Jul 27, 2006

False Condemnation.

I read a comment asking why South Asian American groups haven't had any collective "action" concerning the Bombay bombings earlier this month. I had to write out my feelings on this...


I don't understand why South Asian American groups have to condemn the bombing in Mumbai. That doesn't seem to make any sense at all. First, because I don't see the relevance. The groups that have been sending out press releases about the bombings are only using the events politically to paint India in some portrait with Israel and the United States - inflating the incident to justify some alliance against an imagined cohesive Islamist conspiracy. More than anything, India is afraid of being left out again as the U.S. continues to give tremendous military aid to Israel to continue to fight battles that the U.S. doesn't want to fight.

There is a clear sense of indignation by nationalists (both in India and with NRIs abroad) that India isn't in the best of relationships with the U.S. They fear the dual threat of China and Pakistan (the former is more an economic threat, and the latter is an unstable, poor country that has few of the resources of India and poses less threat than Delhi wants its citizens to think). If anything, the statements against "terrorism" from Indian nationalists are masked anti-Islamic statements that are pleading with the world audience to let India out of the doghouse and into the clubhouse of accepted nuclear powers (or at least, the unique status of Israel - we know you have them, but it's all good).

Second, I think that South Asian American groups should focus on South Asian American issues. Of course there is less of a divide between what happens "over there" and "over here" than earlier activists used to make out in the past. Sure we're intrinsically linked in the global economy/world migration/cricket and cultural enthusiasm, but South Asian American groups should only get involved in homeland issues when there are issues to get involved in. Condemning a bombing seems incredibly shallow, useless, fake, and manipulative of high emotions. Progressive groups that are directly involved in work in Mumbai have more to think about on this issue, but diasporic groups should basically shut up on it - because what value would they add? "Bombings targeting civilians are bad." So what? What does that prove? It would be (and as statements from GOPIO and other groups that are either centrist or decidedly nationalist and reactionary prove) political, and the suffering of the people in Mumbai should not be used as some cheap political statement to gain ground on your issues. But that never stopped the ultra-right. And Islamophobia is an easy sell nowadays, whether it's called for outright, or masked in broad statements against "terrorism."

If anything, South Asian and other American groups of color should be condemning the bombing in Lebanon, because it's more tied to American policy condoning the wanton and racist actions of reactionary forces in Israel. Desi groups should recognize that the oppression and subjugation of Lebanese civilians in the name of "national security" is paralleled in the U.S. actions after September 11th, both with the wars raged abroad, and the unconscionable domestic policy against members of specific communities.

But when you think about it, after most groups were silent on the issue in the post 9/11 United States, I'm not holding my breath for more people to actually get the point now, when it's even more removed from their everyday lives.

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