From Kansas, Lancaster to Ramjas: Despotism Across Democracies?

As a young Indian woman with 13 family members residing in the US, the past week has been heart-wrenching and difficult, with three shocking incidents of attacks on Indians and Indian-origin residents in the the country.

Is Hyper-Nationalism To Blame?

A US Navy veteran kills an Indian; another American tries to rescue him. The next week, an Indian businessman is shot dead in Lancaster. A few days later, a Sikh man is shot at. A martyr’s daughter asks for cross-border peace and is termed anti-national. Does that have something to do with a parallel debate of hyper-nationalism across the two largest democracies of the world?

What could be defined as nationalism for a person who has served his country in the past? Or do these incidents remind us of the patriotism card played by the then presidential candidate Donald Trump, and his agenda pertaining to restrictions towards immigrants?

As a point of justification from the US itself, the New York Police Department has recorded a 115 percent increase in hate crimes after Trump’s election victory.

So one of the possibilities could be that of politicisation across the globe, whether it is political influence on hate crime or the fuelling of anti-nationalist sparks, both being triggered through a common thread of being an intolerant patriot!

Before emptying the magazine, Srinivas Kuchibotla’s attacker kept reiterating the statement – “Leave our country”. In another incident, the Sikh Indian was told – “go back to your own country” – before being shot in Seattle. The attackers, in both cases, seemed to portray a similar intent.

The Continuing Fight for Basic Rights

They seemed to be hinting at two main ideas – they not only signaled towards an existing white ethnic majority in the US, but also imparted a sense of alienation to the Indians living the US, while they probably contemplated to take away their freedom to live.

On the other hand, a message for peace in India is being substituted for an anti-national remark, when a Kargil martyr’s daughter sent across a message of tranquility by sharing what her mother told her – “Pakistan did not kill my dad. War did.” All suggestive of an umbworld, where people have been fighting for basic rights across democracies – Immigration and Ethic Rights overseas and Right to Freedom of Expression in India, which ironically has the thickest Constitution in the world.

Gurmehar Kaur. (Photo: Video Screengrab)

Guns and Jingoism Vs Democracy

Under the so-called federal law in the US, a person only needs to be 18 in case they want to buy a shotgun or rifle. The laws, however, have just been mere ink on paper where the purchaser need not have a license to buy the gun, accompanied by incomplete background checks which make the possession of gun even easier.

We, as Indians should protest most strongly for so many of us living there, not necessarily on grounds of nationality, but on the broader parameters of humanity which is being killed in the name of ethnic differences.

The US administration must answer if immigrants are more harmful for the US or the US gun violence for both, immigrants and the US combined? 310 million people own guns in the most powerful country of the world – a country, which the entire world looks up to, resulting in 33,000 annual gun deaths in America.

But, the question boils down to the same old villainy of hate crime and the prejudiced jingoist milieu being built in the name of a country, which millions aspire to settle in for fulfilling their dreams.

While the US President was vocal about addressing regret over incidents of “evil” and “hate” during his first presidential speech, the fact that the US gun laws need severe and immediate amendments, remains to be a focal point of concern to curb the atmosphere of prejudiced fear.

While a Navy veteran took away a life, here stands a girl, who is ready to take a bullet to protect the interests and rights of her fellow students at Delhi University – students who belong to all ethnic groups, distinct casts, creeds, and race and is still being attacked by a paradigm of outrage from the hyper-nationalists.

What can be done, perhaps, is to redefine the idea of acceptance, but not a synonym of intolerance.

Though the mitigative and catalytic measures are in the hands of the government, we cannot wait for the worse to happen.

Preventive techniques seem to be more effective in the long run. And hence, it remains for us to curtail the common thread – the thread of hatred, intolerance, and unacceptability across these two nations in the world, no matter how paradoxical the fight for rights seems, and against despotism across the largest democracies in the world. We must not stay quiet anymore!

(The writer is currently pursuing a course in Broadcast Journalism and can be reached  @SharmaNaina222.  This is a personal blog and the views expressed above are the author’s own.The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)