One of the effects of living in a globalised world with extensive two-way immigration is the rapid change and development of our views and expectations.
While greater geographical and physical distance dims our recall of the ‘old country,’ a stronger tendency to remember its positives and what it had to offer us when we lived there in days gone by continues to persist.
Such are the experiences of the Indian Diaspora in New Zealand.
In recent times, there has been some trenchant criticism of India by some members of the Diaspora while some others have risen to protect the image of our homeland and question the writer.
It is not for me to debate the views expressed except to note that offense has been taken.
A dispassionate reflection on today’s India must take into account the significant strides it has made in 65 years to undo the dire effects of 335 years of British presence in the country.
Culture & Tradition
I have visited India many times since 1986, both as part of my work and for pleasure. India has a civilisation of more than 5000 years and currently a superpower in terms of its economy, regional and international standing, non- aligned status and its success in eradicating food shortage.
India is a giant in IT, production of medicines, agriculture, and peacekeeping.
While India now has a middle class larger than the total population of the US, it still has a great deal to do to bring all people out of poverty.
As an Indian, I feel privileged that my values, culture, traditions, art and music are protected and developed by 1.2 billion people.
As an Indo-Fijian, I am wedded to the interests of India and doubly appreciative of the protective role that the country plays in preserving our culture and traditions.
It is difficult to see the merits of trenchant criticism that maligns the country, all of its people and all of its systems.
This is hardly fair and does no credit to the person making the criticism.
It is not as if the criticisms have been fair and balanced.
They have not been.
In New Zealand, free speech is not to be curtailed but equally the speaker has to give some attention to the impact of free speech on others.
Free speech does not allow you to yell out ‘fire’ in a crowded room, when there is no fire.
The second series of comments I want to make relate to the making of an apology.
An apology given in a manner dripping with cynicism is no apology at all. It treats those to whom the apology is being made in a contemptuous manner.
We all make mistakes and must have the space to withdraw gracefully.
It takes a mature person to realise when he or she is wrong and even a greater person to simply apologise and desist.
I hope that will happen in this case.
The standing is neither India nor Fiji depends on our advocacy for them.
These countries have long traditions and histories and would continue to exist long after we have gone.
I belong to both countries and am proud of being so.
I have no need to be harshly critical of them.
On the contrary, I consider it a blessing that both have had great leaders committed to progress, inclusion, peace and prosperity for all.
Dr Rajen Prasad is a Member of Parliament on Labour List and the Party’s Ethnic Affairs Spokesperson. The above article is exclusive to Indian Newslink.