An Indian Adoptee Reclaims His Voice in the Desi Diaspora
Show MenuHide Menu

Tag: Narendra Modi

Who is a ‘Real’ Indian?

May 14, 2016

Since Narendra Modi became India’s Prime Minister in May 2015, the definition of a ‘true’ Indian is a hot topic.

However, for me, people have always questioned my India bona-fides. Let me explain.

As an adoptee, raised without Indian culture on a daily basis, cultural Indians in the United States were always unsure how I fit into their world. I don’t speak any Indian languages, I attend church, the vast majority of my friends are non-Indian and my parents are white.

By any measure of a culturally engaged Indian, I was not raised as one of them. I fit none of the ‘stereotypical’ Indian roles. I am not a doctor, scientist or lawyer. I am terrible with numbers and figures. I cannot fix your computer, and I don’t engage in the conspicuous consumption and materialism that Indians in America have a reputation for.

Those were the ‘issues’ regarding my Indian identity growing up, but now the narrative shifted. Modi’s political party, the Bharatiya Janata is closely aligned with elements pushing among other things, that all Indians must be Hindu, that true Indians must hate Pakistan and Muslims and the West is destroying both India and its culture.

As a result, many diaspora Indians, and domestic Indians are considered ‘anti-national.’ Additionally, anyone distrusting big government, works with NGOs or social work programs, those who advocate for India’s Dalits, tribals and other groups considered outcasts, people who question tenets of any faith, particularly in film, books or music, all are labeled as not true Indians.

The situation has deteriorated to the point, that anyone critical of India’s policies, politicians or the established Hindu order is considered ‘un-Indian’ or ‘anti-national.’

A recent news story illustrates this case perfectly.

read more …

We don’t know if we’re having a boy or girl. In India it’s illegal to find out.

April 9, 2016

Sasmita and I decided against learning the sex of our coming baby. We do not want to cloud the joyous event, by placing expectations or hopes of a specific gender.

But there’s another reason; Sasmita is uncomfortable discovering a baby’s sex because in India it’s illegal.

Our 2016 baby shower

Prenatal sex determination testing is against Indian law.

Indian society across all levels devalues girls. As a result, the government passed a law called the Prohibition of Sex Determination Act 2003. It targets decreasing female foeticide.

Stories abound of Indian doctors and other hospital workers creating separate lists for people paying extra to discover if they are having the dreaded ‘girl child’ or a son.

Essentially, a pregnant woman arrives at a hospital or health clinic and receives typical medical checkups ensuring the baby is healthy.

But, for an illegal fee, a doctor may open a separate door to a room with a sonogram machine and there an expectant mother can learn the sex.

According to the Act, a woman agrees not to find out the baby’s gender from any gynecologist, or other health care practitioner. Many couples are so afraid that they’ll have a girl, they’ll pay this illegal fee to be sure. Then they abort it outright or kill it after birth.

read more …

Indians just elected Narendra Modi Prime Minister. This news upsets me.

May 17, 2014

India’s populace spoke loudly.

Narendra Modi eviscerated Rahul Gandhi in the nationwide elections.

It was Congress Party’s worst showing at the polls in their history.

The final result, a landslide victory for the Bharatiya Janata Party, led by Narendra Modi has been predicted for months. But the utter annihilation of the Congress party caught many by surprise.

India has chosen a new leader, who in my opinion is not only bad for India, he’s terrible for democracy and secularism.

Modi is not now, nor has ever been, interested in bringing people together. He is a ‘divider.’ His campaign speeches and his political rhetoric focused on separation: Hindus from Muslims, rich from poor, educated from un-educated, Hindu nationalists from everyone else, all the while talking aggressively about both China and Pakistan relations.

Do not misunderstand — I am no Congress sycophant. I think both Modi and Rahul Gandhi were awful choices to lead India.

The second most populous nation in the world just elected a man who allowed Gujarati textbooks, which not only downplayed the Holocaust and its horrors, but also extolled the leadership of Hitler and the Nazis.

His party, the BJP, is closely aligned with a group that explicitly formed itself to look like Nazi brown shirts of the late 1930s, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). That is Modi’s background, now Prime Minister of India.  The BJP is a hard-line Hindu party, ideologically far-right, and espousing a view that India is for Hindus and Hindus only.

Some individuals, respected publications, including the Economist and others sounded the alarm bell on Modi during the last few months. Some used his cult of personality as a reason to vote against him, others his alliances with radical right-wing groups or his role in the 2002 Gujarat Riots.

For me, his role as Gujarat’s Chief Minister during the 2002 Gujarat Riots, an abhorrently violent pogrom by right-wing Hindus against Muslims, forever taints him.

Even if though the Indian Supreme Court exonerated him of all responsibility, some of those under his direct command were found guilty of riot involvement. If Modi was fully in charge of Gujarat, as he says, then he HAD to know what was going on. He was involved, somehow.

It cannot work both ways. He cannot claim to have omnipotent knowledge about Gujarat, while then declaring that the Gujarat Riots took place without police and political involvement. He also refused to call outside forces to intervene while Gujarat burned for three days. Is that leadership?

The Supreme Court has returned ‘not guilty’ verdicts for his involvement, but most of the evidence that would prove guilt was either destroyed (intentionally or accidentally) or is missing. While I understand evidence is paramount in a trial, the fact is that most of the primary documents establishing guilt or exonerating Modi were not evaluated and it’s suspicious that the most important ones are missing.

Modi never apologized to anyone about the riots that occurred during his leadership. He never said he was sorry anyone lost lives and livelihoods. He could make a simple statement like that, without taking any blame. However, he patently refuses to make even that small concession to the aggrieved. What kind of leadership does that show? Even if he had nothing to do with it, which I highly doubt, it still occurred ‘on his watch.’

Perhaps I will be wrong. Modi will turn into one of the best things that ever happened to my homeland. I won’t hold my breath.

Modi enters national leadership of the world’s largest democracy facing myriad problem, which he’s claimed solutions to during his campaigning. Some of the biggest include tackling youth unemployment, government corruption and the abysmal infrastructure holding her development in tangles.

Can he deliver? That’s the biggest unknown for India’s future, and I, along with 1.2 billion plus others await the result.

The largest democratic exercise in human history has begun – India is voting

April 15, 2014

National elections are under way in India, a nation so massive voting occurs in nine separate phases. The numbers are barely comprehensible.

An estimated 815 million people will vote between April 7 and May 12.

India is a democracy, meaning both the uber-rich, along with the destitute and illiterate get an equal say in her future.

There are approximately 930,000  electronic polling stations throughout India. India is growing so quickly that for these elections, 100 million new voters are now eligible. The Parliamentary elections, for the Lok Sabha’s 534 seats (Lower Congress) take place every five years. A political party needs 272 seats to form a majority.

Illiterates will vote also, by entering a booth and picking a symbol representing the party and its candidates. While there are three bigger parties, only two have realistic winning chances. A Lotus represents the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) while a hand symbolizes the Congress Party. A broom denotes the upstart Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), representing the ‘sweeping away of political corruption.’

Millions of election officials, including the military and citizen volunteers ensure the voting process functions. For a nation as corrupt as India, voting is one exercise it does impressively well. Vote-banks and other voter enticement schemes aside, the actual process of casting one’s vote in Indian elections is surprisingly straightforward and for its size, mostly ethical. The Election Commission is serious about preventing fraud. All voters leave the booth with permanent ink on one finger, a 52 year-old practice safeguarding against double voting.

This election is one of the most important in recent memory, pitting yet another Gandhi, Rahul this time, against the former Chief Minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi, whose very name is a lightning rod for controversy. People are generally tired of the Congress Party, which has seemingly always ruled India.

The most recent iteration of Congress rule saw slow economic growth and numerous billion-dollar national fraud schemes.  Arvind Kejriwal leads the new AAP party, which lost national popularity and momentum after Kejriwal decided to abandon his post as Chief Minister of Delhi after only 49 days.

The two main parties portray their candidates in vastly different ways. Modi, already the former Gujarat Minister has a cult personality around himself, and his campaign centers around him more than his party. Rahul Gandhi on the other hand, preaches team and the benefits of working together.

Modi’s eyed the Prime Minister prize for years, while Rahul has reluctantly run out of a sense of duty to the party, rather than being passionate about leading India post-2014. No one but the most die-hard Congress supporter expects anything less than a victory for Modi and the BJP.

The mystery is; can the BJP garner more than 272 seats, forming a majority that does not require regional cooperation?

On May 16 we will know the answer.