Featured Artwork: Zainab
Being proud of your culture and far-right religious nationalism is not the same thing and they will never be. A concept people have always struggled to grasp is that you can indeed have a love for your country and still advocate against the oppressive and corrupt forces that control it. To put it into perspective, as a Canadian, I love Canadian culture — my friends and I go to hockey games, eat poutine, and go skiing in our free time. However, despite that, I can still condemn the Canadian government for carrying out a cultural genocide of First Nations peoples through 160 years of residential schooling in Canada.
My mom and dad are both Pakistani, but somehow when it comes to me as a first-generation immigrant living in Canada, the borders my parents once knew are more or less irrelevant. I can go out to brunch with both my Indian and Bangladeshi friends and rather than the divisiveness felt back home, I feel solidarity with my fellow diaspora Desis, who all eat roti and have parents that expect them to be doctors. I’ll never forget the overwhelming happiness I felt when an elderly Sikh man asked me where I was from, and when I said I was from Pakistan he said: “we’re all family here anyway.”
There’s really something about being the only few brown dots in a sea of white faces that binds the community together.
That’s why it doesn’t really make sense for the South-Asian diaspora, a community built on unity and hard work, to support the borderline autocratic Modi administration in India. It doesn’t really make sense for the South-Asian community to be overflowing with love and support, but the Bollywood actors we love to quote stand in silent support for a government built on hate. When Bollywood actress Priyanka Chopra, who is also ironically a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador for Peace, tweets “Jai Hind #IndianArmedForces”, and encourages nuclear war against India and Pakistan, the South-Asians overseas look at each other in confusion. When you can no longer use a border between the two of you to justify hate, you realize you are more similar than different.
In understanding this, South-Asian communities living in North America, the UK, and Australia are empowered with the ability to raise our voices for those being silenced back home. That being said, you can still love India as your ancestral home, while understanding that it’s wrong for Sikhs and Muslims to be beaten in the streets by Hindu extremists while the municipal police stand idle. You can still have a love for the rich and ancient cultural values that shaped your identity while condemning the Modi administration for detaining 1.9 million Muslims in concentration camps in Assam, alongside enforcing a media lockdown in Kashmir while the Indian Armed Forces terrorize Kashmiris.
The 1984 Sikh Massacre is still fresh in the minds of many, during which the active complicity of Delhi police towards Hindu mob violence led to thousands of murdered Sikhs. That’s why it’s so unfortunate that so many of the elderly Muslims, who survived 1947 Partition violence in India and are older than modern India itself, did not survive the Delhi Riots earlier in February. I’m sure Akbari, an 85-year-old Indian Muslim woman, had enough love for India to refuse to flee to Pakistan in 1947. But the thing is, extremists don’t see love, they see labels, and chose to burn her alive in her own home while she was awaiting the birth of her great-grandchild.
When we mistake patriotism for nationalism, we become complicit in the atrocities that are a disease to the cultural values we claim to love in the first place.
It’s time we all stood together as a community and stop remaining neutral to the violent hate that is superimposed on minorities in India. There is no “middle-line” that you can walk here, contrary to what Priyanka Chopra says. If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.