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Niranjan Ramakrishnan [e-mail
India, the only country in the world, as someone
observed ruefully, which would celebrate the loss of one
fourth its territory and one third its people as
`Independence Day`, I have often envied the
United States for having been blessed with
The loss of territory and population I refer to is the
Partition of 1947.
At the time it was cut into two, India had neither a
sovereign state, nor (perhaps on account of not having a
state) a leader of Lincoln`s mettle.
Muslim League, demanding a separate homeland for the
Muslims of India, decided to show both the British
rulers and their main opposition, the
Congress Party, a glimpse of its growing clout —
calling for what it termed a “Direct Action Day,”
to be observed on August 16, 1946.
year later, India had been partitioned and Pakistan
created. That left an unhealed wound in India that has
festered and drained the country for the last six
Hearing terms like “flexing muscles” and “showing
clout“ in reference to last month`s
pro-illegal immigration marches, I was reminded of “Direct
Action Day” And when I heard one of the
organizers talk of the “Immigrant
Boycott Day“, he said that immigrants would show
"Where America would be without us."
see parallels between today`s U.S. and India sixty years
English first dropped anchor in India in 1607 and
made their way to the court of the Mughal Emperor
Jehangir at Agra, it was the capital of a most fabulous
No one could have suspected that this small band of
Englishmen, supplicants begging for a few trading
rights, would one day topple the Mughal Empire and rule
the subcontinent from the Hindu Kush to the Indian
Or consider a story closer to the issue, the European
conquest of the Americas. At first, a few explorers
came, uncertain of what they would find. In a century,
the newcomers were running large parts of the continent,
imposing their language and their customs. In three
centuries they had captured the country.
Native American lives were ruined forever.
This is the definition of “conquest.” No one
lands on a foreign shore or crosses a border declaring
that he wants to rule the country. It always happens
over time, and with the unsuspecting cooperation of the
Gandhi challenged his fellow Indians with this truth,
English have not taken India; we have given it to
them…They had not the slightest intention (when they
first came) to establish a kingdom. Who assisted the
[East India] Company`s officers? Who was tempted at the
sight of their silver? Who bought their goods? History
testifies that we did all this. In order to become rich
all at once, we welcomed the Company`s officers with
open arms. If I am in the habit of drinking bhang and a
seller thereof sells it to me, am I to blame him or
myself? By blaming the seller, shall I be able to avoid
the habit? And, if a particular retailer is driven away,
will not another take his place?"
Similarly might we ask ourselves, "Who encouraged
illegal immigration? Who wanted cheap goods at any cost?
Who wanted to eat Florida
California peaches at bottom dollar? Who wanted his
landscaped for a song?”
But there is something else noteworthy in Gandhi`s
statement. Notice that he talks about the problem of
addiction to bhang (a poppy intoxicant).
Whenever I hear someone saying: "…but, for our
economy, we need these workers…Americans won`t do
these jobs, so we need a
guest worker program…" This addiction to cheap
labor is exactly what Gandhi is talking about.
The lessons of history are obvious. A vacuum of state,
usually accompanied by a weak and corrupt leadership,
leads inevitably to the eventual disempowerment,
sometimes even the subjugation, of a country.
Words can`t adequately describe the cheap and tawdry
grandstanding by the Senators and Congressman who
attended the illegal immigration rallies.
And when Mexican president
Vicente Fox publicly demanded a hand in crafting
America`s immigration policy is followed by President
Bush`s trip to Mexico to assure Fox that it would be
done, it is time to ask, "Where is the American
The short answer:
Out of commission.
was born in India and has lived on the West Coast for
over two decades. His columns have appeared in several
Indian and American newspapers, and
on counterpunch.com antiwar.com
The full version of this column can be read on Ramakrishnan`s