Research Interests

Long Distance Nationalism of Diaspora

Migration is as old as humans. With the refugee crisis in Europe and the fiery US presidential election discourse about migrants, migration has never been more significant and on the radar of policymakers than it is today. According to the latest UN Migration statistics, there are 232 million migrants in the world, i.e. about 3% of the world population. International migration has become a universal phenomenon, which affects almost all the countries of the world. Diasporas are a result of this migration. All migrants cannot be classified as diasporic population. Diasporas may be defined as those migrants who have a common origin and reside outside their ethnic or religious homeland. They are characterized by an attachment and involvement with the homeland. The same may be active or passive. The diasporic population has become an important actor in the international relations today. Because of their presence in other countries, the diasporic population could have positive and negative consequences for the home government. It is positive when the diasporic populations act as a pressure group to influence the foreign policy in favor of their homelands. However, the same population could cause damage to the homeland by lobbying against it. The reason could be ethnic-violence, genocide and civil war in the homeland or the human rights record of the homeland among many other factors. Diaspora is thus a source of constant interest not only to the concerned governments but also to the academicians. Diasporic communities influence foreign policymaking of both the homeland and hostland. The nation-states can use their diasporas as tools of nation and state building, while the diasporas can act as both nation-building and nation-wrecking depending upon the context, situation and international milieu.

The Sikhs along with the Jews are perhaps the only two religious diasporas in the world. The Sikh migration to North America in its earnest began in the early twentieth century. Though, they had started moving abroad long before that. The exposure to the outside world that the Sikhs received due to their being in army was an important factor in their migration to distant lands. The major causal factor of Sikh migration was the socio-economic situation prevailing in Punjab towards the end of the nineteenth century. The migration was mainly from the central Punjab region. The density of population, British land revenue policies, indebtedness, smaller land holdings, disease, famines and other associated reasons were responsible for the migration of the Sikhs abroad. The Sikhs in North America had a constructive and symbiotic relationship with India till the 1980’s. There were intermittent demands for a separate Sikh homeland called Khalistan before the 1980’s and it was based on the fact that the Sikhs were not given a fair deal by the Indian government after independence. However, there was no mass base to the demand.

The Indian Army action on the Golden temple in June 1984 was to change all that. No event has affected the psyche of the Sikh diaspora, than the Operation Blue Star. The attack stirred the collective conscience of the Sikhs all across the world. With a single action, the government succeeded in doing what years of propaganda on the part of the separatists could not do. The Sikhs in diaspora were aghast and angry. Protest rallies were taken out in which thousands of Sikhs participated. There were angry calls for Khalistan–the Sikh homeland.

The research proves that nation-states can ignore the diasporic population at their own peril. Further, it also shows that a heterogeneous state like India would do well to understand and accommodate the interests of all sections of the society and her diasporic population should be considered an important player, while framing national policies.

Excluded at the Borders

Different meanings for the terms border exist in the dictionary ranging from social to cultural to economic to political, having different connotations that differ widely across cultures and through time. Borders and borderlands are among the most broadly inclusive terms as far as various meanings and definitions are concerned but exclusive as far as membership of entities created by them are concerned. There are geographic borders: international as well as national, besides borders related to categories like gender, race, caste, class, citizenship among others. This report would study the man made geographic borders and cataclysmic changes that it has brought to the communities living on the borders. The last decades of the twentieth century proved to be a new experience as far as geographical borders were concerned. The Berlin wall fell and united two states, Soviet Union disintegrated, giving rise to 15 new states. European Union was formed creating a borderless regime of the most developed block in the world. Many borders were redrawn and many all together obliterated. New states came into being and the many faded into the pages of history. This century could be described as one of border fencing and defencing. Treaty of Westphalia was instrumental in creating and defining the utility of borders. From Westphalia to now, the functions and the utility of the borders have undergone a great change. Two World Wars have been fought till now which rearranged many a borders in the world. Ethnic conflicts have also given rise to demands for new borders at various places across the world. The onslaught of globalization, led many writers to predict doomsday for borders. It was widely believed that due to the ever increasing and all enveloping trends of globalization, borders would soon become redundant and a borderless world would become reality. However, this rhetoric proved to be more exaggerated than actual. The importance of territoriality may be said to be shifting rather than simply diminishing (Andreas, 2000:3). In fact, the states are spending more and more on border regulation, control and maintenance. This has been even more pronounced in the aftermath of 9/11. Following 9/11, the world saw strict border rules and regulations made and followed by number of Western countries. Thus, terrorism rose as the greatest challenge to the notion of a border free world.

The South-Asian borders have always been looked at one of the most difficult in the world. Though, the reasons for it may not be without any merit, but in highlighting the belligerence, the other aspects of its borders are often overlooked. India and Pakistan are often thought of as a flashpoint for nuclear war. The US led world often preaches restraint to these two countries. Their borders are amongst the most heavily guarded in the whole world. The fact that both the countries are nuclear able and share a hostile history which includes 4 wars has often overshadowed the fact that there is a human angle to the border dispute between India and Pakistan. The creation of border between India and Pakistan in 1947 was marred in bloodshed ands violence. Punjab, a northwestern province of India bore the brunt of partition. The Radcliffe award, a colonial legacy in Punjab is apparently responsible for half a million causalities and 13 million migrations. Though more than 67 years have passed since India’s independence and separation of Pakistan from it, still the baggage of history weighs heavy on both the states. Punjab is among the 17 border states of India and shares international border with Pakistan along five districts and in 18 blocks: Amritsar, Tarn Taran, Gurdaspur,Fazilka and Ferozepur. In all 1837 villages and 10 towns are at the international border, which account for 2.5 million in population (2 million in rural areas and half million urban population). Punjab has a total border length of 553 km.

Since ancient times, Punjab has faced the brunt of war and subsequent chaos and restlessness. The large border that it shares with Pakistan makes it even now, a sensitive state. Generally, the location of borderlands often leave it susceptible to relative negligence of the administration and at the same time due to its sensitive and strategic location, the armed forces are hyper active in these areas. The same is the case with Punjab. The border is paradoxically one of the most guarded and the area one of the most neglected by the administration. The location has resulted in untold suffering for the population. It is sadly a hotbed of political, economic, social and infrastructural problems. While billions are being spent on the security, the people and their needs have been routinely ignored.