a bimonthly publication of
progressive south asian politics

Volume 6: Number 1                    December 25, 1995
In this Issue...
Roots: A Manifesto For Overseas South Asians Vijay Prashad
Peelay Paiyon Ki Nayi Ummeed or Reshaping Immigrant Identity Politics Biju Mathew
Taxi-vala/ Auto-biography
Making Room for a Hybrid Space: Reconsidering Second-Generation Ethnic Identity Sunaina Maira
Look Ma! The Sangh Giroh's gone progressive! (and Newt's a Revolutionary!) Niraj Pant


Dear Friends,

Many of us have been working for the past few years on related projects whose main point of agreement has been a commitment to social justice, secularism, and equality. Although these are very abstract ideas, in such perilous times our meanings of these ideas are under threat. During the past year, we have spoken to a number of people about creating some sort of a clearing-house for radical Indian activists in the United States, Canada and England: some place for us to share information, offer support, and encourage each other to write in the open media on issues pertaining to Indians overseas and India itself, and help build projects that make our radical politics more material. We feel it is time to launch such a forum so that in time we might join together to take common positions and intervene on political matters. Isolation only helps the ruling clique; we need to organize ourselves.

Why India? Not just to give ourselves a nice acronym! There are certain issues that are bound by the nation-state and its products overseas which are not identical with those of South Asia as such. Also, we think it is important that we not call ourselves what we are not. As Nahid Islam points out in her essay in Our Feet Walk the Sky, there are many groups that call themselves South Asian but mainly involve themselves with India alone. Given that those of us who have been speaking to each other about this forum have all been Indians, we have decided not to assume a larger character right now. This is of course open to debate, and we would gladly welcome it. If tomorrow a debate opens up on this issue, and South Asians other than Indians are part of it, then it is distinctly possible that this forum will change accordingly.

What work will the forum take up? Again, the specific projects are not for the few of us alone to define, but for a larger collective to put its wits together and come up with. As of now, we feel that the domains on which we need to put our intellectual wits together are those related to: combating the IMF/World Bank/MNC onslaught against the Indian workers and peasants, opposing the saffron wave across India, England and North America, and preventing conservative middle class politics from shaping the politics of the entire community. We need to make our politics visible in the open media, for it is in such a sphere that we can, as a group, make some sort of an impact; the more we write as a group, the more we will be able to pressure common sense. We need to build relations with second-generation Indians who are seeking modes different from that outlined by their conservative parents - maybe a summer school, maybe internships with specific radical NGO s in India, maybe support for the many progressive community organizations that attempt to build these bridges. We are floating this forum without a fixed idea of how it will function; we only know of what we urgently need to accomplish.

The idea is a simple one. Most of us work within the intellectual domain. We write, teach, and talk for a living. To project the possibilities: if just one half of Sanskriti s readership committed to left politics gets together (that would be around 200 people) and takes on various such tasks as the ones outlined above then we could make a significant impact. We could ensure our constant presence in the public media, and in the activities of various organizations, and thus, in the long run, influence the politics of the community.

If you know of other Indians who would find such a forum valuable, please do forward this call to them. To join FOIL write to any one of the addresses below. We hope you will join.

In solidarity,
Vijay Prashad Biju Mathew
Department of History College of Business
McGraw Hall, Cornell University Rider University
Ithaca, NY 14853-4601 Lawrenceville, NJ 08648