February - March 2007
Dual Citizenship and India
Despite making so much song and dance about it for almost a decade, and LM Singhvi
committee visiting every country on the planet “listening to the Indian
Diaspora”, India has not provided the facility of dual citizenship to
Indians living abroad – what former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee
called Bharatvanshis. The so-called Indian Overseas Citizenship is not worth
the paper it is written on. It is not citizenship at all. Bharatvanshis cannot
even step on the soil of Bharat with an IOC document in their hand. It is simply
a multiple visa for India with a glorified name. Indians holding US or UK passports
will have to produce their foreign passports while entering India, along with
the IOC document. The Indian government has played the biggest fraud on the
The status of PIO cards is even more ludicrous. It took the Government of India
more than fifty years to recognise that we are people of Indian origin, while
the rest of the world always knew it!!
The ingenuity displayed by the present Indian government in scuttling the proposal
to provide dual citizenship shows that it still suffers from the medieval thinking
that once you go abroad, you are no longer a real Indian. A strong attachment
to the geography of India is a part of the Indian psyche. Hinduism and India
are so intertwined that it is impossible to separate the two. Shastras (the
Hindu religious books) describe India as the sacred land. For most of the Indians,
nothing exists beyond the borders of India – the world means India, and
India means the world to them. It wasn’t long ago when it was considered
a sin to leave the shores of India. When Mahatma Gandhi left India to study
Law in England, he had to seek a special pardon from the priests. Even in the
Independent India, the term NRI has stood for Not Required Indian, particularly
during the Congress rule.
“Pure Indians” have always looked at the West as something corrupt.
Indian films are replete with scenes where the Western culture is mocked at
and condemned. Even today, despite a lot of collaboration with the US and UK
film industries, in the mainstream Hindi cinema establishing the superiority
of Indian values against Western values is a must.
This Indian mentality that cannot think beyond the boundaries of India has
been befittingly described by the Urdu poet Sahir Ludhianvi in his poem Shahzade
(Princes), which translates as follows:
…Think of your great past, and go to sleep! …Why to bother
about what’s happening in the West (or the rest of the world)!
Given this mind-set, India has always considered ‘Dual Citizenship’ a
self-contradiction in terms. India has believed that if you are a citizen of
one country, you cannot be a citizen of another – either with us or against
us – an approach at best justifiable in the case of enemy nations.
But is every other country in the world India’s enemy!
Think of a situation: A White English person coming to live in India says to
the Indian government: “I would live and work here, but would send a
part of the money I earn here to Britain. As far as loyalty to India is concerned,
you should know I’m English and a British citizen first. Furthermore,
I should also be entitled to become an Indian citizen, after four years of
my stay here. And, by the way, I should be entitled to vote in the Indian elections
from Day One of my stay in India since I am a Common Wealth citizen.”
Most of the people living in India, particularly the Indian government, cannot
even imagine the situation. Yet, in the US, UK, and other Western democracies,
that is exactly the situation. For instance, most of the Indians living in
Britain send money earned in Britain to India, and hardly any person of Indian
origin is in the British army. And yet it is not Britain that treats these
people as aliens or denies them the right to citizenship! As long as the prospective
citizen’s actions and inactions are within the law of the land, the UK
and US governments would have no problem in granting them their countries’ citizenship.
Despite immigrants’ attachment to another country and their repatriation
of money earned in the UK, the British government allows them to get British
citizenship and have equal rights in the UK, while retaining their former citizenship.
British citizens are free to have the citizenship of another country – India,
US, Canada, Russia, China, or whatever. The same is the case in the other European
countries, US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand – basically in all the
civilised democratic countries. They provide their immigrant and migrant people
the facility of dual citizenship in true sense. They don’t see any contradiction
or danger in that.
But the country professing to believe in the philosophy of Vasudev Kutumbkam
The nationalist section of the Indian politics harps on the foreign origin
of Mrs Sonia Gandhi, and accuses her of not accepting Indian citizenship for
a long time. The so-called “progressive and secular” political
leaders of Indian polity describe Sonia Gandhi as “Our Bahu”. Yet,
no one has ever bothered to see why Sonia Gandhi, married into the top most
political family of the country, did not go for Indian citizenship! Too much
botheration for the sake of a Firangi!
The answer lies in the fact that, unlike most of the civilized countries in
the world, India forces the prospective citizen to give up their former citizenship – If
you want to belong to your ‘Sasural’, you have to sever your relationship
with your ‘Mayka’!
Not only it violates the principle of respecting the dignity of the individual
(a principle supposedly enshrined in the Indian Constitution as well) in the
case of persons of foreign origin such as Sonia Gandhi, India rewards its own
people’s attachment and loyalty to their motherland by declaring them
unfit to be Indian citizens! These people consider India their spiritual home.
But in the eyes of the Indian political leadership it’s no more than
a shallow nostalgia.
India refuses to accept that while being a good citizen of their adopted country,
one could have sentimental attachment with the land of their forefathers! India
refuses to learn that going to the other parts of the world can give you a
better vision of your own country!
This blind vision of the Indian political leadership is hurting India itself.
Most of the Indians living in the US, UK, etc, do not take up those countries’ citizenship
despite the eligibility – because for that they would have to give up
Indian citizenship, which has a great sentimental value for them – and
thus are disqualified from holding any important positions in those countries
(No country would give important positions in its establishment to non-citizens).
Thus, unlike other immigrant communities, Indians fail to develop any clout
in those countries. As former BBC Producer and the editor of www.nrifm.com,
Vijay Rana, in his article - http://www.samachar.com/features/210605-middle.html
- points out, the people of Pakistani origin living in those countries, at
the first opportunity available, obtain the citizenship of those countries,
making themselves eligible for each and every thing, including access to the
core of the establishment, in those countries – without their relationship
with Pakistan getting at all affected. By barring loyal Indians from accepting
other countries’ citizenship and the right to vote there, India is doing
no favour to itself. And it’s not only that non-resident Indians are
not able to develop a political influence in their countries of residence,
it affects their economic and business life too. For instance, a British citizen
is free to travel to any country in the European Union. But an Indian citizen
has to obtain visas from each and every country in Europe for the intended
visits. By creating hurdles in the way of the Indians living abroad, India
is hurting itself.
The Indian establishment gives two reasons for not giving fully-fledged citizenship
to the Indians living abroad. One, granting dual citizenship to NRIs “would
create a risk for the security of the country”. Two, it would give voting
and other political rights to persons not living in India, which “could
create an abnormal situation”.
Let’s look at both these points in some detail. The Indian authorities
say that if Indians living in the US or the UK are given a full passport, then
Pakistanis and Bangladeshis will be able to travel to India freely and it could
pose a security threat to India. How? If the citizenship is awarded to the
Indians who left India for the US or the UK after 26th January 1950, how can
a Pakistani living in the UK get Indian citizenship? This thesis advanced by
the Indian establishment is beyond comprehension.
No doubt, there have been some persons of Indian origin who became a threat
to the security of India, particularly some Sikh militants living in the UK,
Canada and the US, during the 1980s. But it doesn’t mean that all Indians,
or all Sikhs, living abroad are a threat to India. The reality is the opposite.
After the fizzling out of the Sikh militancy, no NRI has ever been found to
be working against the security of India. The fact is that the real security
risks are living as Resident Indian citizens in Mumbai and Malegaon. On what
basis the Indian establishment is calling NRIs (vis-à-vis Resident Indians)
a security risk is beyond facts and logic. As L.M. Singhvi, during his long
term as India’s High Commissioner in the UK, used to say, “the
Indians living abroad are more Indian than the Indians living in India.” How
can such people be a security risk to India? And, most importantly, if there
are some suspect cases, why can’t the Indian authorities check out and
deny the citizenship to those particular individuals, rather than punishing
the whole Indian community living abroad. Would they treat all the Muslims
living in India as security risks just because a few Muslims have been involved
in anti-national activities? If not, why are they doing that to the NRIs?
As far as the attitude of Indian political leadership towards the political
rights of the NRIs is concerned, it’s so ironical that the Ninth of January
has been declared Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, the day Mahatma Gandhi returned
to India in 1915 after his two-decade long stay in South Africa to start a
political movement in India, and yet the legislation, enacted to celebrate
Mahatma Gandhi’s return, denies Indians returning to India that very
right! On Ninth January Mahatma Gandhi returned to India to do nothing else
but politics! And on Ninth January every year the Indian government tells the
NRIs that you can do everything else but politics! What a great tribute to
Mahatma Gandhi’s role in the freedom movement!
Is the present Indian leadership afraid that another Mahatma may return and
uproot the Brown Sahibs this time!
In fact, this is the crux of the matter. The Indian political leaders are fearful
that INDIANS with selfless love for their Motherland, equipped with a better
vision, could uproot the self-serving, short-sighted, corrupt, casteist and
racist dimwits at the helm of affairs of the Indian nation. Security risk is
just an excuse. Govinda and Dharmendra, not attending the Parliament for two
years, create no problem, but a voter living in London or New York could create “an
The only way to make the Indian government see sense and act truly in India’s
interest would be that all the INDIANS LIVING ABROAD should boycott the hollow
functions organised by the Indian government and its ministers in India and
abroad in the name of NRIs. Let’s tell them – We are not lesser
Indians. We don’t live in India, India lives in us. Nothing else but
proper dual citizenship will do. They will have to let Indians living abroad
obtain citizenship of their countries of residence, and let foreigners like
Sonia Gandhi to retain their earlier citizenship while obtaining Indian citizenship – as
all other civilised countries do!
Before coming to the UK, Krishan Tyagi worked in the Government of India as
a member of the Indian Economic Service from 1977 to 1987. During this tenure,
he worked in the ministries of finance, agriculture & rural development,
and food & civil supplies. In the UK, Krishan was employed by the BBC
for ten years. At the BBC, he worked in four departments, including the Network
Television and the BBC World Service.
At present, Krishan is running a successful business in the field of food distribution
in the UK, and from time to time writes on the present day issues.
More Political News
More articles by Krishan Tyagi
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