Why India gives NRIs special status


NRIs are a pampered lot. Even though they have taken up foreign citizenship they have their own minister, their own annual day and many other privileges. But does this special status give them the right to interfere in the affairs of India. If they do interfere does it matter? In Britain recently I came across two groups of NRIs who are trying to interfere and I believe their interference should concern Indians back home.

On the 30th anniversary of Operation Bluestar I found myself trying to inject some balance and reason into a radio-phone in discussing that incident. Agitated British Sikhs who are attempting to get the British government to demand a United Nations inquiry into the events of 1984 denied that Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale had committed any wrong. On the contrary several Sikhs who phoned-in were surprised I didn’t believe that the government had been planning Operation Bluestar for some time as a deliberate attack on their community. They even made the bizarre allegation that the drug problem inPunjab had been created by the government, claiming that the state has been deliberately “flooded with drugs” so that young Sikh men would fall victim to drug-addiction rather than revive the Khalistan movement.

During the phone-in Lord Singh of Wimbledon, editor of the influential Sikh Messenger and a regular contributor to the BBC’s influential Today programme, supported the demand for a UN inquiry, and Britain’s only Sikh MP, Paul Uppal, agreed to discuss it with the government.

The second interference in Indian affairs by NRIs was an attempt by 75 academics, most of Indian origin, judging by their names, teaching in British or other foreign universities, to influence the outcome of the recent general elections. In their letter published in the Independent, a national daily, the academics expressed “deep concern at the implications of a Narendra Modi-led government for democracy, pluralism, and human rights in India”. Academics are expected to be balanced but this letter was wholly one-sided. The academics recalled the “extreme violence by the Hindu right in Gujarat in 2002” but they didn’t mention the findings of the Special Investigation Team set up by the Supreme Court. They condemned Modi as authoritarian and described his economic model as being linked to big business and “harmful to the poor”. They didn’t examine the other side of the argument about the Gujarat model, nor did they mention that Modi had won three assembly elections and therefore the people of his state, who are the people on the ground, would appear to judge his performance rather differently from the academics living outside India.

There is an element of irresponsibility in expatriates publicly taking up extreme positions on what is happening in their own country. There is an air of condescension about the academics’ letter also. It smacks of that assumption of superiority that I sometimes note among NRIs — the assumption that because they are successful in a country like Britain or America they are superior to those who have stayed behind.

Unless NRIs raising concerns about India are measured and responsible, they contribute to widespread misunderstanding about India in the countries where they live. On a recent radio interview I had to defend India’s space programme against the naive argument that the money would be better spent on the poor. This argument ignores the technology that India gains from its space programme and other advanced scientific research. If NRIs in Britain want to justify the special status they enjoy in India they should correct these misunderstandings rather than contribute to them by irresponsible interference in its affairs. If they don’t, India might well ask why it grants them those privileges.

~By Mark Tully (HT)



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  • Hi Mark – I fully agree with you on this article. I frequently come across a lot of these self acclaimed ‘smart and successful’ people who are nothing but just lucky enough to have got chances to go and settle abroad and think that all other indians who somehow didnt make the cut are foolish, ignorant and unsuccessful. These people have absolutely zero or poor understanding of the heavily complex nature of problems our country faces today vastly due to the fact that it is extremely multi-dimensional, multi-lingual and multi-cultural country unlike any other in the world. What adds to the problem is india being democratic country people think they have the right to say any nonsense or rubbish that they like. I hope these kind of people are once sent to experience life in countries like China where they would probably face life terms even if they speak anything against the government.

  • I would like to add that for every ten NRI’s that negatively comment on India without citing the appropriate references, there is at least one NRI’s amongst them that have a pro-India stance. I for one do not fit into either category as I am far more concerned about the happenings of my own backyard, despite being a Hindu and therefore believe that the issues faced in India need to be dealt with by Indians and not from people outside. Do you see Anglo-Saxon Americans, Australians, Canadians or New Zealand people interfering in the affairs of the United Kingdom?

  • I have was born in Uganda in Africa in 1958 and have now lived in England since I was 10 yrs old.i have read the article of NRI above. I am silently upset about this whole affair of NRIs interference in the affairs of India. I love India and am in TOTAL AGREEMENT that NRIs shouldn’t interfere with affairs occurring or occurred in India. I am resolute in the knowledge that virtually all Indians are NOT SUPPORTIVE of these few radical Sikhs. Only a minority is supportive of this. This is true of both the first attempt of Sikh interference and the second academic ‘s interference too.

    To be able to really UNDERSTAND THE TRUE ISSUES affecting both the separate issues the Indians who are trying to influence Indian ways of life or to start a nation within a nation should really live in India for at least five years.
    I personally am REVERANT and most RESPECTFUL of INDIA and INDIANS in India and the INDIA LAND. WHY MIGHT THAT BE would you ask. Well it’s because SAINTS FROM THE HIGHEST HEAVEN AND OF THE HIGHEST ORDER have WALKED the land and soil of INDIA. India is also the only democracy which has MULTIPLE RELIGIONS practiced side by side with MULTIPLE LANGUAGES spoken. Virtually everyone gets on with each other be they poor or rich money wise . The poorest is THANKFUL of what GOD GIVES him and had a heart of GOLD. I carry a small bag of soil from India in my pocket reminding me of my heritage. I LOVE every INDIAN in India be he/she of SIKH OR MUSLIM OR JAIN OR CHRISTIAN or any religion.

    I think India is a LAND of MULTIFLARIOUS MIRACLES which occur everyday WHEN CONSIDERING the POPULATION of India is around 1.2 BILLION!!!!!!!
    Think again what I have just said! One Indian State has the population of all of ENGLAND AND SOMETIMES ONE TOWN will have the POPULATION of all of EIRE And Scotland and Wales put together. What AN ACHIEVEMENT!!!!!
    It is envisaged that India’s population will soon exceed that of China. This country is ruled by the iron hand of Communism whilst India is a FREE DEMOCRATIC COUNTRY. The potential if India is immense! I wish I could live in the land of THE Saints , where LORD RAM AND LORD KRISHNA AND GURU NANAK DEV JI AND KABIR SAHIB AND PAULTU SAHIB AND NAMDEV once walked. I am not rich. I don’t even own my own home, as the bank owns most of it. I am a slave to the bank working slavishly paying off the mortgage. I am not complaining, how can I when millions live homeless in India!!!!! ( and the rest of the world). I a, afraid to come to India because I don’t know how I would make a living there and the fear of being accepted by Indians who have lived there forever ( whether they would be envious and hate me for my previous life in England or fear of kidnapping of myself or my family for money even though I don’t have much , but the average Indian assumes NRIs are “loaded” or very rich. My family loves it here and am love bound to them too anyway.The other reason is the health cost for me would not be affordable and quite prohibitive I am currently on fifteen different medicines as I am diabetic , type two, have very high blood pressure requiring three different medicines to control it, have high levels of cholesterol,and riddled with bone or osteoarthritis requiring three different medicines, ( the cost would be around £200 per month which is around 1900 rupees approximately) as I am nearly sixty yrs old.(ONE OF the very few REALLY good things in England is the NHS which provides free healthcare to all).

    DESPITE EVERYTHING I LOVE MY English heritage. I LOVE the English people who are mostly “white where I live. They are very kind and let and let live in my village of some 2000 people. It is far away from the hustle and bustle of cities.

    • Dear Bob, I think you are sufferring from high levels of stress. You also need to change your diet (what you eat) and your lifestyle to be able to control your diabetes and reduce the number of medicines you take. The climate in which you live may also not be conducive to your health.

  • Drawing a conclusion about the entire NRI population, most of them uneducated truckers that left villages and assuming that to be representative of the entire NRI community, I think Mark Tully has hit senility. He needs to get basic lessons in statistics. I am an NRI and am very much an Indian at heart.

  • There are 2 more reasons why NRIs are supposedly “pampered”. They propagate the soft power of India, and they bring in foreign exchange to the tune of several billions. Both are extremely important. A few nut cases tend to align with vested interests- such as the blue star nutcases and the muslim and Christian evangelists. Excepting these, most are level headed and well meaning and still Indian (read hindu) at heart.

  • The words of a sant always come to pass. Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindrawale Sahibji stated that if gov’t set foot at Darbar Sahib the foundation of Sovereign Sikh State would be set. Khalistan was declared free back in the 1980’s. Gov’t has made it legal for one to work towards creation of Khalistan as long as it is done peacefully. The Sikh Nation is One. We are few in number but we share the same Light as Baba Nanak. One day we will be free from bahmin/baniya misrule. And some day all of greater historical Bharat will be reunified – a vegetarian, smoke-free genuinely dharmic civilization. Not all South Asians are inbred or diabetic. I have had darshan of incredible Gursikhs. Political and economic sovereignty is birthright of every Sikh. Sikhi is a divine birthright. I urge opponents of Sikh sovereignty to study Sikh atihas and please go to Kerala and save mother cow. (with Kirpan if need be) Leave us Sikhs be. One day age of Kesri Khanda and Saffron Swastik will begin. Recite Whaheguru with every breath. Stop wasting precious life on bogus bollywood bakwas. ASSGGS”Mera vaid Guru Govinda”. The religious and ethnic cleansing of Sikhs will end one day. Panth never (not ever) forgets traitors of Sikhi.