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Differing accounts of the diaspora

That the Indian diaspora occupies a place of prominence globally has been evident for some time.

books Updated: Aug 08, 2003 10:59 IST

Indians Abroad
Edited by Sarva Daman Singh and Mahavir Singh
Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Institute of Asian Studies/ Hope India Publications/ Greenwich Millennium
2003
Sociology
Pages: 240
Price: Rs 600
Hardcover
ISBN: 81-7871-028-5

Desis. NRIs. Whatever you call them, that the Indian diaspora is moving to occupy a place of prominence globally has been evident for some time. Their influence in the lands they have settled in has grown over the years and today many of them are in important positions both in their individual capacities and as a distinct group.

This book, essentially a collection of articles on different aspects of this group, brings out many faces the community has come to have. Most of the essays are divided on geographical basis - Indians in the US havetwo chapters,while the ones in Canada, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Fiji, UK, France, Central Asia, Myanmar, andthe African continent get a chapter each.

The two chapters on the Indians in the US have a fair number of details - where the Indians are located, their numbers vis-à-vis other migrant Asians, a brief note on naturalisation, changes in immigration policies and laws. And of course a mention of prominent Indians, which somehow includes Arundhati Roy, as her book "was widely appreciated in the United States"!

Lack of adequate representation in the political field is predictably lamented, while a section on suggestions on how the diaspora can help in building industry and development is included. Also lamented is the divisiveness amongst Indians, which finds ample reflection in the US, according to Nalini Kant Jha, who has written 'Americans of Indian Origin: Bridging the Gulf between two Democracies'.

The Canadian chapter highlights the problems faced by Indians even to get the immigrant status there, as well as the contribution Indians have made in making Canada a multi-cultural society it today proudly claims to be.

A Bessesser's write up on Trinidad is far more specific - the extent of participation by Indian and African women in two general elections in the 1990s - to depict the gender and ethnic imbalances there.

The section on UK concentrates on the history of settlement as well the disapora's place in the political, religious and cultural spheres, and makes for very interesting reading.

With many anecdotes, 'Indian Diaspora in France: A Historico-Cultural Perspective' is worth a read for even those not interested in diaspora affairs.

The book provides detailed looks at, well, the parts it looks at. And does it well. Which, however, still leaves a fair deal uncovered. Though there is an introduction, which takes an overall view of the diaspora, it is essentially an introduction to the chapters. A look at the overall position of the diaspora, comparative studies, equations with the mother country - though harder issues to write on, areperhaps essential for the book to be a comprehensive one on the diaspora.

However, the parts that are covered are well written overall, allowing for differing styles of the various authors. Definitely a great addition to the field.