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印度大选忙,海外印侨也没闲着

Mythili Sampathkumar 2019年06月04日

印度人对祖国政治的热情,已经成了美国移民中独有的一种现象。

2019年5月30日,印度首都新德里,总理纳伦德拉·莫迪在总统府前宣誓就职后,向支持者合什致谢,自此,印度迎来了莫迪掌权的第二个任期。图片来源:Ajay Aggarwal—Hindustan Times via Getty Images

上周,莫迪及其所在政党赢得了2019年印度大选的多数席位。消息一出,举国欢腾。莫迪的主要对手——印度国大党的拉胡尔·甘地等人的支持者也纷纷走上街头,表达对莫迪连任的失望。然而这些场景并非发生在印度,而是发生在美国各地。

此次印度大选总共经历7轮投票,在投票之前好几个月,印度两大主要政党的“旅美支部”就开始在全美各地动员印籍同胞为各自政党的候选人投票,拉票活动从湾区搞到了新泽西州,甚至是科罗拉多的洛基山脉。莫迪代表的是高举民族主义大旗的印度人民党(BJP),拉胡尔·甘地代表的是印度国大党。旅美印度人们要么举办茶话会,要么给远在祖国的亲朋好友打电话,目的只有一个——劝说别人给自己支持的候选人投票,

这些印裔移民有的已经入籍美国,还有的已经持有美国绿卡。不过他们对印度的政治局势十分热心,这既是出于爱国热情,也是出于对祖国的责任心。当然这里也有经济方面的考虑。总之,印度人对祖国政治的热情,已经成了美国移民中独有的一种现象。一方面也是由于印度移民通过频繁回国、电子邮件、Whatsapp、全球娱乐业与商业纽带和社交媒体等,始终与他们的祖国保持着较为紧密的联系。

2014年莫迪访美时,纽约麦迪逊花园广场上了自发聚集了大量印裔移民对他表示欢迎,他的身影还出现在了时代广场的大屏幕上。不少美国政客,比如参议员科里·布克、图尔西·加巴德以及克林顿夫妇,也对莫迪十分推崇,让他在美国拥有了明星般的地位。

这当然也是由于大多数在美印度人支持他和他所代表的印度人民党的缘故。这些人经常称自己为“印度未来的守望者”,来自于新泽西州的克里希纳·雷迪·阿努古拉就是其中之一。

阿努古拉是印度人民党海外朋友会(OFBJP)的会长。在人民党顺利拿到印度的多数邦后,阿努古拉在一份声明中表示,莫迪“凭借他承诺的基础建设、医疗卫生和农业领域的投资,将把印度带向下一个高度”。

阿努古拉告诉《财富》杂志,他和其他人民党的支持者每周都会给远在印度的亲朋好友和商业伙伴打电话,甚至还会开办茶话会,教在美印度人怎样接触印度选民。所有这一切的目的,只是为了宣传给人民党投票的好处,特别是要让莫迪的家乡——古吉拉特邦以外其他各邦的选民也了解莫迪,使未来五年印度能够有一个“稳定的政府”。

阿努古拉表示,他的目标,是让印度变成一个“对市场和企业都友好,同时能提升穷人生活水平”的国家,他认为在前任执政党领导下,这个目标并未实现。他认为,如果企业和个人对莫迪和他的政策有一定了解,就会更倾向于投资印度企业和印度的经济发展。

“我们看到,在(莫迪领导下的)过去五年里,我们的思维方式、做事情的方式乃至我们改变国家的方式,都有了一个大的转变。”说到莫迪,阿努古拉的热情比美国大选期间你在路上碰见的任何一个拉票者都不惶多让。他对莫迪的“成就”如数家珍,比如莫迪为2.4亿低收入者开设了银行账户,以便于他们接受政府提供的旨在改善卫生条件的补助款。

印度人民党海外朋友会打出的电话,通常都会得到人们热情的回应,哪怕对方跟他们并不熟。

阿努古拉表示:“他们很高兴接到来自美国的电话。”电话的内容与他跟《财富》杂志所谈的东西差不多,总之就是各种列数字、摆事实、举例子,说莫迪让多少人用上了卫生设施,像“美国的艾森豪威尔一样”修了多少高速公路。阿努古拉表示,人们很少会问为什么他们要从遥远的美国向国内做“统战工作”,不过大家就算不充分理解,至少也不反感。

在阿努古拉和他的朋友们看来,莫迪继续执政还有一个更看得见摸得着的好处,那就是世界各国会更加重视在外印度侨民的利益。阿努古拉举了也门、伊拉克、叙利亚战乱期间印度撤侨的例子,这些事虽然“前任政府也会做”,不过在莫迪执政期间,印度外长斯瓦拉吉和印度使领馆在解决护照、签证、产权、投资、在外印度人投票权,甚至是承认双重国籍等问题上,“做得更加主动……(对印度侨民)也更加友好”。

不过一直以来,批评人士都认为,莫迪人气的上升,与印度教民族主义情绪的兴起有很大关系。在印度,只有20%的人信伊斯兰教、锡克教、佛教、伊斯兰教、耆那教或其他宗教。

苏哈斯·帕尔希卡尔2018年在一份学术期刊上写道:“虽然很多人对印度教民族主义并无情感共鸣,但多数人对国家民族的概念肯定还是有情感投入的。”另外,阿努古拉还表示,印度人民党海外朋友会的会员在打电话拉票时,一般不会被问到与“伊斯兰恐惧症”有关的问题。不过他认为,即便在美国,人们对伊斯兰教也谈不上“恐惧症”。

阿努古拉认为,“恐伊症”只是一个“看法”的问题。比如在美国,“恐伊症”之所以成为一种现象,与“某位领导人”和他的班子有很大关系,但它并非是整个美国社会情绪的反映。阿努古拉指出,在20世纪90年代,“印度教徒和穆斯林之间的冲突”要比现在频繁得多。但现在,反对莫迪的政客们还在“贩卖恐惧”,只是为了给他们的候选人拉票而已。阿努古拉主张,印度应该成为一个“人人平等”的国家。

印度是一个非常复杂和多元化的国家,这一点也反映在了移民群体上。在美印度人操着不同的语言、方言,有不同的文化和宗教信仰,他们的政治立场当然也有很大差异。

虽然多数印度侨民都支持人民党,但是支持国大党的中左立场的也不在少数。国大党的立场一般被认为更加激进,而且反对印度教民族主义。住在明尼苏达州的IT业人士拉杰·博达对《财富》杂志表示,1947年印度独立后,正是国大党“从零开始建立了这个国家”。

罗伊·曼蒂纳是印度海外国大党(IOC)的领导者之一,也是特伦甘纳邦同乡会的召集人,他对《财富》杂志表示,他和他的同志们不仅深爱自己的祖国,在美国度过半生之后,他们也想以某种方式“回馈”印度。

曼蒂纳是伊利诺斯州的居民。他表示,选择支持国大党的原因其实很简单,他个人很欣赏美国的政治进程,他认为美国的体制有助于改善所有印度人的生活。他表示,国大党“是一个世俗的、民主的、包容的、多元化的政党……是这个政党建设了印度的河流、公路和桥梁。”

多元化和包容性,对于特伦甘纳邦来说,是一个尤为重要的问题——特伦甘纳邦位于印度南部,其首府海德拉巴一直是许多穆斯林的家园。

曼蒂纳认为,拉胡尔·甘地(印度前总理英迪拉·甘地的孙子)是一个“善良和富有同情心”的人,他关心发展、农民、就业和妇女问题。根据印度经济监测中心的数据,仅2018年一年,印度就失去了1100多万个就业岗位,其中绝大多数是在农村地区。印度妇女则失去了990万个就业机会。

默罕默德·贾米尔是马里兰州的一名医生,也是印度海外国大党的一名召集人。他对《财富》杂志表示:“我相信印度的宪法……它庄严决定建立主权的、社会主义的、世俗的民主共和国。如果人民党再次掌权五年,‘世俗’一词就会遭到威胁。”

贾米尔表示,作为生活在美国和加拿大等地的海外侨民,他扮演了一个“积极分子”的角色,试图“教育国内民众什么是世俗主义”,以及“在发展经济的同时注重人的尊严”。贾米尔表示,他在印度也属于少数族裔,这也是他支持国大党的重要原因,就像他在美国时支持民主党一样。

与OFBJP不同,印度海外国大党不经常举行集会,而是更加关注推动印度的社会事业。贾米尔指出:“作为社会活动家,我们采取了非常明确的立场……不要从美国向印度的政治候选人或者任何可能影响选民的人捐款。”印度海外国大党的所有努力,都集中在供水、教育、女权等领域的具体项目上。

曼蒂纳表示,海外国大党确实也会给在印度的家人、朋友和同事打电话,但其目的在于“分享知识”,而不是单纯地为国大党候选人拉票。他指出,除了拉票之外,“我们正在创造更大的影响”。海外国大党的很多工作是通过社交媒体开展的,尤其是通过Facebook和WhatsApp的群组。

海外国大党想教育选民的一点,就是政治体制腐败的危害,以及它可以如何通过操纵短期利益诱导选民投票。曼蒂纳表示,在今年的大选中,有些其他党派的候选人(不是国大党)甚至采购了空调和银首饰等物品“贿赂”潜在选民。

可惜的是,海外国大党的工作并没有在民意调查中体现出来,国大党只在两个邦保持强势存在。不过,海外国大党及其支持者以及那些反对莫迪和人民党的人似乎并不气馁。

在纽约的华盛顿广场上,有一小群人聚集了起来,其中大多数是印度侨民,他们正在对着大喇叭喊话。此次集会是为了与人民党的印度教极端主义做斗争。

萨奇拉·维贾亚恩是纽约的一名律师,也是非盈利新闻研究项目Polis项目的发起人。他也参加了这次活动。他对《财富》杂志表示,在未来五年也就是莫迪的第二个任期内,海外印度侨民仍将扮演重要角色。

维贾亚恩表示,海外印度侨民不仅可以通过筹款和捐资捐物等形式,对印度的特定社会事业发挥重要作用,同时也能在国会发挥重要的“政治影响力”。只不过在国大党连续掌权几十年后,多数支持人民党的人都将莫迪看作“能够改造印度政治生态”的人。

维贾亚恩指出,尽管如此,“还是有越来越多的个人和组织动员起来,反对仇恨政治。”她和其他参加集会的人都认为:“越来越多的人认识到,针对‘恐伊症’、‘恐同症’、政府腐败和金钱政治,不论是在印度还是在海外侨界,都必须进行斗争。”

他们的这种失望情绪,让人不禁想起了2016年11月特朗普胜选后美国一部分人的情绪。这些人的修辞和情绪也与那几年反对特朗普的人如出一辙,可以说是不折不扣的“抵抗者”。(财富中文网)

译者:朴成奎

Cheers rang out in ballrooms across the country as Narendra Modi and his party were declared as the winners of the majority of seats in the 2019 Indian elections last week. Supporters of his main rival, the Congress Party’s Rahul Gandhi or other candidates up for Prime Minister, took to public spaces in emotional shows of disappointment with world’s largest democracy as well. These scenes did not take place in India though, but all over the U.S.

For months leading up to the seven rounds of voting held over several weeks, Indians across America belonging to the international arm of the two main political parties in India: Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and his rival Rahul Gandhi’s Congress Party were hosting events akin to political rallies from the Bay Area to Edison, N.J., and even the Colorado Rockies while riding atop snowmobiles. There were canvassing strategy sessions over tea and snacks and making phone calls to friends and family back in their motherland on behalf of candidates.

These Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) are often green card holders, if not full-fledged U.S. citizens, but the interest in working on campaigns continents away in their motherland appears to be driven most by a sense of patriotism and duty to the country of their birth and early years. But there are economic considerations as well. It is an immigrant phenomenon driven by connections maintained through frequent flights, e-mail and Whatsapp, global entertainment and business ties, and social media.

Since his visit in 2014, which was greeted by throngs of NRIs in Madison Square Garden and watching on screens in Times Square, he has been somewhat of a sensation in the American diaspora. American politicians, from the likes of Senators Cory Booker and Tulsi Gabbard to Bill and Hillary Clinton, also seemed enamored with the celebrity status Modi enjoyed in the U.S. the past few years.

That is in large part due to the majority of the American diaspora being vocal about their support for him and the BJP. They often call themselves chowkidars, the Hindi word for watchmen, of India’s future and Krishna Reddy Anugula of New Jersey is one of them.

Anugula is the president of the Overseas Friends of the BJP (OFBJP) and following the party’s resounding victory in all but a few Indian states, he said in a statement that Modi will “take India to the next level with the proposed investments in infrastructure, health care, and farming sectors.”

He told Fortune he and fellow supporters made weekly phone calls to family, friends, acquaintances, and business associates back in India and even held several chai pe charcha, the Hindi phrase for conversations over tea, to educate NRIs and strategize about how to best reach voters in India. The purpose of all this: to talk about the benefits of voting for the BJP, and by extension Modi for those living outside of the Prime Minister’s home state of Gujarat, was for a “stable government” for the next five years.

The idea, according to Anugula, is to have an India that is “friendly for…market and businesses at the same time, [while] uplifting poor people” in a way he felt had not happened under the previous party’s rule. He noted that businesses are individuals are more likely to invest in India’s development and its companies if there is some familiarity with the prime minister and his policies.

“What we have seen in the last five years [under Modi] is a big shift in terms of the way we think, the way we do things, and how we can change the country,” Anugula said with the enthusiasm of any door-to-door canvasser you may encounter during an election in the U.S., rattling off several of Modi’s “achievements,” from opening 240 million bank accounts for lower-income Indians who receive government aid to improved sanitation access.

The calls the OFBJP made were usually greeted with enthusiasm, even from those they do not know well.

“They are excited to receive a call from the U.S.,” Anugula noted. The conversations often go like the one he had with Fortune, touting figures on improved access to sanitation and the construction of a national highway system “like Eisenhower did” in the U.S. He explained they rarely get asked why they are campaigning from so far away, an understanding of the ties to India seeming to be appreciated even if not fully understood.

For Anugula and friends, though, one of the more tangible advantages to keeping Modi in office seems to be the way NRIs are treated around the world. He cited evacuations of Indian citizens during times of conflict in Yemen, Iraq, and Syria, which “may have previously been done” but said Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj and the Indian consulates abroad had taken to being “more proactive…and community friendly” in addressing the diaspora’s issues with passports, visas, property ownership, investments, voting by proxy for NRIs, and even potential dual U.S. citizenship since Modi has come into power.

However, critics have long tied Modi’s rise in popularity to the rise of Hindu nationalism, or Hindutva, in India where 20% of the growing population identify as Muslim, Sikh, Buddhist, Christian, Jain, or other religions.

“While many people may not have any emotional connect with the idea of Hindutva, a majority certainly has emotional investment in the idea of nation,” wrote Suhas Palshikar in an academic journal in 2018. And as Anugula noted, OFBJP canvassers usually do not get asked about Islamophobia on their phone calls but he also said he does not think of it is as a “phobia” in the U.S. either.

It is a matter of “perception,” he said. In the U.S., for instance, Islamophobia has been made into an issue because of “one leader” and his advisers, but it is not reflective of a pervasive problem in American society as a whole. In India, Anugula said, riots “between Hindus and Muslims” were far more frequent in the 1990s but “fear mongering” among politicians opposed to Modi was done in order to drum up votes. Anugula contends India is a country of “everyone gets the same thing” equality.

India, though, is nothing if not diverse and complicated, and that is reflected in the immigrants who have to the U.S. Representing every one of the countries myriad languages, dialects, religions, and cultures, there are immigrants who have varied political stances as well.

Though the majority of NRIs appear to support the BJP, there are plenty who were campaigning for the Congress Party’s center-left position, seen as more progressive and opposing Hindutva. Raj Boda, an IT professional who lives in Minnesota, told Fortune that it was Congress party rule which “built the country from scratch” after independence in 1947.

Roy Manthena, part of the leadership of the Indian Overseas Congress (IOC) and specifically a convener for the south Indian state of Telangana, told Fortune that for he and his colleagues it is not just a love of his birthplace but also a way “to give back” to India after spending half his life in the U.S.

Manthena, an Illinois resident, said choosing to support Congress was not a difficult one because he admires the political process in the U.S. and believes that can help improve the lives of all Indians. Congress “is the party which is secular, democratic, inclusive, diverse…this is the party which built the rivers, roads, and bridges of India,” he said.

Diversity and inclusion are particularly important platform issues for Telangana—the southern Indian state’s capital Hyderabad has long been home to many Muslims.

Manthena spoke of Gandhi, the grandson of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, as someone “kind and compassionate” who is focused on development, farmers, employment, and women. According to the Center for Monitoring Indian Economy, the country lost as many as 11 million jobs in 2018 alone, the overwhelming majority of which were in rural areas. Women experienced a loss of 9.9 million of the jobs.

Dr. Mohammed Jameel, a physician and Maryland resident and IOC co-convener, told Fortune: “I believe in the Constitution of India…which has solemnly resolved to be sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic. So, the word secular is under threat” as the BJP comes into another five years of power.

Jameel said he sees his role as “an activist…trying to educate the masses back home” on what secularism and “having value for human dignity while developing economically” can look like since they live in countries like the U.S. and Canada. He also said his position as a minority at home and in India also informed his decision to support the Congress party, as he does Democrats in the U.S.

Unlike the OFBJP, the IOC focuses more on furthering social causes in India rather than holding rallies. Jameel noted: “being social activists we took a very clear stance…don’t send money from America” to political candidates or anyone who could influence voters. Instead all efforts are focused on specific projects concerning water access, education, and women’s empowerment.

Manthena said the group does make some canvassing phone calls to family, friends, and associates back in India, but noted it was more for “sharing knowledge” rather than just campaigning for Congress candidates. “We are creating a bigger impact” beyond just securing votes, he noted. Much of the IOC’s work centers around social media, primarily through Facebook and WhatsApp groups.

One of the issues the IOC works to educate voters about is corruption in the political system and how it can mean voting against their interests though there may be an immediate reward. Manthena pointed to some candidates from other parties—not Congress—in this year’s election buying everything from air conditioners to pieces of silver jewelry to essentially “bribe” potential voters.

Unfortunately the group’s work did not translate at the polls, as Congress only held strong in two states but the IOC, its supporters, and those generally opposed to Modi and the BJP appear to remain undeterred.

In New York’s Washington Square there was a small group of mostly NRIs gathered to show solidarity with those fighting what they deemed the BJP’s Hindu extremism, shouting into a megaphone:

Suchitra Vijayan, a New York-based lawyer and founder of the hybrid research and journalism non-profit Polis Project, was in attendance and told Fortune the Indian diaspora will play a key role over Modi’s next five years in power.

Vijayan said not only does the diaspora help with fundraising—through in-kind contributions or donations to particular causes in India—and have a strong Congressional “political clout” to lobby for his positions, but the majority who support the BJP also see Modi as “ as the man poised to “remake the Indian political universe” after decades of Congress rule.

However, she noted, “there are a growing number of individuals and organizations who are… mobilizing and organizing to counter the politics of hate.” She and others at the rally see “a growing recognition that the fight is going to be fought both in India and in the diaspora communities” against the tide of Islamophobia, homophobia, government corruption, and money in politics.

If the disappointment and general mood was reminiscent of the days following Donald Trump’s victory in November 2016, this small group’s rhetoric and sentiments almost mirror those in the U.S. opposed to Trump in the intervening years; the “resistance” as it were.

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