One of the newest facets as India celebrates its 75th anniversary of Independence, August 15, 2022, is the connectivity between India and the Indian diaspora.
The strengthening of links between India and its diaspora countries, namely South Africa, Kenya, Mauritius, Fiji, Trinidad, Guyana, Suriname, Jamaica, Guadeloupe, and Grenada among several places gave India a link to the outside world, and probably an entry in the realm of international politics and international affairs. The Indian diaspora in these countries assisted their development, especially in terms agricultural development. That was the first wave, and it was annulled as the People of Indian Origin (PIOs), and later the presence of Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) in such countries as USA, Canada, England, the Netherland gave rise to the Second Wave.
East Indian immigrants were forced out of India between 1838 and 1917 to enhance British interests and plantation owners wherever they went. The focus was the continuation of the British domination in all of its colonies in Asia, Africa and the Caribbean, whilst these immigrants made an indelible contribution to the economic and socio-cultural format to their newly formed homes, they were traumatized, scorned, belittled and were treated in the most inhumane conditions, which it was not easy to equate in terms of today’s human civilization.
One must give a new sense of respect to the Antar Rashhtriya Sahayog Parishad (the Indian Council for International Co-operation), which was the brain child of former Indian Prime Minister, the late Atal Bihari Vajpayee, in his inaugural address in New Delhi 2000, which was the forerunner parley to today’s Bharitya Pravasi Diwas (PBD), noted that there were different forces of history that prompted, “our people to leave India and settled abroad. This kind of trans-national of people will only accelerate in the increasingly inter-dependent and inter-connected world of the 21st century”.
Vajpayee continued: “The expansion of the Indian diaspora in the new century and new millennium, however, will follow a very different trajectory. In the past, people left India out of distress or some economic compulsion. This will no longer be the case in the future”. But there existed a different trend of thought when India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru made it abundantly clear to all overseas Indians, that:”India will not stand by them where their interest will clash with the local interest”.
But today, there is a new frontier to further involve the diaspora with the motherland, and there are over 33 million Indians scattered across the globe.
There have been several physical representations of India in Guyana, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago, among other countries.
The much-touted permanent Mahatma Gandhi Centre for Cultural Co-operation was inked by the late Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and Dr. Eric Williams, our first Prime Minister during the former visit here in October 1968, among several logistical delays, was completed in 2020 and is now operational and the hub of several Indian cultural, religious and social activities.
In order to knit our two countries, there have been several top-level visits by Prime Ministers of both countries over the years. This will continue unabated as the the spirit of globalization continues to shine unabated.
One of the major entities by the Government of India to continue its acknowledgment of the diaspora is the swift and eager operations of the Indian Council for International Co-operation.
Among the many objectives of the this international entity is to work with the Indian Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi is to strengthen linkages with the Indian diaspora, bring to the notice of the Indian Government and promote an awareness among the general public about the problems of Indian abroad, arrange receptions to foreign dignitaries who visit India to exchange view on the cultural, social, economic life of the people of the people of abroad, and especially people of Indian origin, provide facilities to people of Indian origin to trace their roots in India, promote awareness about the problems of Indians abroad, and highlighting their achievements in their adopted countries, and organize cultural exchanges between the scholars and thinkers of India. This entity must continue indefinitely and must serve as the bridge between India and the Diaspora. It is a monumental structure which will move in a positive thought, and which could become a model piece of infrastructure in today’s world of internationalism, politics and globalization. The world needs such organization, everywhere.
The Indian diaspora in this country, as indeed others, retained its language, its dress, its ceremonies and traditions, and it celebrates the same festivals that it did in India, sang the same songs, played the same music. Cultural heritage does not end at monuments and artifacts. It includes living song traditions, the wealth of knowledge and skills that it inherited from our ancestors and passed on to our descendants. This is what gives us a sense of identity and continuity. It makes us who we are.
Trinidad and Tobago followed India on September 24,1976 declared itself as a republic with the Commonwealth of Nations. India was the first country in the then British Empire to declare itself as a republic on January 26, 1950.
The Indian diaspora in Trinidad and Tobago is not a tribal people, but we are sourced from a celestial stock. It is an opportunity to encourage the participation of shared values. We must turn our backs on the other sections of the nation-state of Trinidad and Tobago, but rather we must converse with others to listen, to learn, to share, to understand and to respect their experiences, as we would have them to so do.
The Indian diaspora continues to engender spiritual reconstruction aimed at making reverence for meaningful life. Spiritual reconstruction and a new attitude for the reverence for life must become the cornerstone to build or to regenerate our society. whichever is applicable. We in Trinidad and Tobago as an indispensable contributor, must continue to celebrate our multi-religious festivals like Eid, Divali, Christmas, Baptists, Easter, Emancipation, and other festivals. and occasions always.
India remains part of us.
Happy India’s 75th Independence Day, August 15, 2022.