IndianSpice

#NaMo: Indians Identify As South African First

India’s main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi attends the party’s two-day long National Council meeting beginning Saturday to chalk out election strategy, in New Delhi, India, Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014. Modi has been accused of looking the other way while his state suffered one of India's worst outbreaks of religious violence in 2002 and critics question whether the Hindu nationalist chief can be a truly secular leader over India's many cultures. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

There has been a lack of support from Non Resident Indians (NRI) who have integrated within the South African community and identify as South Africans of Indian descent severing their ties with the motherland on many levels.

The BJP organizing team are actively reaching out to the relatively recent migrants who’ve settled in South Africa and the “considerably large” grouping of IT professionals who live mostly in Johannesburg.  Then, those of Indian descent were not keen to be marked out as a distinct ethnic group, having worked hard to integrate with the “African mainstream” as a “survival strategy”.

“They have had to face persecution and discrimination at the hands of South Africans and do not want to emphasise their identities,” a BJP source said.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) sources admitted that their outreach to the present generation of Indian migrants through the Ramakrishna Centre and the others, including the South African Hindu Maha Sabha, might be “limited” by history and politics.

Separating church and state

The BJP’s cell counted on for support was the South African Hindu Maha Sabha but the Sabha’s charter

was clear. Among its principal objectives, it said, were promotion of ingredients and foods specifically eaten by Hindus during religious rituals and encouraging education that fostered the “advancement of Hindu dharma” in South Africa.

“In that sense, the outfit is similar to the Vishwa Hindu Parishad,” an RSS source said. The Vishva Hindu Parishad abbreviated VHP, is an Indian right-wing Hindu nationalist organisation based on the ideology of Hindutva. Its main objective is “to organise, consolidate the Hindu society and to serve, protect the Hindu Dharma.

The Maha Sabha’s support in the Indian Prime Minister’s visit is unclear as to whether they are officially backing his presence in South Africa.

The drawbacks that have been experienced by the BJP cell in their #NaMoInSA campaign is the reason why Modi was still undecided on whether his South African sojourn should be about “nostalgia” or “hard commerce” and whether the diaspora outreach should be located in Durban or Johannesburg, the commercial capital.

After much confusion and lack of communication from the Indian High Commission to confirm details of the #NaMoInSA diaspora reception, an external source confirmed that the main Indian diaspora reception will happen in Johannesburg and not Durban.