twen-
tieth century. Its leadership now publicly proclaims that spirituality and
social service are intertwined, and the organisation is involved in a com-
plex network of social programmes in India, particularly in Gujarat and
10 A. Murphy, ˜Mobilizing seva (˜service™): modes of Sikh diaspora action™ in K. A. Jacobsen
and P. P. Kumar (eds.), South Asians in the Diaspora. Histories and Religious Traditions
(Leiden and Boston, Brill, 2004) pp. 337“372; D. S. Tatla, The Sikh Diaspora. The
Search for Statehood (London, University College London Press, 1999) chapter 3.
158 Global South Asians

Bombay. These include medical projects, among them eight charitable
hospitals, clinics and dispensaries, donations to hospitals for the purchase
of modern medical equipment, anti-addiction campaigns, and mobile
medical vans in tribal areas of Gujarat. Educational programmes include
schools, research centres, provision of student hostels, and ¬nancial aid
to schools and colleges. Work particularly among women includes health
programmes and anti-dowry campaigns, including the holding of mass
marriages contracted without dowry. In December 1995, for example,
85 couples were married in this way in Bombay. (It should be noted that
dowry is illegal in India but seems to be increasingly prevalent as dispos-
able incomes rise. It has long been a target for Hindu social reformers who
consider it wasteful, ostentatious, and deeply damaging for the position
of women.) Swaminarayan organisations have also offered relief in India
at times of natural disasters such as ¬‚oods and earthquakes. They partic-
ularly target the tribal population of Gujarat, which is about 14 per cent
of the state™s total. Among their work for what they call ˜upliftment™ of
tribals is medical care, education, literacy, the provision of cultural and
moral centres, and campaigns against addiction to drugs, tobacco and
alcohol. They aim to free these disadvantaged people from ˜addictions,
superstitions and poverty™, according to their website. The agenda is, of
course, in the name of Hindu spirituality, to incorporate tribal people
into mainstream Hindu society, as participants in a Hindu polity, out of
a conviction that India is essentially Hindu in nature and is endangered
by secularism and pluralism, as well as by the disadvantage of genera-
tions of poverty among tribal and low-caste people, which opens them to
potential conversion to other religions and to growing hostility to a state
and society which has long bene¬ted those of higher social standing. By
contrast, the outpouring of help from British Pakistanis to victims of
the 2005 earthquake centred in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir was largely
prompted by ties of kinship, as so many British Pakistanis had relatives
in the devastated areas.
Investment in the old homeland, understood in broad social and eco-
nomic terms, has generated a particular type of concern about the right
political connections between people in the diaspora and the nation states
of the subcontinent, particularly in relation to India. This is concern
about the issue of citizenship: should ethnic Indians who have taken or
possess other citizenships be able to claim Indian citizenship as well as
that of the countries where they have settled? It is understandable why
this should be a peculiarly Indian concern. Indians in the later strands of
the diaspora have been comparatively wealthy, educated and articulate.
They are also likely to keep lively connections with the subcontinent, and
of course are aware that their money and investment potential is eyed with
Relating to the old homeland 159

particular interest by a government anxious for new foreign investment.
They rapidly take citizenship of the countries where they settle, for their
own sake and the way this enables them to bring in family members,
as in the USA. But not having Indian citizenship can be inconvenient:
they need expensive visas for each visit to the subcontinent and they face
bureaucratic complications in relation to investment.
The Indian government had, since independence, been wary of any
discussion of joint citizenship, and it took the line that Indians who set-
tled abroad should embrace their new homelands and have their primary
political loyalties there. This alienated many in East Africa when they
were under acute pressure and threat of eviction in the late 1960s and
early 1970s.11 However, economic compulsions forced later Indian gov-
ernments to recognise the ¬nancial signi¬cance of Indians abroad and
the political claims which might come with ¬nancial contributions to the
old homeland. The category of NRI came to be used of¬cially from the
late 1970s and referred to those of Indian ethnicity and citizenship living
abroad, although it has been used conversationally to denote any Indian
in the diaspora. At the end of the century the privileges extended to
such people were also given to those who were of Indian origin but had
taken local citizenships. They were also offered what was known as the
PIO Card “ for a Person of Indian Origin, and ˜origin™ could go back
to a great-grandparent who was an Indian citizen. This was not only an
economic enticement for the wealthy (and the card itself was not cheap
to acquire, at $1,000 for 20 years) but a signi¬cant step on the road to
dual citizenship. Soon after, in 2000, a High Level Committee on the
Indian Diaspora was set up under the chairmanship of L. M. Singhvi, a
former High Commissioner in London who had ¬rst-hand experience of
the mood of Indians in the UK. It was clear that the Indian government
was actively wooing Indians overseas, and it also inaugurated annual cel-
ebratory and information-providing Diaspora Days in India from 2003
on the anniversary of Gandhi™s return from South Africa in 1915 after
two decades abroad. These were organised by the Ministry for Overseas
Indian Affairs and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and
Industry. This trend culminated in the decision in 2004 to grant overseas
Indians Indian citizenship. At the time of writing the details of this still
have to be worked out. It is, however, a very signi¬cant step for Indians
in the diaspora, as it will undoubtedly ease a whole range of their con-
tinuing connections with India itself, and will be a new affective as well
as material link binding the diaspora to their old homeland. It is also a

11 A. Gupta, ˜India and the Asians in East Africa™, chapter 9 of M. Twaddle (ed.), Expulsion
of a Minority. Essays on Ugandan Asians (London, Athlone Press, 1975).
160 Global South Asians

development which is not free from ambiguity and potential stress in the
relationship between India and its diaspora, as there are powerful politi-
cal and economic interests on the subcontinent who would not relish the
intervention of wealthy outsiders who may have very different interests
and priorities.12
The involvement of the diaspora in the public and political life of the
subcontinent is not just in the area of investment in the local and national
economies, and in charitable projects. It is also signi¬cant in some of
the profound con¬‚icts which have emerged in South Asia. This is not
surprising, given that so many migrants come from just those areas which
have been engulfed in turmoil and violence, and still have kin in those
places. As we saw in Chapter 2, a signi¬cant number of Pakistanis who
settled in Britain came from Mirpur, a district in what is known as Azad
Kashmir. It is thought that possibly two-thirds of British Pakistanis are
Kashmiri in origin, with most coming from Mirpur or Kotli which are
both in Azad Kashmir. About 250,000 left these two districts alone, thus
reducing the local populations signi¬cantly but also creating very strong
links with the UK. They tended to cluster in inner city, urban areas in the
UK, such as Luton, where housing was relatively cheap and accessible and
where there was low-skilled work. Unlike some other migrant groups, they
have not tended to move out to the suburbs but have consolidated their
settlements in inner urban areas, where residential proximity reinforces
the very close ties of kinship which they bring from Kashmir and which
still link them with Kashmir.13
It is therefore entirely explicable that they should have exported their
own concerns, and that of their wider kin, about the con¬‚ict over Kashmir
which has bedevilled relations between India and Pakistan for nearly sixty
years since independence. The origins of the con¬‚ict lay in the partition
of the subcontinent at independence because of the inability of nationalist
politicians to agree on the nature of a unitary state to take over power when
the British announced their intention of rapid withdrawal after the Second
World War. When it became clear that there would be two successor
states, a secular India with a Hindu majority, and a Muslim Pakistan,
the princes with their semi-independent states were pressed to join one
or other of these two. The Maharajah of Kashmir was a Hindu, ruling a
predominantly Muslim population, and he acceded to India when he was

12 See Lessinger, ˜Indian immigrants in the United States™, chapter 8 of Parekh, Singh and
Vertovec (eds.) Culture and Economy in the Indian Diaspora, particularly pp. 174“178.
13 On Kashmiris in the UK and their politics see P. Ellis and Z. Khan, ˜Political allegiances
and social integration: the British Kashmiris™ in S. Weil (ed.), Roots and Routes. Ethnicity
and Migration in Global Perspective (Jerusalem, Magnes Press, 1999), pp. 119“134.
Relating to the old homeland 161

threatened by a tribal incursion into his territory from Pakistan, backed
by the new Pakistani state. Indian troops ¬‚ew in to protect him and the
resulting con¬‚ict between India and Pakistan led to the de facto partition
of Kashmir along a cease¬re line, which remains to this day. Each country
had a particular interest in Kashmir which militated against any longer-
term peaceful resolution of the con¬‚ict. For Pakistan it was a Muslim
majority area which should rightfully have become part of Pakistan at
Partition. For India (and for Nehru who had Kashmiri origins himself)
it was the symbol that India was not only for Hindus but was a secular
state and a composite nation in which different religious groups would
¬nd their home. The continuing division of the area and Indo-Pakistan
con¬‚ict arising from it, and the degree of violence and abuse of human
rights by Indian security forces in Indian Kashmir in the last two decades
in response to Kashmiri militancy, has deeply incensed Kashmiris in the
diaspora. They feel they have a rightful role in the politics of Kashmir,
not just because of kinship ties, but because the Azad Kashmir legislature
has a representative of overseas Kashmiris, of whom those in Britain are
the largest group.
Kashmiris in Britain are closely involved in the regular civil politics of
Azad Kashmir, keeping close personal and ¬nancial links with politicians
there and organising parties in Britain which are an extension of political
parties in the region, including pan-Pakistan parties such as the Muslim
League or Kashmir-speci¬c parties such as the Muslim Conference and
the Liberation League. They also involve themselves in politics specif-
ically to achieve a united and independent Kashmir. This often takes
the form of membership of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front,
founded in Birmingham in 1977, and one of the many parties involved
in Kashmir™s internal politics and armed struggle. It is an organisation
with a tortured history of internal splits, hostility to Pakistan (which views
Kashmir as an integral part of itself rather than autonomous) and terror-
ist activities. Kashmiris in the UK also work to raise awareness of issues
relating to the position of Kashmir among Kashmiris in the UK as well as
lobbying within the wider polity to in¬‚uence the British Parliament, the
European Parliament and even the US government. Some also personally
participate in liberation politics on the subcontinent. It is signi¬cant that
support for a united and autonomous Kashmir is not just to be found
among older British Kashmiris who remember their area of origin, but
also younger members of the diasporic community who are moved par-
ticularly by the record of human rights abuses there.
The other internal South Asian con¬‚ict which has brought those in
the diaspora into new forms of organisational activity abroad, and also
162 Global South Asians

into anti-government activities within South Asia, is that involving the
Sikhs in the Indian state of Punjab. Like Kashmir, Punjab has also been
a major source of out-migration. Moreover, just as Kashmiris are deeply
conscious of having a distinctive ethnicity and way of life, Kashmiriyat,
so Sikhs have a very distinctive religious and social identity with overt
public marks of belonging, particularly for men the unshaven hair and
the wearing of turbans, and a religious language, Gurmukhi, with a script
of its own. They also have a longstanding homeland area within India,
the Punjab, though this was shared with Muslims and Hindus before
Partition and with Hindus afterwards, with whom they had a shared
daily language, Punjabi, which is akin to Hindi. Sikh politics on the
subcontinent are deeply fractured and one of the issues at stake is the
extent to which Sikhs feel the need for an autonomous state (Khalistan)
in Punjab to enable them to ¬‚ourish as a distinctive people. A sense of
being both a religious community and an ethnic group with a territorial
base only developed strongly after the partition of India, which involved
the partition of Punjab, and particularly during the 1980s when there
were long periods of virtual civil war in the Punjab and the imposition of
military rule by the central Indian government in an attempt to control
a movement for an autonomous Sikh state. All Sikhs, both at home in
the Punjab and at home abroad, were deeply shocked and hurt when,
in 1984, the Indian army attacked the most holy shrine of Sikhism, the
Golden Temple in Amritsar, to ¬‚ush out armed opponents of the cen-
tral government. Not all Sikhs support the idea of their own state, and
some of lower caste origins ¬nd the idea threatening as it is primarily
the vision of higher caste Jat Sikhs. In the diaspora, for example, many
ex-East African Sikhs were Ramgarhias rather than Jats, and as well as
being of lower status they had, as twice-migrants, fewer affective ties with
Punjab. Khalistan was not for them an attractive cause. However, the
increasingly violent politics of Punjab could not help but draw in the
concerns and often the active participation of many Sikhs abroad. Sikh
sensibilities and a sense of difference from other Indians were inevitably
heightened by the appalling violence against their co-religionists in Delhi
after the assassination of Indira Gandhi by her two Sikh bodyguards in the
aftermath of the government assault on the Golden Temple. As we saw
in Chapter 2, Sikhs form a very substantial Indian minority within the
worldwide Indian diaspora. By the later twentieth century about three-
quarters of overseas Sikhs lived in Britain, the USA and Canada. Their
location overseas, in polities where increasingly rights have been accorded
to recognised ethnic minorities in attempts to promote equal opportuni-
ties in increasingly plural societies, has also encouraged migrant Sikhs to
present themselves as a distinct ethnic minority, and this again reinforces
Relating to the old homeland 163

the linkages to the Punjab and increases concerns about internal Indian
politics.14
Sikhs campaigning for a separate state in South Asia have been very
active in the USA, Canada and Britain and have also forged links between
these three diasporic locations on the issue. Not only have they created
organisations to pursue their campaigns, such as the World Sikh Organi-
zation (1984) and the International Sikh Youth Federation (1984) in the
USA, thereby separating themselves from Indian Hindus in the diaspora,
but they have also organised meetings in gurudwaras. This has meant that
these holy places have sometimes become the sites of power struggles
between those who do and do not wish for this sort of involvement with
the politics of the subcontinent. They also use the media, organise rallies,
and use the political systems of the countries where they are located, in an
attempt to put pressure on the Indian government by mobilising lobbies
on human rights and the Punjab. The Indian government was convinced
that Sikh secessionists were operating abroad and drawing ¬nancial and
other support from the diaspora. It stepped up surveillance of Sikh groups
abroad, tightly controlled visas for Sikh visitors to India, and pressurised
governments in north America and Britain whom it blamed for being
soft on supporters of terrorism. Despite the concerns of some politicians
about human rights, the British and Canadian government did agree to
cooperate more fully with the Indian authorities in such matters as extra-
dition and the tracing of terrorist funds. Although Punjab politics became
far more peaceful by the end of the century, and the demand for Khalistan
ebbed, this acute phase of Sikh con¬‚ict with the Delhi government had
a lasting effect on Sikhs™ self-identi¬cation in the diaspora as well as in
India, and demonstrated the potential within the diaspora for signi¬cant
interventions in Indian politics.
South Asians in the diaspora have in many places constructed images
of themselves and their places of origin, not least for consumption by the
polities in the host societies where they settle. The Sikh claim to distinct
ethnicity is only one example. The various parliamentary groups and cau-
cuses created by diasporas in western democratic politics are also vehicles
for producing images of the ˜old homelands™ as well as orchestrating spe-
ci¬c issues in relation to them. But in very recent times there has been
14 The best description of Sikhs in the diaspora, their linkages with Punjab and the
demand for statehood is Tatla, The Sikh Diaspora. Other illuminating discussions of the
ambiguities of the idea of Sikh statehood and the diversity of Sikh attitudes include R.
B. Williams, Religions of Migrants from India and Pakistan. New Threads in the American
Tapestry (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1988), pp. 69“84; V. A. Dusenbery,
˜A Sikh diaspora? Contested identities and constructed realities™, chapter 1 of P. van
der Veer (ed.), Nation and Migration. The Politics of Space in the South Asian Diaspora
(Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1995).
164 Global South Asians

a novel and very clear attempt at reconstructing the image of the Indian
nation speci¬cally, both in South Asia itself and among Indians in the
diaspora. What is at stake is the understanding of ˜Indianness™ in cultural
and political terms. This has led to a profound sea-change in political
discourse and activity in India itself, and also involves many in the most
recent strands of the Indian diaspora.
Independent India came into being in 1947 as a secular state because
for decades the main vehicle of Indian nationalism, the Indian National
Congress, under the leadership of Gandhi, had claimed to represent a
nation which included all religious minorities and all sections of society.
This claim became the more urgent as a distinctive Muslim nationalism
emerged and attained partial fruition in Pakistan in the context of the par-
ticular circumstances of Britain™s imperial policies on the subcontinent
during and after the Second World War. Nehru, who became India™s ¬rst
Prime Minister in 1947, was himself a secular person, but he recognised
also that many of his compatriots were not, and were likely to participate
politically in terms of religious community and caste identity. However,
he argued passionately that India was a composite nation and that the
nation state, as well as the Congress party, must nurture a national iden-
tity which would include India™s remaining Muslim, Christian, Sikh and
other minorities. This ideal lay behind the new constitution with its pro-
vision for fundamental rights including rights to equality and freedom of
religion.15 However, a strand of overtly Hindu nationalism persisted in
public life, although for many years it was dampened by memories of the
assassination of Gandhi in 1948 by a Hindu nationalist, and then by the
political dominance of the Congress party and members of Nehru™s fam-
ily. It resurfaced and began to gain considerable ideological and electoral
support towards the end of the twentieth century, and its primary political
vehicle, the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) was returned to power in several
states as well as in Delhi in the 1990s. The changes in the ethos of public
and political life were clearly visible “ both in the rhetoric of national
identity and in the lived experience of religious minorities.16 The core
idea behind the ideology of Hindu nationalism is Hindutva, ˜Hinduness™,
which was expounded and elaborated between the two world wars as
an alternative to the Gandhian nationalist rhetoric of inclusiveness. It
was overtly majoritarian and subscribed to an ethnic vision which saw

15 For Nehru™s vision of India and also his continuing struggles with those who disputed
the idea of a composite nation, see Judith M. Brown, Nehru. A Political Life (New Haven
and London, Yale University Press, 2003).
16 There is now a large literature on this phenomenon. A subtle analysis is T. B. Hansen, The
Saffron Wave. Democracy and Hindu Nationalism in Modern India (Princeton, Princeton
University Press, 1999).
Relating to the old homeland 165

Hinduness as far more than just being a Hindu in terms of religious iden-
ti¬cation. Hindutva was an ethnic identity de¬ned by links of race and
blood; it was also de¬ned by love of a holy motherland, India, and pos-
session of a Hindu cultural inheritance and essence. Hindutva demanded
in the modern age a nation state encompassing a speci¬c territory, where
ethnic identity, cultural essence and a sacred land would all be protected
from de¬lement and would enable its members to ¬‚ourish in their own
speci¬c way. In this vision of India, minorities such as Muslims and
Christians were deemed alien and threatening (although they had no
other homeland and their ancestors had lived in India for many gener-
ations). Moreover, the disadvantaged in society who were also likely to
feel alienated from this essentially high caste vision of India would need
to be reformed and uplifted to be included in Hindutva. A whole family
of organisations, both cultural and political, have pursued this objec-
tive from the 1970s, and prominent among them is the Vishwa Hindu
Parishad (VHP), founded in 1964, which aims at consolidating Hindu
society, spreading Hindu values, and linking all Hindus outside India as
well as within it, while also hoping to re-incorporate those who might
have left the Hindu fold. It is noteworthy that the ˜Hinduism™ pursued
by this and similar organisations does not re¬‚ect the great diversity of
lived Hindu religious experience on the subcontinent over centuries. It
projects a standardised and homogenised version of ˜Hinduism™ which it
argues is a world religion just as are the great monotheistic traditions. It is
hardly surprising that India™s religious minorities have become deeply
anxious about their position in an India where political parties which sub-
scribe to this vision have attained power quite legitimately through the
ballot box and have used that power to nurture the vision of Hindutva.
Even though at a national level successful political parties have to forge
multiple alliances and to modify stridently sectarian rhetoric in order to
retain national power, at the local level state governments and their allies
among cadres of Hindu activists have in some places made life dif¬cult
and dangerous for non-Hindus. The destruction by Hindu activists of a
mosque built on what was said to be the birthplace of the Hindu god,
Ram, in 1992 was a dramatic example, and it sparked serious violence
throughout much of the country. A decade later, in 2002, there was a
virtual pogrom against Muslims in the state of Gujarat. Even though
Congress returned to power in 2005 as the dominant party in a coalition,
the strand of Hindu nationalist politics retains a powerful appeal in India.
In any understanding of the linkages between diaspora South Asians
and the subcontinent this ideological and political development in India
is very signi¬cant because it has attracted the support of many Indians
outside the subcontinent, particularly in the West. The proponents of this
166 Global South Asians

vision of India in India itself have targeted the diaspora, both in terms of
religion (as the VHP™s aims make clear) and ¬nancially in the context of
globalisation. It was a BJP government in Delhi that seized the chance
of binding Non-Resident Indians and Persons of Indian Origin into the
project of rebuilding a strong Hindu India, although the successor regime
has built on that foundation for sound economic reasons. Many Indians
in the West have found the vision of a Hindu India deeply attractive
for a number of reasons. The newer strands in the Indian diaspora have
included many people who have become successful in the professions and
in business, and they are the same sort of middle class people who have
supported the VHP and BJP in India, in the hope of creating a strong
modern society and polity where they can achieve success for themselves
and their families. In India, as outside, the opportunities offered by glob-
alisation to people like them are very enticing, and in the Hindu nation-
alist project they sense an environment which will help them lay hold of
these opportunities, in contrast to earlier decades of government regula-
tion in the name of state socialism, and a history of persistent national
poverty and low rates of growth. Few of them are in any sense intellectuals
who would have any profound understanding of Indian history or of
Hindu tradition, and the vision of India offered is straightforward, attrac-
tive and without the uncomfortable ambiguities historical understanding
requires. Moreover, in the speci¬c context of the diaspora a package of
clear teaching about Indian identity, culture and ˜Hinduism™ is a sustain-
ing resource. It can help them deal with anxieties about the impact of
western culture on their children, as well as with their own experiences
of alienation from mainstream society and of discrimination. Further,
in western polities that increasingly engage in the rhetoric and politics of
equal rights for minorities, a clear Indian identity is an important resource
in dealing with the host society.17 Despite the popularity of this particular
version of Indian identity there are some groups who are hostile to it and
fear its in¬‚uence in the diaspora. Among them are Indians whose lifestyles
and gender attitudes do not conform to the moral ideals preached by this
homogenised version of ˜Hinduism™. Lesbians and gays, for example, in
the USA and elsewhere have formed their own associations for mutual
support, and use internet sites to develop speci¬cally South Asian net-
works, in part re¬‚ecting the social condemnation or misunderstanding
17 There is some good evidence on the relationship between Hindu nationalism and the
diaspora. See C. Bhatt and P. Mukta (eds.), special issue of Ethnic and Racial Studies,
Vol. 23, No. 3 (May 2000), which has considerable discussion of the phenomenon in the
UK and USA. On Canada see J. Lele, ˜Indian diaspora™s long-distance nationalism: the
rise and proliferation of ˜Hindutva™ in Canada™, chapter 3 of S. J. Varma and R. Seshan
(eds.), Fractured Identity. The Indian Diaspora in Canada (Jaipur and New Delhi, Rawat
Publications, 2003).
Relating to the old homeland 167

they encounter in the wider diaspora. Moreover, Indians from minor-
ity religions can also feel profoundly threatened in the diaspora by this
Hindu construction of their old homeland, as well as the attempt to de¬ne
Indian as Hindu in the diaspora. In the USA Sikhs are increasingly sep-
arating themselves out from a pan-Indian identity, and Indian Muslims
are organising, as in the American Federation of Muslims from India,
both to project India in more plural terms and to send money back to
India for their own charitable and political projects.18 There are also, of
course, many Indians in the USA and elsewhere who are not concerned
with such issues and concentrate on living successfully in the diaspora,
and taking the economic and social opportunities it offers them and their
children.
Support in the diaspora for a speci¬cally Hindu nationalism and def-
inition of Indian identity takes various forms. One of the clearest is the
spread of institutions closely linked with those supporting Hindutva in
India itself. The VHP has appeared quite dramatically overseas. By the
end of the 1990s there were 12 branches in the UK, 25 in the USA
and two in Canada. In the UK there were also about 60 branches of the
RSS (Rashtriya Swayemsevak Sangh), a militant activist arm of Hindu
nationalism in India. The core body to which these branches (and other
Hindu nationalist organisations) report in the UK is the HSS UK (Hindu
Swayamsevak Sangh UK) founded in 1966 and registered as a charity
in 1974: its headquarters are in Leicester. This location is signi¬cant
because it is the home of so many Indians of Gujarati and East African
origin, among whom this vision of India has long been of importance.
In the USA a powerful umbrella body is the Federation of Hindu Asso-
ciations which seeks to coordinate Hindu public action in the name of
Hindu nationalism. These diasporic arms of the Hindutva movement™s
organisations have a wide span of work in the diaspora itself, organising
local groups of activists and giving them ideological and physical train-
ing, including annual training camps, putting on large nationwide gath-
erings in the countries where they operate, such as the 1989 Virat Hindu
Sammelan in the UK to celebrate the birth centenary of one of the found-
ing ideologues of Hindutva, publishing journals such as Sangh Sandesh
in the UK, and inviting preachers from India to visit the diaspora and
talk about Hinduism. They also make contact with and organise Indian
students in universities. In the UK, for example, the National Hindu
Students Forum has branches in about 30 Universities and is an af¬li-
ate of the Hindutva movement. Much of this is very similar to the work

18 P. Kurien, ˜Religion, ethnicity and politics: Hindu and Muslim Indian immigrants in the
United States™, Ethnic and Racial Studies, Vol. 24, No. 2 (March 2001), pp. 263“293.
168 Global South Asians

done in India itself. Many of the organisations supporting the broader
movement also make active and substantial contributions to work which
supports the Hindutva cause. I have already noted the particular regional
and social thrust of the charitable work of the Swaminarayan movement.
In the USA sizeable funds, possibly running into millions of dollars, are
collected for heritage, development and relief causes, many of which are
clearly related to the promotion of Hindutva.
One further way in which the connections between the diaspora and
India forged in support of Hindutva manifest themselves is in the grow-
ing tendency to intervene in the way ˜Hinduism™ is portrayed in the
wider society. Where school curricula offer a broad religious studies
programme, as in the UK, it is hardly surprising that locally resident
Hindus will want to offer guidance about the way their tradition should
be portrayed. The UK branch of the VHP prepared a guide for teachers,
entitled, Explaining Hindu Dharma (1996) which is offered as authorita-
tive and comprehensive, so that British schools can teach Hinduism cor-
rectly. Similarly, a range of Hindu organisations in the diaspora through
their websites offer de¬nitions and descriptions of Hinduism, so claim-
ing the space opened up by the politics of multiculturalism. However,
interventions designed to promote and protect the image of Hinduism
have on occasion been far more confrontational. Serious scholars who
work on Hindu texts and myths have found themselves the object of a
barrage of criticism emanating from anti-intellectual diaspora sources,
and at times they and their students have been physically threatened and
even assaulted. Wendy Doniger, a senior and respected scholar in the
¬eld of Hindu mythology, was the target of a whole series of denuncia-
tions and even physical attack, much of it orchestrated by an American-
based website aimed to link Indians worldwide. The protest also led to
the removal of her article on Hinduism for Encarta, the Microsoft
encyclopedia. Behind the protests lay a xenophobic belief that ˜foreign-
ers™ should not try to interpret Hinduism; and also a vision of Hinduism
as an austere world religion suitable for modern times, in which the
overt sexuality of many Hindu myths has no place.19 Another serious
scholar, a Professor of Religion at an American university, was hounded
by people he described as ˜cyber vigilantes™, again via an American web-
site widely read by Indians, in reaction to a book he had written about
the Hindu god, Ganesha. A hostile internet petition collected 4,500 sig-
natories, demanding that the book be banned. Other opponents wanted
his book to be withdrawn from student access, demanded that he should

19 New York Times, 31 January 2005: the website where criticisms were posted was
www.sulekha.com.
Relating to the old homeland 169

cease teaching in the area of Hinduism, and that his university should
make him apologise. Some even threatened his life. His university pro-
tected him and the web petition was withdrawn; but his Indian publisher
removed the book from its catalogue.20 Diaspora Indians™ attempts at
academic and literary censorship have also extended into the institutional
world of academia, particularly where local diaspora groups have put up
funds for the establishment of posts in aspects of Indian studies, and
wish to control who is appointed and how they teach their subject. There
have even been attempts at intervention in appointments even where
there have been no ¬nancial strings to pull. The prestigious Library of
Congress in Washington D.C. has a scholarly centre where eminent aca-
demics are invited to hold visiting appointments to enable them to do
creative work and research. In 2003 a renowned scholar of ancient India,
Professor Romila Thapar, was elected to one of these appointments and
again some Indians in America orchestrated a campaign of global criti-
cism and an attempt to get the Library to withdraw its invitation. They did
not succeed, and a powerful international academic community rallied in
her support. Her ˜crime™ was her subtle historical analysis of the various
cultural traditions which made up India™s past, instead of subscribing to
a vision of a monolithic Hindu version of Indian history, and her coura-
geous critique of contemporary trends in Hinduism.21 Such attacks on
scholars and their modes of textual and scholarly analysis demonstrate
some of the profound anxieties about the image of India and of Hinduism
prevalent among Hindus in the modern diaspora, as well as a puritanical
simplicity in some preferred diaspora visions of the old homeland. They
also indicate how the internet in particular has enabled another strand
in the complex web of connections through which the diaspora relates to
the subcontinent.
—————

An explosion in modern technologies of communication has transformed
the experience of South Asians living in the diaspora in the later twenti-
eth century, compared with the isolation of older diaspora communities
from the subcontinent. This has led to the development of multiple link-
ages between the global diaspora and the old homeland, ranging from
20 See Professor P. B. Courtright™s article in the British weekly for academics, The Times
Higher, 28 November 2003: his book which so enraged some Hindu critics was published
in 1985, Ganesha: Lord of Obstacles, Lord of Beginnings (New York, Oxford University
Press).
21 See R. Thapar, ˜Imagined religious communities? Ancient history and the modern search
for a Hindu identity™, Modern Asian Studies Vol. 23, Part 2 (May 1989), pp. 209“231;
also her ˜A historical perspective on the story of Rama™ in S. Gopal (ed.), Anatomy of
a Confrontation. The Babri Masjid-Ramjanmabhumi Issue (New Delhi, Penguin Books
India, 1991) pp. 141“163.
170 Global South Asians

the family telephone call and visit, through a multiplicity of material and
cultural investments in the place of familial origin, to campaigns, par-
ticularly among diaspora Indians, for political status in India and incor-
poration into a new vision of a strong Hindu nation as a global force
in the new millennium. For South Asians in the diaspora communities
around the world the subcontinent is no longer home in any simple sense:
most would call their new place of settlement home, particularly those
born outside the subcontinent, who globally far outnumber those who
have personally migrated. However, they are now able to inhabit a world
where there are multiple reference points for perceived individual and
group senses of belonging, and a variety of possible public identities.
They are no longer bound by a single identity linked to the subcontinent
or to their new homeland. In the lives of many the irony is that the more
they have established ˜home™ abroad in the diaspora the more signi¬cant
their linkages with other diaspora groups of South Asians and with the
subcontinent have become. They have become ˜global™ in quite new ways
of both perspective and action.
Conclusion




The aim of this book has been to introduce the reader to the history
and experience of one of the largest movements of people in the modern
world, namely out-migration from the subcontinent of South Asia from
the nineteenth century to the present. Numerous ¬‚ows of people out
of the subcontinent have created a signi¬cant and very diverse South
Asian diaspora spread through every continent. This diaspora has become
important not only in the places where South Asians have settled, but
also for the countries of the subcontinent from which they came. So the
emphasis here has often been on India, Pakistan and Bangladesh as well
as on the life of South Asians in the diaspora.
The ¬rst two chapters analysed the global and local environments that
provided the opportunities and incentives for South Asians to travel such
large distances overseas and to create permanent homes outside the sub-
continent, even though most of them, at least among the earlier genera-
tions of migrants, clung to a ˜myth of return™ “ a hope that one day they
would return to their ancestral homelands. We ¬rst looked at the changing
connections of South Asia with the wider world, and patterns of stability
and movement among its people both within and outside the subconti-
nent, to understand why there developed an environment conducive to
large-scale out-migration. We then turned to a description and analysis of
the many and distinctive ¬‚ows overseas, seeking to understand in more
detail why people left their homes, where they came from, where they
travelled to and why they went to those particular places. Clearly prior
experiences, and sometimes speci¬c problems or declining opportunities
in the home region, often encouraged people to travel where there was
thought to be new opportunity and the chance to better oneself and one™s
wider familial and kin group. Almost always migrants were prepared to
work exceptionally hard, and often in harsh and unfamiliar situations, to
achieve new prosperity and status. However, except in the unique cir-
cumstances of indentured labourers, it was rarely those at the bottom of
South Asian societies, the very poor and most disadvantaged, who left
for work abroad. Generally it was those with some resources and also the

171
172 Global South Asians

vision of a wider world suf¬cient to enable them to see what opportuni-
ties there might be elsewhere who made the journey overseas. Often they
were people who had already experienced mobility themselves or in their
families, at ¬rst between places on the subcontinent in search of work and
land, or even beyond the homeland in the service of their imperial rulers
before the British relinquished their rule of the subcontinent in 1947;
and later after the subcontinent gained political independence as news of
work and opportunities abroad spread rapidly by word of mouth among
kin and friends, as well as by more formal recruitment mechanisms.
Migration was never just a matter of a journey, however large and
signi¬cant a departure that was. It was an ongoing process, often over
several generations. To pursue this understanding of migration the next
three chapters took a thematic approach and looked at the tasks which
migrants and their children and grandchildren have had to do in order to
settle in new homelands and establish themselves as a lasting diaspora.
The intention is that by highlighting important themes in the ˜work™ of
becoming a successful diaspora, the reader will then be able to progress to
the detailed and often complex literature on particular aspects of South
Asian diaspora experience, and also more broadly in daily life to under-
stand something of the life lived by South Asian neighbours and fellow
citizens, and to comprehend and empathise with some of their concerns.
It has been impossible here to give anything approaching total coverage
of the history of the diaspora in all its different geographical locations,
partly because of space. More crucially it would be dif¬cult because there
was so much diversity in the histories and experiences of South Asians
overseas and the sources are so uneven in the information they provide.
(For example it is far easier to hear the voices of the contemporary dias-
pora given the numerous types of written, oral, visual and electronic evi-
dence available, compared with the illiterate indentured labourers who
left few direct records of their experiences. Moreover, in modern polities
where governments and their agencies are constantly monitoring perfor-
mance and access in many areas of life in pursuit of equality policies, far
more evidence is generated about the quanti¬able aspects of diaspora life,
ranging from actual numbers to housing circumstances, employment and
unemployment among men and women, housing conditions and educa-
tional levels.) Not surprisingly diaspora life has yielded up many different
experiences, created by the initially varied strands in the diaspora and
by subsequent internal differentiations among diasporic groups. This is
another reason why totally descriptive coverage would be impossible and
a thematic approach is more illuminating.
Chapters 3 to 5 were arranged under three major conceptual themes.
How do South Asians outside the subcontinent establish new homes,
Conclusion 173

social networks and communities? How do they relate to the public space
and life of their new homelands? What sort of connections do they keep or
forge with their old homelands? Chapter 3 dealt with the broad contours
of settlement in the diaspora, the business of establishing an economic
base, creating new homes and social communities, reconstructing reli-
gious traditions and establishing sacred space. It also touched on some of
the areas of concern and internal contest within diaspora groups which
generate tensions, which at times have spilt over into public space, par-
ticularly understandings of gender, different generational priorities, and
religious issues. What is clear is that this task of establishing new homes,
social networks and wider communities is a process which must be under-
taken in each generation of South Asians. Those born in the diaspora and
educated alongside other ethnic groups, who speak the language of the
host society ¬‚uently, often in contrast to the limited command of the new
language by their parents™ generation, are often not content or at ease
in the tightly knit ethnic groups constructed by their parents, and may
wish to live and work in different locations, branch out into new jobs,
and extend their circle of friendships. Indeed this broadening of the dias-
pora™s connections, and particularly the diversi¬cation of its economic
base, is often essential to its continuing prosperity in changing circum-
stances. Younger women are very signi¬cant in this process. Not only are
they increasingly becoming signi¬cant earners in their own right, thereby
enhancing the economic success and stability of their families, as well
as increasing their personal social leverage, but they also often wish to
challenge understandings of gender brought from South Asia, in order to
construct new public and private roles for themselves. All young South
Asians have to negotiate cultural differences in the locations which are
now their home, dealing with their parents and their assumptions about
the good and proper life, but also facing out to a wider world where
they have new connections, role models and opportunities. Of consid-
erable signi¬cance is the way they respond to the religious traditions of
their parents, and discern whether those traditions can provide them with
meaning and guidance in their new homelands.
The discussion in Chapter 3 also indicated that in no diaspora loca-
tion are South Asians a single South Asian community or ethnic minor-
ity. They are divided by national and regional places of origin; by South
Asian language; by religious tradition and sectarian divisions within major
religious tradition; by socio-economic status at the time of origin and by
later internal socio-economic divergence. Among South Asians in UK, for
example, there are people from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh; Hindus,
Sikhs, Parsis, Muslims and Christians; followers of many different sectar-
ian traditions within these major religions; speakers of Punjabi, Gujarati,
174 Global South Asians

Hindi and Urdu; and the whole socio-economic range from highly edu-
cated lawyers and doctors and wealthy business people, through the
self-employed and small business person and semi-skilled worker, to
the school leaver with no educational quali¬cations who ends up unem-
ployed, in prison or living on social security. It is no wonder that there is
no homogeneous South Asian minority or community, even though the
media sometimes portrays migrants and their children in this way. Nor is
there one South Asian woman™s experience, though again the media may
portray the South Asian woman in the diaspora as oppressed by patri-
archy, secluded and ill-educated. For every woman from a conservative
family who ¬ts this description there are South Asian women who go out
to work, who increasingly control their own incomes, who are themselves
educated and see that their daughters are educated, who are rising high
in numerous professions and are also prepared to take a public stand
on major issues, such as working conditions, treatment of women and
human rights. This mirrors, of course, the changes also occurring on the
subcontinent where women are now a force to be reckoned with in public
and political life, as they have always been in the domain of the family.
Chapter 4 took the focus of discussion beyond the establishment of
domestic and sacred space, and the creation of a dense network of social
connections and relationships, to the wider stage of the public life of
the countries where South Asians now live. In particular it looked at the
meaning of belonging to a new national polity, and the extent to which
migrants and their children have become participant citizens, contribut-
ing to and bene¬ting from the nation states in which they make their
homes. It contrasted their experience in those areas where their ethnicity
has made them the target of hostile ethnic nationalisms and in those where
they have taken their places in more plural polities with more hospitable
public understanding of the nation and national identity. It also indicated
where South Asian groups have experienced potential and actual con¬‚ict
with the public authorities or with the majority in the host societies, when
cultural customs con¬‚ict with majority expectations and assumptions
about what is right and wrong. It also examined the often contentious
issues arising out of the emergence of new religious pluralisms in pre-
viously homogeneous societies. It noted particularly how very recently
many Muslims have come to feel uneasy and at times threatened by the
host society as well as by wider events in world politics. The eruption of
terrorist violence against British society by Muslims of Pakistani descent
in 2005 brought this problem to sharp and violent focus in public dis-
course and experience. The tragedy of death and destruction in London
in July 2005 shows how vital it is to try to understand the lives and con-
cerns of many of those in the diaspora, though of course most Muslims,
Conclusion 175

even those from the same background as the young bombers, do not share
either their religious view of the world or their determination to attack
their own homelands.
Chapter 5 acknowledged that South Asians in the diaspora have identi-
ties created by many senses of belonging, that they are people who belong
to several worlds, one of which is the subcontinent from which they or
their ancestors came. Although South Asia is not home in any daily and
lived experience, it is a point of personal and group reference, and it is a
place with which many in the diaspora are still connected. So we exam-
ined many of these diverse connections between people in the diaspora
and people in the old homeland. Ties of kinship have been strengthened
by the development of modern forms of communication and travel, and
so the experience of living abroad has not been an isolated one, with roots
and connections with the subcontinent almost totally severed, as was the
experience of indentured labourers in the nineteenth century. Now even
relatively poor South Asians overseas travel back to the subcontinent,
take their children there, and have a lively sense of belonging to families
and wider kin groups which straddle national boundaries. Younger South
Asians in the diaspora also keep in touch with the subcontinent and create
virtual diaspora worlds through the electronic resources of the internet
and e-mail. There is a considerable ¬‚ow of goods and capital back to
the subcontinent through diaspora economic connections. These are of
macroeconomic signi¬cance in the national economies of South Asia,
as well as having distinct effects on the local societies and economies of
regions and villages from which migrants originally came. South Asians
abroad also make charitable and religious investments in their old home-
lands, either through personal service or through the many organisations
in the diaspora which act as conduits for donations of money on a regular
basis or in times of crisis. Indeed, it is evident that even when South Asians
are active citizens of the polities of their new homelands, they also seek
to intervene in the public life of South Asia, partly in these regular ways
but particularly where con¬‚icts have erupted in the regions from which
they came, as in Kashmir and Punjab. Indians in the later strands of the
diaspora have been among the most active in demanding formal status
in the public life of their old homeland, and they have also used diaspora
money and in¬‚uence to foster in the old homeland and abroad an image
of India as a speci¬cally Hindu state, aligning with one particular strand
in Indian political and religious life.
An examination of the broad contours of and key themes in the expe-
rience of South Asians who have made up the many and varied strands
in the modern diaspora suggests many ways in which the diaspora is
of signi¬cance to those outside it and those who seek to understand it
176 Global South Asians

historically, as well as to those who live within it. Most immediately the
diaspora is an aspect of the modern patterns of globalisation, the ¬‚ows
of people, goods, capital and ideas which have bound the world together
in new ways in recent decades. All these distinctive ¬‚ows can be seen in
the experience of the diaspora. There have obviously been and still are
major movements of people out of the subcontinent on a permanent basis,
and fairly continuous movements to and fro between South Asian and
diaspora locations, as kin and friends visit each other and travel to rein-
force familial and cultural identities. The peripatetic grandparent who
visits children in a number of diaspora locales to care for new grandchil-
dren, the diaspora pilgrim or businessman returning to the subcontinent,
the young South Asian student from Europe or America who nervously
visits South Asia for the ¬rst time, are familiar sights at airports. Their
journeys are symptomatic of continuing patterns of personal movement
which straddle the globe and bind regions and countries together. Goods
travel as South Asians take gifts back to families and friends still on the
subcontinent, and as South Asian communities overseas import goods
into their new homes to sustain their cuisine, dress and cultural obser-
vances, and as they spread a taste for South Asian food, jewellery, fabrics
and clothes among the wider society in their new homes. Capital moves
in various directions also. We have seen how East African Asians often
were able to transfer some capital out of Africa in advance of their ejec-
tion, and to use it as a base for their new lives in England. From the
start of the modern diaspora ¬‚ows migrants have also sent signi¬cant
quantities of capital back to their families and home regions, as well as
making privileged investments more recently, as we noted in Chapter 5.
Ideas, too, have moved in many directions along with the formation of
the diaspora, particularly with the migration of religious traditions and
the political ideas which ¬‚ow from them. More worryingly, con¬‚icts have
also become more global in their implications as in the case of several
South Asian regional con¬‚icts which have generated great anguish in the
diaspora as well as actual participation, and more recently in the political
implications of a global Islamism.
The development of the South Asian diaspora has of course had a sig-
ni¬cant economic and demographic impact in many host societies. Of
particular signi¬cance has been the ways in which signi¬cant minority
groups have come to live in what were formerly homogeneous societies,
thus creating plural societies for the ¬rst time, or have increased the com-
plexity and diversity of existing plural societies. This has raised some of
the most profound social and political issues of our time, particularly
those of discrimination and equality. Ranging from the extreme end of
anti-Indian public action in East Africa or Fiji, to the virtual exclusion of
Conclusion 177

Indians from political in¬‚uence in Malaysia, to experiences of discrimi-
nation in employment and in daily encounters on the street in Britain, the
South Asian experience allows us to consider the circumstances in which
minorities are feared and disliked, and to examine the roots of social con-
¬‚ict as well as the possibilities of social cohesion. We can also consider
through the South Asian experience the mechanisms by which discrim-
ination and hostility can be combated, whether by migrants themselves
or by public authorities in the host society. In particular the diaspora
experience enables us to examine the ef¬cacy of anti-discrimination laws
and programmes in several modern polities such as the UK, Canada and
the USA.
Of particular and perhaps unexpected importance at the turn of the
new millennium is the speci¬c issue of religious pluralism. Whereas schol-
ars quite recently thought that religion would increasingly become a pri-
vate matter in a context of the continuing secularisation of public life,
we now see that religious pluralism is in many places a very public rather
than a private matter, and of increasing public and political concern. The
diaspora presence and experience has often been central to this. Host soci-
eties and polities where South Asians have settled have seldom had any
dif¬culties about sharing public space with South Asian religious tradi-
tions. These have taken their place beside Judaism and the many strands
within Christianity as part of a broad mosaic of religious observance and
institutionalisation. But where minority religious beliefs spill over (often
at the hands of a minority within a minority) into attempts to censor par-
ticular books or plays, or at the most extreme into violence against the
host society itself, then the fact of religious pluralism raises moral, legal
and political questions about the legitimate role of religion in the public
sphere and the way religious difference should be handled.
However, the emergence of religious and cultural pluralism in new
places as a result of South Asian migration does not only raise issues of
potential and actual con¬‚icts and their public management. It also points
students of religion and the cultures which are often powerfully moulded
by religious belief and practice to evidence of the way religious and cul-
tural traditions have proved immensely adaptable. Like people they often
travel well. Our examination of South Asians™ experience in the diaspora
has shown how they have retained yet often modi¬ed cultural traditions
and religious observances to suit the new situations in which they live,
and have discovered within those traditions the authority and strength to
manage change. As we saw, parents often worry about how they will pass
on their traditions and beliefs to their children and grandchildren, partic-
ularly when older mechanisms for transmission are weakened or no longer
available. But they have often found new means even if this has meant
178 Global South Asians

signi¬cant innovation. The mandirs and gurudwaras which run classes for
young people along the lines of older Christian Sunday schools are one
example, as are the vacation camps for the young, and the discussion
groups for the older. Websites offering religious guidance and the wel-
come for gurus and other holy persons who have an international ministry
are yet further aspects of modern life pressed into the service and trans-
mission of older traditions. Many groups of non-Muslims also change
their patterns of observance to use the spaces of leisure opened up by the
conventions of the host society, particularly using Sunday for new forms
of congregational worship. However, issues of religious guidance, author-
ity and particularly the ability to connect with the younger generation are
urgent and sometimes contentious. This can be seen in communities as
different as the Parsis, who struggle to preserve their religion without the
guidance of an international authority which understands the pressure on
a tiny, well-educated group which is well-integrated into wider modern
society in the western world, and the conservative Muslims of Pakistani
origin in Britain whose Imams often fail to tackle, or are linguistically
and intellectually unable to tackle, critical problems of interpretation,
guidance and global meaning, leaving younger people rudderless in a
confusing world.
The experience of South Asians outside the subcontinent is also
broadly signi¬cant because it contributes to our ideas about the range
of identities open to people and the ways these are fashioned. In the mid
to late twentieth century historians were greatly interested in questions
relating to national identity “ how people came to perceive of themselves
as belonging to a nation, the predisposing circumstances and shared expe-
riences which created imagined national identities, the political and mate-
rial mechanisms by which such identities were spread and fostered, and
the political implications of nationalism, particularly the assumption that
its fruition was the nation state. This scholarly preoccupation re¬‚ected in
large part the dominance of the nation state as a form of modern polity,
the experience of some of the great political movements and crises in
recent European history, as well as the development of colonial nation-
alisms around the world in opposition to European empires. However
it is also clear that in a world marked by many aspects of globalisation
there are a whole range of senses of belonging which are available. Some
have roots which go back well before the idea of the nation, including the
regionalisms which have often re-emerged as profound sources of political
loyalty, such as the Celtic nationalisms within Britain or the regional loy-
alties of parts of Europe, or the identities which cross national boundaries
with the resurgence of many forms of religious fundamentalism. Others
are comparatively new, as in the case of new political identities across old
Conclusion 179

national boundaries in Europe, or new social and business identities cre-
ated by work within multinational business corporations, or participation
in the modern worlds of universities with their international patterns of
research and scholarly cooperation enabled by internet contact and rapid
air travel.
Another life-changing experience which creates new senses of iden-
tity is long-distance migration and settlement outside an original familial
homeland. Here the experiences of the South Asians we have studied
are particularly interesting. Among the ¬rst generation of migrants there
was often a persistent sense of the subcontinent as home, a feeling of
loss and a wish to return some day, even though this became less of a
practical reality as people put down social roots and grew older in their
new homes. But among those born abroad in the disaspora there is a
clear sense of the place of birth and residence as home in a practical
and affective sense, the place where they go about their daily business of
work and play, where they make friendships and in turn raise their own
families, the place whose language is the one which they ¬nd their most
natural means of communication, the environment in which they wish to
succeed. The countries of the subcontinent remain a point of reference
in many ways, marking out ethnic origin, being the source of culture and
religion, though decreasingly of a well-known language. South Asians in
the diaspora often think of themselves in composite and multiple terms,
re¬‚ecting that experience of having more than one source of personal
origin or means of self-identi¬cation. They are in their own eyes Asian-
Americans, Fijian Indians, British-Pakistanis, British Muslims, Canadian
Sikhs, for example, and may often identify ¬ercely with a particular
city or town in the diaspora. They manage many different identities in
combination and move with considerable ease in and between different
public and private environments, at home in the diaspora but with a
knowledge of ethnic and religious distinctiveness which marks them out
from older members of the host society as well as other strands in the
diaspora.
Moreover, an added dimension of their identity is the connection with
other parts of the diaspora through ties of kinship, particularly among the
wealthier and more educated who have been able to seize the opportu-
nities of global migration and employment. Indians in Britain, for exam-
ple, will often also have kin in the USA, Canada or Australia, who may
have migrated there directly or gone on from East Africa or Britain to
become ˜thrice-migrants™. They will visit them whenever possible, and
will look on this pan-diasporic society as the one from which to choose
brides and grooms for their own immediate families. They have become
in a quite new way transnational individuals and families, at home in the
180 Global South Asians

places where they have settled, put down strong roots and constructed
supportive social and cultural networks, yet linked in many ways to the
countries of familial origin, while at the same time recognising their con-
nections with a wider diaspora. Their experiences and senses of self, and
of belonging as well as rejection, tell us much about the profound changes
occurring in the modern world.
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