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Is Tamil Diaspora having hard time to retain its Identity? Find out!

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A Tamil Wedding ceremony. Image source: theweddingplannersindia.com
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With India having the largest diaspora spread across the world, Tamilians from India make up to 3.3 million in total. Despite their endless contributions to the modern world, the Tamilian sect of Indian diaspora is having a hard time to retain their identity in South Asian countries like Myanmar, Malaysia, Fiji and Sri Lanka, which was recently discussed in a lecture at Loyola College, Tamil Nadu. The event was organised by Mononmaniam Sundaranar University and Centre for Diaspora Studies, in partnership with Loyola Institute of Social Sciences Training and Research and Madras University.

Students during the lecture at Loyola College. Source: Centre for Diaspora Studies
Students during the lecture at Loyola College. Image Source: Centre for Diaspora Studies

Sunil Amrith, a professor of History and South Asian Studies at Harvard University, addressed this issue at Loyola College. The lecture was called ‘Global TamilScapes’ by the diaspora expert.
According to theindiandiaspora.com report, nearly 28 million Indians from South India are reported to have migrated to Southeast Asia, who are living a life of misery. Tamilian dialect and lifestyle have been changing with its encounter with the European, Malay and Chinese communities, but their lives are becoming mundane with the day.

“Tamil migrant labourers played an essential role in the development of global capitalism and their contributions in Southeast Asia is immense. There must be steps to ensure inter-cultural interactions exploiting avenues of globalisation,’’ said Amrith.

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Amrith is the author of ‘Crossing the Bengal’ a book that talks about Tamil migration to South-east Asian countries. He also discussed in the lecture that Tamil diasporic literature and studies provide a concrete ideology for Tamilians and will address their emotional dislocation and dilemma, for instance, their circumstances in Sri Lanka.

Tamil citizens were denied citizenship by the government after the country got independence. Similar to the studies of the Orient in comparison of the Occidental, studies of Tamilian diaspora have also been denied the recognition it deserves. For generations, Tamilians worked at plantations in countries like Sri Lanka, Mauritius, South Africa and Malaysia and they didn’t have any document to prove their citizenship after Sri Lanka’s independence. Only 16% of the total Tamilian immigrants received citizenship which increased the bar of discrimination, mentioned theindiandiaspora.com report.

Canadian Sri Lankan Tamilians. Source: Wikimedia Commons
Canadian Sri Lankan Tamilians.
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Tamilians have migrated to every part of the world. Read on for some reasons why and where they have migrated:

  • Due to the Great Famine of 1876-78, Tamil Nadu became economically weak. As a result, the British sent Tamilians to their plantation setups in countries like Malaysia, South Africa, Sri Lanka and others.
  •  Since Sri Lanka is nearby Tamil Nadu (merely at a sea-route distance of 2 hours), Tamilians have settled here since ages.
  • Tamil groups like the Chettiyars are traders of money lending. This is how they dominated finance and trade in Burma.
  • Besides all of this, South India has always felt disconnected with the rest of India. Politically, no Prime Minister has been elected from the Tamilian state since more than five decades, and not to forget the anti-Tamil riots in Mumbai. Some Tamilian groups found recluse in outer nations.
  • One of the most important reasons for this shift is their intelligence. Tamil Nadu has the maximum number of engineer graduates in India, who usually emigrate to abroad and especially the Silicon Valley.

– prepared by Chetna Karnani, at NewsGram. Twitter: @karnani_chetna

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Indian-American Diaspora Plays an Important Role in Country’s Development

Indian-Americans who want to share their success philanthropically with those in India can do so easily because of American-based groups such as AIF, Pratham U.S.A.

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US Embassy in Jerusalem drawing criticism from across the world. Pixabay

Over 31 million people of Indian birth or descent are part of the Indian diaspora spread around the world. Of them, 3.1 million, or 10 per cent, are Indian-Americans living in the US. The Indian-American diaspora has proven to be a vital resource contributing to the economic, political and social development of India.

Devesh Kapur highlighted the importance of the Indian diaspora in his classic 2010 book, “Diaspora, Democracy and Development: The Domestic Impact of International Migration from India”. Kapur’s analysis focused primarily on the period from the late 1960s until the end of the 20th century.

Indian-American influence, impact, and contributions were significant then and have grown even more so as we move forward into the 21st century. Part of the reason for this is that the Indian-American population on average stands head and shoulders economically and educationally above those in other Asian American subgroups and the US population in general.

A Pew Research study released in 2013 disclosed that the median annual household income for Indian Americans was $88,000 compared to $66,000 for all Asians and $49,800 for the US population. The study also revealed that 38 per cent of Indian-Americans held advanced degrees compared to 30 per cent for all Asian Americans and 10 per cent for the entire population.

Over 31 million people of Indian birth or descent are part of the Indian diaspora spread around the world. Of them, 3.1 million, or 10 per cent, are Indian-Americans living in the US.
Around 38 per cent of Indian-Americans held advanced degrees compared to 30 per cent for all Asian Americans and 10 per cent for the entire population. Pixabay

Indian-Americans excel as high tech entrepreneurs. A study by Vivek Wadwha for the period from 2006 to 2012 showed that overall immigrant entrepreneurship “stagnated” compared to the period from 1995 to 2005. But start-ups by Indian immigrants increased seven per cent over the prior period and a full 33.2 per cent of all start-up companies were founded by Indian Americans.

It’s not just that Indian Americans are doing well. They are also inclined to stay connected with India through investments, philanthropy and personal involvement. The Indian Diaspora can bring broad economic benefits to India. They can make substantial contributions in the areas of Innovation and entrepreneurship; health care; education; and skills development. They can help in creating jobs and in creating new companies across India. They can create a platform by sharing best practices and technology with small and medium enterprises and helping them to access financing.

In its 2014 paper, “The Indian Diaspora in the United States”, the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) reports that “The Indian diaspora community is noted for being very well organised and having a deep and multifaceted engagement with the homeland. Many consider giving back an obligation and a welcome responsibility.”

I am one of those who feel that responsibility. Through the foundation my wife Debbie and I have established, we have underwritten the building of a new management complex, Frank and Debbie Islam Management Complex, which was opened last year at my alma mater Aligarh Muslim University. We have also pledged to provide considerable financial support to develop a technical training school for women in India so that they can be empowered through higher education.

Indian-Americans who want to share their success philanthropically with those in India can do so easily because of American-based groups such as AIF, Pratham U.S.A. and Ekal which provide a structured and organised approach for giving across a wide range of areas. Thanks to the work of these organisations and others, a number of high-impact initiatives have been launched in India in fields such as education, poverty alleviation and job training.

Over 31 million people of Indian birth or descent are part of the Indian diaspora spread around the world. Of them, 3.1 million, or 10 per cent, are Indian-Americans living in the US.
The start-ups by Indian immigrants increased seven per cent over the prior period and a full 33.2 per cent of all start-up companies were founded by Indian Americans. Pixabay

Indian-Americans can reach out to have an impact in India through a wide variety of organisations. As the MPI notes in its study: “The Indian diaspora has established countless highly organised, well-funded, and professionally managed groups. These organisations address a broad range of issues and take on many different forms, including philanthropic projects to improve health and education in India, advocacy organisations, business and professional networks, media outlets, and societies for the promotion of Indian culture, language and religion.”

The Narendra Modi administration recognised the pivotal importance of the US-India relationship and that is why it established a Strategic and Commercial Dialogue during President Obama’s Republic Day visit to India in 2015. After Donald Trump became President, it scheduled an India-U.S. two-plus-two dialogue.

That dialogue was to revolve around India External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. It was tentatively scheduled to take place on April 18-19 but was postponed due to Tillerson’s firing by President Trump.

Now that Mike Pompeo has been confirmed as the new Secretary of State it appears that the two-plus-two dialogue will be set up for some time in May or June. This meeting is important to the future of India-US relations. But it is also important to note that two-plus-two only adds up to four.

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India has grand ambitions and the success of its Make in India National Manufacturing Policy depends on the US being one of its key partners. This requires much more than ambition. It demands multiplication and exponential assistance in order to achieve its India’s lofty goals.

Indian-Americans have been a vital resource in the growth and development of India to date and they have the wherewithal to be even more so. Because of their accomplishments in the US and understanding of India they are uniquely positioned to help India address pressing issues and priorities in order to achieve its full potential.

India needs to reach out to Indian-Americans and their organisations and make them central to its growth and development process. They will make the difference by being the vital resource and ally that India needs to convert dialogue and talk into action and results. (IANS)