The long-distance nationalism of Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) has been one of the stand-out phenomena during the time of Narendra Modi, who, while using it to expand his personal aura, has expertly used it to craft the political narrative to unwashed audiences back home.
The fat cats, seen in jingoistic, paid-for, made-for-TV #Howdy-type rallies, have been pressed into ‘desh seva’ yet again, to drum up support for the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), National Registry of Citizens (NRC) and National Population Register (NPR), all variations of the same theme.
In an excellent article in Deccan Herald titled “What are you supporting, NRI?“, Vasundhara Sirnate Drennan draws the attention of the desi bhakts to the irony of their situation through two stellar examples.
Bhagat Singh Thind, who migrated to the US from Punjab in 1913 and fought for the US Army in the First World War, was given citizenship but for a mere four days. US laws started denaturalising Indian immigrants who had become citizens because they were “not white”.
Bhagat Singh took his case to the US Supreme Court in 1923:
“He argued for ‘whiteness’ by saying that he was a high-caste person with Aryan lineage and so this could be added to the classification under the Naturalization Act of 1906 under which only “free white persons” and “aliens of African nativity and persons of African descent” could become citizens.
“The US Supreme Court responded by saying that a high caste “Hindu” of full Indian blood could not be seen as white within the law because even though they could stake a claim to being Aryan, they had intermarried with non-European races in the subcontinent. His citizenship was revoked in 1926, along with that of 50 other Indians.”
The author also informs NRIs of the case of Vaishno Das Bagai who was stripped of his citizenship, forced to sell his property, and refused a US passport to travel. He is told to apply for a British passport, which, as an Indian nationalist, he refuses. Eventually, Bagai kills himself.
He leaves behind a suicide letter saying he was killing himself in protest.
“I came to America thinking, dreaming and hoping to make this land my home… and tried to give my children the best American education…. But now they come and say to me that I am no longer an American citizen. Now what am I? What have I made of myself and my children? We cannot exercise our rights. Humility and insults, who is responsible for this?”
The story of Bhagat Singh is no different from any migrant who may be Muslim but is denied citizenship due to CAA-NRC-NPR. The irony is of NRIs backing, howsoever feebly, a state that is acting against Muslims like the US did against Hindus 90 years ago.
Elsewhere, in his 2018 book ‘How Fascism Works’, Yale University professor Jason Stanley describes a text-book case of fascism. Any resemblance to India 2020 is no accident.