By Hemant Shah
WINNIPEG: As an Indian-born Canadian with deep personal, business and family links with India, I am as much shocked and ashamed as any Indian – in India and abroad – by the gang-rape and subsequent death of the 23-year-old innocent girl in the Indian capital.
As an NRI, I have as much stake in India – its progress and its international standing – as any Indian.
Frankly, I am very, very encouraged by the nationwide protests triggered by this crime which defies any definition. I hope the national reawakening caused by this shameful act will lead to change in India and a respectful place for women in Indian society.
But as an Indo-Canadian, I would have loved the huge Indo-Canadian community to come out and support protesters in India because most of us are Indian by birth and we have a stake in India.
If something ugly happens in India, as this event exemplifies, we Indo-Canadians hang our heads in shame. I couldn’t answer Canadians when they mentioned this beastly incident to me. I felt angry and outraged and wanted to convey this to the Indian government and its representatives that this is not acceptable.
I feel various Indo-Canadian bodies like the Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce, the Canada-India Foundation and the Canada-India Business Council should have come out and protested. They should have done what they did after the Mumbai terrorist attacks in Nov 2008. I remember the candle-light vigil and the huge gathering on Airport Road organized in Dec 2008 to express our sympathy with the victims of the Mumbai terror attack.
Why didn’t any of these Indo-Canadian bodies come out and express sympathy for the poor girl and support Indian protesters this time? Don’t most of these Indo-Canadians hold PIO and OCI cards? And holding PIO and OCI cards means that we, as Canadian NRIs, have an equal stake in India and what happens to our brothers and sisters back home. We have duties towards our motherland India and our loyalty is to our ancestral land, not some politicians.
Also, being an NRI and carrying OCI cards doesn’t mean going for Parvasi Bharatiya Divas and enjoying photo sessions with politicians. It also means telling Indian politicians what is wrong with the country and its administration. It means calling a spade a spade.
Since most Indo-Canadian leaders, politicians and MPs go to Parvasi Bharatiya Divas to enjoy free hospitality, what can you expect from them except indulge in sycophancy of politicians in Delhi or Punjab? Why haven’t any Indo-Canadian MP said anything about this crime when the whole of India was in a major shock after the gang-rape? Where is Deepak Obhrai? Where is Ruby Dhalla? Where is Parm Gill?
But they are all flocking to Parvasi Bhartiya Divas or Parvasi Punjabi Sammelan or Vibrant Gujarat Summit to have photos with politicians.
Why cannot they collect ten thousand signatures from Indo-Canadians and present these to Indian politicians as a show of their solidarity with our brothers and sisters in India? No, these Indo-Canadian MPs won’t do that because that is uncomfortable for them. All they want to do is enjoy government hospitality and return to Canada with awards. What happened to this young girl in Delhi can happen to our daughters and sisters. I was in India the day this incident happened and I felt for the safety of the daughters and sisters of our relatives and families.
Amazingly, after the gangrape, home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said that he was concerned as he too had three daughters. But Shinde’s daughters don’t go to work at a BPO at night. His daughters travel around under special security. So whom are these leaders fooling? We NRIs have to stand with India and its people and not forget our obligations to our motherland.
(Winnipeg-based Hemant Shah has business links to India since the 1970s. These are his personal views)