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Indians' fuzzy outlook on citizenship

During World War II, in 1942 to be precise, US President Franklin D Roosevelt signed an executive order forcing some 116,000 Japanese Americans (of which over 60 per cent were US citizens) to relocate or move from the west coast to `war relocation centers’ in the country’s interior.

The reason was this. Post Pearl Harbor, many Americans believed Japan was about to launch another full scale attack, this time on the west coast. To quote an American Lieutenant General who administered the `internment’ program, "There is no way to determine their loyalty...It makes no difference whether he is an American citizen, he is still a Japanese. American citizenship does not necessarily determine loyalty..."

It took four decades to right the slight. In 1988, President Reagan signed an apologetic legislation which said the government actions then were based on "race prejudice, war hysteria and a failure of political leadership."

Help Us Stay Home, In Britain !

The Japanese American Internment is a prominent 20th century case study in the fundamental issue of citizenship and patriotism. And it often reminds me about Indians and our own fuzzy sense of citizenship and everything that goes with it.

Here is an instance. Some 30,000 Indians in Britain are requesting the Indian authorities to protest a British government move that affects their status under the Highly Skilled Migrants Programme (HSMP). The UK move may be unfair but it baffles me (if I were to believe the reports) that these chaps expect our PM to request Tony Blair to give them safe haven and potentially, citizenship, in the the UK !!

I would divide my America bound acquaintances, friends and relatives into roughly two categories. First are those who seek specific opportunity, find it at a location that is not pre-determined and then `settle’ down. Their return is always open-ended, so to speak. These are a minority. The second are those for whom countries like America are fixated, pre-programmed destinations regardless of what they do in India and how.

What About Patriotism ?

For many first generation settlers in the US, the 80s and 90s have been kind. Having acquired a two-car garage house, lawn mower and a sound understanding of local baseball, they ponder about what to do next. Should one stay on ? Will the children adapt back in India ? Will there be opportunity ? What about bureaucracy, bad roads, cheating taxi drivers and pollution ?

Ah, in passing, they might ask of themselves: should we become US citizens ? If we do, then what does it really mean? Should we give up Indian nationality just like that, just because we are getting citizenship here ? What about patriotism ? Or is it, in any case, restricted to cheering when Rahul Dravid scores a century ?

Okay, how many folks do you think really understand the following: ""I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the USA against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by law.."

How Many Even Ask ?

I would like to guess but will pass. I don’t know whats more worrying, whether they do or they do not. Actually, it is my submission that only 5 per cent of self-exiles actually ask questions. To the credit of this 5 per cent, as I have seen in some cases, they can go through considerable heartburn. The other 90 per cent I would argue, do not even pose these questions. Of course there are many who steadfastly maintain Indian citizenship. We would all know some of them.

I always wonder why Indians (sure, maybe many Chinese do as well) find it so simple to switch nationalities ? Or is it that it does not matter when you are in the flow, student to H1B (or equivalent) to Green Card to citizen. Where is the time or energy to ponder where you really belong !

In which case what must be done about it ? Rather, should something be done or is it another issue best left to market forces ? I am not sure about this. Looking inward, I would argue that the case for patriotism is weak. What I am not sure is whether its getting weaker or with economic development, stronger ?

A Case For Patriotism

Why did I start with the example of the Japanese-American Internment ? Because the argument of economic good and meritocracy scoring over cultural diversity and ancestry can fade over time. Neither the host country or the immigrant can be sure that this sort of symbiotic relationship will stand the test of time, in the truest sense. No one is suggesting a repeat of the Intermnent. And yet we had the veil issue in Britain.

My fear is that young Indians with their fuzzy outlook on nationalism can be victims. Most don’t know (or care) what they sign up for. But for those still to do so, I would still make a strong case for patriotism. To be more appropriately inculcated, if possible. Not one that is necessarily borne out of economic soundness.

PS: This is another Business Standard instalment. Yes, I have been a little pre-occupied and perhaps lazy. I have been busy, among other things, fighting a fresh round of battles with our domestic airlines !

Comments

This comment has been removed by the author.
Hi Govind,
This is an excellent article, a must read for everyone who is aspiring to go abroad for whatsoever reason.

Regards,

Venkatesh
Harikrishna said…
Can the author define patriotism? and what is the difference between feeling superior because you belong to a country as opposed to a religion one is considereed bad and the other is considered good
Kumar Appaiah said…
I sometimes wonder, after getting a feel of foreign life, do people consider Indian life rather chaotic?

For me, for example, traveling in crowded Chennai MTC buses or the Mumbai local trains is quite normal, and I can do it. But is it that people who have tasted London Underground and New York's metro feel that they can't fit here?

Anyway, I am sure our country's also getting there. Take the Delhi Metro or our Highways for example. Though progress is slow, it's there, right?
Anonymous said…
I do wonder how loyal America's newly naturalized citizens really are. And I am not referring only to the Indians.

Sir Norman Tebbit noticed in 1990 how in Great Britain many South Asians, not only recently naturalized citizens but people who are of 3rd and 4th generation, didn't hold their primary allegiance to the country of their birth but to the that of their ancestors.

I fear that the same may be true for America.
Anonymous said…
As an American, I would ask anyone considering US citizenship to take the process seriously.

If you can't devote your whole self to being an American - forsaking all other countries including that of your birth, then don't become an US citizen.

Leave citizenship to those who are serious about becoming Americans.
Anonymous said…
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4163484.stm

Lord Tebbit said the 'cricket test' was a means of
gauging whether a community had integrated.

"If a community was looking back at where it had come
from instead of looking forward with the people to
whom they had come to, then there is going to be a
problem sooner or later."
gaddeswarup said…
Interesting post; I wonder whether there is an actual survey. The kind of incidents that you described about Japanese happenned in India too. I remember the days when shiva sena followers were beating up Madrasis in Mumbai and some sates started promulgating rules for locals in jobs. Even with in states there are restrictions, for example, mulki rules in A.P. I wonder how minorities in India or Bangla Desh feel about patriotism. Just look at the percentages in jobs soon after independence and now. I have been travelling out of India since 1968 and am an Australian now. I see more Indians from minorities abroad now than in the late 60's.
I assume that people emigrate for financial, professional and family reasons and during the process they may evolve and choose citizenships for various reasons. Now a days, many countries allow dual citizenships, some times bilateral, and I assume that they do not see serious conflicts in the near future. (I read during the early days of Iraq conflict, a considerable number of U.S. forces were non-citizens who were promised green cards if they fought for certain number of months, but I do not know whether there were any from Iraq.) So, what is my point? I feel that cross fertilization of cultures is a good and more countries should be open to immigration and having number of people of different origins and less emphasis on patriotism may be be a good thing.
Riya said…
First of all i really liked the title, then when i started reading it, somehow it was not all beleivable...but yes people those who have travelled developed countries expect the same here.
Anonymous said…
The Japanese American Internment was justified given the extreme situation people found themselves in at that time.

It protected the citizens of America from those who might have supported Japan, and it protected the Japanese-Americans from those who might want to attack them because of bad feelings due to the war.

Here is an important book about the subject to read by Michelle Malkin.

http://tinyurl.com/y62vue

Everything you've been taught about the World War II "internment camps" in America is wrong: - They were not created primarily because of racism or wartime hysteria
- They did not target only those of Japanese descent

- They were not Nazi-style death camps In her latest investigative tour-de-force, New York Times best-selling author Michelle Malkin sets the historical record straight-and debunks radical ethnic alarmists who distort history to undermine common-sense, national security profiling. The need for this myth-shattering book is vital. President Bush's opponents have attacked every homeland defense policy as tantamount to the "racist" and "unjustified" World War II internment. Bush's own transportation secretary, Norm Mineta, continues to milk his childhood experience at a relocation camp as an excuse to ban profiling at airports. Misguided guilt about the past continues to hamper our ability to prevent future terrorist attacks. In Defense of Internment shows that the detention of enemy aliens, and the mass evacuation and relocation of ethnic Japanese from the West Coast were not the result of irrational hatred or conspiratorial bigotry. This document-packed book highlights the vast amount of intelligence, including top-secret "MAGIC" messages, which revealed the Japanese espionage threat on the West Coast. Malkin also tells the truth about:
- who resided in enemy alien internment camps (nearly half were of European ancestry)
- what the West Coast relocation centers were really like (tens of thousands of ethnic Japanese were allowed to leave; hundreds voluntarily chose to move in).
Anonymous said…
Here is a good article about Japanese-American interment.

http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=14944

One myth is that all the enemy aliens who were interned were ethnic Japanese. Almost half the people in the internment camps were European or of European descent. The larger myth is that the internment of ethnic Japanese--as well as the evacuation and relocation of ethnic Japanese from the West Coast--was based solely or primarily on wartime hysteria and racism. As I show in the book, there were in fact legitimate national security concerns. Reasonable people can agree or disagree with what the Roosevelt administration did, but my book leaves little doubt that the principal decision makers were honorable men who were trying their best to protect the country under extremely difficult circumstances.



FP: Tell us a few legitimate national security concerns that motivated the Government to do what it did vis-à-vis the ethnic Japanese at this time.



Malkin: Decision makers at the top levels of the Roosevelt Administration had bona fide concerns about Japanese espionage on the West Coast. These concerns were strongly reinforced by the “MAGIC messages”—that is, top-secret diplomatic communications to and from Tokyo that had been surreptitiously intercepted and decrypted by America’s signal intelligence officers.
Anonymous said…
People are increasingly saying that if you want to know what is happening in America, listen to Michael Savage.

http://streamingradioguide.com/radio-show.php?show=328

And indeed he said something very interesting the other day about how the American Elite has devalued American citizenship, hurting the American Middle Class.

Immigration is a serious issue in America that the elite doesn't want to address. But the first politician who honestly addresses that subject can ride that all the way to the White House.
Anonymous said…
http://streamingradioguide.com/radio
-show.php?show=328
Anonymous said…
Author's note!

My argument is restricted to citizenship only, not to economic contribution, long stay, permanent residency and the rest of it !

Meanwhile, thanks Venkatesh for your feedback !

On patriotism, once again, my arguments are limited to the relationship between an individual and the nation/country he or she is born in or belongs to. I would keep religion out of the argument. Like I would residency !

Govindraj
Anonymous said…
Michelle Malkin (or whoever has linked to your post), thank you for your comments !

Govindraj
Arun Cavale said…
Hi Govind,

Coincidence of sorts - last evening's primetime News feature was on NRI/PIOs.

On a slightly unconnected topic, i find it difficult to understand why our government seems to get confused between the NRIs and PIOs and their stake on/with India. I remember some years ago - at the height of PBD, there was talk of allowing PIOs right to vote. Can you imagine? With all due respects to all PIOs all over, I cant fathom why someone (Read: PIO) who doesnt have a "Duty", need to get a "right" - that too such an important right of franshise!
Anonymous said…
No, it wasn't Michelle Malkin but you can read her web page at the following web site.

http://www.michellemalkin.com
Anonymous said…
Here is an interesting website that is discussing what we are discussing here.

http://forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t=183355&page=2
Steve said…
The reason why some would want to give PIO the vote is that they see it as a way to keep the PIO tied to and advocates of their home country. Living in a “host” country that is a matter of great concern to me when PIOs become naturalized citizens. Since two countries never have exactly the same interests the issue of conflict of interests comes up. How can I as an American trust naturalized citizens of India descent when they seem to have divided loyalties? And of course it isn’t only people from India for I can say that about but people from many, many countries all over the world.

Citizenship demands total loyalty to the country you are a citizen of. People can’t be loyal to two countries at the same time as one loyalty will tend to dominate and the other citizenship would be used to serve the favored one.

Now, from the perspective of the Indians back home, I can see a problem because if people of Indian descent outside the country are being allowed to vote, they are basically voting without having to experience the consequences of their vote as they live somewhere else. So they are telling the Indians back in India how THEY should live without having to live that way themselves.

So, we both have an interest in protecting the sanctity of citizenship.

By the way, this might be slightly off topic, but here is what one of our Congressmen had to say about what is going on in Miami, not with Indians of course, but in this case immigrants from Latin American countries who refuse to assimilate into American life.

http://tancredo.house.gov/Media/TancredoMiamiSpeech.pdf

Unfortunately he was never allowed to give it for fear of his safety. Yeah, that’s right, an American Congressman had to fear for his safety in a city in the US of A. That is how bad it has gotten here.

Look, we welcome people in America from all over the world, but, please, please before taking the American oath of allegiance, look into your heart, look in to your soul and ask yourself can you commit to America fully, even putting it above the country of your birth? If not please remain a permanent resident, not a citizen. You will not be discriminated against. It just means you won’t vote in US elections and why should you if America isn’t first and foremost in your heart.
Steve said…
http://tancredo.house.gov/Media/
TancredoMiamiSpeech.pdf
Ken said…
President Teddy Roosevelt, in 1915, said it best: "There is no room in this country for hyphenated Americanism. The one absolutely certain way of bringing this nation to ruin, of preventing all possibility of its continuing to be a nation, would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities." And again in 1918, he said: "There can be no 50-50 Americanism in this country. There is room here for only 100 percent Americanism, only for those who are Americans and nothing more."

You don't have to be an American citizen to live in America, but if you become an American citizen you should be a 100 percent American citizen otherwise don't become an American citizen.
Nathan said…
I am a firm believer of Norman Tebbit's "Cricket Test". If you can't even root for your country's teams in international competitions why are you a citizen anyway?

You should root for the national team that you are a citizen of, and none of this dual-citizenship stuff as in your heart you can only hold your primary allegiance to one country, and what do you do when conflicts of interest come up?

Whose team are you on? That is an appropriate question to ask the naturalized citizens.
Anonymous said…
Norman Tebbit once proposed what he called the 'cricket test' of national loyalties. He was referring to the fact that British citizens of, say, Pakistani origin tend to support the Pakistani team rather than the English team, when the two are playing each other. In this case, he essentially implied, if such British Pakistanis do not feel complete loyalty towards Britain, they cannot expect Britain to show complete loyalty towards them. If they are not prepared to throw their lot in with and accommodate their other British neighbours, they should not expect those neighbours to accommodate them. It is only natural and sensible that we should not be completely trusting or generous with those who act as though their interests are competitive with ours. The 'cricket test' provides a ready and obvious indication of whether particular individuals are fully on our side. Of course, if British Pakistanis (or whoever) pass the cricket test, it is absolutely right that we should accept them as being as fully British as anyone else and entitled to our loyalty.
Anonymous said…
The morons who are imploring people to remain PR should look at their fellow countrymen and see how much damage some red blooded Americans have caused to the homeland.
One incentive to becoming citizen is that the estate taxes are higher for non citizens. So consider the tax bill when a million dollar estate goes to probate court. Why should some hard working immigrant who has made his millions give away all that money to support soc security for the fat,lazy, insular indigent?
In the bay area 9 mayors have foreign blood. The future of the country seems to be in the hands of the immigrant.
Anonymous said…
Yeah, but the question is does the immigrant of today to America patriotic to America or the country the immigrant came from.

As an American I feel that many of these immigrants are deceitful when they take the oath of citizenship and use that citizenship to the benefit of their homeland, weakening my country in the process.
Anonymous said…
I meant to say is the immigrant of today patriotic to America or the place they came from.

If they aren't patriotic to America as long at they remain a PR they are being honest with us and I can respect that. But when they take on citizenship under false pretenses then they are being very dishonest.

A citizen should support the country they are a citizen of and no other. If they can't do that they should make every effort to move to a country that they do feel comfortable giving their undivided loyalty towards.
SloganMurugan said…
The Indian govt had camps in Rajasthan for people of Chinese origin during our war with China.
ps said…
Now tell me, what the hell are Indian's not fuzzy about? We are fuzzy about every damn thing. Fuzzy thinking is national pastime for us! So singling out citizenship seems like a waste of time for me.
Saurabh said…
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iv been trying to get in touch with you in connection to one of the TV programs we are producing.
It would be gr8 if u kindly contact me @
saurabhsin@cybermedia.co.in
100rabh.sinha@gmail.com
Ph# +91-9899656341

Regards
Saurabh Sinha
Vivek said…
I'm going to play devil's advocate by taking the rational line on this issue. Of course there's no doubting that one may have varying degrees of patriotism towards one nation or another, but for me the issues of patriotism and citizenship are completely separate.

In a market-driven globalising world where I choose my shampoo, breakfast cereal, clothes, location, housing, job, and so on for the advantage and benefit it offers me, why shouldn't I be free to choose my nationality and allegience as I see fit, even if they belong to different places? Frankly, I find the argument that one must have some sort of innate
patriotism to truly "belong" to a place completely nonsensical. I also think it's quite a leap to assume that a large proportion of emigrants aren't thinking about this issue - I would contend that it's some 5% that *don't* think about issues of identity constantly, with those preoccupied by it being the large majority. I would argue that this is particularly the case for first and second generational emigrants. I also take exception to the notion that the loyalties of a bunch of Pakistani-born Britasians when it comes to cricket has some overarching implication for their politics, or the politics of all people in Britain who may hail from a similar background.

Britain is in a state of devolution; even the scots are
looking at breaking off to form an independent nation of their own. The Welsh, the Scots, the English and Irish play as independent teams in rugby games against each other. Would a Welshman in London or a Scot in Cardiff be subject to this ludicrous cricket (or rugby) test? Does it only apply to people from the former colonies, and if so, why? The argument contains more holes than swiss cheese, big enough to drive a truck (and a populist tory electoral campaign based on Tebbit's ideas) through.
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