Tamils - a Trans State Nation..

"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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Tamil Diaspora - a Trans State Nation

from the back cover:

"The Sikh Diaspora is an impressive, probing and original examination of the Sikh communities of Britain, Canada and the UNited States. The author examines the cultural, economic and social languages between overseas Sikh communities and the Punjab, discussing the Sikh diaspora's support for a Sikh homeland and its role in highlighting human rights abuses in the Punjab. Exploring the diaspora's close involvement in issues emanating from its homeland, Dr.Tatla asks whether this involvement indicates an insecure settlement in the new countries. He is especially interested in the ways in which inter state diplomacy, notably India's pressure on host states to curb 'Sikh extremism', has affected the position of Sikh communities abroad. The book is a significant contribution to the growing literature on the role of diaspora communities as international actors in challenging the power of nation states and of host societies."

From the Conclusion:

"Sikhs in the diaspora, especially the Sikh communities of Canada, the United States and Britain, have played a considerable role in the political, economic and social life of Punjab, as well as being affected by events in the Punjab and India. Through remittances, exchange of ideas and ideology, visits and pilgrimages to ancestral homes and kin, the Sikh diaspora communities have kept a lively cultural exchange. They have also nurtured political associations. Their richer sections have invested in a range of projects from economic assistance to considerable donation for religious, educational and charitable works. 

While the overseas Sikh communities do not meet sufficient conditions to be described as a diaspora, they do seem to have acquired certain necessary elements of a psychological and sociological nature which are essential to its consciousness. First-generation overseas migrants are obviously related to the homeland in many ways, but the events of June 1984 had a �traumatic� effect and generated considerable response and solidarity among the second and third generations.

In the aftermath of the army action in the Golden Temple, the role of British and North American Sikh communities has been significant in popularizing the idea of a Sikh homeland. Support for organizations campaigning for the Sikh state has been substan�tial, both material and moral. It has internationalized the issue of a Sikh homeland. 

Reaction to the Punjabi crisis has led to a sustained campaign for Khalistan among a section of the Sikh leadership abroad. The mode of mobilization and the formation of new organizations have been informed by cultural, moral and religious traditions of the Sikh society. This study highlights the complex nature of identity formation and the developmental process of an ethnic community. While a broader loyalty towards India probably still exists, the events of the past decade have caused perceptible changes in their loyalties, and they have also affected their relationship with the host societies. The Punjabi crisis has probably generated a realignment of Sikh identity towards Punjab in small yet perceptible ways, though such shifts are inherently difficult to quantify.

The impact of the Punjabi crisis has enabled them to redraw a strict definition of Sikh identity, highlighting the religious tradition and collective symbols of the community instead of the geography, language and cultural traits. These developments within the community serve to underline the �situational� nature of ethnic consciousness, while the articulation of the demand for a �homeland� is seen to be anchored in the primordial givens. The reaction also shows how the events of 1984 have been seen and interpreted as a threat to the collective entity of the Sikh commu�nity, a humiliation for the community�s pride. A somewhat ambiguous and complex set of attachments towards an imaginary homeland has been reinforced by the �crucial� event, which posed a challenge to the deeply held beliefs and feelings.

The characteristic call for mobilization has been to avenge this humiliation and to achieve a secure homeland where such a threat could not arise in the future. Thus, in its reaction there appears to be an interplay of culture, group consciousness and the uncertainty of migrant status in the host society. With the settler countries providing a limited expression of their cultural and religious traditions, conditions have perhaps existed for such frustrations to be channelled into the cause of yearning for a homeland. The �Khalistan movement� abroad may also indicate Sikh migrants� alienation from the host societies. Neither equal citizens, nor having enough power to express their cultural ambitions, the aspiring community leaders have looked back on their �land of origins� for prestige and honour. Such a reaction ought not be brushed aside as the brainchild of a few misguided zealots.

In terms of geography and mobilization characteristics there are clear parallels with the Gadr movement. The formation of the Gadr movement was attributed to the exclusionary policies of the Canadian and American governments, coupled with an uncaring attitude of the Indian colonial state towards the plight of its over�seas peoples. The Khalistan movement may also be located within those parameters. The home government�s unsympathetic attitude towards a minority�s aspirations, seen through an unparal�leled attack on its religious centre and the host states� policies, coupled with a sense of alienation from those societies, may have provided all the ingredients necessary for the mobilization towards a secure and independent homeland.

A sovereign �homeland� offers the possibility of becoming a substitute for an alienated diaspora elite. Contemporary evidence suggests this is the case for a small section of the Sikh diaspora of Britain and North America. However, the strength of an alienated elite could grow in the future. An independent Punjab was an �imagined homeland� for few Sikhs until the 1984 army action in Amritsar. But the subsequent crisis and its handling by the Indian state, and its pressure on host states to contain the Sikh diaspora�s expressions of sympathy, might have converted the dream of homeland into a serious and attractive scenario for many Sikhs. A distinct minority of Sikhs are now committed to the achievement of an independent country. Whether the silent majority would be convinced of the minority�s arguments depends upon two factors:

the sense of security they feel in their new homes in Britain and North America, and 

the future developments in their homeland, the Punjab. 

That both of these factors are beyond the diaspora�s control points towards the dilemma of a diaspora�s ambivalent attitudes and loyalties. The Sikh diaspora�s reaction to the events in Punjab and its characteristic pattern of mobilization provide a clear example of how, through one �crucial event�, a confident and �secure� diaspora can become conscious of a �threatened homeland� and mobilize in its defence."


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