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HomeNEWSInternational NewsMoral dilemma of the 'Desi' (Indian) immigrants

Moral dilemma of the ‘Desi’ (Indian) immigrants

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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has precipitated a diplomatic crisis by alleging that Canadian security agencies are actively pursuing “credible allegations” of a “potential link” between the “agents of the Government of India” and the killing of a “Canadian citizen” Hardeep Singh Nijjar. By agents, he meant Indian intelligence operatives and thus hinted at a Covert or Black Operation. India has rightly called the allegation absurd and motivated.

According to media reports, Hardeep Singh Nijjar, killed last June in British Columbia, was a designated terrorist associated with Khalistani terrorist crimes. He had fled to Canada on a forged passport in 1996 and eventually obtained citizenship in 2007, apparently on fake marriage papers. In November 2014, an Interpol Red Corner Notice cited over a dozen criminal cases of murder and other terrorist activities against Nijjar in India. He is also believed to have ordered several killings and attacks in Punjab while in Canada. Though the details of the cases were shared with Canada, they merely put him on a no-fly list.

As the Canadian CTV News Channel reported, the US Ambassador to Canada David Cohen stated quite irresponsibly that there was “shared intelligence among Five Eyes partners” that had prompted Trudeau to make that allegation.

Most Indians might not have even heard the name ‘Five Eyes’ before this. It is an intelligence alliance comprising five English-speaking countries, namely, the USA, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, with Israel as a sort of de facto partner. It had its origin in the Second World War and was formalized through the UKUSA (United Kingdom-United States of America Agreement). Essentially, it means sharing SIGINT (Signals Intelligence)/COMINT (Communications Intelligence) among the partners. The intelligence comes from intercepting foreign radio/electronic communications that could supposedly be of strategic, military, political or economic interest to them. The global surveillance disclosures made by Edward Snowden suggest snooping on the Internet and emails. The intelligence is shared through “Stone Ghost”, a codename for a super-secret network operated by the United States Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA).

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What would be the ‘Desi immigrants’ stand now?

Trudeau has accused India, of violating the sovereignty of Canada in spite of the fact that their intelligence agencies have been doing that for decades. Should the immigrants also accuse India? If not, how will they deal with the slurs of having stabbed their adopted country in the back, one that gave them the comforts they craved? If yes, would they still be able to sing paeans of the high moral values of India? How would they react if white-born Canadians were to accuse them of being ‘sleeper agents’ of the Indian intelligence agencies or of having collaborated with Indian agents in the ‘murder’? After all, no agency can carry out such operations without local support.

So far, the two countries have only expelled a diplomat each and India has suspended visa services for all Canadian citizens. However, if the relations between the two countries worsened further, or if violent hate crimes took place there by Khalistan supporters against Hindus or Sikhs opposed to both the idea of Khalistan and their criminal activities, what would they do?

Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a prominent Khalistan supporter, has openly threatened Hindus in Canada to go back to India. While top federal public safety officials and politicians denounced the online hate video, neither the government body nor the politicians singled out the video by name. It is well-known that Trudeau’s Liberal party has been openly taking support of the Khalistan sympathizers amongst their Sikh citizens for simple electoral politics as they constitute nearly 2% of voters.

Immigrants cannot whitewash their real intent of migration

Pic: Indiatimes

For millions of Indians, the West has been the fabled land, the El Dorado, and the Shangri-La all rolled into one because the NRI (even if he does low-paid menial jobs there), in popular perception, is still regarded as the living embodiment of achievement and success; inspiring awe, envy and respect in those unfortunate one who could not make it. Indian youths love to acquire a fake American accent and are happy wearing the American flag and dollar bills on their neckties. Hollywood films and American pop music are immensely popular with the cool guys and gals in India. In fact, all things iconic to the American way of life—from Coca-Cola to burgers, you name it—Indian youths love it.

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Living in the USA/Canada/UK (and now Australia/New Zealand also) has traditionally been the most exciting dream of Indians—their ultimate fantasy. After all, in which other country of the world would you find a temple (Chilkur Balaji temple, Hyderabad) dedicated to obtaining visas? Modes of entry do not matter—higher education, posting there by some MNCs, or even illegal border crossing. As the experience of thousands in Punjab shows, Indians would happily give their right eyes or sell the last piece of furniture in their houses to get an American/Canadian visa.

The biggest ambition in the life of many Indians is to abandon their motherland for good and ‘settle’ in the West. In their parlance, they say they have ‘shifted’ to the USA, etc. Pending getting a Green Card, they are too happy if, by some manipulation, the company keeps on extending their stay. If eventually, at long last, they manage to get citizenship, they are literally in heaven. Nothing pleases an Indian more than the prospect of owning a house in an American/Canadian suburb with a ‘white wicket fence’—visa agents actually use this tagline in their advertisements.

The bubble bursts when they find that, in spite of the dress, mannerisms, and accent, eventually, the ‘real intention of their having migrated’ often spoils their party. In August 2022, for example, a video went viral in which a Mexican-American woman Esmeralda Upton (born in the USA) was seen abusing four Indian-American women (who were migrants) at a parking lot. She was heard screaming, “They come to the USA because they want a better life. Go back to India. We don’t want you here”. Then she added, “If things are so great in your country, stay there.”

That, despite being hurtful, is the ‘ultimate raw nerve’ for which, the Desi immigrants have no answer. Drill it in, “Why did you go there in the first place?” Obviously, there was something that you yearned for and which could not get in your country. Admit it. A great many lies can be told about what was that ‘something’ that you did not get in your country. Not one of them stands up to scrutiny.

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The farce of talent not being recognized in India

A great farce often told in this connection is that talents are not recognized in India. This is pure crap. Should that be so, how is it that since 1968, that is, in 55 years, there have been only three scientists of Indian origin who got the Nobel Prize while working in the USA, and none before that even as Indians had started migrating from the 1950s? There are some 6 million Indians holding the OCI (Overseas Citizens of India) Card. Canada alone has 1.511 million people of Indian origin who have acquired Canadian citizenship. There are 3.18 million NRIs in the USA, 1.4 million in the UK, and 0.178 million in Canada.

Even for those three Nobel Laureates, Har Gobind Khorana had moved out of India in 1945 at the age of 23. S. Chandrasekhar had moved out of India at the age of 20. Venki Ramakrishnan had moved out of India immediately after his graduation. In fact, both his parents had obtained their PhDs from USA and Canada. The point being made is that their entire higher-level training and research had been abroad. It is not that they had tried their luck in India as much as they could and were still not recognized. Certainly, you cannot argue that India failed to realize the talent of a mere graduate! Let us face it, what great scientific contributions have been made by the Indians living in the West for which they were denied opportunity in India? For God’s sake, spare us Hotmail and the Bose speakers!

Unless one happens to be a political dissident who sought asylum, all other ‘reasons’ one could give, are farcical. They went there basically for a more comfortable life, that’s all. Had they been happy with what their country offered them, they would not have abandoned it. Whichever way they try, there is no way; they can run away from the ugly reality that they went there in their overpowering greed for a life with better creature comforts. Period.

Though Esmeralda Upton was immediately arrested, Indian-American bodies were quick to condemn the racist abuse, saying it was yet another in a string of deplorable anti-Asian hate crimes. They even tried to invoke sympathy. Indian-American Impact executive director, Neil Makhija said that it was imperative we (meaning the American society in general) begin to address the psychological effects of consistent attacks on minority communities.

Immigrants have to take sides

Push them further and the Desi immigrants would also tell how the USA was populated by immigrants only, and thus what is wrong with them in particular? But, sir, that was centuries ago. There is no comparison between the immigrants of the 18th-19th century and immigrants of the 21st century or a little earlier! They sowed the seeds and laboured; you are merely enjoying the fruits of the harvest.  

As Samuel Huntington says, “America’s core culture has primarily been the culture of the 17th and 18th-century settlers who founded our nation. The central elements of that culture are the Christian religion; Protestant values, including individualism, the work ethic, and moralism; the English language; British traditions of law, justice, and limits on government power; and a legacy of European art, literature, and philosophy…Throughout our history, people who were not white, Anglo-Saxon Protestants have become Americans by adopting America’s Anglo-Protestant culture and political values.” Justice Louis Brandeis famously declared that Americanization was not just the acquisition of citizenship; it meant the ‘renunciation of foreign allegiances’ and the ‘rejection of dual loyalties’ and nationalities. Measured on these scales, Desi immigrants can judge for themselves as to where they stand.

Also Read: Over half of Asian Americans suffering from hidden diabetes

The moral dilemma of the Desi immigrants lies in being torn between dual loyalties. The recent irresponsible behaviour of Trudeau has only sharply accentuated it. This can be likened to the moral dilemma of an Indian girl who has married a Pakistani cricketer. Given the ultra-nationalistic fervour that attaches itself to India-Pakistan cricket matches, which side she would honestly cheer for if she chose to watch a match from the stands? She cannot give a categorical answer.  

Pic: Diplomacybeyond

Let us face it, how many Indian immigrants to Canada have condemned Khalistani terrorist activities being carried out from the soil of Canada as a disgrace to the mother country, or have even criticized the statement of Trudeau over Hardeep Singh Nijjar? Most of them have preferred to remain silent, hiding in their cocoons and pretending that they are just ‘professionals’ minding their own business and have no interest in politics of any kind. It reminds one of most Kashmiri Muslims not condemning terrorism there or Muslim intellectuals failing to condemn the murder of Kanhaiya Lal as a communal crime.  

Desi immigrants cannot ride two horses. Either they have to kill their ‘souls’ and like many politicians of Indian origin in the West, be more critical of, and harsh on India than their white counterparts. Or, they may recall the character of Ram Singh in the film Lagaan, who throws off his turban (a symbol of being in the employ of the British) after he is insulted by the British captain. If they reject what is now ‘foreign allegiance’ for them as articulated by Justice Brandeis, they will have to support Trudeau’s stand. Whatever side they take, I pity how tormented their souls would be.

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Dr N C Asthana IPS (Retd)
Dr N C Asthana IPS (Retd)
Dr. N. C. Asthana, IPS (Retd) is a former DGP of Kerala and ADG BSF/CRPF. Of the 51 books that he has authored, 20 are on terrorism, counter-terrorism, defense, strategic studies, military science, and internal security, etc. They have been reviewed at very high levels in the world and are regularly cited for authority in the research works at some of the most prestigious professional institutions of the world such as the US Army Command & General Staff College and Frunze Military Academy, Russia. The views expressed are his own.


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