Indian Diaspora: Mobility and Identity

 

Indian Diaspora is recognised to have emerged as an inluential player in policy making both the countries of host and home. How ever to understand the evolution of Indian Diaspora, the issues of their mobility and identity are extremely important. This entire process can be explored when studies within their respective contexts with the help of a critical historical approach.
Keeping this in mind, the Global Research Forum on Diaspora and Transnationalism (GRFDT), a leading international think tank, organised an all India Seminar on "Indian Diaspora: Mobility and Identity" on 7 April, 2012 at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi. This event was organized at Centre for the Study of Social Systems (CSSS) of JNU. 
 
The seminar was chaired by Prof. Ravindra K Jain, Tagore National Fellow for Cultural Research, India. Kamala Kanta Dash from Monash University was the discussant for the seminar. 
The session was started with paper presentations on various issues and challenges relating to migration and Diaspora. There were ive papers. The first paper of Muneer Illath of University of Allahabad was on "Failure of Cultural conidence and Closure of development horizons: Narrating the case of Return Emigrants among Mappila Muslims of Kerala". The study is about the failure and unexpected results of the return emigrants of Mappila Muslims of Kerala who migrated to Gulf countries. The paper critically observed the most acclaimed formation of a 'new middle class‛ among the Mappila Muslims of Malabar, Northern Kerala and its ramiication for the ‚development models‛ seeking for Muslims elsewhere in India. The majority of the unskilled labour among Mappilas in the Gulf countries has returned home without much economic, cultural and political support back at home. The study attempts to demonstrate the ‚new evelopment deicits‛ of a community which had beneited heavily from the Gulf migration as an 'economic lifeboat‛, butfailed to sustain its development resources and opportunities. The paper clariied some key issues related to the diference between Mappila and other Muslim communities in Gulf countries, the women migration of this community, the contribution of new generation in diaspora and the condition of this community in Gulf countries etc.
 
The second paper was by Dr M. Mahalingam was on "Tamil Diaspora: A Case Study of of Contemporary Mobilization in Malaysia". The paper was an analytical study of the Tamil Diaspora in Malaysia and seeks to examine how the Malaysian Indians are being mobilized for social, economic and political advancement. The Malaysian Indian community is the third largest ethnic group in Malaysia and is generally considered to be the most deprived and marginalized of the three ethnic groups. Basically, the Malaysian Indian Diaspora is a heterogeneous group. The central argument of the study was that the Malaysian Indian community over the years has become a settled group but there are innumerable problems faced by the community such as, issues related to citizenship, cultural and religious identity and economic and educational upward mobility. Thus, the focus of the study is on Diasporic mobilization in the form of an Indian civil society group called Hindu Rights Action Force (HINDRAF). 
 
The HINDRAF movement took place in 2007 and the thesis is based on social movement approach and target the role  of HINDRAF movement for the cultural development of Malaysian Indian. There were various critical arguments has been raised by diferent participant related to the study. 
The issues for instance, essence of belongingness in the Diaspora, the political movement inluence the condition of Malaysia, the impact of Indian govt. intervention regarding the rights of Malaysian Indian, how can one trace the Tamil and Sri Lankan Hindus.
 
The third paper of Vinod Sartape from JNU was on "Forms of Reproduction and Subversion of Caste Relations: Dalits within the Indian Diaspora". The focus of the study was "Dalit Diaspora" which is an emerging phenomenon in the Diaspora studies. Discrimination of Dalits based on caste has been recently recognized even though the caste has existed since the beginning in the Indian Diaspora. The caste system is predominantly a feature of the Indian subcontinent; it has crossed the geographical boundaries now. Caste therefore no longer is a phenomenon associated with Hindu religion rather its ideological and doctrinal basis permeates other religious communities. In this context, the paper focussed on the feature of caste relations that is present across the world through the diferent patterns of South Asian emigration. Prof R. K Jain commented that instead of looking at caste in a disaggregated manner, one must see it in multidimensional manner. Kamala Dash, the discussant mentioned that there is no single religious text and interpretation of caste rather caste is understood diferently in various texts. 
The fourth paper of Mr Shivam of JNU was on "Understanding Diaspora as a Social Process: The Conceptual Scheme". The paper discusses the theories and concepts of 
diaspora especially how they are treated in the subject disciplines of social sciences. It analyses a set of interrelated deinitions and relationships that shape the concepts and understanding of the diaspora. Like any other concepts, diaspora has evolved over the period encompassing many interrelated variables. The paper discusses how the term evolved and understood by scholars over the period. Prof. R.K. Jain commented that questions of identity should be raised by social scientist in understanding diaspora studies. 
The fifth paper by Mr. Jeetendra D. Soni was on "Labour migration to West Asia from Sikar, Churu and Jhunjhunu Districts: Problems and Prospects". Basically, most of the workers migrated to gulf countries for harnessing better financial opportunities to support their families. The paper argues that the low of remittances from the diasporic community especially from the Gulf region contributes to the foreign currency reserves and largely determines India’s inancial and iscal policies. Due to the heterogeneous nature of the Indian emigrants, there is a need for making efective policies for responsive role of Indian state towards migrants and their family members keeping in mind their diversities. The study found that their remittances are used mainly for consumption purposes rather than its productive utilization The survey Mr. Soni conducted has demonstrated the story of misery of Indian migration. Prof. R.K. Jain appreciated the problems and prospects of labour dispora as raised by Mr. Soni. 
Discussant Mr. K.K. Dash highlighted the issues of mobility and identity and how they intersect with global politics and policy making. While acknowledging the already existing rich inter-disciplinary nature of the subject, he stressed on strengthening the use of International Relations and Public Policy in the studies of Diaspora and trans-nationalism to develop critical academic and policy insights to the present developments. Prof Jain invited participants to send critical feedback on the papers and on the overall session to improve the papers and publish a monograph. 
Dr Gurram Srinivas of JNU thanked Prof R.K. Jain, Mr. K.K. Dash and the ive paper presenters for an intellectually stimulating session. Ms. Divya Balan of JNU thanked the GRFDT, CSSS JNU and participants for a fruitful discussion on an important issue in diaspora studies. 
 
Monika Bisht and Rakesh Ranjan, SOITS, IGNOU, India
Email: monika4bisht@gmail.com, rakesh4205@gmail.com

 

Time and Place:

Date:   Monday, Nov 12, 2012
Venue:   JNU New Delhi
Address:   GRFDT Event
City/Twon:   New Delhi
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