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Chapter: 12th Political Science : Chapter 9 : India and the World

Indian Diaspora

Diaspora refers to the movement of the population from its original homeland meaning a country’s native people move out to some other homeland or country.

Indian Diaspora

Diaspora refers to the movement of the population from its original homeland meaning a country’s native people move out to some other homeland or country. A group of people with the same culture or belonging to the same country might vacate their original homeland and relocate in some other country or homeland due to several reasons such as economy, livelihood, political situations and other social conditions. Sometimes people are even chosen to leave their homelands and settle elsewhere. Such movement or relocation of the population can be either voluntary or forced due to traumatic events, wars, colonialization, slavery or from natural disasters. Feeling of persecution, loss and yearning to go back home is common amongst the people of the forced diaspora. Voluntary diaspora consists of a community of people who have left their homelands in order to search for better economic opportunities, for example, the gigantic emigration of people from depressed regions of Europe to the United States during the late 1800s. Unlike the forced diaspora, people from voluntary diaspora take immense pride in their shared experience and are convinced of the strength in numbers both socially and politically.

Diasporas play a major role in the economic development of their homeland. They also act as senders of remittances, they promote trade and FDI, create and nurture entrepreneurship and help in exchange of new knowledge and skills.

The Indian diaspora is a common term used to represent the people who have migrated from territories and states that come under the jurisdiction of the Republic of India. This diaspora is presently estimated to be over 30 million, encompassing NRIs (Non-Resident Indians) and PIOs (Persons of Indian Origin) spread all over the world

Over Thirty-one million people of Indian birth or descent are part of the Indian diaspora spread around the world. Of them 3.1. million, or 10 per cent, are Indian-Americans living in the US. The Indian-American diaspora has proven to be a vital resource contributing to the economic, political and social development of India.


The Indian Diaspora is categorised as:

·           NRI – Indian citizens living abroad for an indefinite period of time for whatsoever purpose.

·           PIo – Overseas Indians who have claimed the citizenship of another country and have settled there.

·           SPIo – Stateless Person of Indian Origin, those citizens who do not have documents to substantiate their origination as Indian.

The Indian government recognises the significance of Indian Diaspora, as it has brought economic, financial and global recognition. These citizens have been away from India but are striving to make India shine on the global arena.

In the period after India became free, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru pursued a policy of “active dissociation” from the Indian diaspora. He was concerned about the impact of connecting with and advocating for, this diaspora on the sovereignty of host countries. It was under the regime of Rajiv Gandhi that there was a boost in the diaspora policy. He offered support at Fiji Indian crisis in 1986. Besides, having realized Indian diaspora as a strategic asset, he took administrative measures to establish the Indian Overseas department in 1984.

The policy of reaching out to the Indian diaspora began during the leadership of Atal Bihari Vajpayee. During his tenure as the Prime Minister, the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas was first launched in 2003. It is to be celebrated on 9th of January which marks the day when Mahatma Gandhi returned to India from South Africa. The government planned to celebrate it annually by holding events including conferring awards on the prominent members of the Indian diaspora. The initiatives undertaken by the Indian government during last two decades has bolstered the role and significance of Indian diasporic community in the development of the country, in addition to attracting global investment, aids and technology. India’s diaspora has sent $79 billion back home, retaining its position as the world’s top recipient of remittances.


Tamil Diaspora

The Tamil Diaspora refers to the people who emigrated from their native lands in Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Sri Lanka. They are spread over fifty countries across the world in South East Asia, Oceania, the Americas and the Caribbean, Europe, Middle East and Africa. Throughout ancient history, the Tamils have been seafarers with a strong interest in exploring beyond their lands. The Tamils hence have a long history of overseas migration.

The early settlement patterns could be traced to sugarcane plantations in Mauritius, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname, Guyana, rubber estates and railways in Malaysia, coffee and tea plantations in Sri lanka. In addition to being taken as labour, there were voluntary emigrants who took up clerical, administrative and military duties. It is these emigrants who gradually became dominant in trade and finance in South East Asia, particularly in Myanmar, Singapore, Malaysia and South Africa.

The modern Tamil diaspora accounts for around 3.5 million people who voluntarily migrated as skilled professionals to several countries across the world which includes Singapore, the United Kingdom and the United States. Singapore has a dedicated Tamil newspaper, Tamil TV channel and radio for the promotion of the language. Many Tamil diasporas across the world participate in the annual Pravasi Bharatiya Divas festival. Despite moving out of their homeland, they remain culturally engaged and contribute to the spreading of Indian and Tamil culture across the world.


Status of Tamil around the world

·           Countries where Tamil is an official language are Singapore, Sri Lanka.

·           Countries where Tamil is Recognized as Minority Language are Canada, Malaysia, Mauritius and Seychelles, South Africa, Reunion and France.

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