Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Immigrant Song

I was listening to the 'Immigrant Song' by Led Zeppelin the other day, one of his better songs according to me, as I am not really a huge fan of Jimmy Page's voice. But along the long drive that had been kick started by this song, I got to thinking, about the past month. This one month alone has been witness to two bomb attacks - one in Mumbai (tell me something new) and one in Oslo (seriously, Norway? Isn't it too cold there for people to be able to think evil?)

The initial reports, soon after the attacks in Oslo pointed to Islamic fundamentalists and the authorities were quick to correct themselves once they found out that the perpetrator was a native right wing fundamentalist. The attacks in Mumbai though, were typical acts of terror - a bomb on a stolen scooter in a bustling marketplace of old Mumbai. While we don't have a definitive finger on the perpetrator yet, the story remains the same. At such times, it is quite interesting to note the 'tapri-wallah' conversations - talks between people in corner tea stalls in Mumbai. I still remember one such remark after a similar incident in 2006, where a train was bombed in Mumbai, where one gentleman remarked to another, 'I wonder why these people come from across the border, live here and kill our people, or worse still, force our own to kill their own. Why can't all like minded people just move bag and baggage to the land where they can live in peace and practise whatever it is that can lead them to salvation?'

The key issue here then is immigration. That wizened gentleman had perhaps seen so many such acts of terror that he, like most Mumbaikars, was disgusted by the meaningless loss of valuable lives in the achievement of a mythical, goal. He perhaps believed that the asylum India gave, and has been unintentionally giving to illegal immigrants was being exploited. Just as most native French citizens believed that increased terror levels were tied to immigration from Algeria. Or citizens in UK ghettoized pockets of Islamic immigrants in the wake of the 2005 London bombings. So the finger verily pointed to Islamic immigrants in Oslo, who were assumed to have retaliated to the detaining of a cleric. While they were vindicated in this one instance, usually though, rather unfortunately, before the whole of the worldwide immigrant community manages to get away with a puppy, innocent face, something like the attack in Mumbai, forces them back into the spotlight of doubt and suspicion!  

The question then is, why do native citizens not embrace immigrants willingly everywhere? It is not difficult being an immigrant in a developed society like say US or Canada. Natives of these countries themselves are some subsequent generation of immigrants. India, and most of Europe on the other hand are a bit too tight-fisted when it comes to sharing land space with those not born there. Being an Indian with a few non-Indian friends, I do know that people with a foreign skin (sorry if I sound racist), do not find it easy to settle down and work in India. People may claim that an open arm policy has resulted in the arm being blown off much too often, but perhaps it is time we stopped victimizing immigrants and started looking into what makes them huddle up under the cloak of religion or country of origin, as against country of current residence!

1 comment:

Metal said...

Thoroughly enjoyed reading your blog! Not sure how I stumbled on it, but was great reading ALL of your posts.

Being a Led Zepp fan, I needed to point this out- The lead singer of the band is Robert Plant. Jimmy Page is the guitarist. The screams you hear on the immigrant song are therefore Mr Plant's. :) Keep blogging!