The patriotic NRIs saga is making waves in the east and west

Daneesh Majid

The blue-eyed child

About 73 years ago, India gained independence from its British overlords only to be ruled by a more indigenous class of colonists. Today, a hard-liner and communal group of home-grown colonial masters are at the helm of affairs.  They are pandering to a more blossoming segment of a majoritarian population. This modern-day “state subject” known as the Non-Residential Indian living mostly in the Western countries, is very much the apple of the government’s eye.

Though the past six years have brought out in them even more virulent form of patriotism at the cost of the other segments of the society, mainly minorities and the Dalits.

The true mark of this patriot is lobbying for diwali to become a national holiday in America while sending money to fringe outfits that do not take kindly to Christmas carolers in India. 

Secularism, the Indian Context vs Western Context

These rights enshrined in the supreme documents of their new homeland include the First Amendment of the US Constitution, Section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms where legislative powers are explicitly forbidden from establishing the superiority of a single religion. Even in the land of our erstwhile overlords whose official religion is Protestant Christianity, there isn’t exactly a codified constitution. Yet, religious freedom is provided for all in United Kingdom’s three constituent legal systems.

However, much to the chagrin of these NRIs, don’t these statutes sound eerily similar to the Articles 25 to 28 of India’s constitution?

Plus, more than the Indians in India, these people have borne the brunt of UPA 2’s disastrous economic policies and 67 years of Congress’s dynastic (mis)governance. Hence, the ones that got away stepped up from the greener pastures to ensure that Narendra Modi would right the wrongs of Jawaharlal Nehru.

And yes, there might be a pecking order among NRIs.  

European and North American NRIs do hold some sway over the Middle Eastern ones. However, when it comes to extolling the virtues of the Modi regime and the vices of Pandit Nehru, the dollar and the dinar can co-exist.

The UAE, the land of the enemy

In 2018, those who rolled in dinars developed a valorous streak in lambasting the religion of the majority population — whose native soil they willingly planted themselves onto.

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This was a bit odd considering that Hindus are deemed to be an important ingredient to the UAE’s Islamic yet very diverse patchwork of religions and ethnicities.  

Although the UAE slowly woke up to the reality of such Islamophobic rhetoric when an Indian-origin celebrity chef was sacked from the Rang Mahal restaurant at the JW Marriott Marquis Hotel for tweeting that “Islam had terrorised Hindus for over 2,000 years.”

Plus, another well-educated Dubai-based gynecologist allegedly called for the ethnic cleansing of Muslims and Christians. These “patriots” of various hues in Dubai have gone so far to justify and whitewash the atrocities not only against Muslims in India, but in places like Christchurch, New Zealand.

That surely did not stop the UAE from conferring many honours upon Prime Minister Modi due to the compunctions of trade and the vibrant Indian expatriate workforce.

In spite of the love bestowed upon Modi, the UAE’s government and citizens began taking further notice of Islamophobic rhetoric during the Northeast Delhi pogroms. Then the selective targeting of Muslims and Tablighi Jamaat members during the COVID outbreak were the straws that broke the Emirati camel’s back.

Karnataka MP Tejaswi Surya’s lewd tweet about Arab Muslim women tweet did not help either.

Naturally, after the religious freedom and economic opportunities afforded to the Indian-Hindu community in the country of Muslims, Princess Hend Al-Qassimi then cracked the whip.

Of course, that did not stop patriotic keyboard warriors in meting out to her the slanderous social media treatment usually reserved for “anti-nationals.” Plus, the prospect of unemployment and expulsion from the Emirates did reignite the inner secularist of such NRIs.

Purab AND Paschim

Of course, the “I hate Muslims in my own country, but I don’t mind going to a foreign land inhabited by them because one dirham equals Rs. 20” model has been replicated in the West.

Except Muslims are not in the majority there and the dollar/pound to rupee rate is greater.

In 2016, there was a certain subset of Indian-Americans who supported Trump while others thought he would not bode well for the US’ pluralistic fabric.

But it is not secularism in the American context that is problematic for them.

In Canada, such ideals are just as sacrosanct, if not more. But the fact that Islam receives equitable treatment — not more no less —  with other religions had Immigration consultant and real estate agent Ravi Hooda up in arms. He could not help but take to Twitter to complain about the azaan being allowed within permitted hours and decibel levels.

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Not a country to exempt any deviation from its ideals, the Mayor of Brampton, Ontario made an example out of Hooda.

Just after a few days this and the torrent of condemnations of overseas Dubai-based Indians propagating such communal rhetoric, certain North Americans are taking action against such elements via a petition.

The petition has collected almost 100,000 signatures. With this, the growing list of expatriates who face action for Islamophobic tweets has been reaching new shores. As the Princess told Outlook Magazine, we too must fear for our Indian Hindu compatriots overseas.

This is because people do not seem to be heeding the tweet of India’s Ambassador to the UAE’s: “India and UAE share the value of non-discrimination on any grounds. Discrimination is against our moral fabric and the rule of law seems to be falling on the deaf of ears.”

Though about a week after this warning, three more Dubai-based NRIs either couldn’t resist the urge to keep spewing venom or remove past vestiges of their vitriol on Facebook and Twitter.

Enter New Zealand

Not only is an Emerati Princess or a Canadian Mayor saying enough is enough, but so are associations in New Zealand. Despite his stature in the native and adopted country, community leader Kantilal Bhagabhai Patel’s communal social media content caught the eye of the Wellington Justices of Peace Association (WJPA). This is a group for which he held prestigious posts.  

Ravi Hooda’s actions were clearly grounds for Ontario’s Peel District school board to sever ties with him. Likewise, the WJPA decided to remove Patel from their body.

Reigning in such communal subjects at home might be asking too much of the powers that be. However, the latter would be wise to perhaps keep the activities of its most loyal subject, the NRI, in check. That too, regardless of whether the emblem on his/her passport is still the three-headed tiger or not.

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