A National Action Agenda for South Asian Americans

Well, the South Asian-American organizations have come up with their action agenda (pdf). If you're up for it, you should take a look at see what you think. It would be nice if the South Asian blogosphere had the same role as the mainstream blogosphere in connecting with real world initiatives, evaluating them, commenting on them, criticizing them, applauding them, etc., as we see fit. It's sort of momentous for South Asian-American politics for this many South Asian organizations to endorse one policy platform, and it provides a point of reference for a lot of the conversations about what "South Asian" means that we have here and elsewhere.

It also raises the question of whether more South Asian American progressives and radicals should do 1) identity-based activism or 2) issue-based activism or 3) ideology-based activism and whether they should pursue things in a 1) centralized fashion or a 2) decentralized way. Both of these questions about how to conduct activism don't involve such mutually exclusive methods in real life, but this is just a way of putting things in my mind to make the distinctions simpler - in real life, most South Asians, as the agenda makes clear, deal with a million and one intersectionalities and that will play itself out in activism too.

Anyway, take a look, and see what you think. Summary of issues and recommendations from the document below the fold. All typos below my responsibility:

A National Action Agenda includes the following nine components with detailed recommendations:

Civic and Political Participation: Ensure full and equal participation for all in the civic and political process
• Promote naturalization and voting among South Asians
• Preserve voting rights of South Asians by eliminating voter intimidation and suppression
• Ensure limited English proficient citizens’ access to the right to vote
• Ensure that votes by all eligible voters count
• Eliminate xenophobic comments against South Asians and other communities of color in political discourse
• Increase political participation and civic engagement of South Asian community members

Civil Rights and Civil Liberties: Guarantee enforcement of strong civil rights and civil liberties laws for all
• Expand and enforce strong anti-bias and hate crimes legislation
• Eliminate profiling based on national origin, religion, ethnicity, and perceived immigration status
• Institute and enforce policies that prevent discrimination occurring at the workplace, places of business, and schools
• Restore constitutional rights to all detained individuals
• Engage community-based organizations serving the South Asian community on issues pertaining to civil rights and civil liberties

Data Collection: Expand and refine data collection related to South Asians
• Require federal and state agencies to disaggregate data among various South Asian subpopulations
• Improve data collection agencies’ outreach efforts within the South Asian community
• Cease immigration enforcement raids while demographic data collection is being conducted

Economic Justice: Promote economic justice and financial security for South Asians
• Support the right to collect a decent living wage with benefits
• Ensure work environments are free from exploitation and provide protections for labor trafficking survivors
• Support the rights of workers who seek to organize regardless of occupation or immigration status
• Provide protections for those affected by workplace discrimination
• Cease immigration enforcement at the workplace
• Ensure access to financial education and vocational training opportunities for immigrant and limited English proficient workers
• Ensure enforcement of tenants’ rights and fair housing policies
• Support affordable housing for immigrants
• Ensure access to fair and affordable credit for immigrants

Gender Equity: Advance gender equity within the South Asian community
• Support programs aimed to address and prevent gender-based violence within the South Asian community
• Support programs that provide linguistically accessible and culturally appropriate services for South Asian domestic violence survivors
• Support policies that protect and empower immigrant domestic violence survivors
• Support immigration policies that protect and empower dependent visa holders
• Strengthen policies aimed to prevent all forms of trafficking and provide meaningful resources to survivors
• Develop policies aimed at curbing transnational abandonment of spouses
• Increase culturally and linguistically appropriate health services for South Asian women
• Promote programs and policies that foster the economic empowerment of South Asian women

Health Care: Promote measures addressing the health needs of South Asians
• Ensure the right to affordable health care for all
• Develop culturally relevant treatment strategies and research geared towards understanding diseases affecting South Asians
• Ensure availability of linguistically accessible and culturally competent medical services to all, including children, immigrants and the elderly
• Increase research and culturally appropriate resources regarding mental health services for South Asians
• Increase research and culturally appropriate resources concerning reproductive health, sexual health, and HIV/AIDS for South Asians
• Promote awareness and services related to LGBTIQ health issues

Immigrant Rights: Promote immigrant rights and just reforms to the immigration system
• Ensure a just and humane approach to reforming the immigration system at the federal level
• Expedite immigration application background checks related to security-related delays
• Ensure the naturalization process is accessible to all eligible immigrants
• Ensure that the immigration system promotes the reunification of families
• Support immigration policies that protect the rights of immigrant workers
• Support immigration policies that protect and empower domestic violence survivors
• Support immigration policies that protect and empower all dependent visa holders
• Cease enforcement initiatives and national security measures that disproportionately
affect immigrants and promote profiling
• Ensure that immigrants are not deported from the United States for minor violations of the law
• Cease sharing information among various law enforcement agencies for immigration
purposes
• Oppose policies denying public services to non-citizens or permitting state and local law enforcement to carry out federal immigration law
• Ensure compliance of detention standards and provide alternatives to immigrant detention
• Strengthen due process protections within the immigration system
• Standardize the adjudication of asylum-related forms of relief

LGBTIQ Rights: Protect the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, questioning, and
gender non-conforming South Asians
• Support legislation that provides the same immigration benefits to LGBTIQ individuals
as to other immigrants.
• Ensure that LGBTIQ South Asians persecuted due to their sexual orientation are able to obtain asylum relief
• Eliminate immigration restrictions against HIV-positive immigrants
• Investigate and prevent harassment by immigration officials of LGTBIQ and HIV-positive immigrants
• Expand anti-discrimination and hate crimes policies to cover LGBTIQ individuals
• Support the right to civil marriage, domestic partner benefits, and recognition of self-defined families
• Promote awareness and services related to LGBTIQ health issues

Youth Empowerment: Advance the empowerment of South Asian youth
• Ensure access to education that is cognizant of the needs of limited English proficient
(LEP) students
• Ensure communication between schools and South Asian parents who are LEP and/or recent immigrants
• Ensure that classrooms are safe spaces free from discrimination and harassment
• Ensure that classrooms are safe spaces free from police presence and immigration enforcement
• Ensure access to higher education regardless of income level or immigration status

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Comments

I suppose - though most of

I suppose - though most of the service-based groups around the country are run/were started by 1st gen (particularly the domestic violence groups). I think it's the first generation + traditional + well-off + folks who think they've staked out this "territory" already. Maybe?

different generations, no?

different generations, no?

You know, for an American

You know, for an American political document, I think this is really good.

Agreed. Though things like

Agreed. Though things like this always seem to bring out the nuts, like NFIA.

What is the NFIA and why are

What is the NFIA and why are they nuts?

National Federation of Indian

National Federation of Indian Americans. I wrote a little about them (blog post, not an objective report), but it is a national organization that was created in the early '80s to link many of the mainstream Indian groups around the nation. I still don't know who their membership actually is, but the chair got kind of upset at the launch of this Coalition.

yikes, thanks for the link.

yikes, thanks for the link.

I think it’s the first

I think it’s the first generation + traditional + well-off + folks who think they’ve staked out this “territory” already. Maybe?

American Born Confused Dialectic:

Thesis- Troubling. This is true, I think. But I have family ties with conservative people from that generation - including people in FIA. I don't mean 1st generation in terms of nationality- i mean specifically that generation that emigrated back then. It feels, literally like trashing my uncles.

Antithesis- On the other hand, sometimes you gotta push back...generational revolution! :)

I don't know what the synthesis is in general terms--as opposed to with specific people I'm close to that I spend time investing in and talking to--which makes me unhappy.

I hear that. I think it's

I hear that. I think it's more a reaction when they get vocal about the great work that they have done in these areas (not). I'm not begrudging the folks who are just doing whatever they do to survive/take care of their own, but once they are out in the public sphere, stating that they represent the community - or in this case, dismissing an effort of this kind - that's when I become a little less forgiving.

Otherwise, we "younger set" aren't the ones with influence/access that some of the older folks have (not that we should rely only on that). It just drives me up the wall when they use that access for photo-ops or to push single issues (namely back-home politics).

I don't think there's

I don't think there's anything wrong with pushing back-home politics except to the extent that they produce really regressive backhome politics (like supporting BJP) or that they capitalize on the ignorance of Americans, desi-Americans included, about what's going on in various parts of South Asia to pursue unproductive solutions. But for every AAHOA, there's an NGO that's sending money to start social development projects in Bangladesh. Maybe that's problematic too...sincerely dunno.

What I was saying is that I think there's a real dilemma - I do think there's a problem with the ways in which some/many of these organizations approach the world, whether in private or in public - and at the same time I think that there's a sense of connection I feel towards the community I grew up in - so the trick is to let go of the words and the ideas without rejecting the people as people. Which is often the trick, but it becomes ever so hard the closer you were/are to the people in question.

But still necessary to think for one's self as an individual.

I'm sure, though, that, people from different class, sexuality, gender, time of immigration, etc. backgrounds from me have very different takes on this stuff.

These groups think thay are

These groups think thay are being revolutionary by promoting Kissinger's and US State Dept's concept of "South Asia"!!! Is it revolutionary to be on the side of the native "americans" or on the side of the Western imperialists who have destroyed innumerable cultures and appropriated the remnants, out of "love", of course?

Why not call the group South Asian North American association?

The "South Asian" concept hijacks the indigineous cultural identity of India and promotes the colonial impositions of Christianity and Islam in Bharat. Needless to say, the records of these two ideologies in India is less than exemplary. In fact, they actively seek to destroy the cultural diversity of India (and Asia) by seccession (Northeast, Pakistan, etc), internal subterfuge (conversion), and other like activities. The latest entrant is western secularism, which is just iconoclastic and heathen "saving" Christianity for the urban literati.

embedded in what? RSS? I

embedded in what? RSS? I don't have much time right now, so:

These groups think thay are being revolutionary by promoting Kissinger’s and US State Dept’s concept of “South Asia”!!! Is it revolutionary to be on the side of the native “americans” or on the side of the Western imperialists who have destroyed innumerable cultures and appropriated the remnants, out of “love”, of course? Why not call the group South Asian North American association?

These groups are not portraying themselves as revolutionary and would probably acknowledge their North American roots if asked - whether the label should include it is a worthwhile question. This platform is very much in the current "liberal" tradition of American politics. I've written something that goes further on this blog (see the post called towards a Pro-Migrant Pro Worker platform), but if you want a truly revolutionary take on South Asian issues, I suggest you look at the Naxals, Maoists, and many others, not a coalition of groups dealing with politics in the heartland of global capitalism/imperialism; expecting otherwise is foolhardy and when it is couched in the language and discourse of Hindutva, as you have, it sounds disingenuous (at best).

The “South Asian” concept hijacks the indigineous cultural identity of India and promotes the colonial impositions of Christianity and Islam in Bharat.

"India" does not have a singular indigenous identity that predates colonialism, if it does even now. What identity it can be said to does have is shaped not just by precolonial trends but by colonialisma and postcolonialism (and that applies to BJP, VHP, RSS, etc. too whether they will admit it or not ;) A major form of Christianity may be said to have been "imposed" by modern colonialism, but the argument about Islam is specious at best and deeply prejudicial at worst.

More to the point, many religions- Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Islam, Jainism, Hinduism, etc. predate European colonialism in South Asia (which includes not just the contemporary state of India but according to varying definitions many other countries like Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Maldives, etc.); all of these religions
were thoroughly shaped by the colonial experience, including Hinduism. I would argue that the idea of a singular identity of "Hinduism" is a result of colonialism, so beware when you bite the master's hand while you attack others ;)

Moreover, you haven't mentioned, gender, jat, region, class, language, sexuality, or any of the enormous number of other factors that prevent India from being homogeneous, then or now.

Needless to say, the records of these two ideologies in India is less than exemplary. In fact, they actively seek to destroy the cultural diversity of India (and Asia) by seccession (Northeast, Pakistan, etc), internal subterfuge (conversion), and other like activities. The latest entrant is western secularism, which is just iconoclastic and heathen “saving” Christianity for the urban literati.

The only major substantive disagreement I have with you here aside from objecting to the tone of what you say and some of the language is that you posit some essential "Indianness" or "Hinduness" that exists more fundamental to and prior to all these other things. In fact, secession in South Asia (whether in British India or in Pakistan or in Sri Lanka or in contemporary India) is created by bad state policy (most notably poor nation formation policies), not by ideologies. And to call Christianity and Islam AS LIVED in South Asia an "ideology" is overly reductive.

More to the point, by reiterating the worst aspects of the colonial and neocolonial and orientalist discourses on India in mounting an alleged opposition to it, you're recapitulating some of the worst vices of the systems of oppression that South Asia was subjected to - and you follow a long line of other thinkers in doing so. However, whereas it might have served a revolutionary purpose in 1900 to make this argument tied to many other pieces of analysis, here, it sounds extremely reactionary in 2008. "Bharat" is a construction just as much as any thing else, I'm afraid, and the sooner you admit it and start learning to love other people, the better off we will all be.

Sorry for the tone, but I am impatient with this kind of stuff.

These groups are not

These groups are not portraying themselves as revolutionary and would probably acknowledge their North American roots if asked -

Acknowledgement is cheap and does not mean anything in action terms. I'm sure our favorite colonialists in North America would also gleefully acknowledge themselves as North Americans; it does not change the fact that they masquerade with the defeated native's headdress in their football games. South Asian religionists (yes it's a religion in the mold of the religions of peace and love) do the same with the defeated heathen's experience (eg the hindu).

whether the label should include it is a worthwhile question. This platform is very much in the current “liberal” tradition of American politics.

Exactly. South Asian is a distinct American political creation and has in mind American geopolitical goals for the subcontinent. btw, America has started quite a wildfire in Northeast with newly minted Baptist seccessionists. American "Liberal" policy has also sought to undermine Burmese sovereignty/culture (see FW Engdahl) using both missionary (conservative) and NED (liberal) levers.. Such instances of American/Western goodwill can be multiplied without much effort.

I’ve written something that goes further on this blog (see the post called towards a Pro-Migrant Pro Worker platform), but if you want a truly revolutionary take on South Asian issues, I suggest you look at the Naxals, Maoists, and many others, not a coalition of groups dealing with politics in the heartland of global capitalism/imperialism;

Naxals, Maoists are revolutionary! Ha!! Everyone saw their cultural revolution in China, what a success. Even Prachanda managed to burn off a couple of imperialist Sanskrit libraries in Nepal. They are the ideological congeners of the Christian iconoclasts but in secular garb. No one is blaming the poor innocent footsoldiers, but rather the ideologues and their foreign controllers.- The blame can be further described as an instance of false thinking but first we have to recognize that there are actually some real issues. But always we are justifying tolerance for the intolerance of the religious and secular ideologies imposed upon the heathens (Asia, India)

expecting otherwise is foolhardy and when it is couched in the language and discourse of Hindutva, as you have, it sounds disingenuous (at best).

How dare the Hindus use the language of the dispossessed after having been enslaved by the ideologies of peace, love, and equality (in that order) for centuries on end.. . The jackfruit soft communist Nehru even wanted to collectivize agriculture but some level headed parlimentarians threatened the equivalent of self-immolation. but why be angry at these things. moderate the language. so many cultures destroyed and so many people deculturated and thus enslaved- moderate the language. it all ended in 1900.

"India” does not have a singular indigenous identity that predates colonialism, if it does even now.

Ah yes, the secular equivalent of the religious argument that the Jihadis gave Hindus their identity as Hindus. Of course, there was no need for Geronimo and Seattle before the god-fearing stalked the land.

What identity it can be said to does have is shaped not just by precolonial trends but by colonialisma and postcolonialism (and that applies to BJP, VHP, RSS, etc. too whether they will admit it or not A major form of Christianity may be said to have been “imposed” by modern colonialism, but the argument about Islam is specious at best and deeply prejudicial at worst.

Who is denying that the systematic colonial depradations visited upon the Hindus have had an effect. How dare the ghost haunt.

More to the point, many religions- Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Islam, Jainism, Hinduism, etc. predate European colonialism in South Asia (which includes not just the contemporary state of India but according to varying definitions many other countries like Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Maldives, etc.); all of these religions
were thoroughly shaped by the colonial experience, including Hinduism. I would argue that the idea of a singular identity of “Hinduism” is a result of colonialism, so beware when you bite the master’s hand while you attack others

More false arguments. How dare the ghost haunt. who is denying brahmo samaj attempts at semitization. but instead of saying "it's hopeless, why struggle", we ask *why* they saw a singular religion (a "system") among the disparate traditions of India, and subsequenttly sought to homogenize the diversity. (btw they also created the caste "system" in addition to "singular hinduism"

Moreover, you haven’t mentioned, gender, jat, region, class, language, sexuality, or any of the enormous number of other factors that prevent India from being homogeneous, then or now.

despite the systematic attempts of our religious/secular phriendlys to destroy the diversity of traditions in India and Asia.

The only major substantive disagreement I have with you here aside from objecting to the tone of what you say and some of the language is that you posit some essential “Indianness” or “Hinduness” that exists more fundamental to and prior to all these other things. In fact, secession in South Asia (whether in British India or in Pakistan or in Sri Lanka or in contemporary India) is created by bad state policy (most notably poor nation formation policies), not by ideologies. And to call Christianity and Islam AS LIVED in South Asia an “ideology” is overly reductive.

The effects of ideology are not immediate. No one is saying every muslim is a raving lunatic. but the consequence of the muslim/christian/western secular mindset imposed over centuries on a society such as India is an extinction of the heathen traditions. Denying this by saying that all heathen identities are themselves constructed is itself a secularization of the christian iconoclasm of heathen identity. Do Hindus go around saying, there is no such thing as Christianity. These ideologies destroy cultural diversity; they do not add to the cultural diversity of India, but rather homogeneize it.

More to the point, by reiterating the worst aspects of the colonial and neocolonial and orientalist discourses on India in mounting an alleged opposition to it, you’re recapitulating some of the worst vices of the systems of oppression that South Asia was subjected to - and you follow a long line of other thinkers in doing so. However, whereas it might have served a revolutionary purpose in 1900 to make this argument tied to many other pieces of analysis, here, it sounds extremely reactionary in 2008. “Bharat” is a construction just as much as any thing else, I’m afraid, and the sooner you admit it and start learning to love other people, the better off we will all be.

Tolerance for intolerance and setting up false equivalences between the practiced heathen traditions and ideologist iconoclastic religions are the premier secular traits. These ideologies have destroyed innumerable cultures with impunity. But I'm glad to know it all ended in 1900.

How dare the Hindus use the

How dare the Hindus use the language of the dispossessed after having been enslaved by the ideologies of peace, love, and equality (in that order) for centuries on end.. . The jackfruit soft communist Nehru even wanted to collectivize agriculture but some level headed parlimentarians threatened the equivalent of self-immolation. but why be angry at these things. moderate the language. so many cultures destroyed and so many people deculturated and thus enslaved- moderate the language. it all ended in 1900.

I am assuming on the basis of your comments your support goes to "Hindus" - disregarding the differences between Hindu men and Hindu women (and other genders), caste differences, untouchability, class differences, sexuality, etc. Tell me WHICH Hindus are being oppressed, and in what ways, and by whom, and how being Hindu relates to that. And then tell me how this justifies the Gujarat pogroms or Ayodhya or other parts of the varied Hindutva agenda.

What started in the colonial era was the creation of the modern "Indian" political identity - which featured a lot of the same things as your arguments - anti-colonialism, Hindu supremacy, Islamaphobia, etc - to varying degrees. What is different now is that whereas it was one of many potential responses to colonialism, now it is a justification for majoritarian domination in a politically independent state and further domination within "Hindu." Which is why no matter how much you couch your argument in terms of social justice, it falls apart in the end for me, despite the anti-imperialist and social justice rhetoric.

You don't have to be a modernist/secularist - someone like Ashis Nandy clearly is not - but arguing that Hindutva is more revolutionary than the naxals is troubling to me.

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